Senate Amendment Limits Dangerous Deportation Practice

Senate Amendment Limits Dangerous Deportation Practice

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to amend the immigration reform bill yesterday to limit a set of deportation policies known to put immigrants at risk of violence. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., would curtail the practice of deporting migrants to dangerous locations along the U.S.-Mexico border, sometimes in the middle of the night. It would also limit removal practices that separate travelling companions and family members.

The amendment targets the Alien Transfer Exit Program. As described by a recent Congressional Research Service report, under the program, “certain Mexicans apprehended near the border are repatriated to border ports hundreds of miles away—typically moving people from Arizona to Texas or California—a process commonly described as “lateral repatriation.”

The federal government has long said that the practice reduces second crossing attempts by disorienting deportees. But recent government and non-governmental research suggests that lateral repatriation has little impact on whether people cross again and places migrants at risk of violence and trafficking by organized crime groups.

In the process of moving migrants far away from cities they know, deportees are often separated from family members. According to a recent University of Arizona report, “[w]hile, officially, only men go through ATEP, this leaves women travelling with male relatives or significant others deported alone to unfamiliar border towns” and vulnerable to violence.

On a recent trip to the border, I met a couple, Juan and Susana Peña, who’d been separated as a result of lateral repatriation. They were detained by border patrol as they attempted to return after deportation to reunite with their seven-year-old daughter in Georgia. When Susana and Juan heard their names hollered by a guard in the Arizona detention center, they assumed they’d be bused to the border and deported together. But instead, Susana was routed directly to Nogales, Arizona, while Juan was moved to a different detention center and then deported the next day in Mexicali, a border city in Baja California a day’s ride from Nogales.

“We asked the Migra to deport us together, but the guard said ‘no, they’re going to send him somewhere else’,” Susana told me. “When I got here to Nogales, I thought they kept him in jail or maybe he didn’t know I was here.”

It took days before the couple reunited. While she waited, Susana says she was scared to move around the city, even to find a meal to eat.

The Coons amendment would limit the Department of Homeland Security’s use of lateral repatriation as well as deportations after 9pm and to “location[s] where a dangerous lack of public order would threaten the life and safety of the migrant.”

In addition, the amendment would require DHS to return property to immigrants before they are deported. Many immigrants detained by Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement are deported without the belongings they arrived with. As I’ve reported previously, this includes their identification documents, without which many migrants find themselves effectively undocumented in Mexico.

The Committee passed a number of other amendments yesterday, in the second long day of work on the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill. And in a display of broad commitment to the bill’s basic outlines, 17 of the 18 members rejected an amendment from Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions that would have dramatically reduced the number of immigration visas available to non-citizens. The committee also rejected an amendment from Sen. Sessions to implement a broad-based biometric ID system. The concept has come under attack from civil liberties groups.

The amendment process will last several more weeks, at which point the committee is expected to send the bill to the Senate floor. While the legislation is expected to gain enough support to pass the Senate, it faces a less certain path in the House.

True the Vote Says It Was Singled Out by IRS

True the Vote Says It Was Singled Out by IRS

In wake of the IRS confessions that they targeted tea party groups for heavy scrutinization, the voter ID and restrictive elections group True the Vote are claiming they have been victimized by the federal tax authorities. The IRS apologized Friday for singling out organizations seeking tax-exemption status that had the words “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names for deep examination into whether those groups were engaging in political campaigning. For some tax-exempt classifications, an organization can not engage in any activity that primarily supports political candidates as they run for office.

True the Vote, which Colorlines reported extensively on last year, was engaged in plenty of work around elections and campaigns, and virtually all of the groups included in their network happen to be “tea party,” “patriot” and “9/12” groups — all conservative organizations that work both within the Republican Party and in support of its causes. And probably because those groups compose the bulk — if not all — of True the Vote’s membership, they are complaining that the IRS unfairly made them jump through hoops when registering as a tax-exempt group.

True the Vote, of course, advocates for voters to jump through hoops by showing proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, and show government-issued photo ID to vote by ballot. And while there were reports of True the Vote intimidating and harassing voters over the last couple of years, their director Catherine Engelbrecht is now accusing the IRS of doing the same thing to her organization. Engelbrecht is telling media that she applied for tax-exempt status over a year ago, and in return, she was probed for documents by not only the IRS but other federal agencies.

“This is what the beginning of tyranny looks like,” Engelbrecht told “If such politically-motivated governmental abuses of power can happen to us, they can happen to anyone.”

