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Lawsuit Seeks End To Remain in Mexico policy

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People seeking asylum in the United States wait at the border crossing bridge in Tijuana, Mexico, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A new lawsuit aims to end the controversial “Remain in Mexico” program, which has sent over 60,000 asylum seekers back to Mexico since its implementation in early 2019. Also, the number of registered voters in San Diego is at a historical high. Plus, Bodhi Tree Concerts production of "8 Songs for a Mad King" provides political commentary on Trump and returns for a second, revamped show.

The number of registered voters in San Diego this year is at a historic high, with nearly 300,000 more registered than in 2016. County officials are ready for a surge of voters up until election night. Already, nearly double the number of mail-in ballots have been returned so far this year compared to 2016, according to San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu. Vu says he hopes voters will cast their ballots early and lessen the crowds on election day.

A new federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday is once again challenging the government's "Remain in Mexico" policy. Since early 2019, the policy has sent back more than 60,000 asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed.

Melissa Crow is an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, who filed the case on behalf of asylum-seekers.

There are tens of thousands of people languishing in Mexico and struggling to survive. We felt that we needed to do something for those people yesterday.

The lawsuit claims asylum-seekers sent back to Mexico cannot access lawyers, and that they’ve been unable to move their asylum cases along because of the pandemic...while they’ve also been dealing with unsafe and unsanitary conditions in cities like Tijuana and Mexicali.

All asylum hearings have been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A different legal challenge to the Remain in Mexico policy will be heard by the US Supreme Court next year.

Wednesday was the last day of in-person learning at Mission Vista High School… for at least the next two weeks. 6 COVID cases were confirmed at 5 different Vista schools since their reopening on October 20th. Two of the cases come out of Mission Vista High School, which will shift from in person learning to virtual starting today (Thursday) through the next two weeks. Mission Vista High School students are expected to return to in person learning on November 9th.

It’s Thursday, October 29th. This is San Diego News Matters from KPBS News...a daily morning news podcast powered by everyone in the KPBS Newsroom. I’m Anica Colbert. Stay with me for more of the local news you need to start your day.

The San Diego City Council received a report on wednesday that scrutinized the San Diego Police Department budget. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says what happens next is unclear.

AB: Council members requested the deep dive into SDPD's 568 million dollar budget after receiving a flood of calls this spring to cut spending on police after the George Floyd killing. The report breaks down the budgets of individual units within SDPD, as well as things like overtime and equipment. At Wednesday's public safety committee meeting, Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe said the report lends more transparency to police spending.
MMS: And we will probably be in recovery for years from COVID-19. But it is really, really good to have these types of breakdowns so that we can make the best decisions possible.
AB: But it's far from clear at this point what those decisions will be. Cuts to the police budget are unlikely before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2021. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

The City of San Diego is about to build on what's so far been a successful pilot program to help the homeless. KPBS reporter Jacob Aere has more.

San Diego's homeless outreach efforts have often been left to police officers.
Now the city is planning a different approach with the Coordinated Street Outreach Program. It will use case managers to forge relationships with unsheltered residents and connect them with permanent housing and social services.
San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez says this effort is the expansion of programs that began in City Heights and North Park.
"This is a continuation of shifting how we are responding to this crisis in terms of really having a more people centered approach, both by how we are reaching out to them, where we are placing them and how we are supporting them to restore their lives."
At a minimum, the program will run from November first through June 30, 2021. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.

The race for the 50th congressional district in east county is changing.. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman says a new poll suggests the race isn't as even as many assumed.

After recent polls showed Republican Darrell Issa and Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar neck and neck, a new poll of voters in the 50th has Issa with a double-digit lead. The survey USA poll shows 51 percent of likely voters supporting Issa with just 40 percent supporting Campa-Najjar and nine percent still undecided.
The poll has about a six percent margin of error, meaning Issa's lead could be slim, even as republicans have a voter registration advantage in the 50th. UC San Diego Political Science Professor Thad Kousser says some 17-million dollars has already been spent on this race.
The fact that both candidates are still spending so much money in this race shows that their internal polling -- ammar campa najjar may still have the chance
In a statement Campa-Najjar said the only poll that matters is election day.. And that Issa is trying to buy his way into congress. While Issa says his previous congressional experience and fiscal responsibility is clearly resonating with voters..Matt Hoffman KPBS News.

