By: Reynold N, Mason JD
Atlanta, Dec. 12, 2010 - Last week, as I was stringing up the Christmas lights, my son was at the foot of the ladder handing up the decorations to me. Apparently, displeased that he was required to put up with the slight chill in the southern air, he blurted out, “why are we bothering anyway, Christ is just like Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. He is not real” “Who told you that?” I demanded. “The teacher,” he replied demurely, sensing my irritation. I was furious that someone had the audacity to cast doubt on my faith. I had celebrated Christmas before I can remember.
For me it is a time to put aside old gripes and quarrels, to celebrate the season of Christ’s birth with family and friends. An ineffable spirit of joyfulness seems to grip Christians at Christmas that is not evident the previous eleven months. And they are more helpful. The Salvation Army, the Red Cross and other charitable organizations well know this and their bell ringers and collection boxes are ubiquitous this time of year. People open up their hearts and purses giving and exchanging gifts and donating to charitable causes the world over. We Christians call this the Christmas spirit. I was not about to brook an affront to my faith and, not from a teacher. She had no business raising questions about my basic assumptions. I resolved to have a tete a tete with her. The problem for me was that I had never been challenged to defend my faith because I grew up in a family that was devoutly christian, in a country that was 95 percent catholic. What to say to this teacher and turn back her blasphemy I had no clue. I have never thought about the matter, it had never been put in doubt or questioned in my entire life until this moment. The birth of Christ is central to my faith but I had no idea how to confront this doubting Thomasina. The gospels tell of Christ’s miracles, death and resurrection. But I could not quote the gospel to a non believer. That would just beg the question. I needed something more, if I was to convince her that I had not lived my entire life animated by an irrational and absurd superstition. Christ is no Santa Claus he is real and I was going to show her.
I dug into a book on apologetics by a renowned professor of religion from Boston college and scoured the internet for something I could use as proof that Christ lived and rose from the dead. One world-renowned professor, after studying the matter for over 700 hours, says he was not able to explain away the resurrection of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish prophet who claimed to be the Christ, was arrested adjudged a political criminal and sentenced to death by crucifixion. Three days after he was buried some women went to his tomb and found the body gone. In the weeks following, the disciples claimed that Christ appeared to them many times before ascending into heaven. This seems fantastic but there were people alive at the time this claim was being and they could simply have come forward and denounced it as a fraud. If a story ran on the news that there was a fire on your street and you saw no evidence of a fire when you got home, you would know that the story was false. You and your neighbors could put the lie to the story and force the paper to issue a correction. Why did no one come forward to challenge the claims of the disciples?
Then there was Matthew, Mark, Luke and john who themselves were witnesses or related eyewitness accounts of the resurrection. The Romans did not want the resurrection story circulating about the empire. They were persecuting followers of Christ who were preaching the resurrection. Why did they not simply produce the body and expose the whole thing as a fraud, the way the FBI puts a stash of seized cocaine on the news when they make a bust? People who opposed Christianity would have gone to great lengths to expose the lie like a couple in bitter divorce battle. The body of Christ was wrapped in linen according to Jewish custom, and placed in the tomb with a large stone blocking the entrance. The Roman seal was placed on the tomb and guards stationed at the entrance to keep thieves from stealing the valuables from the tomb. (Mat: 27; 59-66) Anyone bent on larceny would have to overpower the guards, break the seal and move the rock. That would be like breaking into Fort Knox. Yet three days later the tomb was empty.
Saul of Tarsus made a career of persecuting Christians until Christ appeared to him. He recounts in his writings that Christ appeared to over 500 people, many of whom were still alive when Paul wrote. Yet none of these people called Paul a liar. One professor points out that the Romans called up the equivalent of the FBI and CIA to investigate and find the culprits, who had broken the seal, but no one was ever apprehended and the crime remains unsolved. Had the culprit been caught it would have meant automatic execution. Even the apostles were afraid of this possibility. Some of them went into hiding and Peter denied knowing Christ at the trial. (Mark: 14:16)
On that first Easter morning people who went to the tomb were awe struck when they saw the position of the stone that had been lodged at the entrance of the tomb. The massive stone had been moved. Those who observed it reported that it appeared it had been picked up and carried away. The disciples were very reluctant to believe that Jesus was alive again when the women reported what they had seen. "Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them" (Luke 24:10, 11). Thomas response was, "Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:25). These men knew that when someone died, they were dead. Thomas was no fool. And while they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst. But they were startled and frightened and thought they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet that it is I myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." (Luke 23:36-39)
How could the disciples or anyone else have eluded the guards, move the massive rock and make off with the body? Skeptics have suggested that the guards were bribed or maybe left their posts. But one professor points out that in those days, the penalty for such an offense by a Roman soldier was death. And one method of death was stripping the condemned man of his clothes and setting him on fire. It wouldn't be wowth the risk for a soldier to go AWOL.
The events surrounding the life and death of Christ didn't occur at a place where we can gain no knowledge of them. Rather, they occurred in history, on earth, and were recorded by men who witnessed the events. Prof. Josh McDowell notes that in the first century AD most people could not read much less write. Paper (parchment) was expensive. The National Enquirer could not have been published in those times; Writing was an expensive and highly regarded art. It is unlikely that all of the writers would have engaged in the expense of writing to disseminate a myth. This is no less remarkable for us today than it was for them. And we can understand their reluctance to accept Him. But they came to believe that they had witnessed something unique as Jesus appeared to them many times over a period of forty days. These experiences had a profound impact on their lives, and continue to impact the lives of people the world over. That is the source of my belief and the font of what we know as the Christmas Spirit. Thanks to Professors McDowell and Kreeft. I now know my faith is well-founded. No need to confront the doubting Thomas-ina. Christ is not like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny He is real.
