SUPREME COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS CHALLENGING THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

The Supreme Court in Washington

PHOTO: The Supreme Court. REUTERS

Today the Supreme Court hears arguments in Shelby County v. Holder, a case challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).  In 1965, following a civil rights movement demonstration in Selma, Alabama, which ended in bloodshed, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act and catapulted the civil rights movement by making discriminatory practices that disenfranchised voters illegal.

 

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The 15th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited states from denying a male citizen the right to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude.” However, continuing discriminatory practices like poll taxes and mandatory literacy tests prevented African Americans from voting and in 1965 Congress passed the VRA. Section 5 of the VRA prohibits discrimination based on race, critical in specific states with historical and documented discriminatory restrictions on voting.

 

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These particular jurisdictions are prevented from making changes in their election requirements without first getting pre-approval from the federal government. Section 2 of the VRA bars the use of voting practices or procedures that discriminate against minority voters.

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During the 2012 Presidential election there were many attempts to disenfranchise voters with attempts to pass voter ID laws that prevented minorities and elderly people from exercising their Constitutional right to vote. Long voting lines and last minute changes to polling sites are every bit as oppressive as the poll taxes that dominated past elections before the passing of the VRA of 1965.
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“Texas, for example, proposed a stringent voter ID law that had the purpose to prevent minority voter participation which the Supreme Court found violated Section 5 of the VRA,” said LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes. “It’s outrageous to minority voters to suggest that the VRA is outdated in light of recent attempts by states to disenfranchise voters. The progress we’ve made has been solely because of the protections offered by the VRA, and any distinctions made are attempts to manipulate the law for political advantage.” The League of United Latin American Citizens is rallying on February 27th on the steps of the Supreme Court in order to reinforce to the Court that the Voting Rights Act protects real voters from discrimination.

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IMMIGRATION REFORM: A PATH TO RESIDENCY

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

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A draft of a White House immigration proposal obtained by USA TODAY would allow illegal immigrants to become legal permanent residents within eight years. The plan also would provide for more security funding and require business owners to check the immigration status of new hires within four years. In addition, the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants could apply for a newly created “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” visa, under the draft bill being written by the White House. If approved, they could then apply for the same provisional legal status for their spouse or children living outside the country, according to the draft.

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The bill is being developed as members in both chambers of Congress are drafting their own immigration bills. In the House, a bipartisan group of representatives has been negotiating an immigration proposal for years and are writing their own bill. Last month, four Republican senators joined with four Democratic senators to announce their agreement on the general outlines of an immigration plan.

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One of those senators, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Obama‘s bill repeats the failures of past legislation and would be “dead on arrival” in Congress. “It fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders,  (and) creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally,” Rubio said. “It would actually make our immigration problems worse.”

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The draft was obtained from an Obama administration official who said it was being distributed to various agencies.  The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to release the proposal publicly. The bill mirrors many provisions of the bipartisan 2007 bill that was spearheaded by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and ultimately failed.

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In his first term, Obama often deferred to Congress on drafting and advancing major legislation, including the Affordable Care Act. He has openly supported the efforts in Congress to take the lead on immigration legislation, and just this week met with Democratic senators to discuss their proposals. But two weeks ago in Las Vegas, while outlining his immigration plans, Obama made clear that he would not wait too long for Congress to get moving. “If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away,” he said.
White House spokesman Clark Stevens said Saturday that the administration continues to support the bipartisan efforts ongoing in Congress.
“The president has made clear the principles upon which he believes any common-sense immigration reform effort should be based,” Stevens said. “We continue to work in support of a bipartisan effort, and while the president has made clear he will move forward if Congress fails to act, progress continues to be made and the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit.”

READ MORE: USA TODAY

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WILL THE NEXT POPE BE LATINO?

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

Nearly half of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America. Some speculate the church will embrace this growing population and give the world its first Hispanic pope.

“There’s a sense this is the time a pope will come from this whole growing area of the church,” said local Catholic leader Father David Garcia.

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When the cardinals meet to elect the next pope, many will be praying he comes from Latin America.
“I think I’m excited that our next pope might be from outside of Europe,” said local parishioner Brian Przybla.

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For the first time in centuries, cardinals will have time to discuss candidates ahead of time and perhaps listen to others.
“I think they will take into consideration someone younger and maybe Hispanic would be great,” said local parishioner Theresa Cuellar.

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Already there is speculation about the Hispanic who could be pope. Archbishop Odilo Pedro Scherer of Brazil, the largest Catholic country in Latin America, is seen as the front-runner.
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez

Also mentioned is Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Before the election of Pope Benedict XVI, Rodriguez said, “It would be a great hope for many of the young Catholics to have a pope who could come from Latin America.”
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City is another Hispanic papal contender along with Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez from Columbia.
A third of American Catholics are Hispanic. That number is expected to grow, especially in Texas.

