Will polarised US Congress widen or narrow divisions?: China Daily

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – In an illustration of the old saying “extremes meet”, the Democratic Party took control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections but lost ground in the Senate.

The results gave both parties reason to celebrate; so now comes the tug of war. But while it may seem counterintuitive, the results mean the political system in the United States may regain some equilibrium.

That partly explains why majority opinion has it that the results of Tuesday’s US midterm elections will have limited impact on US and global markets.

Most analysts believe the deeper political polarisation in Washington is likely to produce less polarising outcomes as the US president will now have to focus on less divisive legislation.

He may also have other things to think about if the Democrat-controlled House decides it would like to have a closer look at his tax return and alleged links with the Kremlin.

However, the Democrats’ greatest leverage, as some have observed, will be the “checks and balances” the House can impose on the White House.

Yet while the divided Congress may mean things become a little less extreme in certain respects, that doesn’t mean they will become less uncertain.

It is to be hoped that the trade disputes do not become a political football in Washington.

Following the phone conversation between the US and Chinese leaders and their agreement that the trade dispute that has flared up between the two countries can be resolved through talks, it would be an unwelcome setback if that positive momentum was now stalled or reversed.

The voting also made evident the divisions in US society have widened further, with the profile of the Republican Party becoming more rural and conservative and the Democratic Party more urban and liberal.

These divisions are stark and at times deadly as shown by the deadly synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in the run-up to the elections.

If one of the results of the midterms is to temper the use of the racially-charged rhetoric that is becoming a defining feature of this administration, it would be a welcome development, as it may help people from all walks of life in the US appreciate they are part of a wider human society.

And that would be a step toward finding solutions to many pressing problems.

China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

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At least 6 injured in shooting at a bar in California

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A gunman wounded at least six people at a large, crowded country music bar and dance hall in the Los Angeles area Wednesday  (Nov 7) night, the sheriff’s office said.

Possibly several hundred people were in the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks at an event for college students when the shooting erupted, Garo Kuredjian of the Ventura County Sheriff’s office said.

He added that police were dealing with an “active situation”, meaning it is not known if the attacker has been subdued.

The Ventura County Fire Department tweeted: “Firefighters and first responders are arriving on scene of a report of a shooting at an establishment in @CityofTO. PD is working to secure scene. Multiple injuries reported.”

The Los Angeles Times quoted a law enforcement official as saying at least 30 shots had been fired and that there were casualties.

An unnamed witness told the newspaper that someone ran into the bar around 11.30pm (3.30pm Thursday Singapore time) and started shooting what looked to be a black pistol.

“He shot a lot, at least 30 times. I could still hear gunshots after everyone left,” the Times quoted the man as saying.

Thousand Oaks is a quiet, upscale residential suburb in Ventura County, about 65km from downtown Los Angeles.

This story is developing.

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I won't meddle when I am king: Prince Charles

LONDON (REUTERS) – Britain’s Prince Charles said he will stop speaking out on issues he feels strongly about when he becomes king as he is “not that stupid”.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of his 70th birthday next week, the son of 92 year-old Queen Elizabeth said that the role of monarch was completely different to his current position as Prince of Wales.

“The idea, somehow, that I’m going to go on in exactly the same way, if I have to succeed, is complete nonsense because the two – the two situations – are completely different,” he said.

Asked whether his public campaigning will continue, he said: “No, it won’t. I’m not that stupid.”

Britain currently has a constitutional monarchy, where the monarch has a formal role in the formation of governments, but an obligation to remain neutral and no practical political power.

Prince Charles has been outspoken on topics such as the environment and social issues. In September, Prince Charles said in an interview with GQ magazine that “My problem is I find there are too many things that need doing or battling on behalf of”. 

But he told the BBC that he would operate within “constitutional parameters” as king.

“I do realise that it is a separate exercise being sovereign. So of course I understand entirely how that should operate,” he said.

But he defended his activism as heir to the throne, which includes founding the Prince’s Trust charity in 1976 to support vulnerable young people.

He said: “If it’s meddling to worry about the inner cities as I did 40 years ago, then if that’s meddling, I’m proud of it.”

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Opinion | Is Theresa May a Secret Genius?

LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain is a woman widely scorned. For 17 months, ever since she lost her Conservative Party its majority in an unnecessary, vainglorious election, the news media has been speculating daily on how long this private, dutiful, diffident leader can last and when the bid to topple her will begin. As the national disaster that is Brexit looms frighteningly close, the woman in charge has appeared hopelessly buffeted by events, trapped between the implacable European Union and her own party’s venomous Euroskeptics.

The Brexit talks have been apparently paralyzed for weeks; half of Britain is aghast at the very real threat that we might crash out of the European Union with no deal, wrecking the economy and our relationships with our closest neighbors. The country is teetering on the edge of its worst crisis since World War II. But this time, Britain has declared war on itself.

Senior Conservative Party colleagues, exasperated with Mrs. May’s Brexit performance, sneer at her both openly and anonymously for being useless, obstinate, indecisive. “Lead or go” declared a cover story in The Spectator, an influential conservative magazine.

Behind the scenes, though, the tiny group of Mrs. May’s allies and advisers are telling a very different story. A deal with Brussels is imminent, and, they say, it will be on Mrs. May’s terms. Diplomatically delicate phrases will smooth over the biggest current obstacle to an agreement, the position of Northern Ireland. Mrs. May, these advisers say, has been steering a smarter path than outsiders can know, toward the least damaging Brexit that the politics will allow, eventually easing a deal through the House of Commons.

Her allies maintain that while Mrs. May has made some grievous tactical errors, she has been less naïve and incompetent than she appears. Rather than being the helpless victim of her party’s divides, she has been engaged in a stealthy operation to avoid confrontation with her rebellious right-wing colleagues in public, while outflanking them in private. Like Muhammad Ali in a comeback fight, she has chosen to absorb punches until the very last moment she can deliver her own.

Is Mrs. May really more of a Machiavellian fighter than a punching bag? Well, possibly. But even if these generous interpretations of the prime minister’s actions over the past two years are accurate, her strategy will still turn out to have been a dangerous mistake once Brexit finally arrives. Only brave leadership — not back-room games — can save Britain.

One senior politician described Mrs. May’s embarrassing predicament: “It looks like dithering, it’s not heroic, and you can’t boast about it until it’s done, but it’s practical,” he told me. “It’s been hellish,” another said. The divisions over Brexit left her “in an impossible position” from the beginning, this politician said, caught between enemies in her own party and a complex exercise in international diplomacy.

That has meant a strategy of caution and deception: adopting the Brexiteers’ hard-line rhetoric to start with, while knowing that compromises with the European Union would be inevitable; avoiding collective cabinet discussions in case they resulted in walkouts or leaks; not reacting to public humiliations like Boris Johnson’s attack on her Brexit plans as “crazy.” Her fear has been that if she opposed the Euroskeptics outright, they would revolt and replace her with a hard-liner.

Mrs. May is famously uncommunicative, secretive, averse to being challenged and cool toward her colleagues. Her sense of being besieged has encouraged those tendencies. “Her natural secrecy has been reinforced by political practicality,” said a person who advises the prime minister. She has a core group of six to eight people acting as advisers, and even some of those are unsure of her strategy because she keeps so much to herself. “Like talking to a brick wall; you get nothing back,” a senior Conservative said.

This degree of isolation leaves Mrs. May cut off from the insights that she needs for Britain to avoid calamity. Furious and frustrated politicians, experts, diplomats and business leaders have been blocked, sidelined or ignored when they have tried to brief the prime minister on the catastrophic complexities of Brexit. Even those she listens to rarely hear what she thinks. They often deduce it from how she acts afterward.

By being so silent, Mrs. May has not made the case for the Brexit deal she wants. Even if she gets Brussels to agree to it, it will fail unless she can get the cabinet and members of Parliament to back it — not by secrecy and shrewd bluffs, but by full-throated advocacy and persuasion.

And that is the fatal flaw in Mrs. May’s punching-bag strategy. She needs support she has not bothered to build. Ever since taking power in 2016, she should have been telling Britain the truth: The Brexit you hoped for is undeliverable because it promised a fantasy. The Brexiteers lied to you. We cannot have all the benefits of the European Union and none of the costs. We must compromise or face disaster.

Even some of Mrs. May’s close supporters say privately that her deal cannot survive. If it reaches the House of Commons, which must approve any Brexit agreement, many Conservative Euroskeptics will rebel, and not enough of the opposition will step in to save her. There will be uproar, chaos, talk of a second referendum and fears of “no deal.”

