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Immigration: Keep Families United

Yesterday, tens of thousands of people carrying U.S. flags pressed for immigrants' rights by holding demonstrations in dozens of cities. The protesters called for a path to legalization for the approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

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GOOD NEWS

The World Bank’s Executive Board has approved a 10-year Health, Nutrition, and Population Strategy that strongly endorses sexual and reproductive health and rights, rejecting President Paul Wolfowitz’s regressive draft version that made “virtually no reference to sexual and reproductive health.”


STATE WATCH

COLORADO: “A measure that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation was endorsed by state representatives Monday.”

NEW YORK: New York’s First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer unveils a plan “to transform the Governor’s Mansion into a green building.”
 
MISSOURI: State senators crush a plan to make English the official government language in Missouri.

ENVIRONMENT: Several cities are implementing measures to selectively ban automobiles and encourage bicyclists and pedestrians.


BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Flashback: In 1999, then-Governor George W. Bush demanded a timetable.

GRISTMILL: “Taking the ‘fund’ out of Superfund.”

BLACK PROF: Backlash against Fox News debate is “a significant development for the Blackroots.”

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT: World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz should follow former USAID director Randall Tobias’s example and resign.


DAILY GRILL

“Here is why the bill Congress passed is unacceptable. First, the bill would mandate a rigid and artificial deadline for American troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq.”
— President Bush, 5/1/07

VERSUS

“I think it’s also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn.”
— Bush, 6/5/99


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STUDENTS

Politics with an Attitude: Everyone from Barack Obama to Stephen Colbert talks to Campus Progress. Right-wingers seem scared of us. Find out why here.

  May 2, 2007
Keep Families United
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Keep Families United

Yesterday, tens of thousands of people carrying U.S. flags pressed for immigrants’ rights by holding demonstrations in dozens of cities. The protesters called for a path to legalization for the approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. The marches sought to put “the spotlight on the fact our country’s current — and very broken — immigration system tears apart families when undocumented parents are deported or loved ones have to face long, complicated procedures to ever be allowed legal entry” into the country. In cities across the nation — from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles — demonstrators carried signs that read “Keep Families United” and “Don’t Deport Our Parents,” focusing their rallies on deportation raids that could separate more than three million U.S.-born children from their parents who are subject to deportation. Supporters of immigration reform are pushing for a moratorium on raids and deportations until new legislation is enacted. “All attention is focused on the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to kick off discussion on May 14 with two weeks of floor debate on an immigration reform bill.”

STAND AND DELIVER: Last year, nearly a million protesters took to the streets to call attention to a bill in Congress that proposed “making it a felony to be in the United States illegally.” With a strong bipartisan majority of 62 votes, the Senate passed a plan last May “that tracked closely with Bush’s wishes.” Yet the proposal died in the House, where tough new border security measures were the priority. After the Nov. 2006 midterm elections brought the Democrats into the majority, President Bush said immigration would be “an issue where I believe we can find some common ground.” The White House has used public events to highlight “the effectiveness of stepped-up border enforcement.” But the only approach that has grown out of initial talks between congressional leaders and the White House would be harsher on illegal immigrants than the Senate approach. “Its path to citizenship would require fines, trips back home, long waits and hefty penalties.” 

THE IMPACT OF DEPORTATION RAIDS: Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, “facing intense political pressure to toughen enforcement, removed 221,664 illegal immigrants from the country over the last year, an increase of more than 37,000 — about 20 percent — over the year before, according to the agency’s tally.” Bush has heralded the apprehensions as a sign of progress. The raids have bitterly divided local communities and ripped apart immigrant communities. “A March 6 raid of a New Bedford, Mass., leather factory resulted in the detention of 361 undocumented immigrants, and stories circulated through the immigrant community there of small children and babies separated from their parents.” Five months ago, “federal agents arrested more than 200 illegal workers at a meatpacking plant in Greeley, CO,” which residents say “devastated so many kids and so many families.” So far, the effect has been to cause undocumented families “to hunker down and plot ways to avoid detection and resist deportation, not run voluntarily for the border.” “People are intimidated. They’re scared,” said 22-year-old Juan Hernandez, who joined protesters in Houston. “People who are undocumented leave for work every day with the fear that they won’t come home to their families.”