Read more: KHOU

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IMMIGRATION REFORM AND BORDER SECURITY

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The effort in Washington to pass immigration reform is headed for a potential showdown over border security – with the Senate and White House plans putting different emphasis on the issue, and Democrats and Republicans appearing to disagree over the extent of the problem.

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The likely conflict was highlighted earlier this week when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared U.S. borders secure and said Republicans have a flawed argument about border security needing to precede comprehensive immigration reform.

“I believe the border is secure,” Napolitano said Monday in San Diego, during a three-day swing of the Southwest border. “I believe the border’s a safe border (but) that’s not to say everything is 100 percent.”

She said the Republicans have failed to recognize yearly improvements in contraband seizures and the number of people caught trying to cross the border illegal. They also think border security is unrelated to interior immigration enforcement such as visa tracking and employment verification and the pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States, Napolitano also said.

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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)

While the plan by President Obama, who has made immigration reform a second-term priority, includes tighter border security, the plan by a bipartisan Senate panel is contingent on securing the borders. Still, both sides agree that border security has improved since the Bush administration.

Roughly 365,000 people attempted to cross U.S. borders illegally in fiscal 2012 — a nearly 50 percent drop since fiscal 2008 and 78 percent drop from its peak in fiscal 2000, according to a Feb. 1 report by the U.S. Border Patrol, which based the findings on apprehensions. Borders agents also seized more than 4.2 million pounds of narcotics and $100 million in unreported currency over that period, the report states.

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AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite

However, Republicans on the eight-member Senate panel, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, says more needs to be done. “There remain several areas, particularly in Arizona, where people’s homes are being invaded, where drug smugglers are crossing property every night,” he said last month in a statement. “But there is no question there has been a significant reduction in illegal crossings over the past five years.” Still, the situation is far from perfect.

Chris Crane, president for the union for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, told a House committee Tuesday that agency morale is sagging in part because the country is allowing illegal immigrants to stay.

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“Agents cannot make arrests because of overstayed visa,” Crane said. “It’s not illegal anymore. … The agency is falling apart, morale is at an all-time low.”

The Senate plan calls for improving border security through more agents, improved technology such as unmanned drones and the better use of existing resources. The National Guard in December purportedly agreed to a one-year extension with the Department of Homeland Security to patrol the Southwest border. Roughly 1,200 Guardsmen began patrolling the region with Board Patrol and U.S. Customs agents in 2010, but their ranks have been trimmed to about 300 and their role is now largely to support the roughly 18,000 U.S. Border agents in the region – including more aerial observations.

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Despite Napolitano arguing that Republicans have missed the point about border security being tied to visa tracking and employment verification, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another Republican on the Senate panel, publicly made the connection weeks earlier. Rubio told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt that his goal is to ensure border security is part of the reform plan because “if not the workplace enforcement, the visa tracking … don’t happen.”

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“Then we are going to be right back here again in five to 10 years with another three, four, five million people who are undocumented,” he said.

The Senate plan includes a component to evaluate the Southwest border – a commission composed of governors, attorneys general and community leaders from that region to monitor security progress and make recommendations. However, the weight of their findings and to what extent border security is included in the potential-but-likely legislation remains unclear.

“That’s one of the things we’re going to have to discuss,” Rubio told Hewitt. “That’s part of turning a principle into a bill, into a law. … It’s important that we have input from the people that are affected by the border, because it’s one thing to say that the border is certified from, you know, an air conditioned office in Washington. Another thing is to have to deal with it on the ground as a law enforcement person.

Read more: FOX NEWS

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FASCINATING VIDEO: A HISTORY OF OUR NATION’S VOTING RIGHTS

THE HISPANIC BLOG IS THE LATEST HISPANIC NEWS BY JESSICA MARIE GUTIERREZ

Voting is the cornerstone of democracy!

eLocal worked very hard to create a motion infographic video that covers a great deal of historical information. The infographic is an animated map of the United States illustrating the evolution of our country’s voting rights, presented as a video. As the video progresses, viewers can see highlights of the most interesting and dramatic shifts in voting rights. This video includes major milestones for Hispanics as well as women and African-Americans. Additionally, there is information about the court cases and events that led to these and other major changes in the voting culture of our country. This video is definitely what our Latinos need as an inspiration to vote this November, therefore please distribute it to your networks. Contributors to this video: Eric Opal – Brennan Center of Justice; Professor Alex Keyssar – Harvard University; Al Fuller – History of Half; James Jolly – US History Files and  Jessica Marie Gutierrezthehispanicblog.com.

 

For a direct link to this video http://www.elocallawyers.com/infographics/democracy-distilled.html.

DID YOU DO YOUR PART? HAS YOUR VOICE BEEN HEARD? HAVE YOU VOTED? ELECTION 2012 BECAUSE YOUR VOICE MATTERS!

The new, stricter voting laws have become an issue in light of this year’s presidential election. (Vox Efx, Creative Commons)

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