This situation was never inevitable. It is the product of an overcautious leader’s fundamental misjudgment of her party’s politics. Mrs. May has always been stronger than she thought; she had defeated the Brexiteers to become prime minister, and none, despite all their sniping and plotting, has had the backing to replace her since. A more courageous leader would have argued publicly for the least disruptive Brexit from the start, persuading a divided country to follow her, avoiding the immense damage we have already inflicted on our businesses, our international reputation and our relationship with our alienated, exhausted European Union partners.

Mrs. May has been inadequate, but she was the best her party could agree on. “Would anyone else step up?” an insider asked. “Everyone wants her job after March,” when Britain is set to leave the European Union. “No one else wants it now.”

Jenni Russell (@jennirsl) is a columnist for The Times of London and a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.

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Turkey sees positively U.S. offer of rewards for information on PKK members

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey regards positively a U.S. decision to offer rewards for information on three senior members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

It said it expected the United States to support the offer of rewards with concrete action in Syria and Iraq regarding the fight against the PKK and its extensions, the ministry said in a statement.

The United States on Tuesday offered up to $5 million for information on three senior members of the PKK, which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state for decades.

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Factbox: Potential U.S. presidential contenders in 2020

(Reuters) – Buoyed by Tuesday’s takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats can now turn their attention to the 2020 presidential race.

For the first time since the start of the 2004 campaign, Democrats are entering the cycle without a dominant front-runner. More than two dozen possible contenders have had their names floated or have actively begun exploring their chances.

President Donald Trump filed for re-election the day he was inaugurated in January 2017, and his popularity with the Republican Party’s core supporters means any possible challenge for the party’s nomination will be a longshot.

Here are some of the potential contenders in each party:

DEMOCRATS

JOE BIDEN – The former vice president, 75, is the early Democratic leader in polls, and that is partly a function of familiarity given his decades as a senator and eight years as a No. 2 to Barack Obama. If he makes his third run for the presidency, Biden will have easy access to top-shelf staff, donors and an extensive network of supporters. Biden’s age could work against him in a party looking for fresher faces, and his ties with Obama would make him an easy target for Republican attacks.

BERNIE SANDERS – The Vermont senator, 77, still has a loyal following from his 2016 challenge to Hillary Clinton, and his focus on issues such as universal healthcare, reducing income inequality and tuition-free public college has been adopted widely by the party. But while he was an insurgent candidate two years ago, Sanders would face more intense scrutiny as a major contender in 2020.

ELIZABETH WARREN – The Massachusetts senator, 69, is a leader of the party’s progressives and a fierce critic of Wall Street who was instrumental in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Her recent decision to take a DNA test to prove her distant Native American ancestry after Trump’s taunts of “Pocahontas” was roundly criticized and raised questions among some Democrats about her political agility.

KAMALA HARRIS – The black first-term senator from California, 54, is considered one of the candidates most likely to break out from the pack of lesser known Democrats. Her aggressive questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and her decision to swear off corporate PAC money – large donations from businesses – won her plaudits from activists. But as a newcomer to national politics, Harris still needs to introduce herself to the public while defying Republican attempts to define her negatively.

CORY BOOKER – The black two-term senator from New Jersey, 49, a former Rhodes Scholar and Stanford University football player, won notice as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, when he saved a neighbor from a burning house in 2012. Some liberals have criticized him for having close ties to Wall Street and for helping to kill a proposal that would have lowered prescription drug prices.

BETO O’ROURKE – The three-term congressman, 46, became a Democratic sensation with his underdog U.S. Senate campaign in deeply conservative Texas. He lost the race but smashed fundraising records running as an unabashed liberal and offering a possible template for Democrats in 2020. O’Rourke is still untested on the national stage.

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND – The senator from New York, 51, was appointed to the Senate from the House of Representatives to replace Hillary Clinton in 2009, when Clinton became secretary of state, and has become a leader in the #MeToo movement. Her statement last year that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency in the Monica Lewinsky scandal drew a rebuke from the former president, who said “she’s living in a different context,” and alienated some Clinton allies.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG – The former New York City mayor, and former Republican, has in the past considered running for the White House as an independent. But this time Bloomberg, 76, is considering running as a Democrat. His money and name recognition are formidable, and his advocacy for gun control has won him friends among activists. But progressives could find some of his positions hard to take, including his opposition to a Democratic proposal that would break up Wall Street banks and his doubts about the #MeToo movement.