The IRS officials involved in the tea party-targeting have said that their work was not politically motivated, arguing rather that a high spike in tax-exemption applications while understaffed led to poor decisions. According to The Washington Post, new applications for 501(c)4 tax exempt status went from 1,741 in 2010 to 2,774 in 2012 while the staff of the Exempt Organizations Division fell in the same time period.

Either way, an inspector general report says that the IRS officials used “inappropriate criteria” to decide which applications deserved a closer eye than others. Treasury Sec. Jack Lew said, “While the Inspector General found no evidence that any individual or organization outside the IRS influenced the decision to use these criteria, these actions were inappropriate and did not reflect the high standards which I expect and the public deserves.”

President Obama called the actions “intolerable and inexcusable,” and Attorney General Eric Holder is launching an investigation, as are House and Senate committees in Congress.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn pointed specifically to True the Vote and their alter-ego King Street Patriots as groups targeted by the IRS, as well as the Waco Tea Party. Conservative blogger David Jennings said the Texas-based Clear Lake Tea Party was also targeted. The Wetumpka Tea Party in Alabama also complained that it’s tax-exemption application was delayed by the IRS. Attorney Cleta Mitchell of the Foley & Lardner law firm in Wisconsin is representing True the Vote (True the Vote isn’t known for being generous with legal help for the tea party groups it recruits).

But the Houston-based King Street Patriots, which shares leadership and membership with True the Vote, was found liable by a Texas judge for working too close with the Republican Party last year. Also last year, Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, launched his own inquiry into True the Vote’s activities around elections. Groups like Clear Lake Tea Party, Wetumpka Tea Party and dozens of other tea party groups have worked with True the Vote on election matters, as we showed in this map last year.

With all of that in mind, perhaps the tea party groups deserved extra scrutiny, or at least those involved in True the Vote’s political work. The NAACP was under the IRS’s magnifying lens under the Bush Administration; while both Planned Parenthood and NPR were interrogated by Congress for political reasons.

No organization deserves a discriminating eye from the IRS or federal government because of the direction it bends politically. Yet it’s hard to believe that a group like True the Vote shouldn’t get a thorough examination when they are still doing work on behalf of political campaigns and candidates, as seen today with the Rep. Allen West recount in Florida. That’s not what tyranny looks like, that might just be the federal government doing its job.

Study Finds People Of Color Nearly Invisible On Evening Cable News

Study Finds People Of Color Nearly Invisible On Evening Cable News

A new analysis released yesterday by the media monitoring group Media Matters found that evening cable news guests are overwhelmingly white and male. According to the report, titled “Diversity on Evening Cable News in 13 Charts,” women and other people of color are underrepresented as guests on evening cable news programs at MSNBC, CNN and Fox News.

Media Matters examined the guests of thirteen evening cable news shows on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News during the month of April 2013. During that time period, only 33% of MSNBC guests, 29% Fox News guests and 24% CNN guests were female. Latinos fared much worse. Only 3% of Fox News guests and 2% of CNN and MSNBC guests were Latino.

2 Arrested in Slaying of Malcolm X’s Grandson

2 Arrested in Slaying of Malcolm X's Grandson

Two men have been arrested in Mexico City in the slaying of Malcolm Shabazz, the 28-year-old grandson of Malcolm X. More from the New York Times:

The men taken into custody, David Hernández Cruz and Manuel Alejandro Pérez de Jesús, worked as waiters at the Palace Club, a downtown bar where Mr. Shabazz, 28, was beaten, in what the city prosecutor called a dispute over an excessive bill.

Two other bar employees who the authorities said participated in the beating, which left Mr. Shabazz with fatal skull, jaw and rib fractures, were being sought.

The body of Mr. Shabazz, who for years had wrestled with living in the shadow of his grandfather’s fame, was still at a city morgue on Monday while American consular officials worked to have it returned to the United States. A family spokeswoman said they would have no comment, and no funeral plans have been announced.

The younger Malcolm’s death last week sent shockwaves across politically active circles in the United States and abroad. Over at the New Yorker, Jelani Cobb wrote about the complicated legacy that Shabazz shouldered, and the one that he left behind:

Read his blog and what emerges is a young man who died at a time when he was still trying to define his life and identity, both separate from and yet very much tied to his grandfather’s. The first sentence on the blog reads “Malcolm is the first male heir of Malcolm X.” At twenty-eight he was literally the image of his grandfather. His March 9th post features a split screen image of him and Malcolm X, the latter in his iconic finger-to-temple pose. In an earlier post is a picture of Malcolm, fil, donning a fedora and recast as the mugshot of his ancestor during his Detroit Red days. Elsewhere he posed with a rifle, peering out a window. On one level that kind of mimicry was the most honest commentary possible. The sole directly related man in a family consisting of five aunts and an internationally recognized grandmother, Malcolm X was an identifiable male role model for him to imitate, even if it was posthumously. He was not alone in this pursuit—in his 1965 eulogy Ozzie Davis pointed to Malcolm as the working definition of black manhood, an idea that millions of young Malcolm Shabazz’s peers cosigned.