By Reynold N. Mason JD
Atlanta, Nov.22, 2010. Last week across the country DREAM act supporters mobilized, holding rallies from California to New York to get legislators to vote the bill into law in this session of congress. Students at UCLA and Cal State held rallies joined by faculty and staff to keep the pressure on lawmakers and nudge those still on the fence to push the bill over the final hurdle. In New York, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus joined several pro- immigration groups at a rally in Brooklyn.
But Dream Act opponents are pushing back. Senator Jeff Sessions last Thursday released a “Dream Alert” drawing attention to what he feels are controversial parts of the proposed law. The alert lists ten issues the senator has with the bill as it now stands. The alert points out that the bill does not require the alien to finish any type of college program as a condition of amnesty. Those who oppose amnesty are quick to point out that aliens who benefit from DREAM can then sponsor their parents and extended family, thereby rewarding with legal status those who broke the law by bringing them into the country. “Some of these immigrants are compelling cases, no doubt about it," said one spokesman, "but you've got to draw some lines a lot narrower than the DREAM Act draws them. This is about giving millions of illegal aliens permanent work permits, and I don't think in this economy that this is a very happy time to be doing that."
The national organization, ALIPAC, which has helped defeat Dream Act Amnesty legislation on prior occasions, is activating national network to direct American citizens into political action against this current version of Dream Act. ALIPAC is asking supporters to get on the phones to members of Congress and the Senate to demand "No Dream Act Amnesty! Focus on Jobs for Americans! Enforce our existing immigration and border laws like most of you promised during the elections!" The problem for most opponents is that the bill will extend amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, encouraging further illegality and making it more difficult to develop a fair and workable immigration policy. Arizona Senator John McCain, a previous supporter of the DREAM act, now says that immigration reform must take place first. He is no longer supports the act. McCain has said he “understands and sympathizes” with the situation of those who would benefit from the act, but feels that the act should not be separate from immigration reform legislation. Democrats, who still hold the majority in the house, if they are to succeed this time in making DREAM law, must put aside their squabbles over leadership, and turn their attention to the business at hand while the levers of power are yet in their grasp.
By Reynold N. Mason JD
Atlanta Nov. 19, 2010. Immigration advocates are abuzz this week because of the news coming from the DREAM battleground in the senate. Senator Harry Reid, keeping his campaign promise made on the eve of his reelection, has reintroduced the DREAM Act in the senate. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are doing their part. Their representatives met with president Obama this week to nudge him forward and perhaps persuade him to back DREAM now. After the meeting the White House released a statement reasserting the president's support for the bill and calling on lawmakers to move it to a vote before this session concludes.
A tight schedule
The rush of activity is due to the tight schedule and the very narrow window of opportunity with which DREAM proponents must contend. Only 15 legislative days remain in this session. And come January when republicans take the reins of power in the house, they are likely to focus on the “Bush tax cuts” and other issues of more import to their base. The new congressional cast will, without a doubt, set different priorities, and DREAM does not figure to be at the top of their legislative agenda.
The majority of republicans elected in the midterms will likely join their colleagues turning their attention to border security and other enforcement measures. In the senate there are new faces untried and untested on the immigration battlefield. Their support is uncertain. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Chris Coons of Delaware and Mike Kirk of Illinois will be seated in this session. Kirk, in the debates leading up to the election, made clear his opposition to easing immigration restrictions. Some of the republican players in the senate who supported the bill in 2007 are still on the stage. But their commitment to the bill, after the last election, is now far from certain. Eleven republicans voted for DREAM in 2007. But some have retired or been replaced by new comers who may be unsympathetic to the bill. Comprehensive immigration was defeated 52-44 in 2007. It takes 60 votes to get cloture and move DREAM to a vote on the senate floor. Mr. Reid will need “a few good republicans” to join forces with him, assuming the democratic forces hold firm. All that changes come January. There are 58 democrats and 40 republicans now in the U.S. senate; senators Lieberman and Sanders are independents.
Objections to DREAM
The version of the bill proposed by President George W. Bush in 2007 was opposed by some who felt it would reward those who broke the law entering the country illegally. Labor unions opposed it because of its guest worker program; and Hispanics spoke out in opposition because they felt it would create an underclass of migrant laborers. Employers were opposed because the bill scrapped H- visas for highly skilled workers. The lessons learned from this failure must be put to good use if there is to be hope for DREAM this time around. Proponents must move in the direction of stricter enforcement of present immigration laws. Without that. polls tell us, Americans will be unwilling to confer any benefit on illegal immigrants, not even the innocent children the DREAM act is designed to help.
By Reynold N. Mason JD
Atlanta, Nov. 17, 2010. The critically important years of adolescence have become a time of peril for uncounted numbers of families in the US today. Take the case of Jessica Colotol, who was sentenced to jail last week in Atlanta, Georgia. She was arrested on a traffic violation that led authorities to discover her illegal status. Jessica will be allowed to finish her degree at Kennesaw State University but she faces deportation. Or take the case of Marcela Velazquez, a top high school at a Tucson Arizona high school, who hopes to study medicine. When Marcela was about to graduate she did what most college- bound high school graduates do. She began her search for a college that suits her career aspirations. For Marcella and Jessica, the past and the future collided when a road block was thrown in their path. They are undocumented students brought here as children by their parents. Now that they are adolescents the actions of their parents have come back to haunt them as ghosts from the immigration netherworld. They are unable to get a driver’s license, a summer job or a scholarship to college. According to a study by Pew Hispanic Center, 65,000 high school graduates each year, find themselves in the same quandary as Jessica and Marcela. The resourceful ones who get by this detour, face the daunting prospect of facing down document checkers at employment agencies and corporate human resources departments. It is an unenviable situation in which young people can find themselves because they were brought to the US illegally by parents when they were children. The DREAM Act is the best hope for undocumented youth trapped in this conundrum. They have no lobby and cannot vote, so this bill is perhaps their only hope of redemption.
