Department of Justice vs. Arizona

From the Restore Fairness blog.

In the short time since Arizona passed SB 1070 into law, it has become one of the strongest and most controversial symbols of our nation’s debate on immigration. SB 1070 requires the police to stop anyone that has a “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented but once enacted, it is believed that may well lead to unconstitutional racial profiling and a breakdown of trust between police and the communities they protect. But SB 1070 is also emblematic of the frustration that many have with our broken immigration system, a sign that states have decided to take immigration into their own hands as Congress remains in a deadlock over immigration reform. The latest catalyst for this debate -  a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice brought against the state of Arizona and SB1070 on July 6th, 2010.

Analysis over the implications of the lawsuit are rife in the media. Many are looking at the lawsuit and its potential for setting a new precedent with regards to the tussle between the federal government and state laws around immigration. Previous precedent shows a tendency for federal courts to side with the federal government on cases when states and cities pass laws that conflict with federal immigration law. An article in the Wall Street Journal traces this precedent back to laws in the 1880s aimed at limiting Chinese immigration. While the dispute could go either way, some analysts hold that that the federal court could only block sections of the law, while allowing some others to be enforced.

By bringing a lawsuit against the state of Arizona, the Obama administration (via the Justice Department) has taken a strong stand against the law. But an article in the Washington Post discusses further implications of this stand. The article quotes the Democratic strategist who spoke about the implications of the lawsuit for the Democrat party -

There is probably some short term pain politically given how popular the law is…But considering the demographic changes the country is undergoing, long term, there is a lot of upside in advocating for Latinos and comprehensive immigration reform.

While the Obama administration is advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, the Democrat party has continued to play safe so as not to alienate the large electoral base that supports the Arizona law and other enforcement heavy approaches to immigration. On the other hand, many Republicans, who support the law and an enforcement heavy approach, continue to emphasize a secure border-then reform approach, a rhetoric that leads to little progress on the issue. Republicans such as Senator John McCain, who previously argued for comprehensive reform, have abandoned their support of an immigration overhaul in the face of resentment and anger from within the party as well as from anti-immigrant groups such as the Tea Party Movement.

In the midst of all these actions are ordinary people suffering disruptions to their everyday lives on account of an immigration system that remains unjust and broken.

Photo courtesy of americasvoiceonline.org

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Let's get real about harsh anti-immigrant laws and their implications

From the Restore Fairness blog.

The small town of Fremont, Nebraska is the latest in a series of U.S. towns that have decided to take immigration law into their own hands. On Monday, the 21st of June, 57% of the town’s 25,000 residents voted in favor of a law that would ban landlords from renting to people that were undocumented, and ban employers from hiring people without the correct immigration documents. The measure will require city officials and employers to verify people’s immigration status before taking them on as employees or tenants.

The arguments in support of this measure are similar to those heard in Arizona from those that support SB1070, the Arizona law that makes it a misdemeanor to be undocumented in Arizona and sanctions local law enforcement to stop people who appear reasonably suspicious of being undocumented. In Fremont, those in favor of the anti-immigrant ordinance attribute it to the Federal government’s inaction on the issue of immigration. A resident of Fremont, Trevor McClurg thinks that it is a fair measure. He said, “I don’t think it’s right to be able to rent to them or hire them. They shouldn’t be here in the first place.”

Speaking to the Associated Press, 56 year old Alfredo Velez, who runs a general store in Fremont and is an American citizen, has a very different opinion. Surprised by the law, he was only certain about one thing. “We’re not welcome here,” he said, expressing concern about the future of the town’s Hispanic population and his store, Guerrero, which sells products from Central America and Mexico. The town, about 35 miles northwest of Omaha, has seen its Latino population grow in leaps and bounds in the last decade due to the availability of jobs at the nearby Fremont beef and Hormel factories. Velez, who is the father of four and has lived in the town for 12 years, considers it home and has no plans of leaving, but was incredibly hurt by the high percentage of residents that voted to get the anti-immigrant ordinance passed. An owner of a building downtown, he is certain that if passed, this law will scare people away from the town, chasing away many potential renters.