LEGISLATIVE WINDOW IS CLOSING: “We face a critical choice — between a future as a nation of immigrants, or a future measured by higher walls and longer fences,” Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said yesterday, advocating a comprehensive plan that includes: 1) tough border enforcement, 2) an earned legalization program, and 3) a temporary worker program. “To earn legal status, immigrants would have to work, pay taxes, learn English, obey our laws, and pay a penalty for violating the law. Completing the process would take several years.” He said yesterday, “We need to do all we can to create strong bipartisan support for this approach. The American people have waited long enough for immigration reform. The time is right, and the result is up to us.” Kennedy is urging his colleagues to come to the negotiating table for a “last-ditch attempt to pass a sweeping bill before their efforts are swallowed up by an early campaign season and an acrimonious political mood.” He said if a compromise cannot be reached in the next two weeks, he would prepare a bill for the floor similar to the measure that passed the Senate last year. “We’ll have some form of vote on immigration,” he said. In the House, Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are rallying bipartisan support for a comprehensive approach. But if the effort collapses, “a large share of the blame must go to amnesty-fixated Republicans lost in the fog of” politics.

THE RIGHT MOVES FURTHER RIGHT: The New York Times writes that Sens. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and John McCain (R-AZ) “have complicated the prospects of a bipartisan immigration bill that would affect millions of lives.” Brownback “was a co-sponsor of last year’s bipartisan Senate bill. But this year he bailed out of negotiations” and recently “disowned his vote for last year’s bill, to the delight of conservatives who scorned him as ‘Amnesty Sam.'” McCain, once the chief conservative proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, is now distancing himself from Kennedy and “reconsidering his views on how the immigration law might be changed” after meeting with conservative voters in Iowa. In Nov. 2005, then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) pointedly noted that the Senate comprehensive immigration reform proposal was not amnesty. (The Boston Globe posted audio of his remarks here.) Last month, Romney reversed course and said, “McCain-Kennedy isn’t the answer” and described it “as an amnesty plan that would reward people for breaking the law and cost taxpayers millions to provide them benefits.” The anti-immigration hostility of right-wing pundits like Bill O’Reilly and Pat Buchanan also contributes to the legislative gridlock. Success on passing a reform bill will hinge on whether Bush can deliver his base on this important issue.

Under the Radar

ETHICS — CONTROVERSIAL INTERIOR DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL RESIGNS: Julie A. MacDonald, a senior Bush political appointee at the Interior Department, resigned yesterday ahead of her upcoming appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The committee is set to hold a hearing next week “on accusations that she violated the Endangered Species Act, censored science and mistreated staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” A civil engineer with no training in biology, MacDonald, as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, often overruled and disparaged the findings of scientists on her staff, instead relying on the recommendations of political and industry groups to decide which imperiled animals and plants should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Under MacDonald and other Bush administration appointees, just 56 species have been listed under the Endangered Species Act as of Nov. 2006, a rate of about 10 a year. Under President Clinton, officials listed 512 species, or 64 a year, and under President George H.W. Bush, the department listed 234, or 59 a year. MacDonald’s departure also “came as the agency was discussing plans to demote her,” an Interior Department official told the Washington Post. In a report by the inspector general of the Interior Department earlier this year, MacDonald was chastised for “disclosing confidential documents to ‘private sector sources’ such as the Pacific Legal Foundation and the California Farm Bureau Federation, both of which have challenged endangered-species listings.” Environmental groups praised her departure. “Increasing transparency in the decision-making process would make other political appointees think twice before altering or distorting scientific documents,” said Francesca Grifo, director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