ANDREW CUOMO – The New York governor, 60, easily defeated a primary challenge from the left by actress Cynthia Nixon in September. A big re-election win makes him a possible contender.

ERIC HOLDER – A close ally of Obama, he served as his first attorney general and has launched a committee to fight battles over redistricting, the drawing of district lines that can cement a party’s hold on power. Holder, 67, drew rebukes from Republicans, and some groans from Democrats, when he said in October of Republicans: “When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about.” He later told critics to “stop the fake outrage.”

AMY KLOBUCHAR – The two-term senator from Minnesota, 58, a former prosecutor, won praise from activists for her questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing. He memorably turned the question back to her when she asked if he had blacked out from drinking. “I don’t know, have you?” he asked Klobuchar, who had revealed that her 90-year-old father was a recovering alcoholic. Kavanaugh later apologized.

TERRY McAULIFFE – Like Biden, the former Virginia governor has broad access to donors and influential Democrats. McAuliffe, 61, is a former chairman of presidential campaigns for both Bill and Hillary Clinton, and a former head of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005.

STEVE BULLOCK – The Montana governor, 52, has asserted an interest in running for president with multiple trips to early primary states, including a well-publicized trip to the Iowa State Fair. He has emphasized the need for a national 50-state campaign, saying as a governor he knows how to reach across the aisle to get things done.

REPUBLICANS

DONALD TRUMP – The president, 72, already has a campaign slogan, “Keep America Great,” and between his campaign committee and two joint fundraising committees has raised $106 million for his re-election, with $47 million cash on hand, according to campaign finance reports. He has turned his attention to the race, punctuating his political rallies with frequent put-downs of his possible Democratic rivals.

JOHN KASICH – After a failed presidential campaign in 2016, the Ohio governor has become one of the party’s few notable critics of Trump. Kasich, 66, a moderate on some social issues, has pointedly refused to rule out a primary challenge to the president. But Kasich is famous for his aversion to fundraising, which could make success elusive. Concerns about potential primary opposition from Trump’s base have encouraged Kasich’s allies to view him as a possible independent candidate.

JEFF FLAKE – The conservative first-term Arizona senator, 55, declined to seek re-election after becoming one of the leading Republican critics of Trump. He has criticized his fellow Republicans in Congress for failing to stand up to the president. But he would have difficulty gaining traction in Republican primaries, which Trump’s loyal supporters could dominate.

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Alberta RCMP remind people to buckle up in vehicles

Alberta RCMP delivered a familiar message this week, reminding drivers to follow the law and buckle up.

It’s not a choice. Yet, in Canada, RCMP said 40 per cent of fatalities in vehicle collisions are due to people not wearing seatbelts.

In Alberta, the numbers speak for themselves.

“In 2016, there were 53 people that lost their lives in collisions directly related to them not wearing seatbelts,” said Coaldale RCMP Staff-Sgt. Glenn Henry. “The number was around 375 people that were injured.”

Over the past 12 months, the Coaldale RCMP detachment said there were five fatalities from vehicle collisions on roads surrounding the Lethbridge area, though none of those were seatbelt-related.

“In one breath, we’re thanking people for wearing their seatbelts,” Henry said. “On the other hand, we do enforce the Traffic Safety Act and we had around 212 people charged last year for not wearing their seatbelts.”

Henry has a message for drivers who forget to buckle up, are in a hurry or say they’re just driving down the street and think they don’t need to wear a seatbelt.

“We’re not really interested in the excuse part,” Henry said. “No different than distracted driving. There’s no lawful excuse not to wear your seatbelt. We regrettably have a number of collisions in our province, throughout the province and I think it’s shown that seatbelts do save lives.”

RCMP said it’s a good reminder to tell people to buckle up, and to make sure their passengers do as well.

Related

Tracking crime across Alberta: Dozens of municipalities adopt RCMP real-time map

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Pat Kenny teams up with his neighbours to fight plan for housing

Pat Kenny has banded with his neighbours to oppose plans to build 26 homes in south Dublin.