Lemonade from Lemon
But given the mood of the country prospects for the DREAM Act are grim indeed. An article in this publication, titled: The Dream Act; supporters had better wake up just last week, laid out why comprehensive immigration reform (CIR ) may not be possible in the current toxic political environment. But DREAM can be guided through congress if its supporters use political wisdom. They must make lemonade from lemons; they must play the hand that they were dealt in the last election; they must cease to be immigration deniers. The writing has been on the wall but, it has been misread by those who would rather engage in wishful denial of the reality of the immigration climate. Over the past twelve months, dozens of states have passed or proposed laws that make life more difficult for illegal immigrants. Arizona is the most notorious, but is by no means the only state fed up with sorry state of our immigration system. The do-nothing attitude of the federal government has led states and localities to take matters into their own hands. The mood of the country and, the political climate must be factored into strategies to get Dream passed.
A study by Zogby, commissioned by the Center for Immigration Studies, found that the view of minority voters on the issue of immigration is more complex than advocates believe. 61% of Hispanics think that immigration enforcement is inadequate. 70% of blacks and 69% of Asians harbor the same sentiment. These voters disagree with the leadership of immigration advocacy groups who oppose enforcement measures. There is a gap in perception between what minority voters want and reality. They want enforcement and less immigration. Immigration advocates who beat down every proposed enforcement measure are offering their own personal opinion, not those of the voters and their communities. The majority of Americans support enforcement and oppose amnesty. Voters sent to congress, lawmakers who have expressed anti-immigration views. And this includes such high profile Hispanics as Suzanna Martinez and, Brian Sandoval, governors–elect of New Mexico and Nevada, respectively, and senator-elect Marco Rubio of Florida, all of whom are Hispanic and, all of whom are strong supporters of immigration enforcement. In fact, governors-elect Martinez and Sandoval both support the Arizona immigration law, SB 1070, and other measures to tamp down on illegal immigration.
Surveys and polls on this issue are unequivocal. Pulse Opinion Research LLC in 2009 found that 78% of Americans oppose amnesty and 88% of blacks do. Rasmussen Reports in a survey in June of 2009, found that 71% of Americans want those who hire illegals arrested and, 64% support surprise raids to arrest illegal workers. The American Council for Immigration Reform in its 2009 survey found, that 78% of Americans believe immigration has a negative impact on the cost and quality of health care and other social services. It found that 78% opposed amnesty. And CNN/Opinion Research Corp. in its poll reports, that 73% of Americans called for a drop in the number of illegal immigrants. Even more telling is a Washington Post/ABC News poll which found that 74% of the electorate thinks the government is not doing enough to keep illegals from coming into the country. Even Sheriff Joe Arpaio, notorious for his round up of illegal immigrants in Arizona polls show, is viewed favorably by the majority of Americans who believe that his policies have a positive impact on Arizona’s image. Across the board, according the Rasmussen Poll (May 2009) Americans are not in favor of making life any easier for illegal immigrants. Immigration advocates must deal with this reality.
Time to change strategy
Americans have made their feelings manifest. They are not about to ease up on illegal immigrants whom, rightly or wrongly, they blame for some of the nation’s ills. But as a people, Americans are mindful of the fact that ours is a country of immigrants. They would support an orderly system of immigration which grants relief to those already here; provided they are assured they will not be asked to grant amnesty again in 10 years to more illegals who slipped through our porous borders. They want the problem solved once and for all.
While the election results are not encouraging, they do not necessarily spell doom for Dream and comprehensive immigration reform. But immigration advocates must align their advocacy with the expressed desire of the electorate. To advocate against the grain is not just elitist it is myopic. The strategy needed is expressed in an old platitude: when the law is on your side, argue the law; when the facts are on your side argue the facts. It is time immigration advocates to change the tone of the immigration debate and adopt a conciliatory stance that conveys the impression that they are ready to compromise; that they are now ready to accede to the will of the majority of Americans, Hispanics included, who demand that our laws be enforced.
The argument cannot reasonably be made that lack of enforcement would solve our immigration problem. Sanctuary cities where illegals are insulated from the consequences of their illegal conduct encourages illegal immigration, not curtail it. These humanitarian policies, laudable though they are, exacerbate the problem. People will go where they feel safe from the long arm of the law. The liberal message of open borders and no enforcement does not resonate with Americans. And pushing it is a prescription for failure. In fact election results indicate that this approach repels voters and drives them in droves into the embrace of the anti immigration side of the issue. This is a misguided strategy and it hurts the cause of countless young people who see DREAM as their last best hope.
By Reynold N. Mason JD
Atlanta. Nov, 14, 2010 - There are just a few weeks left before the 111th congress adjourns. And someone needs to inform Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, the current leaders of the house and senate of that little fact. Pelosi's reign as legislator-in-chief lording over her minions of house democrats ends come January when the 112th congress is gaveled into session by the new power broker John Boehner. Yet she and Mr. Reid are rushing helter skelter to bring the DREAM Act up for a vote in the little time remaining. Like students in the last five minutes of a final examination, they are attempting to erase and correct answers on the answer sheet even after the proctor has announced the end of the examination and is about to collect the answer sheets.
They have had time to consider and act on DREAM and Comprehensive Immigration reform, and like the unprepared student, they have failed. Mr. Reid, last September, in the heat of a re-election fight that many thought he would not survive, attached the DREAM Act to the defense authorization bill. It was a political ploy designed to earn him credits with Hispanics in his district. It worked. He won re-election with two-thirds of the Hispanics giving him their backing. His introducing DREAM again in the lame duck session of a congress that has been reconfigured by voters is but a cynical “thank you” nod in the direction of Hispanics to whom he promised on an election eve broadcast of Univision, that he would bring the act up for a vote before congress adjourns.
