Calif. Bill That Allows Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Moves Forward

Calif. Bill That Allows Driver's Licenses for Undocumented Moves Forward

Earlier this week, California assemblyman Luis A. Alejo, D-Salinas, introduced Assembly Bill 60 to members of the Transportation Committee to lobby their support for the legislation that would make some undocumented immigrants eligible to apply for driver’s licenses.

“AB 60 allows taxpayers who do not have a social security number to provide multiple identification documents deemed appropriate by the California Police Chiefs’ Association and the State Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as proof of California residency,” Alejo said in a statement.

“They can’t just come from another state and a get a license,” Alejo told Capitol Public Radio.”They have to show utility bills, property, tax documents. Other documents that show the person has lived here.”

Rebecca DeLaRosa, legislative director for Alejo, told the proposed driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants would be the same to those provided to residents who can provide social security numbers. The bill actually prohibits the inclusion or the displaying of the applicant’s individual taxpayer identification number or other number associated with the identity document.

The Ventura County Star has more details from Monday’s Assembly Transportation Committee meeting:

On a 12-1 vote that included the support of two Republicans, the Assembly Transportation Committee on Monday approved this year’s version of a bill that has either stalled in the Legislature or been vetoed by the governor each year since 2001.

“This is the year for the licenses to become law in California,” said Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, after the vote.

Alejo, the author of AB 60, noted that for the first time the bill has a Republican co-author, has the prospect of receiving significant bipartisan backing and is close to receiving support from the California Police Chiefs Association. Just as important, it is being debated following a Field Poll finding earlier this year that showed public opinion has shifted on the issue and that a majority of voters now supports such a law.

There are an estimated 2 million undocumented motorists nation wide who are currently driving, according to the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley. California also has the highest number of undocumented immigrants in the nation and it leads the country in the number of drivers in the state.

AB 60 has a promising outlook compared to similar bills previously introduced by termed-out assemblyman Gil Cedillo, who proposed driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants eight different times

Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at California State University, Los Angeles, told the Sacremento Bee earlier this year that “Latinos have never been in a better position” to send a license bill to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

“You never know what Jerry is going to do with it, though,” Regalado said. “He remains kind of a befuddlement to predict.”

In October 2012, Brown signed legislation to grant DREAMers granted deferred action to apply for a driver’s license. Brown also signed legislation in 2011 that allows young people who entered the country without authorization as minors and attended California high schools to apply for college financial aid.

The police chief in Los Angeles, the city with the most undocumented immigrants in the country, also supports granting licenses to those without social security numbers. (I should note Beck believes in a separate drivers license to immigrants.)

The measure next goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

If the measure becomes law, California would become the fifth state, joining Washington, New Mexico, Utah and Illinois, to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.

Hospitals Caught ‘Deporting’ Sick, Undocumented Immigrants [Video]

Hospitals Caught 'Deporting' Sick, Undocumented Immigrants [Video]

Hundreds of undocumented immigrants have been deported back to their country of origin by hospitals seeking to curb high costs. According to a recent report compiled by immigrant advocacy groups at least 600 immigrants were removed over a five-year period because they were ineligible for public insurance as a result of their immigration status.

The report published by the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) at Seton Hall University School of Law and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) cites more than 800 cases of attempted or actual medical deportations across the country in recent years, including: a nineteen-year-old girl who died shortly after being wheeled out of a hospital back entrance typically used for garbage disposal and transferred to Mexico; a car accident victim who died shortly after being left on the tarmac at an airport in Guatemala; and a young man with catastrophic brain injury who remains bed-ridden and suffering from constant seizures after being forcibly deported to his elderly mother’s hilltop home in Guatemala.

“When immigrants are in need of ongoing medical care, they find themselves at the crossroads of two systems that are in dire need of reform—health care and immigration law. Aside from emergency care, hospitals are not reimbursed by the government for providing ongoing treatment for uninsured immigrant patients. Therefore, many hospitals are engaging in de facto deportations of immigrant patients without any governmental oversight or accountability,” Lori A. Nessel, director of CSJ said in a statement.

“This type of situation is ripe for abuse.” Nessel went on to say.

Chicago Fast Food and Retail Workers Strike

Chicago Fast Food and Retail Workers Strike

Hundreds of Chicago fast food and retails workers walked off the job this morning in a one-day strike to demand wage hikes and union rights. The walk-out is part of an accelerating trend of labor actions by low-wage, non-union workers at some of the country’s largest corporate chains stores and restaurants.

The Fight for 15 campaign, named for its target wage hike, has been organizing workers for months to pull off today’s strike. Organizers expect employees of downtown Chicago chains including McDonald’s, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Sears and Victoria’s Secret to join the action.

