Senate begins Biden cabinet hearings; Mexico urges US immigration policy reform; American woman allegedly steals Pelosi laptop for Russian intelligence

On inauguration eve, President-elect Joe Biden’s top national security cabinet picks are set for Senate approval hearings Tuesday. Biden tapped recently retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to be his secretary of defense, ruffling feathers by asking Congress to waive the rule against picking a military officer who has served in the Pentagon within the last seven years.

Also up for confirmation is Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s Homeland Security top choice, along with longtime career diplomat Antony Blinken to lead the State Department. Blinken says he’ll rebuild the department after it was essentially gutted under the Trump administration. If confirmed, Avril Haines will be the first woman in the role of director of national intelligence, and Janet Yellen will also make history as the first woman to serve as treasury secretary.

Having Biden’s top cabinet officials in place will be critical in enacting his ambitious reforms, set against the backdrop of racial and civil unrest, a pandemic death toll of almost 400,000 Americans, and an economic recession. Biden has also pledged to overhaul US immigration policy on Day One in office, with plans to sign an executive order that will reunite migrant parents with their children who were separated at the US-Mexico border.

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After thousands of Honduran migrants clashed with Guatemalan police as they attempted to reach the US border via Mexico over the weekend, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador urged US President-elect Joe Biden to reform US immigration policies immediately. “In Joe Biden’s campaign, he offered to finalize immigration reform and I hope that he is able to achieve this. That is what I hope,” Obrador said. The Trump administration had taken a hard line against thousands of Central American migrants who travel in large groups referred to as “caravans,” fleeing hunger, poverty, and violence in their respective countries.

Amid the chaos led by Trump supporters of the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 22-year-old Riley June Williams, who is from Pennsylvania, has been accused of stealing a laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office with plans to allegedly sell it to Russian intelligence. The FBI arrested Williams on Monday, charging her with illegal entry and disorderly conduct, but not theft. Williams’ mother told an ITV reporter that her daughter had recently been drawn to “far-right message boards” and Trump’s politics. The matter remains under investigation and a court date has not yet been set.

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