An exercise in futility
Dream supporters should be concerned. Had Mr. Reid had the political courage, he might have done a year ago, when he had control of the senate and had a democratic congress and president who had promised support for immigration reform, what he proposes to do now, when it is but an exercise in futility. Pushing the bill now, is like serving a cold dish at the supper table. Those who are hungry may eat it, but it is much less palatable. Ill-conceived political grandstanding such as this will doom the DREAM act.
The DREAM act is a commonsense piece of legislation that ought to become the law of the land. And this could happen, but those pushing the bill must change their approach to the entire immigration issue. It’ time to face facts. Democrats who, by and large, support the bill squandered their best opportunity to enact DREAM in this congress. Their political will was debilitated by the healthcare fight and a golden opportunity was lost, perhaps for good.
Republicans will rule the house in the 112th congress and for all intents and purposes, they will literally rule the senate a well. Those democrats who managed to beat back the republican assault on the senate will lack any incentive to push DREAM. Twenty-three of their number face re-election in just two years. Having witnessed the “shellacking” their colleagues suffered at the hands of republicans in November, these democrats are not likely to touch any hot button issues.
The political calculus will be a major factor for any democrat who must face voters in 2012. DREAM backers must bear this in mind. Political survival is the raison d' etre of the lawmaker, so democrats in moderate states such as Missouri, Nebraska and Montana who are facing re-election will likely take a pass on DREAM. And, let’s not forget Joe Manchin of West Virginia, He won election in a squeaker by putting as much distance as he could between himself and president Obama, even suing the Obama administration over coal removal in West Va. He too faces voters in two years.
The cold hard facts
The 112th congress will have newly elected lawmakers who are outspoken opponents of immigration reform that includes amnesty, or as democrats call it, “a path to citizenship”. Pro-immigration lawmakers would have to contend with the likes of Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania, who as mayor of Hazleton, Pa. became a national cult figure to anti- immigration lobby by proposing a bill that would have made it unlawful to rent to illegal aliens.
Barletta, in all likelihood would be joined by a fair number of tea party congressmen and women who are hawkish on immigration. What makes the outlook for comprehensive immigration even more grim is the prospect that the immigration subcommittee will likely be headed by Rep. Steven King of Ohio. He favors changing the birthright citizenship law to deny U.S. citizenship to children of illegal aliens, and he supports the notorious Arizona immigration law, SB 1070, that will allow authorities to demand papers of persons stopped for any infraction of law.
The notorious words of Harry Reid “I don’t see how anyone of Hispanic heritage can be a republican” rings hollow. On November 2, 2010 republican Marco Rubio, of Florida was elected to the senate. He is Hispanic. And so were governors elect of New Mexico, Suzanna Martinez and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, both Hispanics and both republicans. They both support the Arizona immigration law and other measures considered anti-immigrant. Ms. Martinez proposes to deny driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. Certainly, the label “anti-immigrant” or “racist” will no longer stick. In congressional races too, the tide swept into office lawmakers who are hawkish on immigration. In, Texas 23rd, for example, which shares a long border with Mexico, Quico Canseco unseated pro- immigration congressman Ciro Rodriguez. Mr. Canseco is republican and opposes amnesty for illegal aliens and supports deportation of criminal aliens. (Wikipedia.org/Canseco) This pattern of pro-immigration democrats going down in defeat to republicans hawkish on immigration, played out in congressional races across the country. Those supporting DREAM and Comprehensive immigration reform must take heed. Hispanic voters are not single issue robots. In fact, Pew Hispanic center, in ((a recent survey found that immigration ranked 5th in importance out of 7 issues among registered Hispanic voters)). A post-election survey by the Center for Immigration Studies, found that Hispanic support for republicans with expressed anti immigration stances was surprisingly strong. In 2006 and 2008 republicans garnered 29% and 30% of the Hispanic vote respectively. This election followed the same trend. Meg Whitman in California won 29 %, Carly Fiorina 28% and Sharon Angle 30% of the Hispanic vote. Even Arizona governor Jan Brewer, the force behind the tough, notorious anti-immigrant law, won 28% of the Hispanic vote. And despite all of his pro-immigration pronouncements, Senator Harry Reid won 68% of the Hispanic vote this year; in 2004 he won 67 %. It is time those who support immigration reform face the new reality and plot a new course towards immigration reform. All is lost if they should fail to do so.
Next in the series; new strategies to win passage of Dream.
By Reynold N. Mason
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, DREAM, was first introduced in 2001. If it becomes law, alien students who graduate from high school, have no criminal record and entered the U.S. before age 16 can become legal residents, if they have lived here for 5 years. They will be given the opportunity to earn conditional legal status by serving 2 years in the military or completing 2 years of college. The bill, known as the Dream Act, died last September, just before the midterm elections, but it can and should pass in the new congress despite the naysayers. But in order to shepherd this piece of humanitarian legislation through congress its proponents must display some political savvy. It was foolhardy to push Harry Reid to attach Dream to the defense authorization bill last September, when it was evident that it had no chance of passage. It may have made supporters of the bill feel good but it squandered political capital. Predictably not a single republican supported the bill. But Mr. Reid scored political points on the eve of his tough re-election fight. Hispanics, who make up more than 25 % of the population of Nevada, Mr. Reid’s home state, rewarded him with two thirds of their vote according to exit polls. This was a big factor in his re-election. Reid now owes a political debt to all those who supported his successful re-election bid. Proponents of DREAM must be sure to collect on that debt.
Will Republicans support DREAM?
