Updated: 1 hour 43 min ago
Wed, 04/24/2013 - 17:10
Today, the Justice Committee released a video message from mothers of young men killed by the NYPD that calls on music artists to submit lyrics or songs dedicated to justice for the families.
"To the artists, I say: We need to hear what is it that I can not express with my voice, or that my son can not express with his voice because he's not here. So I would like for the artist to bring that pain out that I hold inside from my sons death," says Margarita Rosario who's son was killed by an officer in 1995.
The following mothers were featured in the video:
- Margarita Rosario, mother of Anthony Rosario and aunt of Hilton Vega who were shot at 28 times and killed by NYPD in 1995. There was clear evidence they were shot in the back while lying on their stomachs, and the officers responsible were never charged. The Civilian Complaint Review Board found the officers used "unnecessary and excessive force" but the NYPD ignored the finding.
- Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson who was shot and killed by NYPD in 2000 in the Bronx, just three blocks from where Amadou Diallo was shot at 41 times and killed by the NYPD in 1999. The officer responsible was never charged with a crime and yet admitted during the civil trial that he shot Mr. Ferguson for no reason.
- Allene Person, mother of Timur Person who was shot at five times and killed by the NYPD in 2006.
- Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham who was shot and killed by the NYPD in 2012. The officer responsible has been criminally charged and is facing first and second degree manslaughter charges.
Artists can participate by writing 4 - 8 bars of lyrics to be used in a collaborative song or creating an original piece dedicated to the mothers. The submission deadline is July 1, 2013. For more information, artists can contact the Justice Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The video also announced an action outside of the NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza on May 10th, 4:30 to "call for justice and reforms."
"We ask all parents who lost a loved one to any form of violence to stand in the streets with other parents whose children were killed by the police."
The Justice Committee was founded in 1983 as the NYC chapter of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights. Today the groups says their members include "poor, working class and middle class people of color."
Wed, 04/24/2013 - 17:09
Indian-American comedian Hasan Minhaj stars in a new video released today that mocks CNN's coverage during the Boston marathon bomber manhunt. The video is part of a series by the Los Angeles based sketch comedy group Goatface and was co-written by Minhaj and Afghan-American comedian Fahim Anwar.
Last week CNN correspondent John King, citing multiple "exclusive" sources, falsely reported authorities had arrested the bombing suspect. King described the suspect as a "dark skinned" man but an hour later in turned out the information was completely false.
The video mocks some of the false reporting and makes references to some of real life results that resulted from the misinformation.
The video was directed by: Aristotle Athiras
Written by: Hasan Minhaj, Fahim Anwar
Starring: Hasan Minhaj, Asif Ali, Fahim Anwar, Aristotle Athiras, Rory Scovel, Rob Gleeson, Jake Weisman
Wed, 04/24/2013 - 17:07
On Tuesday afternoon dozens of activists gathered in front of the New York Times building to urge the newspaper to stop using the word "illegal" to describe undocumented immigrants. Demonstrators were joined by Cesar Chavez's son, Fernando Chavez, and Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and co-founder of Define American, who delivered 70,000 signatures demanding the Times drop the i-word.
Earlier this month, the Associated Press announced they no longer recommend journalists use the term "illegal immigrant" when referring to immigrants in the United States without legal permission. The AP now joins other major journalism outlets that don't use the term, including ABC News, USA Today, NBC and CNN.
The New York Times however continues to the term "illegal immigrant" and has only announced that they are "reconsidering" how they use the term.
Check out images from the demonstration below.
(If you're accessing this page on a mobile device and don't see any content below please scroll down and view this page with "desktop view.")
[View the story "Demonstrators Deliver 70K Petition Urging New York Times to Stop Calling People \"Illegal\"" on Storify]
Tue, 04/23/2013 - 22:54
The immigration reform bill introduced last week has already come under close scrutiny by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which today held its third hearing on the legislation in five days. While some of the content of the hearings edged toward demagoguery, much of the questioning revealed real points of conflict that will likely guide the committee amendment process in early May. The main policy questions about the bill are largely the same now as they were before it was released. They center on the rigidity of the so-called "border triggers" and Republican ambivalence around provisions that provide the Department of Homeland Security discretion to stop deportations or admit people to a path to citizenship.
