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

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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 “It’s outrageous to minority voters to suggest that the VRA is outdated in light of recent attempts by states to disenfranchise voters.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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NEW YORK FARM BUREAU IS FOCUSING ON IMMIGRATION REFORM

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Gordon M. Grant for The New York Times

“Immigration is a key issue for New York farms and employees and for consumers who want to continue to enjoy fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products,” said NYFB Public Policy Director Julie Suarez. “Without a stable workforce, food doesn’t get picked, cows don’t get milked and farms don’t have products to take to market.”
NYFB is pushing for a program that provides legitimate visa status for workers already here but may sometimes have questionable documentation and who are willing and able to do the work that farmers depend on. These are workers who come from other countries for jobs that farmers try to fill first with local employees but are often unsuccessful. These reforms, the Farm Bureau said, should include both contract and non-contract options for the flexibility that farmers and workers need for labor protections, especially for the state’s fruit and vegetable growers.
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Farms in upstate New York: Photo by Keturah Stickann/John Menier (CC)

Speaking to reporters during a press conference, NYFB outlined three key areas it is targeting including the passage of a new Farm Bill, substantial immigration reform that recognizes New York’s farm needs, and funding for disaster assistance.
NYFB is also focusing on making sure New York’s farmers are represented in any immigration reform package that works its way through Washington, and is promoting changes that address both short and long term farm labor needs in New York.

READ MORE: North Country Now

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WHY IS TEXAS SILENT ABOUT IMMIGRATION REFORM?

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Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Republicans have been relatively silent on the renewed push to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. Despite the state’s nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants and 1,200-mile long border with Mexico, Perry and the Texas legislature have kept mum on the issue. They’re not resurrecting dozens of contentious immigration bills that roiled the statehouse in 2011. They’re not making the rounds on TV and radio to talk about President Barack Obama’s plan for legalizing immigrants. They’re not even saying the word “immigration.”

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When Perry delivered his State of the State recently — his first since his failed presidential run — glaringly absent in the 37-minute speech was any mention of the issue at all. The silence speaks to the sudden political shift in immigration since last fall’s presidential election, in which Hispanics voted Democratic by a nearly 3-to-1 margin and created a powerful incentive for Republicans to change their approach to this growing ethnic group.
r-MARCO-RUBIO-IMMIGRATION-large570In Congress, Republicans have softened their opposition to accommodating immigrants, and a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators unveiled a bill framework that includes a pathway to citizenship for those already in the U.S. so long as border security is beefed up.
But in Texas, the party has been left speechless in the Capitol. Only two years ago in his State of the State address, Perry called for punishing “sanctuary cities” that bar police officers from asking detainees about their immigration status. There’s no talk of such measures now.
“You want an answer? That tried and that failed,” said Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri. “Responsible leadership is now focusing on things that have a chance to get passed.”
Immigration isn’t an easy subject to ignore in Texas, though. About 16 percent of the undocumented immigrants in the United States live in the state, according to a Department of Homeland Security report in 2012, and immigration leaves an outsize footprint on the state’s infrastructure.

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So red-hot was immigration for Texas Republicans in the last legislative session that state Rep. Debbie Riddle camped outside the clerk’s office to make sure her bills targeting undocumented immigrants were filed first. About 50 bills related to immigration were filed in all. This time, Riddle, who once famously warned of immigrant mothers in the U.S. giving birth to “terror babies” who would grow up to attack the country as unsuspecting citizens, has not submitted any immigration proposals.
“Establishment Republicans are trying to brand a different message,” said Maria Martinez, executive director of the Immigration and Reform Coalition of Texas that backed “sanctuary city” proposals in 2011.

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WILL REPUBLICANS CONSIDER A PATH TO CITIZENSHIP?

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A new bipartisan task force on immigration reform led by Republicans Condoleezza Rice and Haley Barbour and Democrats Henry Cisneros and Ed Rendell still has a number of issues to resolve, including what may be the most challenging: whether undocumented immigrants currently in the country should be given a pathway to citizenship.
“I come in with an open mind on this,” Rice, former secretary of state to President George W. Bush, told reporters on Monday. “I don’t actually have an exact answer at this point because I think this is actually the hardest and most vexing issue. So I look forward to sharing views with other members of the task force.”
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Members’ lack of consensus on certain immigration issues is precisely what makes the group important, according to organizers from the Bipartisan Policy Center. Barbour is a former Republican governor of Mississippi; Cisneros was a Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Bill Clinton; and Ed Rendell is a former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania. They will join with about a dozen other members, yet to be announced, to advocate for immigration reform.

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The group plans to hold events, meet with lawmakers and come up with its own policy proposals. As it stands now, the four former officials said they agree that reform should address worker visas, border security, internal enforcement and the undocumented immigrants already in the United States.

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Barbour said he supports a pathway to citizenship so long as it includes provisions such as fines and taxes.
“I don’t know where this task force will come out, but for myself, I think it would be productive if there is a path to citizenship that is separate from a green card, separate from a guest worker but is a much more strenuous path that requires more than just allowing guest workers to come here and work legally,” Barbour said on the same call with reporters.
He added the group is open to a number of options, including a piecemeal approach. “We are not going to say it has to be an across-the-board comprehensive bill or nothing else, because we want to get the most done that we can get done,” Barbour said.

Read more: HUFFINGTON POST

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MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO WILL GIVE KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT AHAA CONFERENCE

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San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will give the keynote address at the AHAA (Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies) 2013 conference April 30 in McLean, Va. The mayor gained national attention in 2012 when he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Castro will discuss the newfound clout of Hispanic voters and how they influence government policy and the marketplace, according to a news release from AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing. Representatives from the Democratic and Republican parties will then engage in a point-counterpoint session regarding strategies for winning over Hispanic voters. The youngest mayor of a major American City, Castro, 37, was first elected mayor in 2009, and made Time magazine’s 40 Under 40 list the next year. His efforts at making San Antonio a leader in the new energy economy helped spur the Milken Institute to rank San Antonio as the nation’s top-performing local economy. Among his accomplishments as mayor are Café College, offering guidance for test preparation, financial aid and college admissions to any student in the San Antonio region, and revitalizing the city’s underserved East Side with the Decade of Downtown initiative, according to his website. Castro is known to be quick on his feet. When House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., referred to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants as “extreme,” Castro quipped, “I don’t see that as an extreme option. The extreme would be open borders.”

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