Breaking News: Senate filibuster leaves DREAM Act in limbo

From the Restore Fairness blog-

When Sen. Harry Reid announced last week that he would be adding the DREAM Act and a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ as amendments to the Defense Authorization Bill that was being put before the Senate, it sent waves of excitement and hope through the immigration world and around the nation, especially with respect to the 800,000 youth that have a lot at stake with the passage of the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act). The DREAM Act, which is a very crucial first step towards much needed immigration reform in the United States, would allow current, former and future undocumented high-school graduates a pathway to citizenship through college or the Armed Forces.

Today, as people waited to see how the Senate vote on the Defense Authorization Bill would proceed, the excitement mounted. Although Sen. Reid had put the DREAM Act up as an amendment, it could only come up for vote once the Democrats had the 60 votes needed to begin debate on the $726 billion Defense Authorization Bill. Unfortunately, at 2. 15 pm today, the Republicans led a successful filibuster of the Defense Authorization Bill in the Senate, killing the chance of a vote and passage of the DREAM Act this time around. While all Democrats voted to bring the bill to the floor, they were unable to win the support of enough Republicans to move the bill forward. The Senate filibuster on the Defense Authorization Bill has also held up passage of a repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy of gays in the military.

Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, expressed his frustration at the Senate vote saying-

Today’s vote should have been a simple one. This wasn’t going to change any laws, but merely allow the DREAM Act a chance to be fully debated. The Republicans couldn’t even allow that. Unfortunately, it’s not surprising considering they’ve held steadfast to their adopted role as obstructionists. Their behavior today was appalling. They failed the youth of America; they failed the country. Many of these venerable senators will say they support the DREAM Act but opposed the procedure…The GOP shut down debate on the DREAM Act because they hope the incredible and unprecedented activism seen all across the U.S. this past week will disappear. It won’t. Activists showed how quickly a movement can coalesce and be a driving a force…The GOP can’t filibuster this energy and enthusiasm. We are a powerful movement, and our movement will be felt come November.

The story is far from over. While it is hugely disappointing that just a few Republican votes kept the DREAM Act from being brought to the floor, today’s vote signaled a momentous step in the progress of the “dream.” Over the last few weeks, hundreds of thousands of people around the nation have worked tirelessly to get the “dream” passed. They have signed petitions, held vigils and made countless calls to Senators, urging them to support the DREAM Act. Now more than ever, it is important that we keep the pressure on Senators and those in positions of leadership so that they show their support for the DREAM Act so that the next time that it is brought to the floor of the Senate, we have a very different outcome.

Photo courtesy of nytimes.com

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Man In the Mirror

Frank Rich lit up the Opinion section of today’s New York Times in the view of an admittedly avid fan. This tour de force—“The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party” is its straightforward title—mercilessly laid waste to the troglodytic creeps and their benefactors who fouled our nation’s capital yesterday. Whatever one’s opinion of that feckless lawprof called Barack Obama, it certainly doesn’t permit Glenn Beck’s monumental stupidity and treachery. In the contest for all-time ignominious affronts to the Lincoln Memorial, the appearance of Glenn Beck’s fat, casually-dressed person beat a clinically depressed Richard Nixon’s late-night rap session going away.

Vive la révolution!

There’s just one element missing from these snapshots of America’s ostensibly spontaneous and leaderless populist uprising: the sugar daddies who are bankrolling it, and have been doing so since well before the “death panel” warm-up acts of last summer. Three heavy hitters rule. You’ve heard of one of them, Rupert Murdoch. The other two, the brothers David and Charles Koch, are even richer, with a combined wealth exceeded only by that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among Americans. But even those carrying the Kochs’ banner may not know who these brothers are.

Their self-interested and at times radical agendas, like Murdoch’s, go well beyond, and sometimes counter to, the interests of those who serve as spear carriers in the political pageants hawked on Fox News. The country will be in for quite a ride should these potentates gain power, and given the recession-battered electorate’s unchecked anger and the Obama White House’s unfocused political strategy, they might.

