New challenges and new hopes- immigrant voters hold their own in the elections

From the Restore Fairness blog-

As election fever passes and the nation takes stock, one thing becomes clear – even as Republicans have taken control of the House and Democrats remain strong in the Senate, no one can afford to ignore the immigrant voter.

This election wasn’t about immigration – much of it was dominated by the issue of jobs and the economy. But the issue of immigration, even if it wasn’t front and center, did play a crucial role in winning Senate seats. In California, Meg Whitman’s strong anti-immigrant stance yielded no results, while in Colorado, Senator Michael Bennet received support from Latino voters, and in Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s positive stance on immigration brought in Latino voters who formed 16% of the entire electorate. In an analysis on the Washington Independent-

“Harry Reid beat out Sharron Angle (R), who ran a campaign that relied heavily on anti-illegal immigration rhetoric, and immigration hawk Tom Tancredo lost the race for Colorado governor… Angle claimed Reid supported a number of policies to help illegal immigrants and seemed to be attempting to capitalize on ethnic fears in ads that showed angry-looking Latino men set to dramatic, if untrue, statements. Tancredo also campaigned largely on immigration policy… Republican Meg Whitman lost to Democrat Jerry Brown. Whitman tried to reach out to Latino voters after her primary, but was hindered by allegations of mistreatment and illegal employment by an undocumented maid who worked for her for almost a decade.”

In a poll conducted by Latino Decisions with the support of National Council of La Raza, SEIU, and America’s Voice, among Latino voters in 8 states, they found that when asked whether the issue of immigration was an important factor in their decision to vote and in their choice of candidate, 60% of Latinos said it was either “the most important” issue or “one of the most important” issues, staying ahead of other important issues like education, taxes, and housing. In Nevada and Arizona, two of the states with the most polarizing immigration debates going on at the moment, sentiments were even stronger. 69% of Latino voters in both Arizona and Nevada said the immigration issue was one of the most important factors in their decision to vote, and who to vote for.  In Arizona, 40% said immigration was the single most important issue in their voting decisions, and 38% in Nevada said the same. Moreover, a high percentage of Latino voters said that their decisions to vote and who to vote for were also motivated by divisive immigration debates, and especially by anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment expressed in the electoral campaigns of candidates like Sharron Angle and Tom Tancredo.

The election results, particularly the Republican take over of the House, will have deep consequences for the future of immigration policy. With Lamar Smith, R-Texas slated to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee overseeing all immigration issues, and Steve King, R-Iowa heading the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, pressure for “increased border security and enforcement actions targeted at undocumented immigrants in the workplace” will increase. Mr. Smith’s track history around the issue of immigration over the past few years does not yield a pretty picture, with him supporting Arizona-Style Immigration Enforcement, measures to ending birthright citizenship and a push for mandatory E-Verify regulations. And judging by last weeks request by seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee asking Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to “detail exactly how much funding” would be needed to “ensure that enforcement of the law occurs consistently for every illegal alien encountered and apprehended”, a strong pushback from Republicans in both the House and Senate would not be surprising.

But instead of running away from ugly bills, we need to confront them. Because looking at 2012, it is clear that no one, Republicans or Democrats, will be able to win an election without the strength of the immigrant voter, and particularly the Latino voter supporting them. Be it in California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, this election has shown that in races with the Latino and immigrant vote, one can create victory and show strength.

It’s time to listen and stay fixed on the goal with a clear, progressive call for change that respects due process and fairness for all.

Photo courtesy of www.fronteras.org

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Holder Reiterates Support for Miranda Rule -- But Still Wants to Change It

Testifying to the House Judiciary Committee today, Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated his support for civilian trials for suspected terrorists and emphasized that Miranda warnings do not prevent suspects from talking. But he also repeated his statement, first made last Sunday, that the "public safety exception" to the Miranda rule should be "modernized" and "clarified" - although he never explained what's wrong with the Supreme Court rule as it stands now.

"I can point to the facts and history which has shown that giving Miranda warnings has not had a negative impact on our ability to obtain information from terrorism suspects," Holder testified this afternoon in a hearing that lasted most of the day. "There is a misconception that people have that a giving of Miranda warnings necessarily means that people will stop talking." But "whether or not people will talk is not determined solely by Miranda warnings" but is based more on the rapport developed by the interrogator with the suspect and any advantage the suspect thinks he'll get from cooperating, Holder explained. He added that Miranda warnings often actually help investigations because if a suspect decides he wants a lawyer, "the defense attorney frequently convinces that person to cooperate in the hope that a sentence would be lessened. So even if it has the initial impact of stopping the information flow, that does not mean that it permanently stops it."

