The release of about 300 illegal immigrants from federal custody in Arizona this week has raised a firestorm of controversy in this volatile border state, which has one of the nation’s toughest laws against illegal immigration and is home to highly vocal groups on both sides of the debate. Senior Republican officials in the state, including Gov. Jan Brewer and Sen. John McCain, sharply criticized the releases, which the Obama administration said it is carrying out in several states in anticipation of budget cuts under sequestration. Brewer, an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, called the move “pure political posturing” that would endanger public safety. Several human rights organizations and legal aid groups here said the freed immigrants posed no threat to the public, had not committed serious offenses and should have been freed long ago rather than being kept in custody at government expense. They described some of the immigrants as innocent victims of Arizona’s strict law, in which local police are required in many cases to turn over suspected illegal immigrants to federal officials.
Calling a truce in the partisan battles, Congress appears ready to send to President Obama a bill that renews and expands the nation’s primary law on protecting women from domestic violence. In a carefully scripted course, the Republican-led House on Thursday is expected to first reject its own, more limited attempt to renew the Violence Against Women Act before voting for a more ambitious bill that passed the Senate two weeks ago by a wide bipartisan margin. With House approval of the Senate bill, Obama will sign the reauthorization of the law that laid the foundation for federal efforts to better protect women, and some men, from domestic abuse and better prosecute the abusers. The law expired in 2011, and has been stuck in political limbo as the House, up to now, has resisted Senate efforts to enlarge the scope of the legislation to ensure that gays and lesbians, immigrants and Native American women have equal access to anti-violence programs.
Majority conservatives on the Supreme Court criticized one of the pillars of 1960s civil-rights legislation, suggesting the Voting Rights Act had outlived its relevance and was imposing undue burdens on states whose practices are subject to extra federal supervision. The 1965 Voting Rights Act targets states that historically discriminated against minorities, and Section 5 requires some localities, particularly in the South, to get approval in advance from Washington for changes to their voting laws. Under Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court has given a critical eye to measures intended to help minorities, with conservatives outvoting liberals to hold that such goals are outweighed by other constitutional considerations. In 2007, the court barred school districts from adopting policies that consider race in order to promote classroom diversity, finding that the practice violated white students’ rights to equal protection of the laws. In the current term, the court is deciding a case involving an affirmative-action policy at the University of Texas, and the court may reverse at least part of a 2003 ruling that allowed some consideration of race in university admissions. Many consider the Voting Rights Act the most effective legislation of the civil-rights era, and even conservative justices acknowledged its historic role.
The next phase of President Obama’s evolution on gay marriage may come with the deadline for his administration to weigh in on a landmark Supreme Court case that could determine whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed. Gay rights supporters are pressing the administration to file a friend-of-the-court brief urging the justices to overturn California’s gay marriage ban. Obama is not required to file a brief, though he raised expectations in his second inaugural address when he declared that gays and lesbians must be “treated like anyone else under the law.” Ahead of Thursday’s deadline, dozens of prominent Republicans signed a friend of the court brief asking the justices to declare California’s Proposition 8 ballot measure unconstitutional. Among them are former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The Proposition 8 ballot initiative was approved by California voters in 2008 in response to a state Supreme Court decision that had allowed gay marriage. Twenty-nine other states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, while nine states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.
Miami police began enforcing a teen curfew Wednesday, although they insisted this was not in response to a recent series of shootings in the city. According to the Juvenile Curfew Ordinance, it is against the law for children younger than 17 to be out on their own in Miami-Dade County between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, curfew hours are midnight until 6 a.m. Miami police spokesman Willie Moreno said police have enforced the curfew several times within the last few years. Moreno noted Miami-Dade students will soon be on spring break, which could lead them to being out later at night. There are some exceptions to the curfew. Among them are being accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or someone 21 or older with permission to be responsible for the juvenile; working, or traveling to or from work; having written permission from a parent or guardian to run an errand; aiding or assisting in an emergency; traveling to or from school, religious, civic, or county-sponsored events; if the juvenile is emancipated by marriage or a court order; attending or returning from a public event (with permission) if the event began before 10 p.m.; being authorized by the County Commission.