The bill introduced last week by a bipartisan group of Senators will open the possibility of citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants currently living without papers in the United States. But to get there, it first requires that Homeland Security reach a set of benchmarks to expand an already bellicose border enforcement infrastructure.
In today's hearing, Republicans said that the legislation leaves the Secretary of Homeland Security too much power to verify over verifying the security of the border.
"Once the Secretary certifies that the security and fencing plans are substantially deployed, operational and completed, green cards are allocated to those here illegally," said ranking committee member, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. But, he added, "There's not much of a definition of substantially in the bill,"
On border security, the legislation sets high targets and allocates $6 to $7 billion in new border spending for fencing, cameras, drones and 3,500 border patrol guards. It also increases criminal prosecutions of people trying to cross. Ultimately, the bill establishes as a benchmark that immigration authorities achieve "effective control" of the border, defined as stopping at least 90 percent of attempted crossings in certain areas. If the Secretary does not certify these are met, none of those on the path to citizenship will receive a green card.
As the bill is written, these benchmarks appear to be achievable, even as they threaten to expand a border system that government reports have shown is already outsized and out of control.
While some Republicans hinted that they would seek tighter triggers, the committee chair, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., worried that the bill's existing border provisions are too draconian.
"I'm concerned that what some are calling triggers could long delay green cards," Leahy said. "I don't want people to move out of the shadows and then be stuck in some kind of underclass once they move out of the status."
Beyond the border, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee say the bill leaves Homeland Security too much discretion over who will be granted Registered Provisional Immigrant status, the name given to the 10-year path to citizenship.
"I am concerned that the bill provides unfettered and unchecked authority to you and your department and your successors," Grassley said.
Democrats for their part, pushed back on the bill's exclusions. Some objected to the termination of the sibling visa category that currently allows U.S. citizens to sponsor their brothers and sisters for green cards. Under the bill, after 18 months, siblings would no longer be considered immediate family for immigration purposes. Sen. Leahy and others also said that they're disappointed that the legislation does not allow gay and lesbian couples to sponsor non-citizen partners.
But in private conversations, most liberal Beltway advocates say they don't expect the immigration bill to move much to the left and they are gearing up for hard fights on a number of provisions that Democrats in the Gang of Eight fought hard for in the drafting process. These include provisions that allow some deportees with U.S. citizen family members to apply for waivers to return to the U.S. and some modest expansion of immigration judge's power to stop a deportation if it will have a significant negative impact on U.S. citizens of communities.
Tue, 04/23/2013 - 21:27
In the days after the Boston marathon violence Reddit users sprung in to action to do their own investigating in hopes of identifying the bombers. The site's online community quickly identified a number of suspects in posts published on the site, including one that thousands of users "up-voted" to get on the front page of the site so hundreds of thousands of visitors would see the story.
One of the more popular posts on Reddit falsely identified Sunil Tripathi, a 22-year-old student at Brown University who's been missing since last month. Tripathi has an Indian father and an American mother and that seemed to be enough to make him the most wanted man on the internet for a couple of hours.
Within minutes of Tripathi being labeled on social media as a suspect his family began receving hate messages and were forced to take down a Facebook page they had started to help find their missing son. News reporters also gathered in front of their home looking to speak to the family of the supposed bomber.
"It seems this is just the ugly underbelly of viral social media," sister Sangeeta Tripathi told NBC News. "But a lot of stir can be created through just a complete accusatory and unsubstantiated effort."
In a post on the reddit blog titled "Reflections on the Recent Boston Crisis" Martin apologized on behalf of the Reddit community for misidentifying suspects. His blog posts also notes Reddit reached out to the Tripathi family to personally apologize:
However, though started with noble intentions, some of the activity on reddit fueled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties. The reddit staff and the millions of people on reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened. We have apologized privately to the family of missing college student Sunil Tripathi, as have various users and moderators. We want to take this opportunity to apologize publicly for the pain they have had to endure. We hope that this painful event will be channeled into something positive and the increased awareness will lead to Sunil's quick and safe return home. We encourage everyone to join and show your support to the Tripathi family and their search.
A few years ago, reddit enacted a policy to not allow personal information on the site. This was because "let's find out who this is" events frequently result in witch hunts, often incorrectly identifying innocent suspects and disrupting or ruining their lives. We hoped that the crowdsourced search for new information would not spark exactly this type of witch hunt. We were wrong. The search for the bombers bore less resemblance to the types of vindictive internet witch hunts our no-personal-information rule was originally written for, but the outcome was no different.