In his own writings, the younger Malcolm “given the storm of lies, and half-truths that come with being the descendant of El Hajj Malik el Shabazz…everything that I do; great or small, good or not so good, real or imagined is subject to controversy.” You can read more of Malcolm Shabazz’s writings on his blog.

At least one memorial service has been scheduled. It will take place at 10am PST this Friday at the Islamic Center of Northern California in downtown Oakland.

Federal Judge Says Obama Governs Like Bush on Reproductive Rights

Federal Judge Says Obama Governs Like Bush on Reproductive Rights

A federal judge last week denied a request to delay his ruling ordering the government to make “Plan B” emergency contraception available to everyone, without restrictions.

In 2011, the FDA approved emergency contraception, also known as the “morning-after” pill or “Plan B”, for women of all ages. But the Obama administration stepped in and reversed the decision soon after. “The FDA was reversed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the same day in a decision that was politically motivated and that, even without regard to the Secretary’s motives, was so unpersuasive as to call into question her good faith,” District Court Judge Edward Korman said at the hearing last Tuesday.

The government asked for a stay of Korman’s original April 5 ruling ordering them to make the pills available to everyone, saying it and the public would suffer “irreparable harm.” Korman called this “silly” and said the appeal was “taken solely to vindicate the improper conduct of the Secretary.”

The judge also took issue with the law requiring photo identification to access Plan B.’s Irin Carmon wrote about Friday’s “charged and dramatic two-hour hearing” in detail:

This morning, Korman repeatedly slammed his hand down on the table for emphasis, interrupting the government counsel’s every other sentence with assertions like, “You’re just playing games here,” “You’re making an intellectually dishonest argument,” “You’re basically lying,” “This whole thing is a charade,” “I’m entitled to say this is a lot of nonsense, am I not?” and “Contrary to the baloney you were giving me …” He also accused the administration of hypocrisy for opposing voter ID laws but being engaged in the “suppression of the rights of women” with the ID requirement for the drug. 


He cited Brennan Center statistics — which he said Eric Holder had also cited in a speech before the NAACP — showing that 25 percent of African-Americans of voting age don’t have a photo ID, and also dismissed the government’s suggestion that 15-year-olds, who usually aren’t eligible for a driver’s license, could use a birth certificate, since that’s not a photo ID. “You’re disadvantaging young people, African-Americans, the poor — that’s the policy of the Obama administration?” (He didn’t mention it, but immigrants would also face additional barriers.)

“It turns out that the same policies that President Bush followed were followed by President Obama,” Judge Korman went on say.

Judge Korman was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in October 1985.

Parent Trigger Hits Again in Los Angeles’ Watts Public School

Just weeks after their first triumph with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the parent trigger advocacy group Parent Revolution announced Monday that they’re going for another parent trigger win in the same district. Parents at Weigand Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood, who organized themselves to pull the parent trigger with the help of Parent Revolution, filed a successful petition last month to overhaul their children’s school. LAUSD verified the parents’ petition.

Now, the parents’ chosen reform model, which calls for the overhaul of Weigand by replacing the principal and undergoing other deep institutional changes, will move ahead. The Weigand parent trigger effort, which marks the fourth time that the use of the parent trigger has been attempted, is the very first to call for an in-district reform. Past attempts have led to bitter court battles, charter school takeovers or greater charter school involvement in a school campus.

“We want to work with the district and the teachers to make our school a place where our children can learn and succeed,” Weigand parent activist Llury Garcia said in a statement.

Anti-Violence Blogger Among 19 Shot on Mother’s Day in New Orleans

Anti-Violence Blogger Among 19 Shot on Mother's Day in New Orleans

Journalist and documentarian Deborah “Big Red” Cotton was one of the 19 people wounded in the tragic shooting during a “second line” Mother’s Day parade yesterday. In total, ten men, seven women and two 10-year-old children were injured. Cotton had just launched her own website, which highlights off-the-beaten path restaurants and attractions normally ignored by mainstream media.

