Thursday, November 20, 2014

Obama Makes Some Limited And Temporary Incremental Changes in Immigration Policy Via Executive Order But the Real Push For Major Comprehensive Immigration Reform Remains To Be Done As A Largely Reactionary Congress Resists Change

Obama, Daring Congress, Acts to Overhaul Immigration


November 20, 2014

New York Times
“The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every Democratic president for the past half century,” Mr. Obama said. “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”
--President Obama

Play Video|1:20

Obama Describes Immigration Plan

President Obama explained actions his administration would take on the immigration system, and who those actions would and would not affect.

Video by Associated Press on Publish Date November 20, 2014. Photo by Pool photo by Jim Bourg.
WASHINGTON — President Obama chose confrontation over conciliation on Thursday as he asserted the powers of the Oval Office to reshape the nation’s immigration system and dared members of next year’s Republican-controlled Congress to reverse his actions on behalf of millions of immigrants.

In an address from the East Room of the White House that sought to appeal to a nation’s compassion, Mr. Obama told Americans that deporting millions is “not who we are” and quoted scripture that said “We shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.”

He displayed years of frustration with congressional gridlock and a desire to frame the last years of his presidency with far-reaching executive  actions. Mr. Obama’s directive will shield up to five million people from deportation and allow many to work legally, although it offers no path to citizenship.

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Representative Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, is an ally of Mr. King’s.

Some Republicans Fear That Their Hard-Liners Will Alienate Hispanics

In 1986, Ronald Reagan signed the so-called “amnesty” law passed by Congress that granted legal status to three million undocumented immigrants, and then acted on his own the following year to expand it to about 100,000 more.
Obama’s Immigration Decision Has Precedents, but May Set a New OneNOV. 20, 2014

 President Obama on Tuesday. Some advocates said this week that they saw a paradox in the president’s policy.
Obama’s Immigration Plan Could Shield Five MillionNOV. 19, 2014

 Ray Jose, 24, a Filipino whose parents brought him to America when he was 9, said his father, Ramon, cleaned houses and mowed lawns to send him to college.
Deportation Reprieve May Exclude Parents of Young ImmigrantsNOV. 19, 2014

“The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every Democratic president for the past half century,” Mr. Obama said. “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”

Continue reading the main story Video

Play Video|2:37

America’s 11 Million

The demographics of America’s undocumented immigrants, more than half of whom have been the United States for more than 10 years and nearly a third of whom own homes.

Video by Emily B. Hager, Natalia V. Osipova and Aaron Byrd on Publish Date November 20, 2014. Photo by Rich Addicks for The New York Times.

In a series of rhetorical questions, he framed the immigration debate in emotional terms. “Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?” he asked. Later he added, “Whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in,”

Mr. Obama intends to underscore the schism between the parties on the issue of immigration during a campaign-like rally on Friday at a high school in Las Vegas, where Hispanics are a powerful and growing voting bloc.

The trip is part of a White House strategy to try to convince Americans in the next weeks and months that the president’s actions are legal and  right. Immigration advocates plan to use that time to push for even more while Republicans are devising ways to defy the president and exercise their new authority.

Related in Opinion
At right, an immigrant rights activist in Murrieta, Calif.
Op-Ed Contributor: The Democrats’ Immigration ProblemNOV. 20, 2014

Conservative lawmakers accused the president of a gross abuse of authority and promised a legislative fight when they take full control of Congress next year. But even before Mr. Obama’s speech, Republicans appeared divided about how to stop him and unsure about how to express their anger without severely damaging their standing with Latinos.


What Is President Obama’s Immigration Plan?

The plan would grant as many as five million unauthorized immigrants temporary reprieve from deportation and provide many of them with authorization to work in the U.S.

OPEN Graphic
Mr. Obama’s actions will sharpen the focus of government enforcement on criminals and foreigners who pose security threats, vastly reducing the specter that many immigrants would be detained by federal agents. High-tech workers will have an easier time coming to the United States, and security on the border will be increased.