This crisis has reminded all of us of the fragility of people's lives and the importance of our communities, online as well as offline. These communities and lives are now interconnected in an unprecedented way. Especially when the stakes are high we must strive to show good judgement and solidarity. One of the greatest strengths of decentralized, self-organizing groups is the ability to quickly incorporate feedback and adapt. reddit was born in the Boston area (Medford, MA to be precise). After this week, which showed the best and worst of reddit's potential, we hope that Boston will also be where reddit learns to be sensitive of its own power.
Reddit users have now started several threads on the site to help the Tripathi parents find their missing son. "We Owe Sunil Tripathi's Family an Outpouring of Love and An Apology. We Brought Unintentional Pain To Them Tonight. Let's Find Their Son," reads one headline that's been up-voted close to a thousand times.
Tue, 04/23/2013 - 21:17
For many a U.S. public school student, spring is standardized testing season. This can mean long days of bubbling in answers that can affect whether their schools stay open, their teachers keep their jobs, or if they're allowed to graduate from high school.
Much of this policy stems from former president George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind law and Barack Obama's Race to the Top federal grant program. The practice continues despite years of warnings from education experts who caution that standardized tests are just too blunt a tool to be used this way.
Students of color are disproportionately located in the poor and urban school districts that face the most political pressure to boost test scores. Therefore, they're the kids most vulnerable to the nation's high-stakes testing frenzy--and fallout.
The punitive use of standardized testing has also been connected to teacher cheating. Last month former Atlanta superintendent Beverly Hall and 35 other educators were indicted for their alleged involvement in a massive cheating scandal after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found that teachers who were under enormous pressure to boost student performance routinely changed children's answers. Last week, PBS uncovered a long "missing" memo detailing the possibility of similar misconduct in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of former superintendent Michelle Rhee.
From Texas to Seattle to New York, parents, educators and even lawmakers and public school officials have begun to push back against the barrage of standardized tests. Their message? High-stakes standardized testing is, in the words of former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, "a perversion of their original intent." We rounded up the highlights of the growing movement.
Tue, 04/23/2013 - 21:06
There's lots of fanfare about the path to citizenship in the Senate's immigration reform bill, but the bill leaves serious questions about how newly legalized people will survive once on that path. This is perhaps nowhere more concerning than in the context of the full exclusion of newly legalized immigrations from Obamacare health insurance exchanges and other federal benefits.
Under the bill, immigrants on the 10-year path to citizenship--what's called the Provisional Registered Immigrant status, or RPI--would be excluded from all means-tested federal benefits. Let's just make clear what this means. Millions of people who work overwhelmingly in low-income jobs and who owe several thousand dollars in fines and in some cases need cash for mandatory English classes (in addition to paying the regular taxes that all workers pay) will be barred completely from programs meant to keep families afloat. That's Medicaid, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, food stamps, cash assistance, Social Security Insurance and Obamacare's insurance exchange.
It's not just that these folks are left out. It's that they're left out even though they will have paid for years into the programs through payroll taxes.
And there's more than just the 10-year wait to gain access to safety net benefits. Currently, undocumented immigrants are excluded from all of these programs. And for the most part, green card holders are left out until they've been here for 5 years. This means that those granted the new RPI status will be treated like undocumented immigrants for 10 years and then, because of the five-year bar for people with green cards, they'll have to wait until they become a citizen in three years, or without citizenship, 15 whole years.
Thirteen to 15 years is a long time without safety net support for immigrants who are about 27 percent more likely to be poor than non-immigrants. For those who are currently undocumented, those poverty disparities are larger.
In the context of Obamacare, the vast majority of people in provisional status won't be able to afford the full cost of private healthcare without the tax credits that most Americans receive. But unlike citizens who can't afford private insurance on the healthcare exchanges, these immigrants are ineligible for Medicaid.
"Aspiring citizens on the roadmap to citizenship are paying taxes, working, learning English, and contributing to our economy and communities," Kimberly Inez McGuire, of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, wrote in an email. "Unfortunately, it will be 15 years before many will have access to affordable health care. It's unfair. And for a woman with undiagnosed breast or cervical cancer, 15 years may be the difference between life and death."