But Cotton also wrote about often-ignored problems in New Orleans concerning violence and poverty. The tragic irony of her being wounded in a second line parade is that she wrote about this very issue often in her blog. When a woman was murdered three years ago after a second line parade, and some journalists attempted to draw causations and correlations between murder and second line tradition, Cotton wrote:

The unfortunate murder that occurred on Sunday is not symptomatic of second line culture. On the contrary, it’s directly attributable to deep social ills that New Orleans has yet to get a firm grasp on: a broken criminal justice system that allows murderers to get off easily and maintains bad cops which in turn undermines residents’ faith in cooperating with authorities; a broken education system that leaves citizens unable to function as adults in the professional world; and an economy based on two sectors that thwart ambition and opportunities — tourism and government. To end the murder culture, one must acknowledge and address the legitimate root problems and depart from racial biases that serve to further marginalize a distressed community.

We can end the story right there and call “church.” Except that yesterday Cotton herself got caught in the crossfire of all of those broken systems that produced her shooter, as did the 18 others who were shot and wounded. In this video, posted eerily almost one year ago exactly by Park Triangle Productions, Cotton expressed her concern about New Orleans violence and also her compassion and love for black men in the city who are too often the perpetrators and victims of that violence:

FBI officials remarked that yesterday’s shooting was “street violence” not an act of terror, but Ariella Cohen, a friend of Cotton’s and editor of Next American City, questioned why that distinction is even necessary. Wrote Cohen:

This distinction is troubling because it distinguishes between crime that is seen as against ‘all Americans’ from crime that is seen as a byproduct of an urban American sub-culture, a subculture that happens to have racial and class associations.

Local attorney Samantha Kennedy, who’s also a capital mitigation specialist who worked in Tucson after the mass shootings there, questioned if trauma services would be available to the New Orleans communities as they were offered in Arizona and Colorado. “We have a multigenerational multi-layered PTSD in this community,” wrote Kennedy on Facebook. “Violence begets violence because trauma begets trauma. We live in a highly traumatized community. When are we going to take the biopsyhochemical and emotional needs of our people seriously?”

Gov. Jindal allowed a behavioral health program in Louisiana that served “at-risk,” low-income children to close, but has proposed legislation that would streamline case management services for that population of children.

Advocates To Obama: Stop Deporting Future Citizens

Advocates To Obama: Stop Deporting Future Citizens

Immigration reform advocates renewed calls on President Obama today to halt deportations of undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for the path to citizenship in the proposed Senate reform bill. On a call today, labor and immigrant rights groups said that Obama should get ahead of the immigration legislation by directing the Department of Homeland Security to stop removals of immigrants who could benefit from the legislation.

Obama has previously said that he would not issue a moratorium on deportations, suggesting that such an order could derail the legislative reform efforts by angering Republicans. But representatives of the AFL-CIO, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, and United We Dream, argued today that the introduction of the Senate immigration bill should change the equation: With the perimeters of eligibility for a path to citizenship now clear, the President should get a head start by protecting potential citizens.

“We’re not asking for the president to do something unilateral,” said Thomas Saenz, director of MALDEF. “He can apply quite easily the standards set forth in the bi-partisan committee.”

Speakers on the call rejected Obama’s previous decision to continue deporting non-citizens at a rapid pace while Congress considers the legislation.

“The President is not and con not be a bi-stander in the process,” said Pablo Alvarado, director of NDLON. “He has to intervene” to stop the deportations.

Alvarado added that stopping deportations will create the space for undocumented immigrants to take part in the immigration reform process. “It will give immigrants the breathing room to participate in the process,” he said.

The federal government has carried out well over 1.5 million deportations in the last 4 years. Many of those removed leave behind family in the U.S. Lorella Praeli of the group United We Dream, a coalition that successfully pressed Obama to implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy to stop removing DREAM Act-eligible immigrants, says her group wants protections for their family members.

“President Obama has deported more people than any other president and we will not stand by,” she said. “It’s very hard to say that you’re serious about solving the problem while you’re breaking up families.”

About 22 percent of deportees are the parents of U.S. citizen kids, according to data obtained by Many others have spouses, parents and undocumented children in the U.S. as well.

Yvette Martinez’s husband was deported to Guatemala last week, even though she says he has no criminal record. The couple was stopped while driving near Springfield, Mass. The Republican, a western Massachusetts paper, reported:

What they thought would be a quick trip to the store for toothpaste turned into a real-life nightmare for Yvette Martinez and her husband, Roger Sabora-Martinez.