Residents in Dalkey have hired planning consultants and traffic experts in a bid to prevent three apartment blocks and seven houses being built on a site in their neighbourhood.

Bartra Capital Property, headed by developer Richard Barrett, paid €3.17m last July for Maple Tree House, owned by solicitor Gerard Charlton and his wife Maeve Charlton.

The couple were previously embroiled in a protracted legal dispute with Mr Kenny over ownership of a 0.2-acre strip of land, which became known as the ‘Battle for Gorse Hill’.

But Bartra has also acquired a neighbouring site called Yonder on Ulverton Road, which was owned by the Charlton’s daughter Gearoidín and her husband Corry McMahon.

Both sites total almost 1.5 acres and are the subject of a planning application lodged with Dún Laoghaire- Rathdown County Council, seeking permission to build 19 apartments in three blocks of up to four storeys, along with seven houses.

One of Ireland’s best-known broadcasters, Mr Kenny and his wife, Kathy, are among 18 objectors, and are opposed on the grounds of density, scale and massing, impact on residential amenity and traffic grounds.

But eight householders, including the Kennys, have also hired Kieran O’Malley town planners to oppose the plans. In a submission, the planners say the scheme constitutes “overdevelopment” of the site, is “poorly conceived” and lacks adequate parking.

A submission from TrafficWise transport planners, also acting for the eight households, claims the traffic assessment from the developers “does not provide an impartial” description of the likely impacts, and access to the site is “woefully substandard”, being served by a private lane.

This is not the first attempt to develop the site. In October 2007, Gearoidín Charlton and Corry McMahon were granted permission to demolish the existing house at Yonder and develop two detached properties. The homes, opposed by the Kennys, were never built.

The latest move to develop the site has been in train since the summer when Bartra Properties met with the local council. Two letters of consent, both dated June 14, are on the planning file. The first is signed by Maeve Charlton and relates to Maple Tree House at Bullock Harbour, and gives permission to Bartra to engage with the council in relation to a “residential proposal on the property”.

Land Registry records show, on September 4 last, Maple Tree was registered in the name of Bartra Properties Ltd. It was in the name of Maeve Charlton to that point.

The second letter, from Gearoidín Charlton, and Corry McMahon says they are the owners of Yonder at 62 Ulverton Road in Dalkey, and gives consent to Bartra Property to engage with the council.

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Outgoing US commander Vincent Brooks urges Seoul, Washington to protect pact

PYEONGTAEK, SOUTH KOREA (AFP) – The outgoing commander of US forces in South Korea on Thursday (Nov 8) urged Seoul and Washington to maintain their alliance as differences mount in their approach to the nuclear-armed North.

The US played a key role in defending the South after the North invaded in 1950, triggering the Korean War, and even now stations 28,500 troops in the country, a treaty ally, to protect it from its neighbour.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traded personal insults and threats of war last year, only for fears of conflict to be replaced by a rapid diplomatic rapprochement.

But as progress has slowed in recent months there has been a growing uneasiness between the allies, with the US firm on sanctions against Pyongyang while Seoul is seeking to relax measures on its neighbour.

“In this place we have never succeeded by going alone,” General Vincent Brooks said in his last act as the commander of US Forces Korea, the UN Command and the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command.

“Our fears and our concerns should rise if we become inclined to go our own way.”

On the campaign trail US President Donald Trump raised doubts about the continued presence of US troops in South Korea.

This week the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said the US would need to make “some changes to the military posture on the peninsula” over time if talks with Pyongyang progress.

Over the 65 years of the alliance, Brooks told a change-of-command ceremony at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, “we grew stronger under the tests and strains that confronted us, contrary to the predictions of cracks and fissures”.

“Let this be a lesson to all in the alliance,” he added.

Brooks, who took up his post in April 2016, has described his time in the South as “a rollercoaster ride”.

He previously said he was given no prior indication that Trump, after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June, would announce the cancellation of “very provocative” and expensive joint military drills with the South.

The allies have since suspended most of their major joint exercises, including the Ulchi Freedom Guardian in August and the Vigilant Ace air force training initially slated for next month.

His successor General Robert B. Abrams told his Senate confirmation hearing there “was certainly a degradation in the readiness of the force, for the combined forces” as a result of the pause in drills.