The centerpiece of the president’s announcement is a new program for undocumented people who are the parents of United States citizens. Most of those people — estimated by officials to number slightly more than four million — would be eligible for a new legal status that would defer their deportations and allow them to work legally in the country. They must pass background checks and pay taxes, but they will get Social Security cards, officials said.

An additional one million people will get protection from deportation through other parts of the president’s plan.

Featured Comment

Martin Alter

New York, NY
So the Republicans are hysterical over unilateral action by the President to begin wrestling with a problem they have not merely refused to address, but have actively blocked any serious efforts to address.

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Mr. Obama’s actions will end a program called Secure Communities, which advocates had long criticized as a dragnet that swept up many undocumented immigrants arrested for minor offenses like traffic violations. Local police departments will continue to send fingerprints of foreign-born people they arrest for immigration status checks by the Department of Homeland Security. But police will no longer be asked routinely to detain immigrants without papers.

Play Video|14:48

Obama’s Immigration Address

In a prime-time speech, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to grant work permits and temporary reprieves from deportation to as many as five million undocumented immigrants.

Video by AP on Publish Date November 20, 2014. Photo by Pool photo by Jim Bourg.
How Republicans choose to proceed in their opposition to the president’s directive will shape the final two years of Mr. Obama’s tenure and could help set the tone of the 2016 presidential campaign. Several Republicans on Thursday said they wanted to use a forthcoming spending bill and the threat of a government shutdown as leverage against Mr. Obama, while others in the party reached for ways that Congress might undercut the president’s actions by withholding money or threatening other priorities.

“By ignoring the will of the American people, President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement after the speech. “Republicans are left with the serious responsibility of upholding our oath of office. We will not shrink from this duty, because our allegiance lies with the American people. We will listen to them, work with our members, and protect the Constitution.”

Even as Republican lawyers analyzed what the White House said was the legal basis of Mr. Obama’s actions, it remained unclear how they might undo them. The agency that will carry out most of the president’s executive actions, Citizenship and Immigration Services, is funded with application fees, and does not rely on a budget vote in Congress to keep operating.

But accusations of a presidential abuse of power appear to have gained some traction in recent days, as a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found just 38 percent support for Mr. Obama’s executive actions even as there is broad support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In the poll, 48 percent said they oppose Mr. Obama’s actions. Even a few Democrats have expressed concern about the propriety of the president’s actions.

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, in Washington on Wednesday. He predicted that Mr. Obama’s actions would make it harder for Congress to ever agree on a more lasting overhaul of the immigration system.
“I am as frustrated as anyone that Congress is not doing its job, but the president shouldn’t make such significant policy changes on his own,”  Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, a Democrat, said in a statement Thursday before the president’s speech. Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, told White House aides in a meeting on Thursday that he disagreed with Mr. Obama.

“To put it through now is the wrong thing to do,” Mr. Manchin said after the meeting. “I told them I wasn’t comfortable.”

White House aides said they are prepared to confront all of the accusations; one senior administration official said Thursday that dealing with Republicans on Capitol Hill was like participating in “a live-fire exercise.” Officials said that Mr. Obama’s actions would refocus federal agents on “deporting felons, not families” and they insisted that the move is consistent with powers that have been exercised by presidents in both parties for decades.

Immigration advocates and the president’s Democratic allies hailed the president’s announcement even as they insisted that more should be done to provide legal protections for millions of undocumented immigrants unaffected by Mr. Obama’s directives.

“Five million people will get to feel this country’s embrace,” said Lorella Praeli, the director of advocacy for United We Dream, a youth immigrant organization. “But I’m sad there are people who will be left out. For them in particular, I recommit to fight until we see the day that they are protected from deportation.”

Other immigration advocates said they were pleasantly surprised by the scope of the changes. Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, called them “a massive breakthrough for the immigrant rights movement.”