The Springfield couple was stopped for a traffic violation by a state trooper on Chestnut Street on Feb. 18, and Sabora-Martinez, 33, was charged with driving without a license and failing to use a turn signal. When he was taken to the state police barracks on Armory Street, it was discovered that Sabora-Martinez is an undocumented resident.

The advocates say they are not asking the President for another Deferred Action program, but rather a stronger guarantee that the Department of Homeland Security will follow its existing guidelines and refrain from deporting so-called low-priority immigrants who have not been charged with a crime and could apply for provisional immigration status under the bill.

The immigration reform legislation is in early stages—the Senate Judiciary Committee began coting on amendments on Thursday—and few think it could become law before the end of the summer. If deportations continue at the rate they have for the past four years, between 100,000 and 150,000 more people could be removed before any undocumented immigrant could apply for immigration papers.

Sherri Shepherd Fuels Rumors ‘The View’ May Add Latina

Sherri Shepherd Fuels Rumors 'The View' May Add Latina

“The View” co-host Joy Behar announced in March that she is departing ABC’s long-running daytime talk show. Actresses Brooke Shields and Jenny McCarthy both are rumored contenders to fill in Behar’s seat but there are rumors the seat may go to a Latina.

Last Friday co-host Sherri Shepherd visited Jay Leno and mentioned comedian Debi Gutierrez was a guest co-host in the show, adding, “I think we need a Latina on the show.” Her comments fueled a number of rumors that ABC executives may replace Behar with a Latina.

If some of those rumors are true, the Latina joining “The View” may not be representative of your average Latina in the U.S. A 2012 Gallup poll found 51% of Latinos identified as or leaned Democratic, while a little less than a quarter (24%) identified with or leaned toward the GOP. Women and children of Latino immigrants are even more likely to identify as democrats.

But ABC executives may be looking for a ‘conservative Latina’ to replace Behar, according to sources interviewed by the U.K.’s “Daily Mail.”

Former “Real World - San Francisco” star and outspoken conservative Rachel Campos-Duffy and singer Gloria Estefan are being considered to replace Behar, according to the NY Daily News.

Contemporary Christian and Latin pop singer Jaci Velasquez, who also co-hosts her own radio show, is rumored to be in the running too.

An ABC spokeswoman told the Daily Mail that ‘at this time we have no comment’ regarding the rumors.

“The View” was the most watched daytime network talk show in 2012.

Watch the Trailer for Oscar Grant Film ‘Fruitvale Station’

Watch the Trailer for Oscar Grant Film 'Fruitvale Station'

The trailer for Ryan Coogler’s highly anticipated film “Fruitvale Station” is out. The film is based on the last day of the life of Oscar Grant, the unarmed 22-year-old black man who was shot and killed in Oakland by a transit officer on New Year’s Day in 2009. The film adaptation, originally titled “Fruitvale”, got lots of attention at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and stars Michael B. Jordan and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer.

After Grant’s death,’s Julianne Hing reported extensively on the trial of Johannes Mehserle, the transit officer who was later convicted in his slaying. You can read that reporting here.

Detroit’s Fast Food Workers Strike As National Trend Grows

Detroit's Fast Food Workers Strike As National Trend Grows

As many as 400 Detroit fast food workers walked off the job Friday in a mass action that mimics similar stikes in three other cities in recent weeks. On Wednesday, dozens of St. Louis fast food workers also went on strike.

As the Nation’s Josh Eidelson reports:

Hundreds of Detroit fast food workers plan to walk off the job beginning at 6 AM today, making the motor city the fourth in five weeks to see such strikes. Organizers expect participants from at least 60 stores, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, Little Caesar’s, and Popeye’s locations.


Along with a shared significant supporter—SEIU—the campaigns in New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit have apparent strategies in common. Rather than waiting until they’ve built support from a majority of a store’s or company’s workers, they stage actions by a minority of the workforce designed to inspire their co-workers.

Like strikes in other cities, the Detroit workers are demanding a raise, to $15 an hour, plus the right to unionize. The strikes hold particular significance in Detroit, where the decline of unionized manufacturing jobs has transformed the city and left many residents to rely on low-wage jobs. According to organizers in Detroit, there are now over 50,000 fast food jobs in the city, two times the number of remaining auto-manufacturing sector jobs. And like the rest of the country, most near-term job growth in Detroit is expected in the low-wage, service sector. Organizers say that’s why the jobs need to pay a living wage.

