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Biden to propose 8-year citizenship path for immigrants

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on Day One of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status, a massive reversal from the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies.

The legislation puts Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of President Donald Trump’s restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years, but it fails to include the traditional trade-off of enhanced border security favored by many Republicans, making passage in a narrowly divided Congress in doubt.

Expected to run hundreds of pages, the bill is set to be introduced after Biden takes the oath of office Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the legislation and granted anonymity to discuss it.

As a candidate, Biden called Trump’s actions on immigration an “unrelenting assault” on American values and said he would “undo the damage” while continuing to maintain border enforcement.

Under the legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other basic requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization, if they decide to pursue citizenship.

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Police command structure crumbled fast during Capitol riot

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, many of the police officers had to decide on their own how to fight them off. There was no direction. No plan. And no top leadership.

One cop ran from one side of the building to another, fighting hand-to-hand against rioters. Another decided to respond to any calls of officers in distress and spent three hours helping cops who had been immobilized by bear spray or other chemicals.

Three officers were able to handcuff one rioter. But a crowd swarmed the group and took the arrested man away with the handcuffs still on.

Interviews with four members of the U.S. Capitol Police who were overrun by rioters on Jan. 6 show just how quickly the command structure collapsed as throngs of people, egged on by President Donald Trump, set upon the Capitol. The officers spoke on condition of anonymity because the department has threatened to suspend anyone who speaks to the media.

“We were on our own,” one of the officers told The Associated Press. “Totally on our own.”

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Biden, Harris take break from inaugural prep to mark MLK day

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Two days from the inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris pitched in on Martin Luther King Jr. Day service projects as a militarized and jittery Washington prepared for a swearing-in that will play out under extraordinary security.

Biden and his wife, Jill, joined an assembly line in the parking lot of Philabundance, an organization that distributes food to people in need, and helped fill about 150 boxes with fresh fruit and nonperishables.

As Biden and Harris took breaks from their inaugural preparations to honor the civil rights hero Monday, outgoing President Donald Trump remained out of public view at the White House for the sixth straight day. In past years, Trump has marked the holiday with unannounced visits to the King memorial in Washington, but no such outing was expected this year.

Such a visit would have been complicated because Washington has become a fortress city of roadblocks and barricades before Wednesday’s inauguration, as security officials work to avoid more violence following the Jan. 6 riot by a pro-Trump mob at the U.S. Capitol.

In a measure of how nervous the capital city has become, U.S. Capitol Police on Monday briefly locked down the Capitol complex and paused inaugural rehearsals after fire broke out at a nearby homeless encampment.

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California becomes first state to top 3 million virus cases

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California on Monday became the first state to record more than 3 million known coronavirus infections.

The grim milestone, as tallied by Johns Hopkins University, wasn’t entirely unexpected in a state with 40 million residents but its speed stunning. The state only reached 2 million reported cases on Dec. 24.

The first coronavirus case in California was confirmed last Jan. 25. It took 292 days to get to 1 million infections on Nov. 11 and 44 days to top 2 million.

California’s caseload is also far ahead of other large states. Texas had more than 2 million and Florida topped 1.5 million.

The state has recorded more than 33,600 deaths related to COVID-19.

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The Latest: Biden won’t end pandemic travel restrictions

PHOENIX (AP) — WASHINGOTN — President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming White House press secretary says his administration does not intend to lift coronavirus travel restrictions for Europe, the U.K., Ireland and Brazil.

The message from Jen Psaki came Monday evening after the White House said President Donald Trump had lifted the restrictions for those countries, effective Jan. 26.

Psaki then tweeted: “On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.”

She added, “In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

Trump imposed the travel restrictions early in the pandemic to slow the spread of the coronavirus to the U.S. They prevented most people without American citizenship or residency from traveling to the U.S. from the affected regions.

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Census Bureau director to resign amid criticism over data

Facing criticism that he was acceding to President Donald Trump’s demand to produce citizenship information at the expense of data quality, U.S. Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham said Monday that he planned to resign with the change in presidential administrations.

Dillingham said in a statement that he would resign on Wednesday, the day Trump leaves the White House and President-elect Joseph Biden takes office. Dillingham’s term was supposed to be finished at the end of the year.

The Census Bureau director’s departure comes as the statistical agency is crunching the numbers for the 2020 census, which will be used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.

In his statement, Dillingham said he had been considering retiring earlier, but he had been persuaded at the time to stick around.