Just a few days before his bruising re-election battle against Sharon Angle, Mr. Reid sat down with Jorge Ramos of Univision for an interview. When pressed on the issue, he promised to introduce DREAM in the lame duck session of congress. “We support DREAM”, he said “I just need a few republicans to help me” (The Hill 11/01/10). Republicans will control the house come January and the democrats do not have a filibuster- proof majority in the senate so political tight rope walking will be necessary. The bill has the support of most democrats, among them leaders like Dick Durbin, and Senator Schumer of New York. But now that the democratic majority in the house has been decimated, the question is, will enough republicans defect to the democratic side and back the bill?
Republicans will control the committees in the house and, come January immigration policy will in large part be in the hands of the new house speaker John Boehner, with Rep. Steven King of Ohio heading the immigration sub-committee. The republican focus has been on enforcement and border security not on a path to citizenship or legalization of those here illegally. Representative King is on record as favoring a change in birthright citizenship to keep children of illegal aliens from becoming U.S. Citizens by birth and, has voiced support for the Arizona law, SB 1070, that created a storm of controversy when it was enacted last year. But democrats who, by and large support DREAM are not entirely powerless. Senate democrats like Schumer and Durbin must lead. They along with Senator Reid must persuade their republican colleagues to back the bill. And President Obama must throw the weight of his office behind the bill. His campaign promise to push immigration reform is as yet unfulfilled.
In addition, among the newly minted batch of lawmakers who will have a say come January are, Marco Rubio, of Florida, Susanna Martinez, the first Hispanic governor of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval, governor-elect of Nevada, also Hispanic. Their states are major players in the immigration debate and they could help nudge the debate in the right direction. In key states, Hispanics constitute an increasing share of the vote, 13% in Colorado, and 38% in New Mexico, with significant voting strength in California, Nevada and Texas. The new dynamics of electoral politics in not lost on republicans. They will have to address issues of concern to Hispanics if they hope to gain control of the senate in 2012. Despite their anti-immigrant rhetoric, republicans know that there is no chance of cultivating Hispanic support unless the moderate their position on issues of concern to Hispanics. They know that the wedge issue driving the Hispanic tide in the democrats’ direction is immigration. Hispanics must use this to their advantage. They should avoid the mistake of black who vote blindly democratic. Both political parties must be made to understand that the Hispanic vote is winnable, but there must be courtship. And in order to win Hispanic support whispering sweet political nothings won’t do. They must whisper sweet DREAM.
There is hope for DREAM
The outlook for the bill is not as grim as it might appear on the surface. There are power brokers on both sides of the issue. Rep. Michael Honda of California, chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus, recently told the SF Chronicle that work on Comprehensive immigration must continue. He plans to introduce an immigration bill in the next congress that will include family reunification. If they are smart, democrats like Honda can shepherd the Dream Act through congress. They must bear in mind that republicans covet the Hispanic vote and use that as leverage. They must bear in mind too that those who want enforcement and border security are not anti- immigrant nativists. It is time to stop labeling republicans as racist or anti-immigrant simply because they insist on enforcement. The Immigration and control Act of 1986, which granted amnesty to undocumented aliens, failed because in had no enforcement mechanisms, and here we are facing the issue once more as result of that defect in the law. Common sense is what will get dream passed, not grandstanding and political platitudes aimed at shoring up the Hispanic voter base.
DREAM is a social, not a political issue
Americans are fed up with our current system on piecemeal immigration laws and want something done about it. Their overwhelming support of the Arizona immigration law is an expression of frustration with the laissez- faire immigration posture of the Federal government. At least Arizona did something. Wrong or right, it was action. And that is what Americans want on the immigration question, action, not empty words aimed at the political bases of the right or the left. The problem of forgotten illegal children is not lost on Americans. But they are not likely to support the Dream Act as a stand-alone bill. They want to know that the problem is solved once and for all, and that we will not be facing a new wave of illegal immigrants who simply walk across our open borders. A recent poll by FAIR found that 69% of Americans think that immigration is an important issue and that president Obama has not been aggressive enough in enforcing our laws. Governor-elect Sandoval of Nevada, a Hispanic, supports the Arizona immigration law which allows police to ask about immigration status after they stop someone for some other infraction. He was elected in spite of his position, protests and lawsuits challenging the law notwithstanding. . And in New Mexico, governor-elect Suzanna Martinez wants to repeal the law allowing illegal aliens to obtain drivers’ licenses. She also opposes in state tuition for undocumented students. Supporters of DREAM must accept the application of our immigration laws and let the chips fall where they may. Opposing law enforcement is foolhardy and hypocritical. We cannot give cover to illegals by thwarting enforcement of our immigration laws. Bringing DREAM to the congress is crucial to the lives of young undocumented children trapped here without papers. Their dream should not be held hostage to political calculations. Some 65,000 of them graduate from high school each year. And when they do, they encounter a roadblock-- their undocumented status. These young people will become a permanent underclass consigned to the shadows of American society without the relief the bill promises. They were brought here as minors by their parents, they cannot legally work or get a driver’s license. DREAM is their only hope. “I think that it is not only the right thing to do for these students, but also the right thing to do for our country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, “In this economy, we should all be trained and prepared. These children were brought here by their parents, often as children without any choice…... America is the only country they know. They did exactly what was proposed it in their schools. Our country needs the benefit of their skills, their talent and passion”. President was correct when he said in a debate during the campaign of 2008, that these are American children for all intents and purposes. The DREAM Act is a narrow commonsense piece of legislation that would help thousands of talented children achieves their full potential by earning a college degree of serving in our military. It should become the law of the land. And it will. But its supporters will have to accept that Americans will have none of it, unless we join in supporting enforcement of our immigration laws.
The constitution grants citizenship to anyone born in the US, except children of foreign diplomats. This has been the case for nearly 150 years. But in recent years the right to U S citizenship by birth--Jus soli-- has come under attack by those who think that it is being abused by illegal immigrants to gain a foothold to U S citizenship.