Some Republicans have been hammering Holder lately for allowing law enforcement authorities to read the failed Times Square and Christmas Day bombing suspects their Constitutional rights, and lawmakers such as Dan Lungren (R-Cal.) and Lamar Smith (R-Tx.) continued that line of attack at today's hearing.

But even as he insisted that Miranda rights and civilian trials have been highly effective tools for fighting and prosecuting terrorism in both the Bush and Obama administrations, Holder repeated his recent statement that he wants to work with Congress to "clarify" and "modernize" the public safety exception to the Miranda rule.

In New York v. Quarles, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1984 carved out an exception to the requirement that a suspect must be read his rights prior to interrogation for his statements to be admissible in court. The Supreme Court said that law enforcement authorities may delay informing a suspect of his rights when there is an imminent threat to public safety.

That exception has been commonly applied in terrorism cases. In the questioning of the two recent attempted bombing suspects, Faisal Shahzad and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, for example, both were initially questioned by investigators pursuant to that exception before being read their rights. Both provided information, and continued to do so even after they were told they had a right to remain silent and to representation by a lawyer.

In a letter sent today to President Obama, three prominent former FBI interrogators urged the president not to mess with the current Supreme Court rule.

"Legislating on this subject could very well result in rules that unnecessarily constrain law enforcement officials and hinder their ability to adapt to unforeseen situations," wrote former FBI agents Jack Cloonan, Joe Navarro and Jim Clement. They added: "In our decades of working in law enforcement, including the years following 9/11, Miranda rights never interfered with our ability to obtain useful information or make prosecutable cases."

Judging from his statements at today's hearing, Eric Holder believes that as well. It remains unclear, then, why he'd even consider amending this decades-old Supreme Court rule - placing future terrorist convictions in jeopardy for years to come.

Holder also reiterated that the location of the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators' trial is still under consideration by the Department of Justice. Holder said he's taking into account the reactions of political leaders and residents in the areas where it might be held.

Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, where Holder originally said the trial would be held in a federal court, today announced that he supports having the trial in New York so long as the federal government restores some $50 million in funding that Homeland Security officials recently said would be cut from New York's anti-terrorism budget.

That funding could be easily restored by closing Guantanamo Bay. As Human Rights First pointed out in a recent video, it costs up to $125 million a year simply to operate the Guantanamo Baydetention camp. And that's not including the hundreds of millions of dollars the federal government spent to build it.

Want to know what's wrong with the War on Drugs?

From the Restore Fairness blog.

It’s the first time that 1 in every 100 adult Americans is in prison, proof of an exploding prison system that states can ill afford and a movement away from rehabilitation programs. Even more disturbing are the racial disparities within the prison system. More than 60% of people in prison are racial and ethnic minorities which means 1 in every 36 Hispanic adults and 1 in every 15 black adults are in prison. How did this all happen? A change in laws and policies over the past decade have convicted more offenders, including non violent offenders, and put them away for increasingly lengthy sentences. For many, it is a system that is not providing the same returns in public safety in relation to this growth, and a rapid movement to change unfair laws has seen growing progress.

The 1980’s saw the “War on Drugs” launched in a big way. It was also the time for many federal policies that disadvantaged communities of color. One example: sentences for crack cocaine offenses (the kind found in poor Black communities) that were treated a 100 times more severely than powder cocaine offenses (the kind that dominates White communities).

Reform advocates say no other single federal policy is more responsible for gross racial disparities in the federal criminal justice system than the crack/powder sentencing disparity. Even though two-thirds of crack cocaine users are white, more than 80 percent of those convicted in federal court for crack cocaine offenses are African American.

The differences in sentencing were based on a myth that crack cocaine was more dangerous than powder cocaine and that it was instantly addictive and caused violent behavior, all of which has been disproved. What it’s actually led to is a costly system that focuses on low-level offenders and users instead of dealers and suppliers, imprisoning addicts that could benefit from rehabilitation programs. One analysis by Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois, estimates that an increased focus on community programs and an end to the sentencing disparity could lead to a savings of half-a-billion dollars in prison costs.