Veterans traditionally vote for Republican candidates. But polls suggest their support for President Trump has eroded.
Jay Price reports for the American Homefront Project.

In a poll released this week, 52 percent of veterans said they would vote for President Trump, while 42 percent backed former Vice President Joe Biden. Others favored a third party candidate, or planned to not vote. The poll was by Military Times and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, where Rosalinda Maury is director of applied research and analytics.
MAURY: <<3 secs>> I've never seen it this close in previous years.
PRICE: <<13 secs>> In 2016, 60 percent of veterans who voted picked Trump, according to exit polling.
In the new poll, older vets still had a clear preference for him, while younger veterans, female and minority veterans and former officers, favored Biden.
MAURY: <<5 secs> So when you start looking at these subpopulations, you do see some difference.
PRICE: <<15 secs>> Fifty-NINE percent of those over the age of 54 said they were backing the president.
That includes people like Gary Aiken, a 71-year-old Vietnam veteran from the mountain community of Swannanoa, North Carolina who owns a small sign and graphic design company.
AIKEN: <<6 secs>> I think, you know, the veterans that I know that interact with are basically saying that they're going to vote for Trump.
PRICE: <<7 secs> Aiken said he said he can't imagine NOT voting for Trump, in part because he feels the VA healthcare system has improved.
AIKEN: <<16 secs>> And also, you know, the economy. And I think, for me, personally, it has to do with the America that I knew growing up, versus, you know, the American that Biden and some of his cronies envision, which is, you know, certainly not what I would want for my grandkids.
PRICE: <<13 secs>. But Trump's volatile behavior, and his series of controversial comments about veterans and service members, haven't played well with many younger veterans, including former Navy SEAL Dan Barkhuff <>, now an emergency room doctor in Vermont.
BARKHUFF: <<4 secs>> I've many issues with Trump, but the thing that started it all, was just his dishonesty.
PRICE: <<5 secs>> Barkhuff, who describes himself as a conservative, compared Trump to another President.
BARKHUFF: <<28 secs>> I was in the Naval Academy, when Clinton was the commander-in-chief and Monica Lewinsky and all that kind of stuff. And I didn't like that either … and people in the military were up in arms...the murmuring in the ranks, so to speak was that … Clinton's this dishonest liar, what is the meaning of "is" ... And there were all these arguments made, you know, by people who are still in politics, frankly, that, you know, you can't have a commander in chief who's dishonest with the troops and supposed to lead.
PRICE: <<18 secs>> Barkhuff founded a group called Veterans for Responsible Leadership to, in some sense, persuade other veterans that it was OK NOT to vote for Trump.
And he agreed to record some bare-knuckle ads for the Lincoln Project, the Republican anti-Trump group that specializes in ads like this goading the president.
TAPE << from ad, 11 secs>>>> I'm a pro-life, gun-owning combat veteran and I can see Trump for what he is — a coward. We need to send this draft-dodger back to his golf courses. The lives of our troops depend on it.
PRICE: <<32 secs>> The new poll follows an apparent trend. A poll this summer by the same groups found a slight edge for BIDEN among active-duty troops. And another recent poll of veterans, by Morning Consult, yielded a similar result.
The contentious campaign has also spurred NON-partisan activism among veterans. Afghanistan veteran and digital media CEO Greg Behrman << BURR-man>> has joined forces with 10 other high-profile veterans to promote voting.
He says they were disturbed by widespread voter suppression efforts, and felt it was an extension of their military service to fight that.
BEHRMAN: <<24 secs>> None of us took any pleasure in having to do this. It's the last thing we wanted to do. We wanted it to feel like every leader was doing his part during a high stakes time for our country, to stand by what it means to have a free, fair and safe election. But feeling like that was under threat and feeling like the lights were blinking red, it felt really important just to say, Hey, you know, we have a stake in this, and we have a perspective that we think is worth sharing.
PRICE: <<12 secs>> Some in his group are liberal, others conservative. But he says the point isn't WHO to vote for, it's that everyone should be ALLOWED to vote.
Jay Price, North Carolina Public Radio, WUNC.