Last July Senator Lindsay Graham proposed a change to the 14th Amendment which grants American citizenship by right of birth. He proposes to change the long-standing legal tradition because he believes that as the law now stands, pregnant women, so called “baby tourists” travel to the US to give birth for the sole purpose of acquiring US citizenship for their children. ‘Birthright citizenship is a mistake’, goes the mantra, ‘people come here to have babies. They come here drop a child and leave. It’s called drop and leave.’ Valid or not this point of view has been gaining momentum. And although for the past 142 years the fundamental principle of birthright citizenship has been one measure of certain U S citizenship, it is now being seriously challenged. Earlier this month, a group of lawmakers from 15 states launched State Legislators for Legal Immigration, to coordinate efforts to develop legislation to deny birthright citizenship to children of illegal aliens. A review by Think Progress found, based on past votes that 59 % 0f republican legislators support repeal of birthright citizenship. Since 1995, there have been 28 bills introduced in congress seeking to end birthright citizenship. A recent Gallup poll found that immigration is one of the issues on the minds of voters this election cycle, behind only the economy and terrorism.
Other than Dred Scott, this writer has found just one case in which the claim to U S citizenship by birth has been denied by the US Supreme court, to someone born in the US. The issue in the Dred Scott case was muddled by the question of slavery and the right of the children of slaves to U S citizenship by virtue of birth. But that question was settled by the adoption of the 14th Amendment which states: “All persons born or naturalized in the US and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the US and of the state wherein they reside”. In 1898, Wong Kim Ark, born in the US was denied re-entry into the country. The Supreme court ruled that he was entitled to re-enter the country because he was born in the US, even though his parents were both Chinese nationals. But those seeking to change the law argue that the Wong Kim case is inapposite because the US had no immigration restriction on alien migration at the time. At least one Federal judge has said that the 14th Amendment can be changed by statute (see Kleindienst v Mandel, 408 US 753,). Under this view, the words “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” was meant to include citizens or subjects of foreign states born in the US. To support their contention, jus soli opponents point to the case of Elk v Wilkins, in which the Supreme court ruled that Elk, an Indian born on a reservation who later renounced his allegiance and claimed US citizenship, was not a US citizen by birth under the 14th Amendment. As a member of the Indian tribe, the court reasoned, he owed allegiance to his tribe not to the US, and therefore did not become a citizen of the US by birth. Under this approach, children of parents residing in the US only temporarily or on a student’s or work visa would not become citizens of the US, neither would children of persons who over stay their visas , to say nothing of children of those who were born here as a result of illegal entry by their parents.
Modifying birthright citizenship
State Legislators for Legal Immigration, proposes to change the law so that children of foreign nationals will become citizens only if a parent is a US citizen of legal resident. Bills have been introduced in congress seeking to make this the law of the land. Representative Nathan Deal, now a candidate for Georgia governor, introduced H.R.698 in 2005, seeking to limit birthright citizenship in just this manner. Sponsors of the proposed change believe that the current policy of granting US citizenship to children of illegal aliens is an improper application of the 14th Amendment. In the US senate, Senator Mitch McConnell has said that the 14th Amendment is outdated and should possibly be repealed. Senator Chambliss of Georgia is on record as saying that the law should be revisited. And senator Jonny Isaacson, also of Georgia, has said he would support legislation to limit birthright citizenship only to individuals whose parents are legally in the country. The current US policy of birthright citizenship is somewhat unique. Most EU countries, under pressure from increased immigration have modified birthright citizenship so that not everyone born within their borders become citizens. In the UK, Australia,and South Africa, for instance, birthright citizenship is no longer automatic. The same is the case for German and Canadian nationality laws.
The immigration issue has been put on the back burner for now because, as President Obama has said, congress does not have the stomach for such a controversial issue in the face of impending midterm elections. But Immigration is likely to be one of the issues that the next congress tackles. A CBS poll earlier this year showed that Americans are divided on the issue of birth- right citizenship, with 47 % favoring a change and 49 % favoring keeping the current law. One recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center found that ((there were 340,000 children born in the US in 2008 with parents who were illegal aliens)). In total 4.3 million US born children, according to the study, were children of illegal immigrants. In response to the increasing frustration with illegal immigration, some states have enacted harsh measures aimed at illegal immigrants. Arizona whose anti-immigrant law is now under review by an appellate court, is in the process of drafting a law that will deny birth certificates to children of illegal immigrants.
While law makers and activists debate removing the economic incentives to illegal immigration, namely jobs, others have turned their attention to birthright citizenship with the avowed purpose of changing it to deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants and bring US nationality laws in line with those of other countries. But the proposals to change the 14th Amendment raise nettlesome questions of constitutional law. Those who oppose change say that the law covers all aliens regardless of immigration status and is not subject to change except by an amendment to the constitution itself. Yet those who support comprehensive immigration reform have reason to worry. The expected republican takeover of congress next year could move the issue to the top of the congressional calendar. By last count, according to Think Progress, 130 republican lawmakers support the change.
Atlanta, October 10 2010: Last week the US supreme court heard argments in the case Snyder v Phelps. Mr. Snyder is the father of a marine killed in Iraq. Members of the Westboro Baptiste Church, namely Fred Phelps and his extended family, showed up in Maryland, having traveled all the way from Kansas, to picket the funeral of Mr. Snyder's son.
Led by Mr. Phelps, they carried signs saying, among other things, "Thank God for dead Soldiers", "You're going to hell",. The members of the church say that Iraq is our punishment for tolerating homosexuality and immorality.
The idea of protesting and picketing a funeral is repugnant to most people. Let alone picketing the funeral of a fallen soldier. Yet Members of reverend Phelp's church have staged over 44,000 demonstrations across the country, many at the funeral of fallen servicemen. They claim they have the right to their shameless protests under the first amendment of the US constitution, which protects free speech. But the father of the fallen soldier, Mr. Snyder, says that all he wanted to do was lay to rest his son, in peace.