Fierce critics of the president’s actions described them in equally sweeping terms.

“President Obama today told millions of people, ‘If you broke our laws to enter this country, we will not prosecute you, we will not deport you.'” said Jenny Beth Martin, the president of the Tea Party Patriots. “This is a Constitutional Republic, not a banana republic. It’s time we all started acting like it.”

Ashley Parker and Julia Preston contributed reporting.  

Hope and Fear Precede Obama’s Immigration Announcement
by Zoë Carpenter
November 20, 2014
The Nation
A rally for immigration reform in Washington, on Sunday, March 21, 2010 (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Greisa Martineza is too nervous to call her mother. She’s waiting until she knows whether the executive action President Obama will announce Thursday in a primetime address will give her mother a reprieve from the fear that at any time she could be arrested, separated from her family and deported.

“I couldn’t get myself to call just yet, until it’s a reality,” Martineza explained. “It would be hard for me to have words to say to her without knowing something concrete.”

Rumors of who will be included in Obama’s orders and who will be left out spread through the media this week. Some are contradictory, heightening the tension as millions of undocumented residents and their families await the announcement. The New York Times, for example, reported in its Thursday edition that farm workers would not receive special protection. But the president of the United Farmworker Union said  that he’d been told at a White House meeting on Wednesday that Obama planned to include at least a quarter of a million agricultural laborers.

Martineza’s mother, Elia, will probably hear good news tonight. Two of Elia’s four daughters are US citizens, and it’s widely reported that Obama’s plan will cover parents like her. Elia, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been a single mother since her husband was deported in 2009, a task made even more difficult by the fact that she lacked a driver’s license and a work permit. She got her daughters to college, but Martineza said that even the commute to work caused her mother great anxiety. She hopes that Obama’s announcement will turn ordinary activities like shopping for her sister’s wedding dress from a hazard to ordinary fun. “She’ll have peace of mind to enjoy those moments,” Martineza speculated. “She can finally feel a little bit safe.”

Obama is also expected to eliminate the age limit for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Martineza is protected by. (She’s also an organizer with United We Dream, a youth-led immigrant-rights organization.) But the fate of parents whose children are eligible for DACA but are not citizens is unclear. The Times and other outlets reported Thursday that these immigrants would not be given the chance to remain in the United States and work legally.

“It’s a huge bummer for my parents,” said another DACA recipient whom I’ll call Ajay. (He asked that I not use his name out of concern for his family’s privacy.) “Deferred action has been amazing. It’s opened up doors for me,” Ajay said, adding that it’s allowed him to apply to graduate school and be more open about his immigration states. But for his parents, who moved to the United States with Ajay and his younger brother in 1999, Obama’s announcement likely “means nothing. It means more of the same, living in the shadows and not knowing what to expect tomorrow.”

Ajay spoke to his mother yesterday about the rumors that she’d be excluded from Obama’s order. “Mom’s reaction was, ‘I guess we keep going, keep waiting for the next step.’ It’s just disappointing more for my brother and myself to know that we have some sense of security and our parent’s don’t, especially as they get older.”

Another question is what will happen to people who do meet the criteria the White House sets for relief but are already entangled in the deportation machinery—people like Sandra Jacinto. She lives in New Jersey and cleans houses to support her family. Jacinto immigrated to the United States from Guatemala in 2005, leaving two children behind. They were separated for nine years until she was able to pay someone to help them travel through Mexico and across the US border. Jacinto’s youngest daughter is a US citizen, meaning Jacinto might be eligible for relief. But two months ago, immigration agents showed up at her house and informed her of an order of deportation. That mark on her record might end up being the only thing that matters.

“I feel a little bit scared because the truth is that I don’t want to go back to my country. I want very much to be together with my children, and now that I am, I don’t know if I’m going to be deported,” Jacinto said through an interpreter. She said that she was afraid of what would happen to her family if they had to go back to Guatemala, which is torn by violence. “If he gives deferred action, he should give it to everyone because we are all human beings and we deserve equality.”