In sum, the bill seems not to know how to treat immigrants with provisional status. On the one hand, it says these folks will be "considered lawfully present in the United States for all purposes." But at the same time, it carves out exclusions from federal programs: they are "not eligible for any federal means-tested public benefit."
So the bill says they have legal status, but of a lesser kind. I suppose that's what "provisional" means.
A note on the technicalities in Obamacare
Newly legalized immigrants granted access to the 10-year path to a green card will be excluded from the subsidies and tax-credit supports built into the Affordable Care Act. But several healthcare advocates and experts I talked to pointed out that the language of the bill leaves some ambiguity that, if interpreted in a certain way could make this situation worse.
They say that as the bill is written, it's possible that people with RPI status, even as they're excluded from health insurance exchange tax credits, may be pegged with the individual mandate penalties that Americans who refuse to buy healthcare are forced to pay. That is, immigrants won't get any help paying for unaffordable care, but could be fined for not buying into the system anyway.
The language is indeed confusing. The sections of the ACA and the tax code that the immigration bill cites do not appear to deal with exclusion from the Obamacare health insurance mandate. But a Senate staffer who worked on the bill did tell me clearly that the senators' intent in writing the legislation was to exclude RPI status immigrants from healthcare altogether--mandate and all. I imagine we could see that section go through a technical fix for clarity in the weeks to come.
Tue, 04/23/2013 - 21:01
Two African-American men from Atlanta plead guilty today to attacking a man outside of a store because he is gay. According to the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Christopher Cain, 19, and Dorian Moragne, 20, admitted in federal court to "mercilessly" punching and kicking Brandon White, a black 20-year-old, while yelling anti-gay slurs at him. The beating was caught on video and posted to the Internet.
Cain and Moragne are already serving 10 years in state prison for the beating, but under the federal hate crime law -- the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act -- they will face additional time, although federal prosecutors are recommending the sentences be served concurrently.
"Hate-fueled violence will not be condoned," said Roy L. Austin Jr., deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department will use all the tools in our law enforcement arsenal to investigate and prosecute hate crimes."
Community members from the Pittsburgh area of Atlanta publicly supported White, including Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association CEO LaShawn Hoffman. "No one called the police ... [In the video] a MARTA bus passes, people walk down the street like this is the norm," she said at a press conference. This is not the norm in our neighborhood and it has to stop."
The victim, White, also spoke at the press conference saying that his "scars run deeper than anyone could know," but that by standing up to his attackers that he is "the brave one."
Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) also spoke in support of White saying, "We must turn toward each other and not against each other. People must not be allowed to get away with beating an innocent young person, elderly person, or any human being."
Tue, 04/23/2013 - 20:57
The film based on the fatal 2009 shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant by a BART by police officer is heading to the Cannes Film Festival. The film, which up until this week was known as "Fruitvale," is now titled "Fruitvale Station," and will compete in the "Un Certain Regard" category.
The "Un Certain Regard" category includes films that present "a certain glance or a particular outlook" at the annual film festival held in Cannes, France every May. Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring," based on the true story of Los Angeles teenagers who broke into celebrities' houses to steal clothes and jewelry, will open the category.
"Fruitvale Station" will have a wide release in the U.S. on July 26, 2013. The film was written and directed by 26 year-old USC grad Ryan Coogler and stars Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Tristan Wilds and Melonie Diaz.
Tue, 04/23/2013 - 20:56
It's a lesson learned many times before, but which requires constant reminder: without fierce vigilance, U.S. civil liberties can slip away so very quickly. Beloved actor, activist and social media rock star George Takei took to the Huffington Post this week with that very same reminder.
Last week Takei traveled to McGehee, Ark. to dedicate a brand new Japanese American Internment Museum located nearby the Rohwer internment camp, where Takei and his family were detained before being transferred to another camp in Tule Lake, Calif. During World War II the U.S. set up internment camps scattered throughout the country to detain--"without charge or trial"--120,000 Japanese Americans who were living on the West Coast. And Takei was one of them. It's an ugly, shameful part of U.S. history.
Very little remains of the camp where Takei was housed, but his memories of being denied his freedom are still strong. Takei wrote:
I have memories of the nearby drainage ditch where I used to catch pollywogs that sprouted legs and eventually and magically turned into frogs. I remember the barbed wire fence nearby, beyond which lay pools of water with trees reaching out from them. We were in the swamps, you see: fetid, hot, mosquito-laden. We were isolated, far enough away from anywhere anyone would want to live.
