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.

HBO Picks Up Whoopi Goldberg’s Documentary on Comedian Jackie ‘Moms’ Mabley

HBO Picks Up Whoopi Goldberg's Documentary on Comedian Jackie 'Moms' Mabley

HBO announced on Thursday that the cable network has acquired all U.S. broadcast rights to “Moms Mabley: I got somethin’ to tell you,” from first-time director Whoopi Goldberg. The feature-length documentary follows the life of Jackie “Moms” Mabley, the late African-American comedian who became one of the first bona fide female stand-up comedy superstars.

HBO describes the film:

Breaking racial and sexual boundaries as a pioneering comic talent, the African-American stand-up comedienne Jackie “Moms” Mabley has long been an icon in the comedy world. In I GOT SOMETHIN’ TO TELL YOU, Goldberg explores Mabley’s legacy through recently unearthed photography, rediscovered performance footage and the words of numerous celebrated comedians, entertainers and historians, including Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Sidney Poitier, Kathy Griffin, Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.

Mabley tackled topics such as gender, sex and racism, making her one of the first triple X-rated comedians on the comedy circuit. Once billed as “The Funniest Woman in the World,” she performed on stage and in television and film up until her death in 1975. A true passion project for Goldberg, MOMS MABLEY: I GOT SOMETHIN’ TO TELL YOU shows Mabley’s historical significance and profound influence as a performer vastly ahead of her time.

“Moms Mabley has been a huge inspiration to me and so many others, but not a lot of folks outside of the comedy world know about her legacy,” said Goldberg in a statement. “There are a lot of us who wouldn’t be working today without pioneers like her. HBO gave me my first break on TV, so it’s only fitting that Moms has a home there now.”

“Moms Mabley: I got somethin’ to tell you,” will have its world premiere at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, April 20.

Modest Racial Profiling Protections In Senate Immigration Bill

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

As I noted this morning, the Senate Gang of Eight immigration reform bill invests in a vast expansion of border security including lots of new equipment, drones included, and at least 3,500 more border patrol agents who will join the 21,500 already there. One of the concerns about this growing enforcement network is that it’ll deepen an already out of control and reckless border patrol (for a sense of the scope of this messiness, check out Andrew Becker’s border reporting for the Center for Investigative Reporting).

One of the biggest problems that rights groups have with CBP is the widespread use of racial profiling as a tool of border enforcement. The immigration bill includes several provisions to reign in these practices. The bill reads:

“In making routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions, such as ordinary traffic stops, Federal law enforcement officers may not use race or ethnicity to any degree, except that officers may rely on race and ethnicity if a specific suspect description exists.”

The provision notably excludes national origin, which leaves plenty of room for immigration agents to target immigrants because of characteristics that might suggest a particular country of origin but ultimately are really about race.

The bill would also require the Department of Homeland Security to begin collecting and compiling data on the race and ethnicity of people stopped by immigration agents. Though the data collection does not lead directly to greater oversight, it may provide transparency needed for advocates and oversight bodies to push for changes in practice.

Here’s Video of CNN Spreading Rumors About A ‘Dark Skinned’ Boston Suspect

On Wednesday afternoon a handful of news outlets falsely reported that an arrest had been made in the Boston bombings.

The Boston Globe, Fox News and The Associated Press all reported a suspect had been captured but were forced to retract their reports when the FBI issued a statement saying “no arrest has been made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack.”

CNN’s John King, citing multiple “exclusive” sources, was the first to broadcasts the faulty information. He’s taking the brunt of the false reporting not only because he broke the misinformation but also because he offered a physical description of the supposed individual who was arrested.

King described the “dark-skinned” suspect on CNN Wednesday around 1:45pm EST:

A physical description was given to me of the suspect. Wolf, I want to be very careful here because this is very sensitive information, but the description given to me, once again, it’s a dark-skinned individual. And I want to just stop there. Further descriptives were given by this source —— but it was a background conversation.

After reporting the false news for an hour, CNN retracted their statements. Minutes later the FBI called them out for not going through “appropriate official channels before reporting.”

“Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate. 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,” read the FBI statement.

