Nel's New Day

June 24, 2013

SCOTUS Decisions, Immigration Reform Amendment, Texas Anti-Abortion Continue

Although the Supreme Court did not deliver its rulings about marriage equality and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 today, they did divulge other decisions. SCOTUS did deliver a non-ruling on affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas. In the question of whether a white student suffered racial discrimination at the University of Texas, SCOTUS rejected a lower court’s approval of the school’s affirmative action plan but said that it will have to evaluate it again.

The constitutionality of race in university admissions, however, survived with the ruling that race may be considered as a factor as long as the policy is “narrowly tailored.” If “‘a nonracial approach . . . could promote the substantial interest about as well and at tolerable administrative expense,’” then the university may not consider race.

When states have banned affirmative action, the number of minority has drastically dropped. Today’s ruling allows universities to continue implementing diversity plans, but it does not preclude these state bans. In its next term, SCOTUS will review a Michigan ban that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down.

In his opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas compared any affirmative action to slavery. He has also said that he would vote to overturn the case next year upholding the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action policy. That means he doesn’t need to listen to arguments next year because he’s already made up his mind.

Courtesy seems to have disappeared in SCOTUS. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented to the racial discrimination ruling, asserting that the lower court ruling should have been upheld. She also read a dissent to the case (below) which makes racial and sexual discrimination easier by raising the level of proof to establish retaliation for complaining about discrimination.

Part of Ginsburg’s dissent was a “hypothetical” (meaning drawn from a real case) when a female worker on a road crew was subjected to humiliations by the “lead worker” and who now has no remedy because of the court ruling. According to Garrett Epps, Justice Samuel Alito pursed his lips, rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and shook his head “no.” There are no cameras to show the incident, but Epps reported that the audience made audible gasps.

SCOTUS gave sexual and racial harassment a boost up in the workplace through today’s 5-4 ruling in Vance v. Ball State University. Thanks to five Supreme Court justices, a “supervisor” is defined as having the power to make a “significant change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a significant change in benefits.”

The definition eliminates all the people who still maintain power over employers through reporting their actions to employers—excuse me “supervisors.” One of these “non-supervisors” is a senior truck driver who coerced a female subordinate into having unwanted sex with him. Justice Elena Kagan also described the secretary whose boss “subjects that secretary to living hell, complete hostile work environment on the basis of sex.” That person is not a “supervisor” because it’s the “Head of Secretarial Services” who would fire her.

In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, the five conservative justices also allowed employers a greater right to retaliate against victims of discrimination who report that they have suffered discrimination.

The Senate is working hard to discriminate against immigrants through its reform bill. In a desperate attempt to pass the bill, the Senate passed a motion to debate an amendment by 67-27 with 15 GOP “yes” votes that would ostensibly make the bill more palatable to conservatives. It’s a Christmas gift to Halliburton, as  Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, because of the requirement for another 700 miles of fencing. Another piece of the amendment was doubling the number of border patrol agents to 40,000—one for each 1,000 feet of the southern border of the United States. The party that wants less government and spending cuts now helps support a bill that would cost an additional $46 billion.

Most of the publicity for the amendment came from the border security, but Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) managed other offensive provisions. One prohibits undocumented workers from counting past wages toward Social Security eligibility, and another prevents the government from providing welfare to immigrants until they become citizens. The provisions also called for an additional five-year ban on federal health subsidies under Obamacare for unauthorized immigrants who get a green card and tried to ensure these immigrants pay back taxes and penalties on any wages they earned while in the country illegally.

There may be more news about what’s buried in the 1,200-page amendment before the vote on Thursday or Friday.

Meanwhile, Texas GOP members are using a special legislative session to push through more restrictive anti-abortion regulations. (What happened to their love for small government?!) The proposed law would criminalize abortions after 20 weeks and shut down health clinics, leaving no place in western Texas—a very large area—to obtain an abortion. Women would have to travel at least 600 miles to get an abortion for any reason.