With mounting pressure on Congress to do away with legislation that has devastated communities, we are at an opportune moment to instill justice back into the system. While The House Judiciary Committee has already passed a bill that ends the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, the Senate Judiciary Committee will likely vote on a bill soon. Some Senators want to reduce the sentencing disparity instead of eliminating it but this watered-down compromise will do little to restore fairness. Let the Senators hear your voice.

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House Panel Votes to Strip Insurance's Antitrust Exemption

The House Judiciary Committee throws down the gauntlet.

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted to repeal the insurance industry's federal antitrust exemption in a move aimed at spurring competition and controlling the cost of premiums.

The panel, in a 20-9 vote, approved legislation to ban companies from engaging in price fixing, bid rigging and market allocation. The measure may be combined with a proposed overhaul of the health-care system the House is considering.

Three House Republicans crossed the aisle to vote in favor of revoking the exemption, which dates back to 1945. Two of these Republicans represent marginal districts -- Dan Lungren of California 3, which narrowly backed Barack Obama in 2008, and Tom Rooney of Florida 16, which was represented by a Democrat in the previous Congress -- perhaps explaining why they would join the Democrats on this measure. However, the other, Louis Gohmert, represents a district in Texas with a Cook PVI rating of R+21. What's more, he traditionally votes extremely conservatively, suggesting, perhaps, that there could be more widespread support for stripping the insurance companies' antitrust exemption than one might otherwise expect.

Regardless of this measure eventually becomes a part of overall healthcare reform legislation, it does give those in favor of reform important leverage in negotiations and deliberations -- including over whether or not to include a robust public option.

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California Democratic Party Passed Bybee Impeachment Hearings Resolution. Now What?

I'm happy to report that over the weekend at the California Democratic Party convention, a grassroots push to get the CDP to officially endorse Congress's investigations into the impeachment of Judge Jay Bybee, author of the infamous August 1, 2002 torture memo, was successful. Bybee currently enjoys a lifetime appointment to the 9th circuit court of appeals in San Francisco. The only way to remove him is for Congress to impeach him.

David Dayen, whose own petition in support of the CDP resolution had garnered 5,000 or so signatures by Sunday when the vote was taken, writes about the significance of the CDP's move:

Bybee's impeachment can start us down the path to restoring the rule of law. And now the largest state Democratic Party in the country has spoken. They have said that the myth about torture being a useful tool to extract actionable intelligence from terror suspects is not only irrelevant when it comes to lawbreaking but also entirely false, according to the CIA's own inspector general. They have said that Judge Bybee's appalling judgment and slavish acceptance of John Yoo's flawed legal reasoning represents a greater evil - the evil of thoughtlessness - and a greater responsibility for the actions committed thanks to his off-handed signature. They have said that Bybee's understanding of his own wrongdoing outweighed by his desire to be a federal judge shocks the conscience, and that far from being rewarded for his obedience to his conservative minders, he should bear responsibility for it, to the fullest extent possible.

But the CDP's passage of the resolution can not be the end. As Dave says, it's just the beginning. From a piece over at HuffPo:

David Dayen, a blogger and a delegate to past conventions, helped push the resolution through committee and onto the floor. The statement is meant to let California Democratic lawmakers know that "their state party just supported immediate congressional inquiry and need you as members of the state party to follow that."

Dayen said backers of the resolution will focus specifically on the six California Democrats on the Judiciary Committee: Howard Berman, Linda Sanchez, Brad Sherman, Zoe Lofgren, Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff.

Also, it's imperative that we contact every member of the House Judiciary Committee to let them know there is real grassroots support for this inquiry. FireDogLake Action has launched a tool to do just that. Dave has links to each on his site. Here's the default letter that you can send to each member of the committee:

On April 26, the California Democratic Party approved a resolution of support for an immediate Congressional inquiry into Judge Jay Bybee for his role in providing the legal justifications for torture.  I ask that you follow this call for justice and accountability by commencing with this inquiry, and resolving to pursue all appropriate remedies and punishments, including Bybee's impeachment from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  We cannot have someone sitting in judgment on the federal bench who displayed such horrific judgment in defying domestic and international law by providing a road map for torture.

Often resolutions that state parties pass at their conventions are rather toothless. Let's make sure this one has lasting ramifications.

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