In the interest of full disclosure: I’m a progressive Democrat who for a long spell had nice things to relay about the Tea Party movement. This may be a bit difficult for some to understand but for a time the Tea Party movement was a “spontaneous, leaderless” development. Despite the movement’s libertarian underpinnings, opposition to the Troubled Asset Relief Program, ObamaCare, and corporatist policies of this sort presented the beautiful potential for coalescence of contrarian liberals and populist conservatives. While we were always destined to depart from each other on proper solutions for combating the badass recession, its resultant unemployment crisis, rising health care costs, and so forth, we were joined in contempt for this rotten bipartisan ruling class.

I considered myself a bohemian Tea Party person, attended rallies, and was treated graciously. (At this year’s Tax Day protest, however, one reactionary dragon on stage did refer to the president as a Muslim in no uncertain terms.) Unfortunately the movement has been devoured by Dick Armey, et al—as mercilessly as one can envision the fat Mormon annihilating ham hocks, turkey broth and sweet potato pie on Thanksgiving. This is tantamount to some hideous left-wing oligarch wrapping his tentacles around the progressive… Oh, nevermind.

There's more...

Bloomberg leads U.S. corporations and cities to lobby for immigration reform

From the Restore Fairness blog.

It seems fitting that New York City, the crux of the U.S.’s rich immigrant history is leading a new direction in the movement for immigration reform.

In what promises to be an important step towards re-framing the immigration debate in this country, New York City Mayor Bloomberg has formed a coalition of top executives and city mayors to put pressure on Congress and steer the nation towards immigration reform. On Thursday the 24th, Mayor Bloomberg announced the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition that includes the chief executives of major corporations such as News Corp., Hewlett-Packard, Disney, Boeing, Morgan Stanley, Marriott International and the NY Mets, and the mayors of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Phoenix.

The coalition argues that immigration reform is the key solution to repairing and rejuvenating the economy. By conducting polls, funding public educational campaigns, convening forums and publishing studies that demonstrate the ways in which a healthy economy thrives on immigrant workers, the coalition aims to “break the legislative stalemate that has taken over Congress.” Rupert Murdoch, a central member of the partnership and chairman of the News Corporation, who is also a naturalized immigrant from Australia, summed up the argument for the New York Times-

This country can and must enact new immigration policies that fulfill our employment needs, provide a careful pathway to legal status for undocumented residents, and end illegal immigration….American ingenuity is a product of the openness and diversity of this society.

The CEO’s who have signed on to the partnership released statements about how their companies rely on immigrants. They mentioned the constant challenge they face in acquiring visas for professional workers whom they want to hire. Walt Disney chairman and CEO, Robert Iger said that the country’s immigrant population was “our great strength as a nation, and …critical for continued economic growth.” His statement went on to say, “To remain competitive in the 21st century, we need effective immigration reform that invites people to contribute to our shared success by building their own American dream.”

While stressing the importance of securing the national borders and preventing further entry of undocumented immigrants, the coalition urges Congress to create a path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. According to Mayor Bloomberg, in addition to the fact that deporting the existing undocumented immigrants was an impossible task, doing so would ruin the economy as these immigrants are a crucial part of the workforce.

On Thursday morning, Mayor Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch appeared on Fox News to talk about the ways in which immigration reform would benefit the economy. Bloomberg made his case for a reformed immigration policy which creates a system that allots green cards to those that have been education in the country rather than preventing them from staying on. Bluntly referring to the current system as “national suicide,” the NYC Mayor warned against the pitfalls of the present system in which prohibitive laws, bureaucracy and stiff enforcement prevent hundreds of potential entrepreneurs from staying on and leading to the creation of more jobs. He reiterated that the people who seek to the immigrate to the U.S. were hard working, dynamic, innovative people who want the opportunity to strive for better lives for themselves and their families, and that those are the people that build America in the first place. He said-

I can’t think of any ways to destroy this country quite as direct and impactful as our immigration policy. We educate the best and the brightest, and then we don’t give them a green card.

The business leaders in the coalition that have taken it upon themselves to lead the country towards immigration reform employ more than 650,000 people and make more than $220 billion in annual sales, combined. However it is yet to be announced as to whether the partnership will be a non-profit organization, a political action committee, or a non-standard non-profit. Either way, this bipartisan group’s decision to take on an issue that is of national importance and has been stuck in politics for so long, is deeply encouraging. Let’s get behind them and add to the pressure on President Obama and Congress to pass immigration reform now!