On Wednesday, immigrants in New Orleans who were put into deportation proceedings after being swept up in the “stop and frisk” style raidsconducted by the region’s ICE field office delivered requests for immediate relief to a US Citizenship & Immigration Service office. “Even though President Obama says he’ll soon be making an announcement, ICE has told us that we must leave the country by the end of the year,” Gustavo Bonilla, a carpenter who has lived in New Orleans since 2000, said in a statement. He has two sons who are US citizens, but like Sandra Jacinto, he is not sure whether Obama’s action will stop his pending deportation.

“We obviously would hope that being a victim of policies the president has said need to be made more humane isn’t a reason for exclusion,” said B. Loewe, communications director for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network.

There are 11 million people waiting for relief from a broken immigration system. Until the White House lays out its plan, the vastness of that hope is the only certainty.

Read Next: After fearmongering kills the NSA reform bill, what’s next?

Related Topics: Barack Obama | US Politics | Immigration


(Originally posted on December 19, 2010): 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

White Supremacy Thinks It Has Defeated the Rise and Triumph of Brown Power in America--But It Is Mistaken!

                 Drew Angerer/The New York Times

Supporters of the "Dream Act" measure consoled each other Saturday after senators blocked it


Just how relentlessly cruel, racist, stupid, and oppressive is the Republican Party? As always it is clearly a rhetorical question. There are obviously no limits to their vicious demagogic attacks on the human and civil rights of immigrants-of-color in the United States. And with 63 new Republican representatives in the House and 6 new Republican senators due to take their seats in Congress in January, 2011 this reactionary rightwing opposition to millions of Latino American citizens will not only continue but increase in intensity. The only good news in this entire rotten and outlandishly unjust outcome is that this criminal action by the Senate is certain to further ignite an already dynamic and rapidly growing national civil rights movement of Latino youth and adults across the country in support of genuine immigration reform and political, economic, and cultural justice, freedom, and equality for the unconscionably marginalized 45 million Latinos in this country (an exploding demographic in which 60% of its national population is now under the age of 30!). So look out America, Brown Power is coming to a community near you VERY SOON and like its very determined African American counterpart of the 1960s and '70s NOTHING is gonna stop it (especially not a bunch of clueless old racist white male politicians with delusions of the maintenance of white supremacy tottering in their decaying brains). When I saw and heard Senator Robert Menendez (Democrat from New Jersey and one of the leading supporters of the defeated bill) say on C-Span tonight after the vote that not only "Latinos would remember in the national elections in 2012 how senators had voted" but that "This is a vote that will not soon be forgotten by a community that is growing not just in size, but also in power and political awareness” I knew in my bones the fight had escalated to a whole new level and that the national Latino American population was more than ready to take their enemies on and defeat them come what way. What really cinched my conviction that this new emerging movement would not be turned around at this point in history is when Senator Menendez then quoted the following lines from a famous poem ("Harlem") by the legendary black poet and former revolutionary activist Langston Hughes (1902-1967):

What happens to a dream deferred?
does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
...Maybe it sags like a heavy load

or does it explode?

So despite what the reactionary white senators may ignorantly think, they haven't stopped a damn thing; they've only ensured that the struggle will continue with even more energy, power, and determination than ever before and that they, the senators, will lose and the human subjects of their hatred and indifference will win. As history (and Bob Marley) always reminds us: "None of them can stop the time." Watch and see in the days, months, and years to come...


Immigration Vote Leaves Obama’s Policy in Disarray
December 18, 2010
New York Times


The vote by the Senate on Saturday to block a bill to grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant students was a painful setback to an emerging movement of immigrants and also appeared to leave the immigration policy of the Obama administration, which has supported the bill and the movement, in disarray.