The Chicago strike comes on the heels the recent Black Friday Walmart worker actions and several similar walk-outs by New York City fast food workers in November and again earlier this month. Fast food and retail workers are often paid the minimum wage—$8.25 in Illinois—and many say their employers refuse to schedule them for enough hours.

“At the end of the day, it feels like I’ve done all of this to help everyone else, to help the store, help the managers, help the customers, but it doesn’t feel like anyone is looking out for me.” Macy’s employee Krystal Maxie-Collins told Josh Eidelson of Salon, who broke news of the strike last night. Eidelson writes:

Maxie-Collins, a mother of four who works part-time for the state minimum wage of $8.25 plus a commission, said she had initially been hesitant about the strike because of the risk of retaliation. But “what we are fighting for, the reason for doing it, kind of overrode the fear of doing it.” “Usually the things that are worth it,” she added, “you have to sacrifice for.”

The strikes emerge as minimum-wage service jobs fill the labor market space vacated by recession-time losses. According to a report by the National Employment Law Project, federal employment data reveals that 43 percent of all job growth in the last two years of so-called economic recovery are concentrated in service fields. More broadly, while low-wage jobs accounted for 21 percent of losses during the recession, they made up nearly 60 percent of labor market growth in the recovery. The inverse was true for mid-wage jobs.

As I noted after the first New York fast food strike last year, workers in the growing service sector tend to be women and people of color.

This new economy is populated by an increasingly non-white labor force. The average fast food worker is about 30 years old, female and, as with low-wage work in general, likely to be a person of color. In 2011, 28 percent of working black women and over 31 percent of working Latinas had jobs in the service sector, compared to about 20 percent of white women.

Further, black and Latino workers are concentrated in the lowest-paying jobs in the service sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

While most agree that the workers are a long way from winning wage increases, the community-based and non-union labor organizations leading the targeted, day-long walk-outs intend to bruise companies like Walmart and McDonald’s with a series of actions around the county. The corporations pull in billions in profits and generally pay employees as little as they’re legally allowed.

The actions have the financial support of the Service Employees International Union. In both Chicago and New York, workers say they hope to form a union.

“Fight for 15, seeks to put money back in the pockets of the 275,000 men and women who work hard in the city’s fast food and retail outlets, but still can’t afford basic necessities,” organizers said in a statement. “If workers were paid more, they’d spend more, helping to get Chicago’s economy moving again.”

Comedian Hasan Minhaj Takes On CNN’s Boston Manhunt Coverage

Comedian Hasan Minhaj Takes On CNN's Boston Manhunt Coverage

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

Mothers of Young Men Killed by NYPD Call on Musicians to Write Songs for Justice

Mothers of Young Men Killed by NYPD Call on Musicians to Write Songs for Justice

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:

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

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.”

On Immigration, Points Of Conflict Crystallize As Senators Plunge Into Debate

On Immigration, Points Of Conflict Crystallize As Senators Plunge Into Debate

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

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.

Cesar Chavez’s Son and 70K Others Urge The Times to Drop the I-Word

Cesar Chavez's Son and 70K Others Urge The Times to Drop the I-Word

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.”)

Obama to Deliver Keynote at Planned Parenthood Annual Gala

Obama to Deliver Keynote at Planned Parenthood Annual Gala

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.

Reddit: Sorry for Shoving Missing Student Into Boston ‘Witch Hunt’

Reddit: Sorry for Shoving Missing Student Into Boston 'Witch Hunt'

Reddit General Manager Erik Martin has apologized for the social news website’s community reaction after the Boston Marathon bombings led to what the group called “online witch hunts.”

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.

Now if only the NY Post would apologize for misidentifying two suspects on the cover of their publication.

Sen. Durbin Schools Anti-Immigration Leader, Reminds Him Voters Rejected Self Deportation

Sen. Durbin Schools Anti-Immigration Leader, Reminds Him Voters Rejected Self Deportation

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.”

George Takei: My Internment Taught Me Civil Liberties Don’t Defend Themselves

George Takei: My Internment Taught Me Civil Liberties Don't Defend Themselves

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.

Boston Rattles Immigration Reform Hearings

Boston Rattles Immigration Reform Hearings

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.”

Can Low-Income Immigrants Afford Citizenship?

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

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.

Back Taxes

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.

Anti-Gay Climate in Zambia Worsening Its HIV Epidemic

Anti-Gay Climate in Zambia Worsening Its HIV Epidemic

The anti-gay obsession in the landlocked southern African nation of Zambia is worsening its HIV epidemic.

Zambia has become “one of the world’s most devastating HIV and AIDS epidemics,” reports the advocacy group AVERT:

“More than one in every seven adults in the country is living with HIVand life expectancy at birth has fallen to just 49 years. … Overall HIV prevalence was 13.5 percent [and] has been reported as high as 25 percent in some urban areas. … Unlike in some countries, HIV in Zambia does not primarily affect the most underprivileged. Infection rates are very high among wealthier people and the better educated.”