At 0:40 in the Fox News interview Mayor Bloomberg says, “We need to create jobs in this country….and immigrants can come here and create jobs. There’s this belief that immigrants take jobs away and that’s not true.”

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Unlikely source affirms Justice Department lawsuit against Arizona immigration law

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Just over a month away from July 29th, the day that Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB1070, is slated to go into effect, the situation seems poised for a clash between the Federal government and Arizona state over the law. In a rare moment in which the Federal government forcefully interferes with the affairs of a state, the Department of Justice has decided to file a lawsuit against SB1070, the Arizona law that makes it a misdemeanor for a person to be undocumented in Arizona. While the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had denounced the law in early May and announced that the Department of Justice was considering opposing the law, an official declaration of the Federal lawsuit was yet to come.

Until last week that is. The announcement that the Federal government was going to sue Arizona over SB1070 came from an unexpected, albeit official source. It became public last week that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had casually let the confirmation slip during a TV interview she gave while in Quito, Ecuador earlier this month. When asked by the interviewer about how the Obama administration was dealing with the controversial law that opponents feel will condone racial profiling by mandating that police officers question people on their immigration status based on their appearance, Secretary Clinton said-

President Obama has spoken out against the law because he thinks that the Federal Government should be determining immigration policy. And the Justice Department, under his direction, will be bringing a lawsuit against the act. But the more important commitment that President Obama has made is to try to introduce and pass comprehensive immigration reform. That is what we need, everyone knows it, and the President is committed to it...

Following Clinton’s interview, speculation on the matter in the media is rife. Justice Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the department "continues to review the law" but declined to comment any further. The department of Justice has been reviewing the law for some weeks now, presumably building its case against the law from the angle of civil rights violations and from that of the its infringement on immigration law enforcement, which is a Federal issue. Federal officials have hinted at the high probability of a lawsuit over SB1070 numerous times in the past few weeks. An official who is involved in reviewing the law and wished to remain anonymous said that "there is no reason to think" that Secretary Clinton’s comment was wrong. According to the New York Times-

...senior administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a decision had indeed been made and only the details of the legal filing were still being worked out. These officials said several government agencies were being consulted over the best approach to block the statute, which, barring any successful legal challenges, takes effect July 29.

As expected, Arizona’s Gov. Brewer, who signed off on this controversial law, is "outraged" by the news of the Federal Government’s lawsuit. Her office has been quick to file motionsto dismiss the lawsuits against SB1070 that have been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) , Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. When news of a possible Justice Department lawsuit was first heard, Gov. Brewer had faced the challenge head-on saying, "We’ll meet you in court."

This time around Gov. Brewer was vocal in her displeasure that the news reached viewers in Ecuador before it was told to the people of Arizona. She released a statement saying that "this is no way to treat the people of Arizona." The Los Angeles Times quotes her saying-

To learn of this lawsuit through an Ecuadorean interview with the secretary of state is just outrageous. If our own government intends to sue our state to prevent illegal immigration enforcement, the least it can do is inform us before it informs the citizens of another nation.

While it is difficult to take Gov. Brewer’s appeal for the "people of Arizona" seriously under the circumstances, Clinton’s interview does come as a surprise, as it preempts an official announcement of the lawsuit by the Justice Department. State Department spokesperson Philip J. Crowley said that her comments were meant to address deep concerns about the new law in Latin American countries. He stressed the international implications of the law saying that "It is important to recognize that this has resonated significantly beyond our borders."

Speculation is that the Federal Government will file its case in the court in Phoenix in the week leading up to July 29. Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel, reiterated the important of the Federal Government taking action against SB1070. She said-

The time for the Obama administration to take action against this egregious law is now. We urge the administration to move swiftly to stop this un-American law from going into effect. ...The administration should also take other concrete steps, in addition to filing a lawsuit, against the Arizona law. Administration agencies, including the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, should suspend all cooperation with government officials and agencies in the state of Arizona on immigration enforcement matters as long as this law, which relies on racial stereotyping and profiling and interferes with federal immigration priorities and policies, remains on the books. Immediate action is essential to deter other states and localities from taking similar steps.

Watch Secretary Hillary Clinton’s interview with Ecuadorian channel, NTN 24.

 

 

 

 

On gay pride, watch 2 moms fight to stay together

From the Restore Fairness blog.

