Workers made “significant progress” and managed to release the ship’s rudder from the sediment, a spokesperson

The massive container ship wedged in the Suez Canal achieved a fleeting success on Friday night, but the vessel remains stuck for the foreseeable future, officials said Saturday.

Workers made “significant progress” and managed to release the ship’s rudder from the sediment, a spokesperson for Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the technical manager of the ship, told Insider in a statement.

But the port side of the ship’s bow remains stuck in the sand and mud, the spokesperson said, noting that 11 tugboats were working throughout Saturday alongside dredging operations to clear the sediment.

Ever Given, Suez Canal
Container ship Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal, Egypt on March 27, 2021. Kristin Carringer/Maxar
The Ever Given, operated by the Evergreen Marine Corporation, ran aground March 23 due to high winds from a sandstorm. The vessel is one of the world’s largest container ships — it’s roughly the same length as the Empire State Building.

The ship has been blocking the entire width of the Suez Canal for over 100 hours. The debacle is costing the global economy an estimated $400 million per hour — some 300 other ships are stranded, and some have opted to take a 15,000-mile detour around Africa.

The head of the Suez Canal Authority confirmed to reporters Saturday that “the ship’s stern began to move towards Suez” on Friday night, but said workers stopped their efforts when the tide fell.

“We expect that at any time the ship could slide and move from the spot it is in,” Suez Canal Authority Chairman Osama Rabie said at a press conference.

suez canal authority osama rabie
Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie holds a press conference over the grounding of the Ever Given cargo ship in the waterway, in Suez on March 27, 2021. Ahmed Hasan/AFP via Getty Images
He added that he couldn’t speculate on when the ship will be freed.

President Biden claimed Thursday in his first press conference since taking office that “nothing has changed” compared to earlier influxes of migrants and unaccompanied children at the border.

“It happens every single, solitary year,” he said, pushing back on questions about whether his own policies contributed to the situation on the border.

“There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March,” he said. “That happens every year.”

The Biden administration has been grappling with surging numbers of migrants, especially children arriving at the border without their parents.

It is true, as Biden states, that numbers often rise during the early months of the year when temperatures begin to warm. But the number of children arriving today without their parents is considerably higher than at the same time in 2019 and 2020.

In fact, the number of unaccompanied children being apprehended by the Border Patrol were higher in February than they’ve been any previous February since 2014, according to data shared with NPR by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.

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Authorities encountered 9,297 children without a parent in February, a 30% increase from 2019 during the last major influx of unaccompanied children.

To be sure, it’s still below the peaks of 11,000 unaccompanied minors who arrived in May 2019 and above 10,000 in June 2014, but experts and administration officials expect those records to be broken this year.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last week that U.S. agents are on pace to intercept more migrants on the southwest border in 2021 than they have in the last two decades.

The reasons for the influx of migrants from Central America are vast and complex. They are also deeply personal for each family who chooses to leave their home.

Jessica Bolter, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, says they involve a mix of longstanding factors, such as poverty and corruption, as well as new factors such as two recent hurricanes and widespread unemployment due to the pandemic.

“And then we also, of course, do have a new administration coming into office in the U.S. that has promised to treat migrants more humanely,” Bolter said. “And that’s something that’s not lost on migrants. And it’s certainly not something that’s lost on smugglers who are likely to exaggerate kind of any change in U.S. policy to increase their business and get migrants to come with them to the US Mexico border.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents apprehended an average of 5,000 undocumented immigrants per day over the past 30 days, including about 500 unaccompanied children, according to a senior Border Patrol official who spoke to reporters on Friday.

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The official said the influx was “much different” than previous years, citing the large number of unaccompanied children and families traveling.

President Joe Biden called a sweeping elections law signed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp this week an “atrocity,” and said the Justice Department is “taking a look” at the measure.

The new law includes provisions to require voter identification for absentee ballots, limit the use of ballot drop boxes, give state officials more power over elections and make it a crime to offer voters food and water as they wait in line.

Critics argue that the law disproportionately affects Black voters, who were critical to recent Democratic victories. Mr. Biden narrowly won the state in the 2020 election, and Georgia sent two Democrats to the Senate after runoff elections in January.

Asked by reporters on Friday how the White House could respond to the bill, Mr. Biden said “we’re working on that right now.”

“We don’t know quite exactly what we can do at this point. The Justice Department’s taking a look as well,” Mr. Biden said.