That was Jay Price reporting for member station WUNC in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Coming up on podcast….in 2017 Bodhi Tree Concerts staged 8 Songs for a Mad King as a political commentary about Trump. With election day coming up, it is revisiting the show for obvious reasons.

DIANA DUMELLE We have a lot more content. Boy, do we have a lot more material after three years. (:06)

That story next, just after this break

In 2017 Bodhi Tree Concerts performed "8 Songs for a Mad King" at the San Diego International Fringe Festival. The Mad King of the title was meant to be George III but in its production he bore a striking resemblance to Donald Trump. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says Bodhi Tree Concerts will have a single, virtual encore performance of "8 Songs for a Mad King" this Friday at 6pm.

When Bodhi Tree Concerts staged 8 Songs for a Mad King at San Diego International Fringe, they had a huge conference room to perform in. Walter DuMelle had a long table to strut down as people live tweeted reactions to monitors placed around the room. It was a wildly interactive and immersive show.
CLIP Singing down table
But three years later, COVID has changed things.
DIANA DUMELLE So we have we don't have the live tweeting, but we do have a lot of media going on at all times or most of the time behind the mad king.
That's Diana DuMelle who along with her husband Walter founded Bodhi Tree Concerts. Walter had been eager to perform as the Mad King for decades.
WALTER DUMELLE Eight Songs has been one of those pieces that had been on my music shelf for about the last twenty-five years, waiting for the perfect synergistic opportunity to unveil itself. And the Fringe Festival was, in fact, that opportunity…and pivoting the mad King from George III to our at that point, recently elected own Mad King seemed like an appropriate fit and the fit is all the more appropriate today.
This rebooted 8 Songs for a Mad King has been videotaped with Walter performing to a now empty table. If the Fringe show merely suggested the Mad King was Trump this new production leaves no room for doubt as Walter wears an orange wig and real news footage plays behind him. With the election just days away Diana couldn't resist revisiting the work.
DIANA DUMELLE We have a lot more content. Boy, do we have a lot more material after three years.
Eight Songs premiered in 1969. The avant-garde song cycle by Peter Maxwell Davies depicted King George III's descent into madness. It also tested the sanity and skill of anyone who took on the role. That's why as a singer Walter has had his eye on it.
WALTER DUMELLE It was a vehicle for at the time what was very provocative, extended vocal techniques. So the singer is using his voice in a lot of creative extended ways that would not be normally found on the operatic stage.
CLIP singing
WALTER DUMELLE If you were to look at a sheet of the sheet music, you would see more suggestive lines and arrows than you would actually notes to sing.
CLIP More singing
Mad King is also a challenge for the musicians.
WALTER DUMELLE it calls for is six instrumentalists with a quite a wider range of percussion instruments, giving it a wide palette of sounds.
Sounds that can be dissonant and jarring and Walter has to match that to reflect the character's descent.
WALTER DUMELLE Almost screaming and vomiting the madness coming out of this guy.
Maxwell Davies took the real rantings of King George to create his monodrama of a mad monarch.
WALTER DUMELLE In some of the little poems and writings that King George wrote he was believed to have been taught that the birds were talking to him… and so the piece sort of pivots around a lot of tweeting-like sounds that communicate to him.
And of course tweeting takes on a whole new meaning when you are talking about Trump and social media today. For this production the instrumentalists are essentially tweeting from their own cages says Diana DuMelle.
DIANA DUMELLE because most of the orchestra represents King George's birds that would talk to him. And so we want to try and put them in cages.
Quarantine has prompted a new kind of innovation from Bodhi Tree Concerts but their mission remains same: to employ local artists, support causes, and engage people through music. This production can be seen as a call to action.
DIANA DUMELLE We're thinking of it as a please get out and vote vehicle.
Because the DuMelles feel this is the most important election of their lifetime.
Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

Bodhi Tree Concerts' 8 Songs for a Mad King will have one virtual performance tomorrow at 6pm on YouTube and Facebook.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.