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Fire at homeless encampment prompted US Capitol lockdown, situation cleared

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Monday morning, the U.S. Capitol complex was forced to temporarily lock down due to an “external security threat,” Capitol Police (USCP) said, after reports of a fire a few blocks away from the Capitol at a homeless encampment under a bridge.

This scare comes as tension and fear grip Washington, D.C. following the January 6 attack on the Capitol by rioters and as the city is preparing for President-elect Joe Biden‘s Wednesday inauguration. The complex is currently under strict security protection by the National Guard, resembling a military zone.

MORE ON INAUGURATION: Up to 25,000 National Guard troops to be in D.C. on Inauguration Day

USCP has since lifted the shelter-in-place order, NBC News reported.

Shortly before 10:30 am (EST), an email alert from USCP was sent to lawmakers telling those indoors to “stay away from exterior windows and doors” and for those outdoors to “seek cover,” according to multiple outlets.

This lockdown occurred during a rehearsal of Biden’s inauguration, forcing individuals to leave the West Front and to seek refuge inside the Capitol for safety. In videos and pictures, smoke could be seen rising from behind the Capitol Building.

D.C. Fire and EMS announced just before 10:30 am that it “responded to an outside fire in the 100 block of H St SE that has been extinguished,” reporting no injuries.

The U.S. Secret Service announced at 10:50 am that “There is no threat to the public.”

Around 11 am, another USCP email alert was sent to lawmakers saying that “a small explosion occurred” under the bridge at First and F Streets SE but that “the incident has been contained,” according to multiple reports. Staff and personnel, however, “are directed to continue to avoid coming to the Capitol Complex area until further notice.”

Shortly after 11 am, D.C. Fire and EMS reported that the fire “involved a homeless tent beneath freeway” and that the tent’s occupant “indicated she was using propane.” This, the department noted, “may explain report of ‘explosion.'”

The department also reported that there was one person with a non-life threatening injury and no other injuries, saying that the same female occupant “declined transport to the hospital” and that they have asked the American Red Cross of the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region to “provide assistance.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Canadian-U.S. border illegal crossings up 240% over previous year

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The vulnerability of the northern border of the United States is being weaponized in the war on illegal migration. 2023 saw a 240% increase of individuals apprehended from just one year prior. Not only is the border with Canada significantly longer than its border with Mexico, but its ports of entry are often understaffed while the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is forced to prioritize the southern surge.

According to recent data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in 2023 authorities halted over 12,000 migrants attempting illegal crossings at the Canadian border. The number is a 240% increase from the preceding year when 3,579 individuals were apprehended.

ADN America reports that approximately 70% of the illegal crossings took place along a 295-mile stretch along the northern New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire border called the Swanton Sector.

Chief patrol agent for the sector, Robert Garcia, posted on social media that the 3,100 individuals apprehended were from 55 different countries. 

Garcia wrote “the record-breaking surge of illegal entries from Canada continues in Swanton Sector” and he specifically mentioned that the arrest of 10 Bangladeshi citizens was prompted by a citizen’s report in Champlain, New York.

Surprisingly, ADN reports:

A significant number of those engaging in illegal crossings are Mexicans who exploit the opportunity to fly to Canada without a visa, also avoiding the presence of cartels in their home countries.

Experts suggest that migrants can purchase a $350 one-way plane ticket from Mexico City or Cancun to Montreal or Toronto. This route is perceived as offering a lower likelihood of being turned away compared to those crossing the southern border.

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