Finally, Beautiful Mother’s Day Cards for Every Type of Mama

Finally, Beautiful Mother's Day Cards for Every Type of Mama

It’s that time of year where we show the courageous mamas in our life lots of love. And what better way to celebrate than with these Mother’s Day cards from Strong Families, a campaign from Oakland-based reproductive justice organization Forward Together? This year’s e-cards are meant to celebrate all the non-traditional mamas who don’t live behind white picket fences and whose lives usually aren’t represented by your standard Hallmark card. Take a look at the entire collection of cards this Mama’s Day.


Illustration: Micah Bazant

Cece Carpio_MamasDay2013.jpg

Illustration: Cece Carpio


Illustration: Melanie Cervantes


Illustration: Amaryllis Dejesus Moleski

W. Kamau Bell Hits the Street to Ask: What’d You Like to Say to a White Person? [VIDEO]

Comedian (and beloved board member of the Applied Research Center, which publishes W. Kamau Bell is back on FX for a second season of his show “Totally Biased.” And this week he took to New York City streets to ask people of color in: what have you always wanted to say to white people?

And then he presents an actual white man for them to speak to! The segment is rich with honest and funny race talk. But of course it begs the question: what would you like white people to know?

Day One Of Immigration Amendments: Enforcement Is Never Enough For Republicans

Day One Of Immigration Amendments: Enforcement Is Never Enough For Republicans

The congressional battle over immigration reform began in earnest yesterday as the Senate Judiciary Committee jumped into the amendment process. The Senators started on the border security section of the legislation and Republicans spent much of the eight-hour session calling for significantly more border control. Though at the end of the day, the legislation moved only slightly to the right, the minority party’s zeal for more enforcement appeared nearly unlimited.

On Tuesday, Senators on the Committee filed over 300 amendments to the legislation. Yesterday, as they began the voting process, the 18 members got through 32 of the proposed changes. Several amendments passed to increase the border buildup in the already border-heavy bill. The committee approved an amendment from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to require border patrol to stop and detain 90 percent of border crossers on the entire border. As the bill was originally written, that “effective control” provision applied only to areas with historically high rates of crossing. The Senators also agreed on an amendment that will require the Department of Homeland Security to report back to the Judiciary Committee.

The Democrat controlled committee rejected several more amendments from Grassley and other members that would have strengthened so-called border triggers and threatened the path to citizenship entirely. Even with the additional amendments, some Republicans said they would simply not support the legislation.

“The committee has voted down every serious border security amendment today,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican. “If it doesn’t have real border security, it will not pass.”

The comments from Cruz beg the question: What is enough enforcement? And the tone many Republicans set suggests that for them there’s no limit. In the Senate, those Republican demands may not prevail, but in the Republican controlled House, which has yet to begin deliberations on reform, these sentiments will be powerful obstacles.

Meanwhile, the willingness of Democrats and members of the bi-partisan Gang of Eight Senators who wrote the bill to agree yesterday to several of the border enforcement amendments has some asking how far they’ll be willing to move to the right as the rest of the amendments come to vote in the next several weeks.

The next section of the bill, which the Senators are expected to take up on Tuesday, contains the 10-year path to citizenship. While Democrats and the two Republican Gang of Eight members on the committee will reject proposals from Cruz and others that would gut the path to citizenship, there are many smaller amendments that could dramatically limit the promise of the reform bill.

An amendment filed Tuesday by Sen. Jeff Sessions, a veteran and vocal opponent of immigration reform, would remove from the bill a provision allowing deported parents, spouses and children of U.S. citizens to apply to come back to the U.S. That provision, which could help tens of thousands of families reunify, was seen as a major victory by immigrant rights advocates who point to the crippling effect of deportations on families. It’s not clear though on which side of the Gang of Eight and Democrats threshold for compromise that provision will fall.

In a similar way, two amendments from Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would add immigration rights for same-sex couples. The original legislation excludes LGBT rights. Tens of thousands of gay U.S. citizens are now prohibited from petitioning for green cards for their non-citizen partners because of federal laws. The Leahy amendments aim to fix this discriminatory legal arrangement. But Gang of Eight member Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has yet to say how he’ll vote on the measure, which Republicans broadly oppose.

Republicans were not the only ones to propose additional enforcement yesterday. The committee passed an amendment from California Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein’s that could increase funding to localities to prosecute non-citizens in the criminal justice system.

Ultimately, it appears the comprehensive immigration reform bill will move to the right as it is amended. The question though is how far can it move in that direction before it’s too exclusionary for some Democrats and immigration reform advocates to accept.

