Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – The bench’s backstories

As the Supreme Court justices convene Wednesday to hear arguments in the case Arizona v United States, will their thoughts drift to Italy, Ireland, Poland and Puerto Rico? 

The challenge to Arizona’s tough immigration law may have the justices thinking about their own families’ origins and journeys to America. As Reuters reports today, nearly all of them, like their countrymen, descend from people who came looking for a better life (the notable exception is Justice Clarence Thomas whose great-grandmother was a slave).

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court seen in a October 8, 2010 group portrait. Seated from left to right in front row are: Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing from left to right in back row are: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Their ancestral stories may not tell us how they feel about illegal immigration or whether they will rule in favor of Arizona. But they are clearly a point of pride in their biographies and were often cited in nomination hearings.

Take Justice Samuel Alito, who referred to the experience of his own father, brought to the United States from Italy as an infant. It “is typical of a lot of Americans both back in his day and today. And it is a story, as far as I can see it, about the opportunities that our country offers, and also about the need for fairness and about hard work and perseverance and the power of a small good deed.”

Comedian Colbert “inappropriate”?

Comedian Stephen Colbert’s satirical testimony before Congress last week left some lawmakers cold, and one of them was House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer.
colbert1
“I think it was inappropriate,” Hoyer said on “Fox News Sunday” when asked about Colbert’s appearance before a House judiciary subcommittee on immigration where he testified on his brief stint as a migrant farm worker.

Hoyer said Colbert’s testimony, delivered in his Comedy Central television character as an over-the-top conservative news commentator, hurt him more than it did lawmakers.

“I think it was an embarrassment for Mr. Colbert more than the House,” Hoyer said. “If he had a position on the issues, he should have given those issues.”

Republicans target birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants’ children

Fresh from a bitter row over Arizona’s tough crackdown on illegal immigrants, top Republican lawmakers in the U.S. Congress are pushing to review a constitutional amendment that grants automatic birthright citizenship to anyone born in the United States.

USA-IMMIGRATION/ARIZONAIn the past week several¬†Republicans have called for or supported hearings on Capitol Hill reviewing the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was enacted in 1868 following the Civil War and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.”¬†

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and erstwhile supporter of comprehensive immigration reform granting a path to legal status for the nearly 11 million illegal immigrants living stateside, kicked off the row with an interview on the Fox network a week ago in which he said automatic citizenship attracted illegal immigrants, and that a review was needed.

Arizona immigration law controversy hits border governors’ conference

The simmering row over Arizona’s tough-as-nails immigration law has led to a shift in venue for the U.S.-Mexico border governors’ meeting, an annual event usually characterized by unity and good will.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, canceled the bash she was due to host after six border governors from Mexico pulled out in protest at the desert state’s crackdown on unauthorized immigrants she inked into law in late April.

6
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democrat, stepped in this week to save the meeting which is now set to take place in Santa Fe in late September — although full attendance looks doubtful in the poisoned atmosphere that lingers.

Arizona immigration law author now targets “anchor babies”

Fresh from authoring a controversial¬†crackdown on illegal immigrants, Arizona Republican state Senator Russell Pearce is now seeking to push a measure to invalidate the citizenship of U.S.-born children of unauthorized migrants he calls “jackpot” or “anchor” babies.

Pearce told Reuters he plans to introduce a new bill in the Republican-controlled state Senate that seeks to annul the citizenship of children born to illegal immigrants in Arizona, the desert state at the heart of a furor since it passed a law last month requiring police to check the immigration status of people they suspect are in the state illegally. USA-IMMIGRATION/

“It is difficult to imagine a more self defeating legal system than one that makes unauthorized entry into the U.S. a criminal offense, and simultaneously provides perhaps the greatest possible inducement to illegal entry,” Pearce said. The children of illegal immigrants “are not citizens. They are citizens of the country of their mother … That’s why they are called in some cases ‘jackpot babies’ or ‘anchor babies,’” he added.

Arizona law galvanizes U.S. Latinos

IMMIGRATION-USA/ARIZONAThe swastika made of refried beans smeared onto the glass doors of the Arizona State Capitol this week captured the anger of Hispanics at the law authorizing local police to question anyone reasonably suspected of being in the United States illegally. The controvesial law, which critics say is a mandate for racial profiling, has galvanized the country’s largest minority that is expected to turn out in large numbers at planned rallies in more than 70 U.S. cities.

Hispanics were disappointed that President Barack Obama failed to deliver on his campaign promise to overhaul the immigration system in his first year in office. The Pew Research Center says 76 percent of the estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants in the United States are Hispanics. The Latino community sees the undocumented immigrants as contributing with their labor to the growth of the U.S. economy and deserve the right to be legal residents.

The Arizona measure was criticized by other minorities. “This law is un-American as it unjustly targets communities of color, in particular immigrant communities, which have been critical to the economic growth of our country throughout its history,” said Michael Honda, chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

U.S. immigration agency girds for workload spike

The U.S. government agency in charge of processing naturalization and residency applications is preparing for a surge in its workload if President Barack Obama pushes ahead with federal immigration reform next year granting millions of undocumented workers legal status.

A spokesman for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said the agency is gearing up to handle the huge increase in applications expected if immigration refoUSA/rm is passed by the U.S. Congress.

“This agency has been preparing for the advent of any kind of a comprehensive immigration reform, and if that means a surge of applications and operations, we have been working toward that,” USCIS spokesman Bill Wright told Reuters.

The Day After: a numbers game

It’s all about the numbers on the day after President Barack Obama’s speech to Congress on his vision for healthcare reform.

USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMAFirst of all there’s the number of uninsured. Obama used 30 million in Wednesday night’s televised address, considerably lower than the 46-47 million he used just one month ago.

An administration official says the 30 million does not include illegal immigrants — Obama says his plan won’t cover them.