The bill, known as the Dream Act, gained 55 votes in favor with 41 against, a tally short of the 60 votes needed to bring it to the floor for debate. Five Democrats broke ranks to vote against the bill, while only three Republicans voted for it. The defeat in the Senate came after the House of Representatives passed the bill last week.

The result, although not unexpected, was still a rebuff to President Obama by newly empowered Republicans in Congress on an issue he has called one of his priorities. Supporters believed that the bill — tailored to benefit only immigrants who were brought here illegally when they were children and hoped to attend college or enlist in the military — was the easiest piece to pass out of a larger overhaul of immigration laws that Mr. Obama supports.

His administration has pursued a two-sided policy, coupling tough enforcement — producing a record number of about 390,000 deportations this year — with an effort to pass the overhaul, which would open a path to legal status for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. Now, with less hope for any legalization measures once Republicans take over the House in January, the administration is left with just the stick.

Part of the administration’s strategy has been to ramp up border and workplace enforcement to attract Republican votes for the overhaul. The vote on Saturday made it clear that strategy has not succeeded so far.

Mr. Obama will now face growing pressure from immigrant and Latino groups to temper the crackdown and perhaps find ways to use executive powers to bring some illegal immigrants out of the shadows. Latino voters turned out in strength for the Democrats in the midterm elections, arguably saving their majority in the Senate.

The Republicans in the new Congress are especially keen on tough enforcement. The presumed incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration is Representative Steve King of Iowa, a vigorous opponent of legalization measures, which he rejects as amnesty for lawbreakers. Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, who will be chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is also an outspoken and well-versed opponent of such proposals.

Groups favoring reduced immigration cheered Saturday’s vote as a watershed victory marking the end of a period when they have been on the defensive. Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which lobbied hard against the bill, said the new Congress “has the strongest pro-enforcement membership” in at least 15 years.

“Now, we look forward to moving aggressively to offense,” Mr. Beck said.

During the last year, administration officials considered proposals to allow immigration authorities to use administrative powers to halt deportations of illegal immigrants who might have been eligible for legal status under the student bill. They also sought ways to ease deportations for other illegal immigrants with no criminal record.

Republican lawmakers criticized those proposals as “backdoor amnesty” and pledged to stop the administration from carrying them out.

The administration’s efforts to manage its policy dilemma played out this week. Speaking on Friday before the vote, John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency would continue the brisk pace of deportations, focusing on immigrants convicted of crimes. On the same day, the agency released from detention an 18-year-old Guatemalan student from Ohio, Bernard Pastor, granting him a one-year reprieve from deportation to continue his education.

Despite the defeat, Democrats who supported the bill said they would continue to push for it. “As long as these young people are determined to be part of this great nation, I am determined to fight for them to call America home,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the bill’s main champion.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, another sponsor, said Latinos would remember in the elections in 2012 how senators had voted.

“This is a vote that will not soon be forgotten by a community that is growing not just in size, but also in power and political awareness,” Mr. Menendez said.

Yet much pressure on the administration may come from immigrant organizations. Despite their illegal status, several hundred immigrant students watched the vote in the Senate gallery. Afterward, they held a somber prayer vigil in the basement of the Capitol, but moved on to a news conference that turned into a pep rally.

“They did not defeat us, they ignited our fire,” said Alina Cortes, a 19-year-old Mexican-born immigrant from Texas who lacks legal status. A self-described conservative Republican, she campaigned for the student bill, saying she hoped to join the Marine Corps.

The movement has been driven by thousands of students who “came out” to reveal that they did not have legal status, and to recount their academic achievements and the barriers they faced. Now that their status is public, they have nowhere to hide. Meanwhile, an estimated 65,000 illegal immigrants are graduating from high school each year.

“We have woken up,” said Carlos Saavedra, national coordinator of the United We Dream Network, a student group. “We are going to go around the country letting everybody know who stands with us and who stood against us.”

Senate Blocks Bill for Young Illegal Immigrants
December 18, 2010
New York Timea

The Senate on Saturday blocked a bill that would have created a path to citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, completed two years of college or military service and met other requirements, including passing a criminal background check.

