Archive | June 2012

No Place For Show Me Your Papers Laws Revisited

Last fall, I wrote a piece entitled “No Place For Show My Your Papers Laws” which will be revisited here in light of the US Supreme Courts ruling on the Arizonia law. The state of Arizona started a wave of anti-immigration laws which have been replicated by four (4) states to date.

In response to the enactment of these laws, many organizations and individuals have taken decisive action to indicate that there is no place in a free nation for “show me your papers” laws. The ACLU and other national advocacy organizations remind us that that these  anti-immigration laws[i] — already signed in Arizona, Utah, Indiana, Georgia and Alabama[ii] — pose a grave threat to our civil liberties.

It is the ACLU’s assertion that these “show me your papers” laws which were passed in Arizona, Utah, Indiana, Georgia and Alabama intrude on the federal government’s immigration authority and institutionalize racial profiling and discrimination in states and localities throughout the nation — in direct violation of the Constitution’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. As a result, the ACLU has brought class action suits to halt this wave of anti-immigration laws and is urging the Department of Justice to take immediate action to challenge these laws in court.

In July of last year, I wrote about Alabama’s anti-immigration law because it was termed the strictest anti-immigrant law in the nation. There is great opposition to the law not only within that state but also across our nation. Alabama’s anti-immigration law, HB56, took effect in September of 2011. Before the law could go into effect, the American Civil Liberties Union, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center, the Asian American Justice Center and the Asian Law Caucus filed a class action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law (HB56)[iii]. After the suit was filed in this case a press release was sent out by the ACLU which read:

“Alabama has brazenly enacted this law despite the clear writing on the wall: Federal courts have stopped each and every one of  these discriminatory laws from going into effect,” said Cecilia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Local Alabama communities and people across the country are shocked and dismayed by the state’s effort to erode our civil rights and fundamental American values.”

Many community leaders oppose the anti-immigration law for a range of reasons. “This legislation not only violates our values as a community but will also create astronomical costs at a time when our state can least afford it,” said Shay Farley, Legal Director, Alabama Appleseed. “If these legislators have their way, millions of taxpayer dollars will be squandered and our already underwater state economy will take another serious hit.”

In response to the class action suit brought by the ACLU against the State of Alabama, on September 28, 2011, a federal court judge issued a ruling in that case. Here are comments from the ACLU on the court’s ruling in that case, as they appear in the press release, “While the court has blocked some extremely problematic provisions from going into effect, thereby allowing Alabamians to continue engaging in everyday activities such as seeking employment and giving rides to neighbors, we are deeply concerned by the decision to allow some unconstitutional provisions to stand,” said Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Laws that require police to demand ‘papers’ from people who they suspect appear undocumented encourage racial profiling, threaten public safety, undermine American values and have no place in our society.”

With that said, the ACLU is continuing the fight to halt the wave of racial profiling laws via filing law suits and other advocacy efforts. Currently, it is requesting that the Obama administration do its part to stop the anti-immigrant activists from putting these laws on the books. To assist in this effort to get Justice Department involvement in this issue, the ACLU is asking each of us to, Tell Attorney General Holder: There is no place in our country for “show me your papers” laws.  Toward that goal the ACLU prepared a petition which appears on its website. Please join me in signing and circulating the petition entitled “No place in America for “show me your papers” laws!”.

For further information about anti-immigration laws, visit the website(s) for the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU,  the National Immigration Law Center,  the National Immigration Forum, or the Asian American Justice Center.

Source(s): ACLU website. ACLU Press Releases. ACLU Press Release September 28, 2011. Alabama Coalition for Immigration Justice Press Release, National Immigration Forum, Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center,  the Asian American Justice Center, “Anti-immigration law march in Birmingham draws a crowd and keeps commenters divided, too”, The Birmingham News, June 26, 2011, “Report: Anti-Immigration Law Cost Millions, Jamilah King, COLORLINES, Thursday, January 27, 2011, Huffington Post, and America’s Voice on Line, “Alabama anti-immigration law facing court challenge”, Tom Baxter, Southern Political Report, July 8, 2011, “HB 56: Alabama May Pass Nation’s Harshest Anti-Immigrant Law”, Nsenga Burton, the Root, June 9, 2011.