He told reporters that the bill was an “atrocity.”

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“It has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency. They passed the law saying you can’t provide water for people standing in line while they’re waiting to vote? You don’t need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting. You can’t provide water for people about to vote? Give me a break,” he said.

In a statement released earlier on Friday, the president urged Congress to pass voting rights legislation that would counter the Georgia law and other bills proposed by Republican state legislatures across the country that would make voting more difficult.

“This law, like so many others being pursued by Republicans in statehouses across the country is a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience,” Mr. Biden said. He noted that longer lines at the polls disproportionately affected Black voters in metropolitan areas, as Republican officials have reduced the number of polling sites in their neighborhoods.

“This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and constitutional obligation to act. I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote,” Mr. Biden continued.

The House recently passed the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that address elections and elections and campaign finance reform. However, it is unlikely to pass in the Senate, where most Republicans have expressed opposition to the bill. Democrats only have a 50-seat majority in the Senate, and most legislation requires 60 votes to advance.

Even if Democrats eliminated the filibuster, which would lower the threshold to a simple majority, some Democrats have also expressed concerns about the bill. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said this week that he believed the bill should be narrowed, and Democrats and Republicans should try to pass voting rights legislation on a bipartisan basis. Manchin is also opposed to ending the filibuster.

In a letter to Democratic colleagues on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Senate Judiciary Committee would soon take up the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would restore provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court. Like the For the People Act, it is unlikely to receive the needed support from 60 senators.

Meanwhile, Republicans argue that the Georgia bill does not amount to voter suppression. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said that “the cries of ‘voter suppression’ from those on the left ring hollow.” Kemp said that it made elections safer.

“There is nothing ‘Jim Crow’ about requiring a photo or state-issued ID to vote by absentee ballot. Every Georgia voter must already do so when voting in-person,” Kemp said on Friday.

As of Wednesday, more than 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children and teens were stuck in Border Patrol facilities waiting for beds in more appropriate shelters built for children, according to Department of Homeland Security data viewed by NPR.

The Border Patrol official told reporters Friday that agents are trying to discharge the children from warehouses and jail-like holding cells as quickly as possible, but there’s a bottleneck because the government can’t open child shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services fast enough to accommodate everyone who’s crossing.

“Unfortunately, on any given day, we may have upwards of 9,000 people in custody, which certainly puts a strain on our resources,” the official said.

The Biden administration is working with other agencies trying find more bed space. They’re using places like the San Diego Convention Center to hold unaccompanied minors so they’re not sleeping in cells on the border.

The challenges in Central America – and at the border – have become cyclical.

Like under previous presidents, the Biden administration was not prepared to shelter this many arriving children.

But Bolter questions whether this is some kind of a new “crisis.” She says this part of the same flow of migrants that the United States has been experiencing over the last decade.

Up until 2012, the vast majority of apprehensions at the southwest border were of young Mexican males coming across to find work in the United States. Two years later, the majority of cases coming across the southwest border were from Central America and were a mix people, families and unaccompanied children.

“It’s really all part of the same flow,” Bolter said. “This is something – these flows of Central American children and families – that administrations of both parties have struggled with, how to how to deal with them.”

The Biden administration also has long term plans to deal more directly with these issues in Central America. They include developing more legal avenues to seek asylum so that migrants don’t feel they have to choose illegal avenues. And Biden just sent three top officials to Mexico and Guatemala as part of efforts to tackle the root causes of migration, something he also just tasked Vice President Harris with leading.

Juan Gonzalez, the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere, was part of that team.

He told NPR’s Steve Inskeep Friday that the administration wants to help countries in the region create the right environment for international investment that drives economic prosperity, but also has ways to encourage better behavior from money launderers and other corrupt officials.

“So that’s a carrot,” he said. “In terms of sticks, the president during the campaign, and we’re actually working to implement this now under the vice president’s leadership, is committed to developing a regional anti-corruption task force. There are a lot of things that the United States and its partners can do to impose sanctions, to pull visas, to freeze assets of individuals involved, involved in money laundering.”

“I honestly cannot say exactly when we will finish. Maybe today, god willing. Maybe tomorrow. It depends on the situation; it depends on how the ship responds,” he said. “When dealing with a ship of this size, its behavior with the dredgers is unknown, we don’t know how it will respond to the pulling.”

All 25 crew members, who are all Indian nationals, remain safe and “in good health and spirits,” the BSS spokesperson said.
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