In a peculiar quirk, the bill’s sponsor, Jody Laubenberg (R) refused to support an exemption for rape because—ready for this?—she thinks that the rape kit, used to collect forensic data on the rapist for a prosecution, causes abortions. She said, “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.” Laubenberg has displayed an even greater ignorance then Congressional legislators.

Someone needs to explain to Laubenberg that this is the procedures for use of the rape kit. A victim enters the hospital; staff collect bodily fluid, residue under the victim’s nails, and any relevant blood or hair samples for an investigation. Nobody gets “cleaned out.” States with abstinence-only sex education, such as Texas, have highly uneducated people, even elected legislators.

A survey found that 63 percent of registered voters don’t want any more anti-abortion laws, and 71 percent think that the legislature should worry about the economy and jobs instead of policing women’s reproductive rights. Almost three-fourths think that personal medical decisions about abortions should be made by a woman and her doctor, not by politicians. Also, 57 percent said that they don’t trust the governor or the legislature to make choices about women’s health care. Eighty percent think that anti-abortion should not be legislated in special session. And this opposition is from both parties and the independents.

The Texas Assembly passed the bill at 10:40 am today. Legislative rules require a 24-hour wait until the Senate can bring it up. The Texas legislature has until tomorrow night to get the bill passed.

This last weekend, dozens of people stood in line in Atlanta to buy exclusive LeBron James sneakers. When a man carrying a gun harassed them, a man in line pulled his gun and fatally shot him. The shooter then got back in line to wait for his sneakers. Some of the people thought that he wanted to rob them. A witness said about the dead man, “Sounds like he brought it on himself.”

Nobody said anything the man being dangerous, just that it was okay to kill him. Police have said they will not be charging the shooter because it was “self defense.” No need to wound him or feel any remorse—just kill him. This is the gun culture of the United States. 

May 13, 2013

Immigration Reform Divides GOP

The split between the two parties has grown into internecine war during the past two years, but now the battle has moved over to the GOP party as the immigration reform bill is creating a deep divide between the far-right conservatives and the extremists. (The moderate Republicans are now almost extinct.) As the Senate Judiciary Committee started to work on over 300 amendments to the 844-page bill, the tear between the two parts of the GOP daily became increasingly obvious.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) a politician with a very checkered past, leads the opposition, even calling the bill’s architects “dishonest.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is fighting back with his own “myth vs. fact” campaign, probably difficult for a politician whose positions tend to lean toward “myth.”

Republicans know their party’s survival is dependent on more more votes from women and people of color, especially after the announcement that Mitt Romney got only 17 percent of the minority vote, but this knowledge doesn’t affect some of the vitriolic speech.

Starting out as a bipartisan act, the proposal was drafted by four Republican and four Democratic senators. The bill strengthens Southwest border security and creates new guest-worker programs, especially for the badly needed low-skilled labor. The magical path to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S. would require 13 years along with paying back taxes, fines, and fees.

A major player on the extremist, anti-immigration side is the Heritage Foundation, newly headed by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). Supposedly a non-partisan “think tank,” the group published a report last week claiming that the bill would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion, a number that came out of thin air. In contrast, the Social Security Administration estimates that the reform would add more than $275 billion in revenue to Social Security and Medicare, increase the gross domestic product by 1.63 percent, and provide more than 3 million jobs over the next decade. 

The report drew much controversy after the discovery that co-author Jason Richwine believes that  race determines intelligence. Richwine said:

“You have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks. These are real differences, and they’re not going to go away tomorrow, and for that reason we have to address them in our immigration discussions and our debates.”

Even the lead author of the report, Robert Rector, admitted that he wrote the report for Heritage Foundation without looking at the entire bill. The Rector/Richwine report of 2013 is a 180-degree turn from the 2006 report published in 2006 that noted, “Worker migration is a net plus economically.”

Following ridicule—except from white nationalist websites—Richwine resigned, and the Heritage Foundation tried to distance itself from him. Yet the far-right organization is still stuck with his presence on their report, created to give cover to GOP lawmakers who wants to reject the bipartisan immigration reform bill.