Malcolm X’s Grandson Killed in Mexico During Robbery

Malcolm X's Grandson Killed in Mexico During Robbery

Malcom Shabazz, the 28-year-old grandson of Malcolm X, has reportedly been found dead in Mexico. He was in the country to meet with labor leaders and sources say that he was killed during a violent robbery attempt. Shabazz’s death was confirmed by sources who spoke with Talking Points Memo.

“He was murdered. He was in Mexico City and I believe they attempted to rob him and he didnt allow it, so they beat him to death and he died on his way to the hospital,” Miguel Ruiz, a member of the California-based labor group Rumec, told TPM. “This is all I can confirm, everything else is under investigation for the meantime.”

Shabazz’s first made national headlines when, at the age of 12, he set a house fire that would later claim the life of his grandmother and Malcolm X’s widow, Dr. Betty Shabazz. He spent four years in a juvenile detention center in New York state. His early troubles with the law were the subject of a lengthy New York Times feature in 2003.

In recent years, Shabazz followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and became an outspoken activist. He believed that his political work and family name made him a target for government surveillance. In 2011, Shabazz told the Amsterdam News, “I’ve been a target all my life. My family is targeted.”

More from Talking Points Memo:

Last month, the Iranian state-owned news outlet Press TV published a lengthy statement attributed to Shabazz in which he claimed he was being harassed by the FBI and police in upstate New York due to time he spent in Syria and his attempts to travel to Iran. Shabazz had appeared on Iranian television in April 2012. In the statement published by Press TV, Shabazz accused multiple U.S. government agencies of having “set the climate for my grandfather’s assassination, and made my family a long-suffering casualty of COINTELPRO, and other anti-Black repression programs.”

News of Shabazz’s death first broke Thursday night on Twitter. Many of his supporters expressed sadness and outrage.

Shonda Rhimes on TV’s Lack of Diversity: ‘I Think It’s Sad and Weird’

Shonda Rhimes on TV's Lack of Diversity: 'I Think It's Sad and Weird'

Everybody’s favorite ABC drama, “Scandal”, is the subject of a must-read piece in the New York Times. In it, the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, talks about how she deals with being one of the most powerful writers in television. “What was great for me about ‘Scandal’ was I had earned a lot of political capital with the network,” Rhimes told me Willa Paskin at the Times. “I had done ‘Grey’s,’ I had done ‘Private Practice.’ What were they going to do, fire me? I wasn’t worried about what anybody else thought. This one was for me.”

But, importantly, Rhimes also discusses the fact that she, a black woman, casts some of the most racially diverse shows on television. Racial diversity isn’t usually television’s strong suit.

From the Times:

Rhimes refuses to make an issue of her casting. “I think it’s sad, and weird, and strange that it’s still a thing,” she told me over the phone a few months ago. “It’s 2013. Somebody else needs to get their act together. And, oh, by the way, it works. Ratings-wise, it works.” In addition to its general success, “Scandal” is also rated No. 1 on network TV among African-American viewers.

While race on Rhimes’s shows is omnipresent, it is not often discussed explicitly. This has led to a second-order critique of her shows: that they are colorblind, diverse in a superficial way, with the characters’ races rarely informing their choices or conversations. Rhimes, obviously, disagrees. “When people who aren’t of color create a show and they have one character of color on their show, that character spends all their time talking about the world as ‘I’m a black man blah, blah, blah,’ ” she says. “That’s not how the world works. I’m a black woman every day, and I’m not confused about that. I’m not worried about that. I don’t need to have a discussion with you about how I feel as a black woman, because I don’t feel disempowered as a black woman.”

In November, released an infographic that showed just how white the Fall 2012 TV line up was. It wasn’t pretty.

Three Key Graphs From New Census Report on Voting Rates by Race

Three Key Graphs From New Census Report on Voting Rates by Race

Yesterday, Census finally released a report on how people voted by racial categories, making official what elections scholars have been saying for months: Black voter turnout rate exceeded that of white voters for the first time in our nation’s history.

This is, of course, special because of the voter intimidation and suppression history of America, all the way up to November 2012. While black voters expanded by 1.7 million voters between 2008 and 2012, the number of white voters dropped by about two million — “the only example of a race group showing a decrease in net voting from one presidential election to the next,” reports Census.

Below are three key graphs from the Census report:

Census Graf 1.png

The above graph shows the wide berth in growth for the black voter turnout rate, as well as the drop in the white voter turnout rate. What’s most troubling in this graph, though, is that it shows a huge drop in the turnout rate for Latino voters — a decrease that has been on a continual slide slide since 1996.