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[i] .Alabama is the fifth state to pass anti-immigration law. Some opponents of the law have deemedAlabama’s anti-immigration law to be the most comprehensive/extreme in the nation. To date, the anti-immigration laws have not been fully implemented due to legal challenges by a coalition of national advocacy organizations. The coalition members include: the ACLU, the National Immigration Law Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Asian Law Caucus, the Asian American Justice Center, Latino Justice PRLDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

[ii] It has been reported that the Alabama anti-immigration bill (HB 56) replicates some portions ofArizona’s anti-immigration law. As it was written,Alabama’s anti-immigration law:

  • Allows local law enforcement to demand papers from and detain those they believe are in the country illegally.
  • Makes it a crime for undocumented immigrants to hold a job in Alabama, and make it a crime for any immigrant in the state to be caught without documentation proving status.
  • Makes it illegal to sign a contract with undocumented immigrants, to knowingly rent property to them, to knowingly hire them for jobs.
  • Requires businesses to use E-Verify, the government database of names, to check employees’ legal status.
  • Mandates that parents report the immigration status of their children to public schools to assist the schools to: maintain legal status records on all their students; and document the costs of educating undocumented children.

[iii] The decision in this case came down at the end of September of last year.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Constitutional

In March of this year, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act turned two years old. On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed a sweeping set of health care reforms into law. It was a historic moment in our nation’s history. Barack Obama was the first American president that was able to deliver a comprehensive health reform. This was a goal which eluded his predecessors. Since its enactment, it has been highly debated and challenged in the courts.

Today, in a 5-4 ruling, the United State Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s signature legislation, The Affordable Care Act. Chief Justice John Roberts provided the critical swing vote in this ruling. We all deserve high-quality health care that we can all afford, and today brings this goal to reality.

The United State Supreme Court’s ruling means that:

Children will no longer be denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, effective immediately.

Young adults can stay on their parent’s health insurance policy until age 26.

Adults will no longer be denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, effective in 2014.

Health insurance providers can no longer cancel your policy because you get sick.

Creates state-based marketplaces where people can easily compare and shop for insurance beginning in 2014.

Prevents insurance companies from charging women more than men and overcharging those who need care the most.

Gives hard-working Americans tax credits so they can afford insurance beginning in 2014.

Provides Americans with rebates from insurers who spend too much on CEO bonuses or advertisements.

Ends insurance company power to raise rates without justification.

There can no longer be annual limits to health coverage. If your illness is incredibly expensive, you will no longer have to worry about reaching a limit to what your insurance company will pay.

Is there a need for the 2010 The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (hereinafter “Affordable Care Act”)? Let’s look at the number of uninsured in America. This nation’s deep economic recession and resulting decline in employer sponsored coverage contributed to a rise in the uninsured in recent years. Research indicates that these factors left fifty (50) million Americans without coverage in 2009.

While public insurance programs prevented some individuals from losing health insurance coverage, these programs do not reach all of those who cannot afford insurance. With that understanding, the Affordable Care Act seeks to address the gaps in our private-public insurance system. This new law requires most Americans to have health insurance and many will gain coverage through expanded Medicaid eligibility and subsidized private coverage for individuals with incomes up to four hundred (400) percent of poverty starting in 2014.

The United States Supreme Court’s ruling in this case was a victory for Americans concerned about access to healthcare for all. As stated in an article in Mother Jones, “The largest expansion of the American welfare state since the Great  Society stands, upheld by the most conservative Supreme Court in  decades. Yet the decision is not simply a landmark ruling, it is a  monumental setback for a conservative movement strategy meant to sabotage, by all available means, the presidency of Barack Obama.”

Sources: The White House. CBS News. Chicago Sun-Times. http://www.healthcare.gov; http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform/healthcare-overview; http://www.democraticleader.house.gov/; http://www.dpcsenate.gov/healthreformbill/healthbill; The Kaiser Family Foundation, “Focus on Health Reform.” “Obamacare Lives: What Next?” by Adam Serwer, Mother Jones, June 29th, 2012.