He says those memories and political lessons are particularly relevant, given the current political discourse:
As I write this, once again the national dialogue turns to defining our enemies, the impulse to smear whole communities or people with the actions of others still too familiar and raw. Places like the museum and Rohwer camp exist to remind us of the dangers and fallibility of our democracy, which is only as strong as the adherence to our constitutional principles renders it. People like myself and those veterans lived through that failure, and we understand how quickly cherished liberties and freedom may slip away or disappear utterly.
Places like Rohwer matter, more than seventy years later. And so, we remember.
Tue, 04/23/2013 - 20:54
The bombings in Boston continued to reverberate through the immigration reform debate today as the Senate Judiciary Committee held its second hearing on the Gang of Eight immigration overhaul. A number of Republicans say the violence should give the senators pause as they consider reform. The bill's drafters, however, said today and over the weekend that Boston injects additional impetus to move the bill forward with haste.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., opened the hearing this morning by urging his colleagues not to let the violence of last week interrupt the fledgling deliberations.
"[O]pponents of comprehensive immigration reform began to exploit the Boston Marathon bombing," Senator Leahy said. "Let no one be so cruel as to try to use the heinous acts of two young men last week to derail the dreams and futures of millions of hardworking people."
During the first committee hearing on the bill last week, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said Congress should consider the immigration bill in light of the events in Boston.
"While we don't yet know the immigration status of people who have terrorized the communities in Massachusetts, when we find out it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our [immigration] system," Grassley said.
And Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., submitted a letter today to Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them to hold action until the Boston bombings have been fully investigated.
"We should not proceed until we understand the specific failure of our immigration system," Paul wrote. "Why did the current system allow two individuals to immigrate...[from] an area known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, who then committed act of terrorism."
Paul's letter comes in reaction to the widespread assumption that the bombers acted based on radicalism associated with Chechnya, a fact that has not been established. The Tsarnaev brothers, who are suspects in the bombing, are reported to be of Chechen heritage. But contrary to Paul's implication, neither of them ever lived in Chechnya, according to information that's been released thus far. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother, was born in Russia and Dzokhar, the younger, was born in Kyrgyzstan, raised in the United States from the age of 9 and is a U.S. citizen.
Paul also said the government should consider a new version of the Special Registration system, which is a discredited post-9/11 immigration program that compelled men from a list of mostly Muslim countries to sign up on a government list. Many registrants were told the system would be innocuous. But instead, more than 80,000 Muslim and Middle Eastern men between the ages of 16 and 60 were interrogated, detained and deported.
The program, which civil rights advocates decried as one of the most discriminatory parts of the post-9/11 security apparatus, was largely ended in 2011.
Members of the Gang of Eight, the group of Senators who introduced an 844-page comprehensive immigration reform bill last week, said that the Boston bombings indeed should inform the reform deliberations, but as a reason for hasty passage, not delay.
"What happened in Boston and international terrorism, I think, should urge us to act quicker, not slower when it comes to getting the 11 million identified," Gang of Eight member Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on CNN yesterday.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., also a member of the Senate group, said today that the bill might need to include some tighter terrorism-related provisions but that it should move forward quickly.
His comments created a ruckus in the committee hearing. As Schumer called on his colleagues to refrain from using the "terrible tragedy in Boston ... as an excuse for not doing a bill or delaying it many months or years," Sen. Grassley interrupted: "I never said that," Grassley yelled. "I didn't say anything about delaying the bill."
Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold another hearing where Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is scheduled to testify. She was supposed to speak at a hearing on Friday but did not appear because of the events in Boston.
Tue, 04/23/2013 - 20:37
President Obama will deliver the keynote address at Planned Parenthood's annual gala on Thursday.
More details from Planned Parenthood's press release below:
Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced today that President Barack Obama will deliver the keynote address at the organization's annual gala dinner in Washington DC on Thursday, April 25. The "Time For Care" dinner, attended by Planned Parenthood's supporters and national and local leaders from across the country, will honor champions of women's health.
"President Obama has done more than any president in history for women's health and rights," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "He understands that access to birth control and preventive health care are economic issues for women and their families. We fought alongside him to ensure that women's health access was expanded in the landmark Affordable Care Act, and now we have to fight hard to ensure that the full promise of health care reform is realized for millions of women. We are honored to have President Obama join us at our 'Time for Care' Gala at this pivotal moment for women's health."
