The end is near for immigration reform

At long last, the Senate passed its highly anticipated Gang of Eight immigration bill yesterday, with a vote of 68 to 32. After Vice President Joe Biden announced the result, viewers in the gallery began chanting “Yes we can!”

The bill won the support of all the Democrats and 14 Republicans, including John McCain (AZ), Marco Rubio (FL), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Illinois’ own Mark Kirk.

So now it would seem the end is near, but it’s probably much nearer than immigration advocates would like. The Senate bill heads to the House of Representatives, where it’s unlikely to even be considered, much less voted on.

“The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said on Thursday. “For any legislation, including a conference report, to pass the House, it’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of [Republicans].”

Get that? Boehner will only have the House vote on something that has a majority of Republicans behind it, and the Senate bill passed with only 14 Republicans on board.

“It is a pipe dream to think that bill is going to the floor [of the House] and is going to be voted on,” House Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam from Illinois told the National Review just before yesterday’s vote.

The House is more likely to adopt a piecemeal approach to immigration reform. And if you’re wondering what sort of reform the Republican-controlled House has in mind, the House Judiciary Committee passed a measure that would make it a crime to live in the country without status.

Yes we could have!


Voting Rights Act: The law so perfect, it had to die

On Tuesday, in a 5-4 decision, the court struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, which provides a formula for deciding which states and districts will have their voting practices monitored by the federal government — known as “preclearance.” The preclearance conditions and procedures are laid out by Section 5, which the court left intact.

The court’s decision to invalidate Section 4 practically guts the Voting Rigths Act, as Colorlines put it. While it’s only one section, it’s the section that gives the law its effectiveness. Without Section 4, each state and district currently covered by Section 5 is now free to change its voting laws and practices without preclearance.

The states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Other areas include the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn and a bunch of counties in North Carolina.

Less than two hours after the court’s decision, Texas announced that a previously blocked voter ID law would go into effect immediately. Other states and districts are expected to conduct similar efforts in the coming months and years.


DOMA no más

In its last session of the term on Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued two 5-4 decisions concerning same-sex marriage in the United States.

The first decision struck down a part of the federal anti-gay marriage law (the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA) that denied same-sex couples equal access to marriage benefits regarding taxes, health care and the like.

In the second ruling, the court decided not to hear the case involving California’s gay marriage ban (Prop 8), letting stand a lower court’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. The decision should allow same-sex marriages to resume in California as early as next month.

What’s important about the decision concerning DOMA is that the court left intact a state’s right to refuse to recognize a same-sex marriage conducted in another state. DOMA was passed by Congress and signed by Pres. Bill Clinton in 1996, just as states began debating same-sex marriage bills in their legislatures. Opponents of same-sex marriage nationwide feared that, if same-sex marriages were legalized in places like Hawaii and California, then the other states would have to recognize those marriages under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution.

Still, the court’s decision is good news for same-sex couples and their advocates. The decision should also carrying weight on gay immigrants married to U.S. citizens.

Minutes after the court’s decision on Wednesday, an intern from The DOMA Project ran up the steps of a courthouse in New York to deliver the Supreme Court’s decision to an immigration judge. The judge was presiding over the case of a gay Colombian immigrant named Steven married to Sean Brooks, a U.S. citizens. Upon considering the highest court’s decision, the immigration judge immediately adjourned the courtroom.


[Photo: tedeytan via Flickr]

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