Mr. Snyder was emotionally tramatized by the protest at funeral of his son and sued the church for intentional infliction of emotional distress. He won, and was awarded $11 million in damages. Phelps appealed and the case made its way all the way to the high court. This controversy puts the issue of hateful speech and the degree to which we must tolerate such speech squarely into the hands of our nine justices who must make the final call that will hereafter determine to what degree people in Mr.Snyder's situation will have to brook the antics of demonstrators who spew offensive, hateful and hurtful opprobiurm aimed a them, at their time of bereavement.
As distasteful as most find the funeral protests of this church to be, its members have found support for their right to be offensive among some of the country's leading scholars. Several groups have taken their side and have filed friend of the court legal briefs in support of the church's right to hold its protests. Simply because someone's speech is offensive, they argue, is not reason enough to stiffle it.
Speech that is hateful or unpopular or, with which we vehemently disagree, may still be entitled to protection under our constitution. Congress and the courts may impose limits on what we can say if those limits are reasonable. But under our constitution, neither can ban free speech. One cannot, for instance yell "fire' in a crowded theater because of the harm that is substantially certain to ensue. The issue is when, where and in what manner speech such as insisted on by the Phelps is permissible.
The court must balance the Phelps' right to free speech with the right of the Snyders who simply wanted to bury their son without being assaulted with epithets most people would find shocking and offensive, particularly at the funeral of a loved one. Most Americans of conscience side with the Snyders, as do many members of the US congress. But the court will be the final arbiter.
America is a free country to be sure, and Americans have taken unpopular positions and have given voice to, at times in our history, treasonous utterances. Just ask King George. In more recent times, Dr. Martin Luther King was jailed and his supporters persecuted because they expressed opinions that were unpopular, even offensive to many at the time. Yet there needs to be a limit to the verbal assault that we as citizens must constitutionally endure.
The time, place and manner in which we exercise our right to say what we think, must be put under reasonable control. A Nazi demonstration at a convention holocaust survivors, for instance, would seem to be too undeserving of constitutional protection. And a KKK rally at a convention of the NAACP would likewise fall into the trash heap of expression that is too provocative to permit under the circumatances.
Perhaps the time has come to extend some protection from harrassing, hateful protests to families during burial of their loved ones. I would draw the line at the cemetary gate. Mr. Snyder is not a public figure, and never thrust himself into the limelight or sought out public notice in any way. His son's funeral, seems an inappropriate time for the taunts and opprobrium heaped upon him and his family in the name of expressing opposition to the war or homosexuality.
By Reynold N. Mason
At the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago in 2008 candidate Obama gave a speech highly critical of absent black fathers. He urged them to remember their filial responsibilities and be more engaged in raising their children. “But if we are honest with ourselves”, he said “we'll admit that what too many fathers also are missing - missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men”. We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it". It is true that many black fathers are absent. But they are absent not because they lack filial instincts but because many of them are in jail, and when they are released they are in effect dead. Felony conviction results in loss of federal rights to vote, sit on juries, run for or hold public office, as well loss of numerous other privileges enjoyed by ordinary citizens. The loss of one’s civil rights after conviction for a felony is most pernicious. It precludes one from participating in the affairs of his community and country. A right which, since the civil right Act of 1964, all Americans take for granted. Black men are indeed absent in large numbers from the lives of their children but much of the blame must be placed on the justice system which has a disparate impact on people of color.
Last year a group of black and hispanic men challenged in the Massachusetts law that stripped them of the right to vote while in prison because the law had more of a negative impacted on African Americans and Hispanics. There was a higher proportion of these minorities in prison than their proportion of the Massachusetts population, so proportionately many more minorities were denied the vote than whites. In turning back the challenge the court said “Criminals behind bars have no business deciding who should govern the law-abiding citizens of the Commonwealth. This proposed amendment will ensure that criminals pay their debt to society before they regain their right to participate in the political process". Currently, thirty-five states prevent felons from voting while on parole or probation or both. Eleven states disenfranchise felons beyond the term of their prison, probation, and parole. Two states strip felons of the right to vote for life
The United States is the world's leader in incarceration with 2.3 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails -- a 500% increase over the past thirty years several times as many per capita as other Western nations, and many more than any other nation in the world.
Although blacks comprise 13% of the population, and 14% of monthly drug users, they account for 37% of drug arrests.. Blacks are arrested for drug offenses at rates 2 to 11 times higher than the rates for whites. African Americans account for 56% of people in state prison for drug offenses. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that a black male born in 2001 has a 32% chance of going to jail; Latino males have a 17% chance and white males have a 6% chance. Despite black youth accounting for 16% of the juvenile youth population, they are 28 % of the arrests and, 37 % of the youth in jails and 58 % of youth sent to adult prisons. More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their twenties, 1 in every 8 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the "war on drugs," in which three-fourths of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color. (These numbers come from studies conducted by the Sentencing Project, a non-profit research and advocacy group.) As a result a disproportionately high number of minorities caught up in the cock-eyed system of justice and are deprived of their right to vote in large numbers. The Sentencing Project estimates that 5 million persons will be barred from casting their ballot in the upcoming midterm elections, because they have been disenfranchised due to a felony conviction. George W. Bush won election to the presidency in 2000 and 2004 by margins of less than 5 million votes.