In countries around the world, the month of June is celebrated as LGBT Pride month, and is a time for people to come together in affirmation of the LGBT community and the movement for gay rights. June was chosen as Pride month to commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969 which led to birth of the gay rights movement. Pride month provides us with an opportunity to recognize the successes of the movement for equal rights and to celebrate the diversity of the community, but is also a time to look at the numerous battles that are still to be won before we can all live freely and equally, irrespective of our gender and sexual orientation.

This LGBT Pride month we want to celebrate families- families like the one that Shirley and Jay, moms of twin boys, are fighting to keep together. A picture perfect family, Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado live in Pacifica, California with their thirteen year old twin boys, Jashley and Joriene, and Jay’s mother, Renee. Shirley and Jay fell in love 23 years ago when Shirley was visiting from the Philippines, and have been together ever since. Always wanting to have children, Shirley gave birth to the twins in 1997, and the couple entered into a domestic partnership under California law. Within their suburban community they are considered a “model family” in which Shirley is a typical stay-at-home soccer mom who volunteers at the boys’ school and looks after her mother-in-law while Jay works at an insurance firm. On Sundays, Jay and Shirley sing as a part of their church choir.

As per family unification provisions in immigration law, American citizens are able to petition for residency for their spouses. Unlike countries like France, Germany and Canada, this does not apply to same-sex partners in the United States, so although Jay Mercado is an American citizen, she is unable to sponsor Shirley. Having come to the United States to escape a traumatic and violent familial situation in the Philippines, Shirley had applied for political asylum in 1995. Her lawyer had advised the couple that they should be patient while the application was being processed. News of the denial of Shirley’s application came in the form of a rude shock that disrupted the whole family.

At 6:30 am on a winter morning last year, Jay was getting dressed to go to work and Shirley was getting ready to take the boys to school, when the doorbell rang. On opening it they were faced with two agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who showed them a 2002 letter ordering Shirley’s deportation (which she had never seen before). Minutes later she was handcuffed and taken away as Jay and her mother watched, frightened and helpless. Shirley was held in detention at the Sansome facility in San Francisco before being tagged with an electronic bracelet and returned to her family, awaiting deportation to the Philippines. Shirley describes her time in detention as one of the most traumatic ordeals of her life-

My agonizing, humiliating and tragic experience started when I got in their SUV. My partner ran to the car and saw me being handcuffed and she broke down to tears… I thought it was the lowest point of my life…I was taken like a criminal… My heart was beating so hard, my whole body was shaking and I felt so nauseated with what was happening to me.

Reporting to ICE three times a week and struggling to deal with the possibility of being separated from her wife and children, Shirley sought the support of LGBT advocates and the media to raise awareness about the case and seek justice that would prevent her family from being torn apart. As a result of this, in April 2009, California Sen. Diane Feinstien introduced a rare bill that granted Shirley a temporary reprieve from deportation, allowing her to stay in the U.S. till January 2011.

While the Tan-Mercado family are extremely grateful for the respite that Sen. Feinstein’s bill has provided them, they are worried about what will happen to them post-Janunary 2011. In a testimony that Shirley delivered to the United States Senate Committee, Shirley expressed her concerns for the future of her family-

All the while my family was first and foremost the center of everything on my mind.  How would Jay work and take care of the kids if I was not there?  Who would continue to take care of Jay’s ailing mother, the mother I had come to love, if I was not there?  Who would be there for my family if I was not there?  In an instant, my family, my American family, was being ripped away from me.  And when I did return home, I had an ankle monitoring bracelet. I went to great lengths to hide it from my children. I have a partner who is a U.S. citizen, and two beautiful children who are also U.S. citizens, but not one of them can petition for me to remain in the United States with them. Because my partner is not a man, she cannot do anything to help me. Nor can my children, who keep asking why this happened to us and what will ultimately happen to our family.

The only way for Shirley to stay in the United States with her family is if gay and lesbian couples to be able to sponsor their partners. It is important that we recognize families like the Tan-Mercado’s so that families can stay together, in Pride month and beyond.

The good news is that the provision that allows for same-sex partner sponsorship has now been folded into the proposal for comprehensive immigration reform which was first introduced by Rep Gutierrez in December 2009.

Take action now to fix our immigration system and keep families together.

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