“But I must do now what I think is best,” said Dillingham, 68. “Let me make it clear that under other circumstances I would be honored to serve President-Elect Biden just as I served the past five presidents.”

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Biden’s test: Engineering economic boom in a partisan divide

BALTIMORE (AP) — When Joe Biden entered the White House as vice president, the economy was cratering. Job losses were mounting. Stocks were crashing. Millions of Americans were in the early stages of losing their homes to foreclosure as the housing bubble burst.

Biden returns to the White House as president a dozen years later with the economy battered and shaken by a pandemic. But this time is different — and it could reset the nation’s politics if Biden and Democrats can count on a level of growth not seen in a generation.

Despite the 9.8 million jobs lost due to the coronavirus, there are signs the country is on the cusp of a kind of boom unseen in the Obama and Trump eras.

Checking account balances have surged by $2.4 trillion since the outbreak began. Home prices are soaring because of hot demand. And each additional vaccination moves the world’s largest economy closer to fully re-opening.

“If the economy is improving substantially by spring or early summer, that might actually help Biden get more of his agenda done … because success can beget success,” said Jason Furman, who was top economist for the Obama administration. He pointed to the possibility of growth easing the path for an infrastructure program and climate investments.

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Inauguration rehearsal evacuated after fire in homeless camp

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Capitol complex temporarily locked down Monday during a rehearsal for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration after a fire in a homeless encampment roughly a mile away sent a plume of smoke into the air and caused security concerns in an already jittery city.

The false alarm briefly interrupted the rehearsal for Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony, a quadrennial exercise in which stand-ins take the roles of Biden and other VIPs and the U.S. Marine Corps Band goes through its paces, including practicing “The Star-Spangled Banner” for Wednesday’s performance by Lady Gaga. Rehearsal resumed not long afterward, accompanied by frequent passes by a helicopter patrolling the skies over the Capitol.

Law enforcement officials said there was no threat to the public and the fire was not believed to be a threat to the inauguration. Local firefighters put out the blaze quickly. The evacuation of some participants and the lockdown were ordered by the acting chief of Capitol Police in an abundance of caution, officials said.

But the fast decision to lock down underscores the fear that has gripped Washington since the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters and prompted extraordinary measures ahead of the inauguration. Armed protests planned for this past weekend around the country were mostly a bust, but anxiety is still skyrocketing.

U.S. Secret Service tightened security in and around the Capitol a week early in preparation, and the city center is essentially on lockdown with streets blocked, high fencing installed and tens of thousands of National Guard and other law enforcement officers stationed around the area.

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King Day service calls for nonviolence amid turbulent times

ATLANTA (AP) — Speakers at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration in Atlanta called Monday for a renewed dedication to nonviolence following a turbulent year in which a deadly pandemic, protests over systemic racism and a divisive election capped by an attack on the U.S. Capitol strained Americans’ capacity for civility.

“This King holiday has not only come at a time of great peril and physical violence, it has also come during a time of violence in our speech — what we say and how we say it,” said the Rev. Bernice King, the slain civil rights leader’s daughter. “It is frankly out of control and we are causing too much harm to one another.”

The coronavirus pandemic forced the annual King Day service at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church online during the 35th celebration of his birthday as a national holiday. His family was among a sparse group wearing masks and sitting far apart amid mostly empty pews as others delivered remarks remotely.

Bernice King said the toll of the pandemic, lingering outrage over killings of unarmed Black people and the deadly siege in Washington by supporters of President Donald Trump all underscore an urgent need to pursue what her father called “the beloved community” — a world in which conflict is solved nonviolently and compassion dictates policy.

She quoted her father’s words from more than 50 years ago: “There is such a thing as being too late.”

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Garth Brooks joins lineup of entertainers at Biden inaugural

NEW YORK (AP) — Add Garth Brooks to the lineup of entertainers at the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

“This is a great day in our household,” the country music superstar said during a virtual press conference Monday, two days before Biden is to be sworn in. “This is not a political statement. This is a statement of unity.”

Brooks, who joins Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez among others, performed during the inaugural celebration of President Barack Obama in 2009. He turned down a chance to play for President Donald Trump in 2017, citing a scheduling conflict.

Invited by incoming first lady Jill Biden, Brooks has known the Bidens for more than a decade, when Joe Biden was Obama’s vice president.

Brooks said that for this week’s inaugural, he will perform solo doing “broken down, bare-bones stuff,” and hinted at covering material by songwriters from outside the U.S.