Census Graf 2.png

This graph shows the voting rate gap between white voters and each of the non-white voter racial categories. While the black voting rate exceeded the white rate by over 2 percentage points, we see that the Latino and Asian rates fall far below that of the white voting rate. Since 1996, the gap between Latino and white has improved only marginally while the Asian rate has regressed from 15.7 percent in 1996 to 16.8 percent last November.

Census Graf 3.png

The most disturbing of the three graphs shows that the black and Latino youth vote has regressed significantly. Consider that black and Latino voters expanded their voting rates by 10.8 and 7.4 percent respectively between 2000 and 2004; but between 2008 and 2012, black and Latino voters decreased their rates by 6.7 percent and 4.6 percent. The much ballyhooed “enthusiasm gap” may have fallen on voters aged 18 to 24.

Jay Smooth on Charles Ramsey, Humor and the Trouble With Memes

Jay Smooth on Charles Ramsey, Humor and the Trouble With Memes

Over at Ill Doctrine,’s Jay Smooth gives one of the most succinct analyses of the media spectacle surrounding Charles Ramsey, the man who helped save three women from a brutally violent decades-long ordeal in Cleveland. Yes, dude’s funny. And sure, it’s okay to laught. But, as Jay puts it:

“Whenever a certain person is in the news, we have a certain compulsion to flatten out that person and immediately flatten out their personhood into this paper-thin, click-bait, Chappelle show, laughing-for-the-wrong-reasons viral joke.”

St. Louis Fast Food Workers Latest To Go On Strike

St. Louis Fast Food Workers Latest To Go On Strike

St. Louis became the third city where fast food restaurant workers staged a day-long strike to demand higher wages and the right to unionize. Organizers yesterday expected as many as 100 workers to walk out of restaurants including a McDonald’s. The local CBS affiliate reported that last night and this morning, seven St. Louis fast food restaurants have been forced to halt operations because workers refused to come to work.

In April, Chicago hundreds of fast food workers walked off the job . That strike mimicked a November fast food strike in New York. Like those previous actions, St. Louis workers, who often earn the state’s $7.35 hourly minimum wage, are demanding a raise to $15 an hour.

The strikes come as low-wage jobs like those in fast food restaurants grow in number. As I wrote in December:

An oft-cited report by the National Employment Law Project reveals that in the fledgling economic recovery, the only parts of the labor market that are expanding significantly provide low-wages. The report finds 43 percent of all jobs gained in the last two years were in food service, retail and other services sector work. These are some of the least unionized jobs in the country. Only about 7 percent of private sector workers have a union and that rate is even lower for service workers.

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.

The labor actions are part of a trend to organize workers in service sector jobs that have historically been unorganized or excluded from labor law protections. Most labor experts agree that unionization in the fast food sector is a long way off.

Margaret Cho, Alice Walker and 100 More Artists Call for Humane Immigration Reform

Margaret Cho, Alice Walker and 100 More Artists Call for Humane Immigration Reform

On Tuesday more than 100 artists, comedians, writers and musicians issued a statement calling on Congress and President Obama to pass humane, inclusive and just immigration reform.

The signers, whose statement is available at, say immigration reform must include five basics:

End the detentions and deportations that cause separation and suffering for families; Preserve families by expediting the visa process and retaining longstanding policies that reunite and stabilize families; Ensure all immigrants have basic workers’ rights; Provide equal immigration rights to LGBTQ individuals and families; and Create a clear roadmap to citizenship that includes all 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Because, they contend, “Migration is natural and beautiful. The human truth is that all people move, and all people have rights. Creating a just and humane immigration process is a moral and cultural imperative that secures the future of a vibrant nation.” Their calls come just as the Senate is taking up its immigration bill.

Take a look at the list of supporters in full; it’s a who’s who of smart artists. Novelists Ha Jin and Teju Cole support humane immigration policy. As do filmmakers Mira Nair and Robert Redford, along with comedians Negin Farsad and Margaret Cho, and actors Rosario Dawson, Blythe Danner and Alfre Woodard. Who wouldn’t want to be in such good company?

To kick off the campaign, which is a collaboration between The Culture Group, Air Traffic Control, and CultureStrike, artists Favianna Rodriguez, Ray Hernandez, Julio Salgado and Jason Carne created images with the campaign’s signature butterfly attached to it. Check out their work below:

by Favianna Rodriguez

by Jason Carne

by Julio Salgado

by Ray Hernandez

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