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The 2012 Race For the Whitehouse

The 2012 race for the White House is close—so is the race for the United States Senate. As the 2012 elections are fast approaching, there have been reports across the country of efforts being made to shrink the pool of Americans who will be able to vote in the years ahead. In thirty-eight (38) states and counting, strict new voter ID laws, restrictions on early voting and Sunday voting, and racially motivated bans on ex-felons have either been passed or proposed.

New voter restriction laws on the books or in the works could deny the right to vote to more than five (5) million Americans this year. The mostly conservative proponents of these new laws claim they are meant to prevent widespread voter fraud. But the numbers to back up this argument simply do not exist.

Let’s be clear – the real reason behind this spate of new laws is to suppress the votes of  communities of color and other voter that tend to vote for Democrats – African Americans, Latinos, young people, the elderly and people with disabilities. If we are ever going to address the dire economic and educational challenges facing underserved communities, we must start with the vote.

As was aptly stated by President Johnson when discussing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” With that knowledge, people across the country have rallied to stand up against the forces trying to block the right to vote for millions. The persons in attendance at that event understand that, if we, as citizens, do not take action to stop restrictions on voting, no one will.

Instead seeking to suppress the right to vote for millions of Americans, our politicians should be focusing on what really matters – creating jobs, jobs, jobs – and not devising ways to take away one of our most basic rights.  Will you take a stand with me by against voter suppression laws. This fight won’t be easy… but there is no challenge more worth our struggle.

Voting is the one right that practically defines a democracy. The right to vote is one of the cornerstones of the United States Constitution. Nonetheless, during periods of history in America, millions of this nation’s citizens were denied this most precious right based on an immutable characteristic such as race.

Voting is a cherished right. Countless brave people gave up their lives to secure that right. Federal law guarantees it. Now it’s up to each of us to protect the right to vote and to make our vote count.

Source(s): US Constitution. Wikipedia. NAACP. Stand For Freedom

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The Farm Bill Passed the U.S. Senate

Last week, the United States Senate passed the Farm Bill by a bipartisan vote of 64 – 35 thanks to the people that stepped up to send an email, make a phone call, and spread the word through social media. The Senate’s Farm Bill provides our nation’s food banks and other emergency food providers with an additional $174 million in funding for USDA food provided through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) over the next 10 years. This is heartening news for food banks and other charitable organizations that must meet the rising demand for food assistance.

It was extremely disappointing that an amendment to restore $4.5 billion in cuts to SNAP did not pass. The good news is that the Senate rejected other amendments that would have imposed even deeper cuts and harmful structural changes to SNAP by a significant, bipartisan majority.

The fight is not over. In fact, it’s just getting started as the Farm Bill moves to the U. S. House of Representatives. Now that the Farm Bill has passed the Senate, the House of Representatives is set to finalize its version and bring it to committee for a vote the week of July 9th. In the House of Representatives,  even deeper cuts are expected for SNAP.

In the next few weeks, Hunger Advocates across the nation will have another opportunity to make their voices heard and protect vital hunger-relief programs like TEFAP and SNAP. Will you join us? I will be sending out more information and asking you to call your Member of Congress as that vote nears.

For those of you that sent emails and letters to your U.S. Senators, I thank you for helping to protect and strengthen programs that help to feed hungry Americans. Remember, without a strong federal commitment, we, as a nation, cannot hope to create a hunger-free America.

Please stay tuned for more ways you can get involved in the coming weeks. We can only make a difference when we take action. You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result. ~ Gandhi

Source(s): www.congress.org. www.govtrack.us. Feeding America.

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International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2011

Last month, the United States Senate passed the International  Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (S.414). This is an important step in upholding the  rights of adolescent girls around the world and a critical step in preventing  the harmful practice of child marriage, which often has devastating  consequences for girls, their families and their communities.

It is estimated that worldwide there are over sixty million child brides.  It has been reported that child marriage disproportionately affects the poor rural communities in the developing world, and helps perpetuate the cycle of poverty. When a girl marries before her eighteenth birthday, she has a greater probability of the following:becoming a victim of domestic violence; being deprived of education; and being exposed to health risks associated with early sexual activity including sexually trasmitted disease and complications from early child birth.