Rod McCullom, writing for the The Atlantic, notes Zambia is one of Africa’s most hostile political climates against consensual adult same-sex acts and that may be leading to the devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country: 

Zambia is a devoutly Christian nation. Evangelical and Pentecostal denominations have exploded on the continent—particularly in Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia. Churches across Africa have opposed condom use and distribution . Some Zambian government officials have even publicly criticized condom use. “I don’t believe in condoms because it is a sign of weak morals on the part of the user,” former President Frederick Chiluba infamously said in 2001.

Some pastors have gone even further. “A trend is emerging in southern Zambia of preachers claiming to be able to cure HIV/AIDS and telling followers to stop taking medication to prove their faith,” Think Africa Press reported this week. This new trend is particularly worrisome because only an estimated seven out of 10 people in Zambia needing antiretroviral treatment have access to the life-saving meds.

South Africa is the only African nation that offers legal protections for gays and same-sex marriage.

Read McCullom’s full story at

Georgia Marks First Conviction for Federal Hate Crime Targeting a Gay Person

Georgia Marks First Conviction for Federal Hate Crime Targeting a Gay Person

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.”

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill Expands ‘Alternatives’ to Detention

For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.

The immigration reform bill introduced this week in the Senate would significantly expand immigration enforcement programs on the border and in the U.S. interior. But hidden deep in the bill are also provisions that could open detention center doors for some immigrants and provide greater protections for detainees.

Alternatives To Detention

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to consider “alternatives” to detention for non-citizens facing deportation proceedings. Currently, many immigrants convicted of a long list of crimes as well as asylum seekers are subject to mandatory detention laws. Immigration authorities have generally considered this to mean these non-citizens must be locked up. The new provision clarifies that immigrants who fall under the mandatory categories can be released from prisons and placed in other supervised programs, including the use of tracking devices.

While these protections may provide some immigrants a way out from behind bars, the bill does not do away with mass detention. Congress currently ties the $2 billion it allocates for detention to a rigid detention bed quota that’s been interpreted to mean ICE must detain 34,000 on any given day. Over 400,000 people were detained last year.

“[T]he overall goal of these changes must be to reduce the use of detention drastically. This is not possible without the repeal of mandatory detention.” Andrea Black, director of the group Detention Watch Network, said in a statement.

Access to Legal Help

The bill also expands detainees’ access to legal help. Immigrants facing deportation do not have a right to appointed legal counsel because immigration law is civil not criminal. About 85 percent of detainees face deportation without an attorney.

The legislation would provide funds to expand to all federal detention centers the Legal Orientation Program, which uses non-profit attorneys to provide detainees with legal information. Detention facilities would be required to provide the trainings to immigrants within 5 days of their arrival.

The Senate bill would allocate funds for the Justice Department to appoint and pay for attorneys for detainees with mental illness and other “particularly vulnerable” immigrants. It also guarantees free legal assistance to children who enter the country alone. Last year, close to 14,000 unaccompanied minors, largely from Central America, were placed in a network of federal detention facilities specifically for this population. These children currently have no right to appointed legal counsel.

Detention Conditions

Because the Department of Homeland Security contracts out detention to private and country jails, conditions in detention can vary dramatically from facility to facility. The immigration bill would prohibit immigration authorities from contracting with a facility unless it complies with Immigration and Customs Enforcement standards. It imposes fines on facilities that violate these standards. Critics say the requirement remains weak because the bill creates no independent oversight over the facilities.

Though the Senate legislation could protect many non-citizens on a path to citizenship from detention and deportation, an unknown number will remain undocumented because they arrived after the bill’s December 31, 2011 deadline or because they cannot pass a criminal background check or afford the $500 initial fee to begin down the path to citizenship. These immigrants could in the future be detained. And all immigrants on and off the path to citizenship will remain vulnerable to detention if they are convicted of a criminal charge.

Oscar Grant Film Heading to Cannes Film Festival

Oscar Grant Film Heading to Cannes Film Festival

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.

Sen. Grassley Conflates Immigration Reform With Boston Violence

Sen. Grassley Conflates Immigration Reform With Boston Violence

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.”

CNN’s John King Fails to Explain His ‘Dark Skinned’ Comment on Twitter

CNN's John King Fails to Explain His 'Dark Skinned' Comment on Twitter

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.”

King offered his explanation only after the NAACP, Al Sharpton, and the National Association of Black Journalists called him out for his inflammatory reporting.

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.”)

The Post-Boston Islamophobic Hate Crimes Have Begun

The Post-Boston Islamophobic Hate Crimes Have Begun

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.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 204 205