At Thursday’s ceremony Abrams – whose father was a former Army Chief of Staff for whom the M1 Abrams tank is named – vowed to continue Washington’s “ironclad relationship” with Seoul.

The military would maintain its capability so “we cannot only deter but defeat external threats if we are called to do so”, he said.

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What is the migrant caravan heading to US?

Thousands of migrants from Central America are trudging north towards the US-Mexico border.

They say they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

The journey poses a host of dangers, such as dehydration and criminal gangs, but many of the migrants say they feel safer travelling in numbers.

Here’s what you need to know about the convoy of people known as the migrant caravan.

How did it begin?

On 12 October, in the crime-ridden Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, a group of 160 people gathered at a bus terminal and prepared to set off on the dangerous journey.

They had been planning the trek for more than a month, in an attempt to escape unemployment and the threat of violence in their home country.

Most previous migrant caravans have numbered a few hundred people, but after a former politician posted about the plan on Facebook, news of it quickly spread and the numbers swelled.

By the time the group set off in the early hours of 13 October, more than 1,000 Hondurans had joined.

They have since crossed into neighbouring Guatemala and then Mexico, with thousands more people joining along the way.

Those moving fastest, a group of more than 400 mainly men and boys, reached the Mexican capital, Mexico City on Sunday 4 November.

Why did they form a caravan?

Most of the migrants say they are seeking a new life and better opportunities in the US or Mexico.

Others say they are fleeing violence in their home country and intend to apply for asylum.

Honduras, which has a population of about nine million, has endemic problems with gang violence, drug wars and corruption. The wider region has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

“It’s our dream to reach the United States, we want to give our children a better future and here [in Honduras] we can’t find work,” one mother of two told local newspaper El Heraldo.

While Central Americans have long fled their homelands for the US and have sometimes joined forces along the way, the organised nature of this caravan is relatively new.

Migrants are often kidnapped by people traffickers and drugs gangs who force them to work for them. A large group such as this one is harder to target and therefore offers more protection.

César Gómez, a 20-year old from Guatemala, said he jumped at the chance of joining the caravan to avoid the dangers of travelling alone and paying thousands of dollars to people smugglers.

How big is the group?

There are several caravans moving north. The first and biggest is the one that left San Pedro Sula on 13 October but two more have formed since and are following behind the first one.

The main caravan is estimated to have 5,000 people, the two others are smaller.

What is life like for the migrants?

The journey is gruelling and poses a number of challenges for those who decide to join the caravan. The hot weather means sunburn and dehydration are a constant risk.

The migrants have mainly been sleeping on the streets or in makeshift camps and there is a lack of clean water and sanitation. At times, food has been in short supply.

As the caravan has progressed, the towns they pass through have become more organised about providing shelter and food.

At least two migrants died when they slipped from the vehicles they had boarded and were run over.

What happens if they reach the US?

There is a legal obligation to hear asylum claims from migrants who have arrived in the US if they say they fear violence in their home countries.

Those seeking asylum must be fleeing due to a serious fear of persecution. Under international law, these are considered refugees.

If an asylum seeker enters the US illegally, they are still entitled to a hearing of their claim.

But those seeking a better quality of life – even if they are fleeing devastating poverty – are not considered refugees and do not have the same protections.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the “credible fear” asylum rule has been exploited in the past, and announced in June that victims of domestic abuse and gang violence would no longer generally qualify under it.

This “Turn-back Policy” is currently subject to a lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which accuses immigration officials of unlawfully delaying access to the asylum process.

Why are we hearing so much about this caravan?

Unlike previous smaller convoys of migrants, this one has drawn the attention of US President Donald Trump.

He has criticised a number of Central American countries for allowing people to leave the region and come “illegally” to the US.

Mr Trump has also threatened to cut off foreign aid to these countries, but he has not specified what money will be cut and it is unclear how he would do so.

Curbing illegal immigration was one of the main campaign promises Mr Trump made when he ran for president.

His Republican Party is facing mid-term elections on 6 November and could be unseated by Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Mr Trump has said the “invasion” of migrants would find the US military waiting for them and, on 29 October, it was announced that the US would send 5,200 troops to the border with Mexico.

The president also told Fox News that “tent cities” would be built to house migrants seeking asylum in the US.

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