One of DeMint’s dissenters is “no-new-tax” Grover Norquist, who claims that the bill would increase tax revenue by growing the economy. (I always worry about my thinking when I agree with Norquist.) Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention has asked that lawmakers consider “the human dignity” of the immigrants, and evangelicals started a pro-reform prayer campaign last Wednesday. Although formerly friends with DeMint, Rubio took particular umbrage at the Heritage Foundation statements.

Attempting to drown the bill by weighting it down, Congressional lawmakers have proposed the following amendments:

Prevents undocumented immigrants from becoming citizens. Sort of defeats the purpose of the bill. (Sen. Ted Cruz, TX)

Require DNA testing. This is to compare against the Combined DNA Index System at the FBI. (Sen. Orrin Hatch, UT)

Prohibit undocumented immigrants from applying for permanent residence if they qualify for any government assistance. No supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), no the temporary assistance for needy families program (TANF), no supplemental security income benefits (SSI), no nothing. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, AL)

Ban humanitarian travel. Anyone returning to a home country for any humanitarian reason, such as visiting a sick relative, couldn’t reenter the United States. The current provisional legal status requires authorization for such travel. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Deletes family re-unification. Points on a green card for entering the country would not allow points for siblings of U.S. citizens. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, AL)

Mandate in-person interviews for 11 million immigrants. That will most likely add a few decades to the process for 11 million people. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, AL)

Limit visas to South Korea. E-5 visas from all South Korean immigrants will be withheld until the country removes its age-based import restrictions on beef. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Enforces head-of-household deportation and cause family separations. The current bill allows immigration to decline to deport people if they believe this would result in hardship for his or her U.S. citizen child. The party of family values doesn’t believe in keeping families together. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Prevent low-income undocumented immigrants from seeking legalization. People have to make above 400 percent of the poverty line (more than $92,000 for a family of four) instead of the current bill that requires 100 percent of the poverty line or show regular employment. Sessions may not be aware that about two-thirds of the people in the United States make under this magical 400 percent—and in his state, 70 percent make less than that. (Sen. Jeff Sessions, AL)

Restrict visas for refugees. Nobody could apply for refugee and asylum status until one year after the Director of National Intelligence submits a review related to the Boston bombings to Congress. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Allow undocumented immigrants to be hired, but only as domestic workers. These would specifically include cooks, waiters, butlers, governessess, maids, valets, gardeners, footmen, grooms, and chauffeurs. (Mike Lee, UT) 

Allow for racial profiling. Federal law enforcements could take into account a person’s country of origin when allowing them into the country. This comes from the party that’s screaming about the IRA’s profiling of Tea Party organizations despite the fact that these organizations have had a high rate of IRS “issues” during the past two years. (Sen. Chuck Grassley, IA)

Although conservatives fight any additional government spending except for defense, five Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to increase, by an undetermined billions of dollars, money spend on border security. Cruz wanted to triple the number of border patrol agents on the border and quadruple the technological infrastructure—probably meaning “the fence.” That would cost the country about $60 billion and stop any undocumented people’s movement toward citizenship by ten years. The measure failed in a vote of 5 to 13; even Arizona’s GOP senator, Jeff Flake, voted against it.

During the 2012 fiscal year, the government spent $18 billion to secure the border, employing 21,000 agents and building 650 miles of fencing in the past eight years. The existing bill already appropriates $3 billion to increase border security with the government able to spend billions more.

In a recent poll, 83 percent of respondents said they supported a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally, as long as certain requirements—such as the ones on paying fines and back taxes, passing a criminal-background check and learning English–were met. Unlike extremist lawmakers, these people agree with President Reagan’s 1986 position when he signed a bipartisan immigration reform package that extended amnesty to any immigrant who entered the country illegally before 1982. 

Conservative columnist David Brooks made great sense in the immigration debate when he excoriated the opposition to the proposed bill by declaring that the “one core concern” is control, the desire to restrict conservatives in the country, assimilation, love, social mobility, skills, and the inevitable. His take on the situation is well worth reading.

Or for great dark humor on immigration reform in the Senate, just watch Jon Stewart.

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