The vote by 55-41 in favor of the bill, which is known as the Dream Act, effectively kills it for this year, and its fate is uncertain. The measure needed the support of 60 senators to cut off a filibuster and bring it to the floor.

Supporters said they were heartened that the measure won the backing of a majority of the Senate. They said they would continue to press for it, either on  its own or as part of a wide immigration overhaul that some Democrats hope to undertake next year and believe could be an area of cooperation with Republicans, who will control a majority in the House.

Most immediately, the measure would have helped grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant students and recent graduates whose lives are severely restricted, though many have lived in the United States for nearly their entire lives.

Young Hispanic men and women filled the spectator galleries of the Senate, many of them wearing graduation caps and tassels in a symbol of their support for the bill. They held hands in a prayerful gesture as the clerk called the roll and many looked stricken as its defeat was announced.

President Obama had personally lobbied lawmakers in support the bill. But Democrats were not able to hold ranks.

Five Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the bill. They were Senators Max Baucus of Montana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Jon Tester of Montana.

And three Republicans joined the balance of Democrats in favor of it: Robert Bennett of Utah, Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Mr. Obama, in a statement, called the outcome “incredibly disappointing” and said that he would continue fighting to win approval of the bill.

“It is not only the right thing to do for talented young people who seek to serve a country they know as their own, it is the right thing for the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said. “Our nation is enriched by their talents and would benefit from the success of their efforts.”

“The Dream Act is important to our economic competitiveness, military readiness, and law enforcement efforts,” he said, adding, “It is disappointing that common sense did not prevail today but my administration will not give up.”

In a floor speech, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, a main champion of the Dream act, urged a yes vote. “I want to make it clear to my colleagues, you won’t get many chances in the United States Senate, in the course of your career, to face clear votes on the issue of justice,” he said.

“Thousands of children in America who live in the shadows and dream of greatness,” he said. “They are children who have been raised in this country. They stand in the classrooms and pledge allegiance to our flag. They sing our ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ as our national anthem. They believe in their heart of hearts this is home. This is the only country they have ever known.”

At a news conference after the vote, Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado and a former superintendent of the Denver school system, said he was thinking about all the students he knew there as he cast his vote in favor of the bill.

“Please don’t give up,” Mr. Bennet said. “Don’t be disappointed because we couldn’t get our act together.”

But opponents of the measure said it was too broad and would grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.

“As part of this legislative session there has been no serious movement to do anything that would improve the grievous situation of illegality at our border,” said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who led the opposition to the bill as the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “Leaders in Washington have not only tolerated lawlessness but, in fact, our policies have encouraged it.”

Mr. Sessions added, “This bill is a law that at its fundamental core is a reward for illegal activity.”

Ms. Murkowski, in a statement, chastised Democrats for bringing the bill to the floor when it was “doomed to fail” but said that she broke with most Republicans because the legislation was important.

“I support the goal of the Dream Act which is to enable children who were brought to the United States by their parents to earn citizenship through service in the armed forces or pursuit of higher education,” Ms. Murkowski said. “ I do not believe that children are to blame for the decision of their parents to enter or remain in the United States unlawfully. The reality is that many of these children regard America as the only country they ever knew. Some were not even told that they were unlawfully in the United States until it came time for them to apply for college. America should provide these young people with the opportunity to pursue the American dream. They have much to offer America if given the chance.”

Ms. Murkowski also expressed an openness to dealing with the wider immigration issue. “ I firmly believe that Congress needs to embrace the wider immigration question, starting with securing our borders, and I plan to work with my colleagues on this issue in the new Congress,” she said.

Posted by Kofi Natambu at 5:02 AM

Labels: Human and Civil Rights, Ideology and Politics, Immigration Reform, Langston Hughes, Latino Americans, Latino voters, Senator Robert Menendez, The Dream Act