The probable implications of a law like this are huge, and can run much deeper than deterring immigrants from settling in the town. In addition to inciting racial discrimination and racist sentiments, laws like this often result in length legal battles, the costs of which have to be filled by town taxes. In Fremont, the American Civil Liberties Union has already planned to file a lawsuit opposing the new measure. Explaining the motivation behind such bills, Amy Miller, ACLU Nebraska’s legal director said-

I’m afraid this is part of a larger, nationwide trend, most obviously typified by what has happened in Arizona,”There is no rational reason for Fremont to be worried about protecting our border. But it is a community, like many in rural Nebraska, where the only population growth has been in new immigrants, many of them people of color.

ACLU Nebraska has two main problems with the bill. She feels that in addition to immigration policy being a federal function, the measure violates the14th amendment of the constitution, which guarantees due process to everyone in the U.S., not just American citizens. Other cities with similar ordinances such as Hazelton, PA and Riverside, NJ, have faced lawsuits that have kept the laws tied up in the courts, preventing them from being implemented and resulting in extremely high legal costs for the cities. City officials in Fremont are estimating up to $1 million dollars as the cost of the ordinance, including legal fees, employee overtime and computer software, not taking into account the deduction in city taxes that will take place as a result of the law driving away people who fear being targeted by it.

And it isn’t just small towns that are passing laws such as this. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 5 other states (South Carolina, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Michigan) are looking at copycat legislation, and as per a Washington think tank, NDN, 17 other states had expressed interest in similar laws. Lawmakers in cities such as Fremont should learn a lesson or two from Arizona when executing harsh anti-immigrant measures such as this.

Even before Arizona’s SB1070 has been implemented,it has been responsible for sizable numbers of people, especially Latinos, leaving their homes in Arizona and moving to other states. Although there is no official data tracking the numbers of people leaving, piecemeal information from businesses, schools and health centers indicates that since Gov. Brewer signed SB1070 on April 23rd, the populations of Hispanic neighborhoods is dwindling. Latino families that are frightened about the repercussions of the law for their children and community, are pulling their children from schools, leaving their jobs and uprooting their lives to move elsewhere, in moves that are highly risky given the current economy. According to Alan Langston, president of the Arizona Rental Property Owners & Landlords Association in Phoenix, landlords and realty companies will be hard hit by the new law. In Phoenix’s Belleview street, home to a large Latino population, now more than half of the properties have “for rent” signs hanging outside them.

Additionally, dozens of healthcare clinics in Arizona are concerned because people are too afraid of being questioned about their immigrations status to show up to their appointments. Tara McCollum Plese, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Association of Community Health Centers, which oversees 132 facilities said that people are either moving away or too afraid to turn up, and the health care workers are worried about the implications of people resisting treatment. “We’re actually worried about communicable diseases,” said Tara, speaking to the Washington Post. Educators are worried that with so many children being pulled out of schools, they may be forced to cut programs and lay off teachers, since lower enrollment means funding cuts for schools. According to the Washington Post-

Parents pulled 39 children out of Balsz Elementary, which has a 75 percent Hispanic student body, since April 23…In the small, five-school district, parents have pulled out 111 children, said district Superintendent Jeffrey Smith, who cites the new law as the leading factor. Smith said each student represents roughly $5,000 in annual funding to the district, so a drop of 111 students would represent roughly a $555,000 funding cut.

Small businesses like grocery stores and car washes are already feeling the impact of the law as well, having lost up to 30% of their business in the last two months. Most recently, Phoenix’s police chief released an estimate saying that once implemented, the enforcement of SB1070 would cost the city of Phoenix up to $10 million per year, as a result of the clause that makes it a criminal, rather than civil offense to be in the state without the correct documents.

State legislatures taking immigration law into their own hands can have a potentially devastating impact on the economies and communities of their states. It is imperative that the Federal government acts to pass immigration reform before more states follow suit. Take action now and write to Congress and President Obama to pass comprehensive immigration reform that upholds due process.

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Reset: Stephen Kinzer's Vision of a New U.S. Relationship with Turkey and Iran

Until quite recently, it seemed that Turkey had a clearly defined role in the Middle East, from the standpoint of U.S. policy. They were the "good Muslims," who were part of NATO, who contributed troops to U.S. wars, and who had good relations with Israel.