IRAQ — STATE DEPARTMENT CLAIMS IRAQ HAS BEEN ‘GOOD FOR THE EFFORT TO REDUCE TERRORISM’:
On Monday, the State Department released its annual terrorism report, showing that the number of terrorist attacks worldwide rose by 20,000 (40 percent) last year. Iraq accounted for nearly two-thirds of last year’s terrorism-related deaths. The number of terrorism “incidents in Iraq rose 91 percent, from 3,468 in 2005 to 6,630 in 2006.” At Monday’s briefing on the report, a reporter asked whether, in light of the skyrocketing death count in Iraq, the Iraq war has “been good for the effort to reduce terrorism generally.” Frank C. Urbancic, the State Department’s Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, agreed and defended the war, stating that “if the battle against terrorism isn’t in Iraq, it’s going to be somewhere else” He then added, “I mean, Iraq is at least a relatively friendly place. The people of Iraq are deserving people and they deserve better and it’s good for us to help them” (See the video HERE). The rapid rise of worldwide terrorist attacks was not inevitable. It is a direct result of the Iraq war, as the new State Department report proves. Last year’s National Intelligence estimate also concluded, “The Iraq conflict has become the ’cause celebre’ for jihadists, … cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.” In a recent survey of foreign policy experts, 81 percent said they believe that the world is becoming less safe. But according to Urbancic’s logic, it is good that the terrorists are in Iraq — rather than in another country — because it is a “relatively friendly place” and the “people of Iraq are deserving people.”

IRAQ — SUSTAINED WAR WILL LEAD TO ‘FEWER JOBS AND SLOWER ECONOMIC GROWTH’: According to the Congressional Research Service, the vetoed $124 billion Iraq supplemental and the President’s new “request for $116 billion” to fund the war in the next fiscal year will “push the total for Iraq to $564 billion.” That amount is “about ten times more than the Bush administration anticipated before the war started four years ago, and no one can predict how high the tab will go.” Before the war, the White House estimated the “conflict would cost about $50 billion” and “White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey lost his job after he offered a $200 billion estimate.” Robert Hormats, author of The Price of Liberty, worries that the Bush administration’s “painless” approach to war funding in which the “average American” feels “no economic consequence” will hamper our nation’s ability to address domestic concerns like Social Security and Medicare. A new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that Hormats’s concerns are legitimate and that sustained expenses of the war in Iraq will likely lead “to fewer jobs and slower economic growth.” The study shows that while some short-term benefits to increased military spending are likely, the long-term strains on the economy produces “considerably higher” inflation and interest rates, reduces the number of available jobs, and “diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment.” As Hormats said of the war time economy, “You can’t have business as usual.”


Think Fast

The Los Angeles Times describes yesterday’s immigration rallies as “a sea of U.S. flags, waved cheerfully by people asking to join a country conflicted about their welcome. Other than a Fourth of July on the Washington Mall, it’s hard to think of a more full-throated pledge of allegiance.”

U.S. diplomats are returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder and other “debilitating, stress-related symptoms that have afflicted many U.S. troops, prompting the State Department to order a mental health survey of 1,400 employees who have completed assignments there.”

The re-enlistment rate of mid-level soldiers in the U.S. army “dropped from 96 percent in 2005 to 84 percent in the first quarter of this year.”

Congressional leaders will meet President Bush at the White House today to open negotiations on new Iraq legislation. “Several Republican leaders said Tuesday that they were likely to support such benchmarks, and White House aides said Tuesday that Mr. Bush…might back such a measure — but only if the benchmarks are nonbinding.”

“Despite the buildup to a possible meeting between senior U.S. and Iranian officials, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian counterpart are unlikely to hold substantive one-on-one talks at a conference in Egypt on Friday.” 

Rudy Giuliani’s law firm “is perhaps the nation’s most aggressive lobbyist for coal-fired power plants, heavy emitters of air pollutants and carbon dioxide, a gas associated with global warming. Environmentalists say the firm played a significant role in persuading the Bush administration to roll back major provisions of the Clean Air Act.”

“The inspector general of the Department of Commerce, the watchdog charged with rooting out wrongdoing at the agency, is himself the subject of three separate government investigations into allegations that he misspent his budget and retaliated against employees who raised concerns about his actions.”

In Nov. 2005, a Senate staffer inserted into the Patriot Act a “provision that would change the rules so that federal prosecutors could live outside their districts to serve in other jobs,” the “second example in which the Justice Department sought to use the renewal of the Patriot Act antiterrorism law to assert tighter control over U.S. attorneys.”

And finally: In Tony Snow’s absence, how did Dana Perino do leading the press briefings? “I think we got through it just fine,” she said, but added that she was “never able to beat” Tony’s performances. ABC News’s Ann Compton praised Perino, stating, “She was very quick with e-mail responses. … Her BlackBerry hours were so arduous she ran into pain problems in her right index finger.”