At the event, hosted by new Planned Parenthood Youth Ambassador Rocsi Diaz of Entertainment Tonight, Planned Parenthood will present the legendary Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer with PPFA's highest honor, the Margaret Sanger Award, for her lifelong commitment to empowering women and men to talk openly and honestly about sex and sexual health. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be honored with the "Care. No Matter What." Award for his dedication to protecting women's health care in the City of Los Angeles. The evening will also feature a special Maggie Award for Media Excellence honoring Lena Dunham of the HBO program Girls for her realistic and honest portrayal of the complex issues facing young women today, and a special Partner of the Year Award presented to Tumblr.
Obama previously spoke at a Planned Parenthood event in July 2007. Video of his speech is at the top of the page.
Mon, 04/22/2013 - 23:05
Kris Kobach, the conservative Kansas politician who helped draft a number of the country's most draconian anti-immigration bills, including Arizona's SB 1070, got schooled today as he testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform.
Kobach, who is currently Secretary of State of Kansas and is associated with several anti-immigration groups, argued before the committee for policies that lead to "self deportation," the idea that undocumented immigrants will leave the country if laws make life sufficiently unlivable. This strategy is also referred to as "attrition through enforcement."
"Self deportation is something Arizona has proven that if you ratchet up the penalties for violating the law," Kobach said, "people will choose to leave and it has been proven that they do that."
But at least one Democrat, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, was not having it today.
"What we have basically said is, ultimately the voters have the last word. The voters had the last word on self-deportation on November 6th," Durbin said, referring to Mitt Romney's resounding loss at the polls, in part because of his stance on immigration and his use of the term "self deportation" during the campaign.
"We're beyond that now," Durbin added. "I mean, you can stick with that theory as long as you like."
Mon, 04/22/2013 - 21:30
As news from Boston continues to break, the Senate Judiciary Committee moved ahead this morning with a hearing on the comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced earlier in the week. As I noted after the Boston attack, immigration reform has a troubled history when it's conflated with terrorism. At the hearing this morning, at least one Republican began to associate the Boston bombing with immigration reform.
"While we don't yet know the immigration status of people who have terrorized the communities in Massachusetts, when we find out it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system," said Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee's ranking member.
"How can individuals evade authority and plan such attacks on our soil," he added.
There are varying reports about the immigration histories of the suspects in Boston.
Later in the short hearing, which ended before noon, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who sponsored the immigration bill, warned against assuming the events in Boston have anything to do with immigration laws.
"Before I get to the bill, I'd like to ask that all of us not jump to conclusions regarding the events in Boston, or try to conflate those events with this legislation," Schumer said.
He added, "Two days ago, as you may recall, there were widespread, eronious reports about arrest that were made."
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had been scheduled to testify before the committee this morning. She did not appear because of the situation in Boston, according to the Judiciary Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Grassley's full comment on Boston and immigration reform below:
"Given the events of this week, it's important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system. While we don't yet know the immigration status of people who have terrorized the communities in Massachusetts, when we find out it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system. How can individuals evade authority and plan such attacks on our soil. How can we beef up security checks on people who wish to enter the United States. How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are not eligible for benefits under the immigration laws, including this new bill before us.
We have a long road ahead of us to pass immigration reform."
Mon, 04/22/2013 - 17:22
Last night CNN correspondent John King took to Twitter to offer more context on how he ended up reporting that a suspect, described as a "dark-skinned man" had been arrested in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing. CNN ran with King's "exclusive news" of the "dark-skinned" suspect for an hour until they announced their report turned out to be false.
"Source of that description was a senior government official. And I asked, are you sure? But I'm responsible," King tweeted on Thursday evening. "What I am not is racist."
Even the FBI released a statement asking journalists to be more thorough because his action lead to real world effects.
"Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting," the FBI statement read.
King was quick to point out on Twitter that he was no racist but the online community was quick to remind that "racism is about effects, not just intent."
Check out some of the responses below: (If you're on a mobile device and don't see content below please scroll down and select "desktop view.")[<a href="//storify.com/thisisjorge/cnn-correspondent-john-king-gets-a-lesson-in-racis" target="_blank">View the story "CNN Correspondent John King Gets a Lesson in Racism, Intent and Outcomes" on Storify</a>]
Sat, 04/20/2013 - 18:12
On Wednesday, a white man harassed and punched a Palestinian woman in Medford, Massachusetts, calling her a "terrorist" and blaming her for the deadly bombing attack at the Boston Marathon.