The legislation expresses the sense of Congress that: “…(1) child marriage is a violation of human rights and its prevention and elimination should be a U.S. foreign policy goal; and (2) expanding educational opportunities for girls, economic opportunities for women, and reducing maternal and child mortality are critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and U.S. global health and development objectives, including efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS. Authorizes the President to provide assistance, including through multilateral, nongovernmental, and faith-based organizations, to prevent child marriage in developing countries and to promote the educational, health, economic, social, and legal empowerment of girls and women.” The legislation is now before the U.S> House of Representatives for consideration.

This legislation passed due to the tireless efforts of  Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sen.  Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The  legislation passed unanimously, which means all 100 senators  supported passage of the bill. For further information on this legislation, you can visit www.congress.org.

Sources: www.congress.org. www.govtrack.us. CARE

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VAWA NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION – JUNE 26, 2012

The National Task Force to End Domestic Violence and other advocacy organizations have marked June 26, 2012, as the National Day of Action for the Reauthorization of the real Violence Against Women Act and have asked us to save the date on our calendars. It is anticipated that on or about June 26, 2012, there will be a call to action for all citizens concerned about the health and well-being of victims of domestic.

VAWA is up for reauthorization and for the first time in its history has struggled to obtain bipartisan support in both the House of Representative and the Senate. On the upcoming National Day of Action it is imperative that we tell Congress that doing nothing to bring about the passage of the real Violence Against Women Act is simply not an option.  With that said, on June 26, 2012, emails, faxes, and calls to our legislators in Washington, DC will be essential and determine whether or not the Real VAWA passes.

For nearly 20 years, Congress has recognized the severity of violence against women and our need for this landmark federal law’s comprehensive approach.  VAWA truly provides life-saving protections and services needed by victims and their families.  It is unacceptable that this law has become politicized while three women a day are still killed by an intimate partner.

Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence need a VAWA law that does not roll back protections for immigrant women and their families; includes protections for all victims, including the LGBT community and Native women; and directs resources to this urgent task in the most effective way possible.”

We know that all victims need protection and it is important to tell the world why on the National Day of Action. Congress must pass the real Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which protects all victims of domestic violence. As aptly stated by the National Task Force to End Domestic Violence, doing nothing is not an option with VAWA.

Calls to our legislators in Washington, DC are essential and will determine whether or not the Real VAWA passes. With that said, the National Task Force to End Domestic Violence has issued “A Call to Action!” on Tuesday, June 26th to reauthorize the real VAWA. In these final days Congress must see a groundswell that cannot be ignored.

Every person concerned about the health and well-being of women is needed now to raise their voice and tell Congress not to go backward but move forward to reauthorize the Real VAWA. It is important to get a Violence Against Women Act passed that protects ALL victims. The calls, emails, letters, and tweets to date have worked and now is the time to take it a step further.  It is important to show Congress how important the real Violence Against Women Act is to victims, survivors, advocates, and concerned citizens across the country.

Please save the date for a National Day of Action – June 26, 2012 on your calendar and tell your friends, families and everyone you know who cares about eradicating domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. All victims need protection and it is important to tell the world why on the National Day of Action. Congress must pass a Violence Against Women Act!

Don’t forget to tweet about VAWA using the hashtags #ReauthorizeVAWA, #RealVAWA and #VAWA.

Tell Congress doing nothing is simply not an option!

Source: National Task Force to End Domestic Violence

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Tell Congress To Pass the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA), H.R. 5905

The House of Representatives has re-introduced the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA), H.R. 5905. I-VAWA calls for a comprehensive plan to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally. First championed in 2007 by then-Senator Joe Biden, I-VAWA has not had an easy road in Congress.

This landmark legislation would hold perpetrators accountable, prevent, and respond to gender-based violence. When one out of three women worldwide will be physically, sexually or otherwise abused in her lifetime (with rates as high as 70 percent in some countries),I-VAWA addresses these alarming statistics by providing preventative and response measures such as: education and economic opportunities, social norm change campaigns, health and support services for survivors, and legal and judicial training programs that seek accountability.

Please join me in encouraging Congress to pass the International Violence against Women Act (I-VAWA), H.R. 5905. Source(s): Futures Without Violence. congress.org. govtrack.us.

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