HEADLINES: Immigration

A locally authored plan to allow undocumented agricultural and service-sector workers to legally stay in California cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday. The Assembly’s Committee on Labor and Employment endorsed the Agricultural Jobs and Industry Stabilization Act with a 4-1 vote. The committee’s vote fell along party lines, with Republican Assemblyman Mike Morrell opposing it. Two lawmakers abstained. Wednesday’s hearing was the first in a lengthy process to get Assembly Bill 1544 to the governor’s desk. But it indicates that the Democratic-controlled state Legislature may be willing to buck critics who say the federal government should regulate immigration. “The state of California is not going to tolerate modern-day racism or segregation,” said Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, a Coachella Democrat who is championing the bill. “We can create history. We can be the model. We can set high expectations for other states.” [The Desert Sun]

In partnership with the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute, a recent report by the PBS program Need to Know investigates whether U.S. border agents have been using excessive force in an effort to curb undocumented immigration where eight people have been killed along the border in the past two years. One man died a short time after being beaten and tased, an event recorded by two eyewitnesses whose video is the centerpiece of the report. Both eyewitnesses say the man offered little or no resistance. The report raises questions about accountability. Because border agents are part of the Department of Homeland Security, they are not subjected to the same public scrutiny as police officers who use their weapons. It also questions whether, in the rush to secure the border, agents are being adequately trained. [PBS.org]

Three years ago last month, a handful of immigrants in their teens and twenties stood up in front of a large crowd in Chicago’s Daley Plaza and admitted to the world that they were in the undocumented. Their message: Deport us if you dare. The young people weren’t deported. And though their cause—they were advocating passage of the DREAM Act, a long-stalled law that would grant legal status to those who came to the U.S. as children—hasn’t progressed politically, it has caught on elsewhere. Since that first protest, about 100 so-called “Coming Out Of The Shadows” events have been staged in cities across the country, from such immigrant-friendly places as San Francisco to Phoenix, set in a state whose strict immigration law heads for a U.S. Supreme Court hearing at the end of the month. So far, no one in this nascent youth movement has been deported. (Four young people were sent to immigration detention centers but were released shortly thereafter.) On Saturday, Coming Out Of The Shadows went to a place where it is especially difficult to be an illegal immigrant: Alabama. The state currently has one of the harshest immigration laws in the country. Known as HB 56, it requires police to stop and question anyone they suspect of being undocumented, and also ups the penalties for businesses that hire them. Since the law went into effect in September, thousands of immigrants have fled the state. [Bloomberg Businessweek]


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