No Obamacare or Safety Net While on Senate’s Path to Citizenship

No Obamacare or Safety Net While on Senate's Path to Citizenship

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

There’s lots of fanfare about the path to citizenship in the Senate’s immigration reform bill, but the bill leaves serious questions about how newly legalized people will survive once on that path. This is perhaps nowhere more concerning than in the context of the full exclusion of newly legalized immigrations from Obamacare health insurance exchanges and other federal benefits.

Under the bill, immigrants on the 10-year path to citizenship—what’s called the Provisional Registered Immigrant status, or RPI—would be excluded from all means-tested federal benefits. Let’s just make clear what this means. Millions of people who work overwhelmingly in low-income jobs and who owe several thousand dollars in fines and in some cases need cash for mandatory English classes (in addition to paying the regular taxes that all workers pay) will be barred completely from programs meant to keep families afloat. That’s Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, cash assistance, Social Security Insurance and Obamacare’s insurance exchange.

It’s not just that these folks are left out. It’s that they’re left out even though they will have paid for years into the programs through payroll taxes.

Top WNBA Pick Brittney Griner on Being Gay: ‘Don’t Hide Who You Really Are’

Top WNBA Pick Brittney Griner on Being Gay: 'Don't Hide Who You Really Are'

Top WNBA draft pick and Baylor University senior Brittney Griner nonchalantly became one of the highest profile LGBT athletes in the country recently when she confirmed in an interview that she is gay.

In an interview with ESPN, Griner joined fellow draft picks Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne in a wide-ranging interview that covered everything from bullying to sexuality.

“Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because they’re always going to say something, but, if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are,” Griner told ESPN, before going into more detail about her decision to come out publicly. “It really wasn’t too difficult,” she said of the decision. “I wouldn’t say I was hiding or anything like that. I’ve always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn’t hard at all. If I can show that I’m out and I’m fine and everything’s OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way.”

Griner, who was selected first overall by the Phoenix Mercury, is one of the most decorated female athletes to ever play college basketball. She’s a three time All-American, a former AP Player of the Year, and has more blocked shots than any player in men’s or women’s college basketball.

In Immigration Bill, More Criminal Prosecutions For Deportees Who Try To Return

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

One of the things I’m looking for as I cull through the Senate immigration bill are places where immigration enforcement expands. The U.S. already deports more 400,000 people each year and spends more on the border than at any point in U.S. history. It’s been widely reported that at least on the border, more is coming. Before any currently undocumented immigrants will be allowed to apply for a green card in a decade or citizenship three years later, the Department of Homeland Security will spend as much as $6.5 billion to deploy 3,500 additional border patrol guards and add walls, fences, drones and checkpoints to the southern border.

But here’s a piece that’s gained less attention. As part of this buildup, the bill expands the number of immigrants who will face criminal prosecutions for trying to come back to the country after they’re deported. People get sent to federal prison for crossing the border. They’re locked up for years.

A Synopsis (in Progress) of the Senate’s Immigration Bill

A Synopsis (in Progress) of the Senate's Immigration Bill

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

Yesterday, I spent the day reading an 844-page piece of legislation that promises to overhaul the U.S. immigration system. The big picture is this: the immigration reform bill pulls in two very different directions, as it attempts to codify the country’s troubling understanding of good and bad immigrants.

On the one hand, the bill tries to fix a system that’s done incalculable harm to millions by separating families and leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation. For example, it:

On the other hand, the bill adds more restrictions, more punishment and draws more lines in the sand about who’s welcome and who’s not. For instance, it:

In the end, the bill retains all the trappings of American public policy’s manic relationship to citizenship and migration: the country embraces some and despises others, thinks some immigrants are good immigrants and other immigrants are bad. Perhaps this is a given, but to make these decisions, it’s important to remember that these distinctions and the trades that come with them are not just about political compromise, they’re about who is included in the path to citizenship and who is left behind. About what kind of enforcement is built into the bill and who gets locked up or excluded as a result. And about whether the legal immigration system becomes more or less inclusive. It’s about lives.

I’ll be back in the details of the bill today, trying to answer a set of questions that I couldn’t get to yesterday. Follow along in our What’s in the Bill tag.

