HEADLINES: Immigration

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This past Friday, the House of Representatives voted to pass the controversial GOP-backed STEM Jobs bill, which would grant more STEM visas to accomplished graduates from American universities.  The bill would also, however, eliminate the Diversity Visa Program, which allows immigrants from less common countries, mainly from Africa, to receive their green cards.  The bill has been received negatively by many prominent Democrats, calling the bill a weak attempt at immigration reform that does more harm than good, and is unlikely to be taken up by the Democrat controlled Senate.  [Nytimes]

The leaders of the United We Dream Network, the largest national organization of undocumented youths, met in Kansas City, MO to lay out their group’s platform.   After much discussion, the influential coalition decided to push President Obama and Congress next year for comprehensive immigration reform, instead of focusing on a piecemeal attempt.  While the DREAM Act, from which the DREAMers get their name, would have an easier path to success in Washington than a comprehensive bill, United We Dream’s leaders viewed the current climate as “an unprecedented opportunity to engage our parents, our cousins, our abuelitos in this fight.”  Despite the fact that the majority of the participants were undocumented, the group chose the very public convention center for their gathering, further cementing their confidence and power as a movement.  [Nytimes]

A coalition of civil rights groups, including the ACLU and the NILC, filed a lawsuit against Arizona and its policy of refusing driver’s licenses to DACA recipients.  Federal law states that those who qualify for deferred deportation should be eligible for driver’s licenses under the REAL ID Act of 2005.  Arizona is not the only state that has tried to deny driver’s licenses to DACA recipients, though, as Nebraska and Texas have followed suit, and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez continues to fight with her legislature over her state’s law allowing all undocumented immigrants access to licenses.  The reasoning for the suit against Arizona claims that “Arizona’s practice of denying driver’s licenses to DACA recipients seeks to negate the federal government’s decision to authorize DACA-eligible DREAMers to stay in the united States, interferes with the goals and function of the DACA program, and harms and unlawfully discriminates against individual plaintiffs, and all similarly situated individuals residing in Arizona.” [Huffington Post]

A group of house Democrats led by Californian Democrat Barbara Lee is pressing the Obama administration to “open federal healthcare programs to children who receive deferred action under Obama’s plan.”  Under the current DACA program, recipients are not eligible for Medicaid or other benefits stemming from Obama’s landmark healthcare reform.  Thus, while DREAMers will now be able to apply for work permits, basic healthcare options will be out of most of their reach.  In a letter to Obama, the lawmakers wrote, “there is no principled reason to treat differently young people who received deferred action through DACA or any other person who received deferred action.”  [TheHill]

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