Hema Abolaban, a physician, was walking down the street with a friend when they were approached. Malden Patch reported:
"He was screaming 'F_ you Muslims! You are terrorists! I hate you! You are involved in the Boston explosions! F_ you!'" Abolaban remembered. "Oh my lord, I was extremely shocked."
She said the man - described as a white male in his thirties wearing dark sunglasses - kept shouting and walking toward her as she backed away.
"I did not say anything to him," she said. "Not even that we aren't terrorists...he was so aggressive."
Abolaban is not alone. The New York Post reports that a Bangladeshi man was beaten up by Latino men outside a Bronx Applebee's restaurant. He, too, was blamed for the Boston bombing.
Many Arabs, Middle Easterners, Muslims, South Asians, and those confused for any of the above have been bracing themselves for the discriminatory response since the bombing happened. Indeed, immediately after the race police questioned a Saudi student who was at the race. He'd been hospitalized with injuries he sustained during the attack, but very quickly, media set upon the student, announcing him as "the Saudi suspect." Boston police later confirmed that the student was only a witness, not a suspect, but only after they searched his apartment for five hours and carted out bags of his belongings.
On Tuesday, an airplane leaving Boston's Logan Airport was grounded this week after passengers reported that two men were speaking Arabic on the plane, Boston's Fox 25 reported.
We have been here before. Fueled by a hysterical demagoguery which has saturated the political climate, Islamophobic hate crimes have been a defining feature of life for South Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern and Muslim communities since Sept. 11.
Sat, 04/20/2013 - 17:00
The immigration reform bill from the Senate's Gang of Eight imposes some pretty high barriers on applicants to the path to citizenship. I've already written on some of these. Though advocates for immigration reform talk about citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, each new barrier cuts another block out of the bill's promise.
"Half of my family would be excluded" from the bill's path to citizenship, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said yesterday at a press conference with his fellow Gang of Eight members. "This is no easy path. I am glad we are not applying to ourselves."
One of the ways that people might be knocked off the path is the cost. Many low-income immigrants are going to have a particularly hard time getting past the fines, fees, exclusions from safety-net programs and income-based requirements.
First, to make it through the path to citizenship, applicants need to pay $2000 in fines. They'll pay $500 when applying for the 10-year Registered Provisional Immigrant status and then owe another $500 after six years in this status. Before applying for a green card after ten years, provisional immigrants are required to pay another $1000.
A report from the Migration Policy Institute found that as of 2007, $2000 represents about to 6% of average annual household income for undocumented folks.
Or, put another way, $2000 "can be nearly two months take-home pay for many undocumented immigrants," says Manuel Pastor, a sociologist at the University of Southern California who's written about what high fees do to immigrants' decisions about applying to change their status. "The $500 fee is 2 weeks pay. For many people that's very hard."
On top of the $2000, immigrants will be required to pay hundreds of dollars in additional processing fees when applying for green cards and then citizenship.
Safety-Net and Public Charge
As I wrote yesterday, newly legalized immigrants are excluded from all federal safety net programs, which means that while paying thousands to gain immigration status, those in provisional status receive none of the help that other tax payers can rely on. For some, the costs of healthcare and of supporting families may become impossible to meet.
But when it comes to the safety net, the bill could do more than exclude people from access. It could also cast immigrants out of citizenship eligibility if they are deemed likely to need significant government assistance.
Six years after getting on the path to citizenship, most adults with provisional status must prove, before their status is renewed, that they won't likely become what's called a "public charge." The standards for being deemed a "public charge" are stringent and apply to people whose sole mode of survival is government cash assistance. Because people on the path to citizenship are excluded from these programs, it's unlikely they'll be pegged with the public charge exclusion.
However, the public charge provision is left entirely to the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security so its impact will depend on implementation.
Though many undocumented immigrants currently pay payroll taxes through Tax ID numbers, Manuel Pastor says he expects those who have not paid to struggle to come up with the money they need. "I'm very worried about what that will do, especially to those who have been working for years and have not paid all taxes," he says.
About 21 percent of undocumented adults in 2007 earned wages that leave them below the poverty line, according to data from the Pew Hispanic Center. That's double the poverty rate for the general population.
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