In the past few weeks, therefore, some Americans may have been startled to see the government of Turkey seemingly playing a very different role. First, together with Brazil, Turkey negotiated a nuclear fuel swap agreement with Iran to defuse the standoff over Iran's nuclear program and forestall a controversial U.S./Israeli push for new sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Although the deal was very similar to one proposed by the Obama Administration - and Brazil and Turkey had a letter from Obama encouraging them to press forward with the deal - Obama Administration officials dismissed the deal, and far from being grateful to Turkey and Brazil, made a show of being angry. But instead of being chastened, Turkey and Brazil insisted their deal was good - invoking their letter from Obama to demonstrate their case - and insisted that the U.S. should pursue it.

There's more...

Sen. Schumer Leads Opposition to Citizens United V. FEC With New Proposal

As most of you probably know by now, Citizens United V. FEC was the biggest SCOTUS decision this year, and arguably for awhile.  The 5-4 decision supposedly ended a limit on corporations first amendment rights, according to some of the advocates for the decision. 

I personally enjoyed Slate writer Dahlia Lithwick's take on the decision, saying that it creates a "Pinnochio Project" in which the Court transforms "a corporation into a real live boy."

McCain-Feingold advocates most likely wanted to beat their heads against a wall once they caught wind of this decision, because it was a proverbial slap in the face.  

Public opinion of what currently stands is overwhelmingly negative. A Washington Post poll taken after the ruling this February showed 8 of 10 respondents were opposed with 65% of polltakers being “strongly opposed” to the ruling. There isn’t even much of a partisan divide when it comes to opposition of this ruling. Bipartisan opposition of this ruling continues, and Congressional Democrats have a lot on their plates when they try curtail some of what the ruling set in place.  

Democrats plan to introduce legislation next week that would sharply limit the ability of foreign-connected companies to participate in U.S. politics and require greater transparency from corporations, unions and nonprofit groups that pay for political advertising, according to a confidential summary of the bill.

Source: Washington Post

The legislation being proposed wouldn’t fully negate the decision made by the Supreme Court by any means. The crux of the bill would address would require greater transparency from corporation, unions, etc. who finance political advertising while limiting non-domestic companies participation in American elections. Other facets of the bill would include executives or group leaders to include their names on ads that they fund, much like McCain-Feingold’s “Stand by your ad” provision

According to the summary, obtained by The Washington Post, the legislation would require corporate chief executives or group leaders to publicly attach their names to ads, much like political candidates are required to do. It would also mandate disclosure of major donors whose money is used for "campaign-related activity."

Many Republicans are in opposition to the plan constructed by Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). <Insert collective gasp of disbelief here>  

Campaign finance reform, has been a controversial issue in American politics for a long time and will continue to be. The McCain-Feingold Act (Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act) was the first type of legislation in any form to amend/change the Federal Election Act of 1971.  The law was passed in 2002, meaning for 30 years the same election standards were in place. Even at that, Russ Feingold and John McCain had been working on getting this through Congress for almost 8 years.

The act faced opposition by everyone's favorite Senator, Mitch McConnell, and eventually led to a Supreme Court case.  McConnell V. FEC challenged the Constitutionality of McCain-Feingold.  

Schumer and crew hope they can rally some support from Republicans to help pass legislation for this, but only time will tell if that plan comes to fruition.

The Return Of Eliot Spitzer? Not Yet, But Possibly in the Future?

As we are probably familiar with, the former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned from his position in March 2008 after the press emerged with federal wiretappings that incriminated Spitzer (who was arranging to meet a prostitute in Washington).  Since then, Eliot Spitzer has been playing damage control. He's a regular columnist for Slate, and has appeared on show's like Real Time with Bill Maher to discuss matters of Wall Street, taxation, and a Maher favorite... the legalization of marijuana. What I found most impressive is that he is still married. This is what the Washington Post had to say (via Reuters):

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A majority of New York voters do not want disgraced former Governor Eliot Spitzer to run for statewide office this year, but many say that they would support a run in the future, a poll said on Wednesday.

Asked "Should Eliot Spitzer ever run for public office in New York again, or not?," 45 percent said Spitzer, thought by many to be engineering a political comeback, should run for office some day, said the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion survey.

But 48 percent said his political career is over. The survey did not address how New Yorkers would vote if he did run.

Is there a possibility of Spitzer making a public office run, and being elected, in the future?  The chances seem slim now, but nothing is out of the realm of possibility it seems.

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