The Sentencing Project looked at the numbers of blacks deprived of the right to vote due to conviction of a felony and the numbers tell a sad story. In Connecticut 0.86% of the population have been disenfranchised as against 6.2% of blacks; in Delaware 7.54 % overall but 19.3% of blacks; Florida 9.01% overall, 18% of blacks; Iowa 5.39 % overall 33.98% of blacks; Kentucky 5.97% overall 23% of blacks; Nebraska 4.77% overall 22% of blacks; Rhode Island 2.5% overall 18.86% of blacks; Virginia 6.70% overall 19.76% of blacks. In every state, the proportion of blacks who have lost their right to vote is far out of proportion to that of whites. President Obama overlooked a far more important story in his father’s day message, the story of blacks being banished by the blight of discrimination nearly a half century after the passage of the Voting Rights Act. President Obama and President Clinton have both admitted violating drug laws. The statistics suggest that President Obama might have found himself trapped in the system that, by and large, is responsible for unfairly keeping black men locked away from their families. Yes, black men are absent, and as Candidate Obama said in his 2008 father’s day rebuke to black men “the foundations of our families are weaker because of it. You and I know this is true everywhere, but nowhere is this more true than in the African American community."
By Reynold N Mason JD
Last week as Americans commemorated 9/11, Muslims across America were conflicted. Ramadan, this year ended on 9/11. Good people of the Muslim faith were afraid that any celebrations on their part would be misperceived by angry Americans. Celebrations of Ramadan were cancelled from Fresno, California to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. And to compound the matter, the simmering issue of the mosque at ground zero flared anew because of the proposed Koran burning by a Florida pastor on 9/11. For months now the controversy surrounding the building of the mosque near ground zero has raged, dominating the headlines and providing fodder for the pundits. This issue will not just fade away and our leaders, religious as well as political, need to confront it head on. A few weeks ago, I opined in this space that like all Americans, Muslims are entitled to lay claim to religious freedom, including the right to build their place of worship on private land. But the opposition has been vocal and fringe elements have occasionally crossed the line into violence.
‘Americans are angry’ said one radio talk show host speaking of the mosque controversy, “more than 68 per cent of Americans oppose the mosque at the proposed location”. There were anti-Muslim flare ups in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and in Carlton, NY, where youths harassed worshipers at a mosque and fired a gun disrupting services. Americans are demanding the imam pull up stakes and leave town. Governor Patterson of New York even offered an alternate site on state land. When the governor’s proposal was turned down by the imam, immediately, the motives of the mosque sponsors were looked upon with suspicion. “Why in the name of commonsense “, asked one pundit, “would the imam want to proceed with the mosque in the face of such angry opposition?” This must mean the mosque is intended as a triumphal symbol, marking the place of a great Islamic victory over the infidels. We should bear in mind that the unpopularity of the cause is not the metric by which we measure our constitutional freedoms. The civil rights act of 1964 was even more unpopular. Southern states opposed it, and southern democrats voted against the act in congress 87 to 7 . Southern republicans were opposed 10 to 0.
Americans of every stripe have voiced their concerns. And while those opposed to the mosque have a point, (the site is a virtual grave yard of loved ones lost on 9/11) We must bear in mind always, that Muslims are under no obligation to alter their plans just because we do not wish them to build their mosque near ground zero. And they are under no obligation to cotton to the demands that they choose an alternate site. Rosa Parks was offered an alternate seat on the bus in 1955. Who, in retrospect, would argue, in spite of the cost in blood, that Rosa parks made the wrong decision? Who today would dare argue that those nine black students, who braved angry white mobs and defied governor Orval Farbus to integrate Central High School in Arkansas should have, for fear of reprisals, remained safely at home? Who would today claim that James Meredith, the first black to enroll at the University of Mississippi should have stepped aside, despite the riots that broke out following this historic event? Americans were even angrier then and a good many expressed that anger in senseless violence.
Those who stand in the way of the mosque are just as guilty as Alabama Governor George Wallace who, in 1963, stood in the way of Vivian Malone and James Hood, two blacks attempting to enroll at the University of Alabama. America is too large and too diverse a nation for cultural and religious issues to be always resolved smoothly or without conflict. Neither the mosque nor the Muslims who propose it are a menace to the republic. We can profit from the examples of our own history. Each conflict in our history has seen America emerge stronger and more cohesive, more respectful of the differences in culture and creed that make us unique. The issue of the mosque near ground zero is just one more test of yet another part of the great engine of diversity that drives this country. For blacks, it was civil rights and today for Muslims, it is the incendiary issue of religious freedom that is dividing Americans of every stripe.
Despite pretentions to motivations such as respect for the 9/11 victims, the plain truth is that bigotry has dominated the issue of the construction of the mosque near ground zero. America needs vocal support of the embattled Muslims, not muted voices afraid of political fallout. Principled voices, if they are raised above the guttural level of this fratricide will be the ones that determine whether the present squabble over religious freedom will be an asset or a liability. As Rabbi David Saperstein put it “We know what it’s like when people attack us physically, verbally and others have remained silent…..” Simply asserting their first amendment right to freedom of religion is unavailing to Muslims because of the unprincipled and bigoted opposition to the construction of the mosque. They face foes every bit as determined as the proponents of Jim Crow in the old South. This is a standing invitation to fair-minded people to heed Rabbi Saperstein’s counsel and prove that religious freedoms in America are safe from assault. If this challenge is met, our freedom will be far more certain, and less vulnerable to attack by the forces that seek to divide us. We must put ourselves in the position of those who believe differently from us and consider what they must feel when their appeal to the first amendment is rebuffed simply because of their faith.
This crisis has a silver lining. Unless grounds of religious freedom are fully and often tested and discussed, freedom of religion will become just dogma. Not the living, breathing truth. It will harken back to the dark days of the American past when, despite the often repeated words “all men are created equal” in the minds of most Americans enslaving an entire race could be rationalized. Like children repeating the 12 times table by rote, we would have no idea of the true meaning of the religious freedom gifted to us by our founding fathers. This crisis presents us another learning opportunity, an opportunity to burnish and strengthen the freedoms we all cherish in the crucible of public debate.