On Visas, Senate Bill Clears Family Backlog, But Closes Diversity Door

On Visas, Senate Bill Clears Family Backlog, But Closes Diversity Door

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

There’s been a lot of talk about what the immigration bill does to change existing pathways for legal immigration. Everyone in the political universe seems to agree that the country needs an expansion of visas for “high-skilled” immigrants—people with degrees in science and technology fields. Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wants more of those visas. But Republicans often argue that in order to make space, Congress will need to cut other legal immigration routes. They usually go after two targets for the cuts: family-based visas and the Diversity Lottery program.

They appear to have won. The Senate bill makes cuts in both of those categories. The changes will strike a blow to many families and to geographic equity in who can immigrate.

Same-Sex Couples Are Not Part Of Immigration Reform Bill

Same-Sex Couples Are Not Part Of Immigration Reform Bill

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

The immigration reform bill released today by the Senate’s Gang of Eight will not include same-sex couples. Many advocates for LGBT families and for immigrants had hoped that the reform bill would include sections that side-step federal marriage laws and allow bi-national gay and lesbian couples to petition for green cards for non-citizen partners. No such language is in the bill.

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, bars same-sex couple from marriage and from federal benefits that come with legal partnership. This includes exclusion from immigration benefits. A 2011 report from the Williams Institute at UCLA estimated there are at least 40,000 same-sex couples who were barred from applying for immigration benefits available to straight couples with similar immigration status. That estimate is intentionally low and there may be many more families in this situation.

As I wrote last week:

Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced a stand-alone [Uniting American Families Act] to provide immigration petitioning rights to gay and lesbian couples. The bills drew support from a few Republicans but appear unlikely to pass on their own. Some members of Congress, including Rep. Jared Nadler, D-N.Y., who introduced one of those bills, said this week that the [same-sex couples] provision could be inserted into reform legislation once the Senate and House bills are conferenced.

“I will fight like hell to ensure that LGBT-inclusive language remains in any House and Senate conference report,” Nadler told the Blade.

But most acknowledge that the best chance for bi-national same-sex couples rests in the Supreme Court, which is currently considering the constitutionality of DOMA. If the justices overturn it, gay and lesbian couples in states with marriage equality laws could petition for green cards like other married couples.

“The reality is that when the Uniting American Families Act is not in there,” Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, told Metro Weekly yesterday. “[T]here is nothing in here for [LGBT] families, and that is not comprehensive.”

Tim Wise on Understanding the Power of Whiteness, Terrorism and Privilege

Tim Wise on Understanding the Power of Whiteness, Terrorism and Privilege

Anti-racist writer and educator Tim Wise published an essay yesterday that explores white privilege in the context of the bombings that took place at the Boston Marathon. 

Wise’s essay entitled, “Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness,” explores the cultural fallout that could result if the person (or persons) responsible for the violent marathon events turns out to be a person of color.

An excerpt from Tim Wise’s essay is below:

White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for whites to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation.

White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph and Joe Stack and George Metesky and Byron De La Beckwith and Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss and James von Brunn and Robert Mathews and David Lane and Michael F. Griffin and Paul Hill and John Salvi and James Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page and Byron Williams and Kevin Harpham and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus and Raymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy and Michael Gorbey and Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and Frederick Thomas and Paul Ross Evans and Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wiggins and Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe and David McMenemy and Bobby Joe Rogers and Francis Grady and Demetrius Van Crocker and Floyd Raymond Looker, among the pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize and kill, but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.

And white privilege is being able to know nothing about the crimes committed by most of the terrorists listed above — indeed, never to have so much as heard most of their names — let alone to make assumptions about the role that their racial or ethnic identity may have played in their crimes.

White privilege is knowing that if the Boston bomber turns out to be white, we  will not be asked to denounce him or her, so as to prove our own loyalties to the common national good. It is knowing that the next time a cop sees one of us standing on the sidewalk cheering on runners in a marathon, that cop will say exactly nothing to us as a result.

White privilege is knowing that if you are a white student from Nebraska — as opposed to, say, a student from Saudi Arabia — that no one, and I mean no one would think it important to detain and question you in the wake of a bombing such as the one at the Boston Marathon.

And white privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas. And if he turns out to be a member of the Irish Republican Army we won’t bomb Belfast. And if he’s an Italian American Catholic we won’t bomb the Vatican.

Read Tim Wise’s entire essay on at

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