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The President will present his outline for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship, at an event in Las Vegas on Tuesday. I'm blogging remotely right now in Panama so sorry for not being able to embed this link.
by Chris Musillo
In the forthcoming weeks, Sen. Reid and the Democrats and Sen. Rubio and the Republicans will begin to shape their immigration legislation language. It is an open secret that the legalization of the approximately 12 million undocumented will entirely drive the politics of the legislation, but there is a real opportunity for Congress to fix other immigration policy failures, such as immigration for shortage occupations. Let's hope that Congress takes this opportunity and doesn't merely cling to symbols.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) this week introduced the wordy, Immigration Reform That Works For America's Future Act. This Act is the first bill in the Senate, which is symbolic and encouraging. That having been said, it is only a "placeholder," meaning that there is no substantive language attached to the bill at this time. Politicians like Sen. Rubio (R-FL) are beginning to turn their policy statements into textual law that should be voted on by Congress in the next few months.
Read the Musillo Unkenholt Healthcare and Immigration Law Blog at www.musillo.com or www.ilw.com. You can also visit us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
On November 1, 2012, the US Supreme Court heard the oral arguments in Roselva Chaidez v. United States, (USSC No. 11-820, cert granted 4/30/12) to determine whether the Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010) should apply retroactively. Decided in 2010, Padilla established that a criminal defense attorney's failure to advise client of the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction can be considered "ineffective assistance of counsel" and set the conviction aside. Padilla rules are unambiguous ; however, they do not apply retroactively.
The Padilla decision was a milestone for many immigrants who now had an avenue for post-conviction relief. In Chaidez, Roselva Chaidez pled guilty to a criminal charge, but her attorney failed to inform her that her charge will result in deportation. Chaidez was eligible for relief under Padilla, but Padilla cannot be applied retroactively due to another Supreme Court decision. In Teague v Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989), the Supreme Court held that the relief in federal habeas corpus proceeding challenging the validity of a state-court criminal decision cannot be based on new rules of constitutional criminal procedure. Teague defends the position that an invalid criminal judgment will not be overturned because of the society's interests in finality and respect to the court's opinion.
The fate of the rule established in Teague, is the real target of Chaidez's litigation. Indeed, the Teague rule is unfair. It links the availability to relief to the time when the court discovers a constitutional rule, which causes similarly situated immigrants to be treated differently. Chaidez's arguments are strong and the chances are high that the Supreme Court's decision will be favorable for the petitioner. Chaidez reasons that since the federal post-conviction proceedings are procedurally similar to the state post-conviction proceedings, Teague's comity concern should be dismissed. Further, according to Chaidez's brief, another component of Teague - finality does not bar Chaidez's claim either. Therefore, when the comity concern is taken away, Chaidez can retroactively contest the finality of the sentence with help of Padilla.
Therefore, the Supreme Court should limit the Teague rule, so it will not preclude immigrants from seeking protection under Padilla to obtain post-conviction relief. Eventually, this will allow to apply Padilla retroactively, to reverse criminal convictions, and avoid undeserved deportations._________________________ Criminal defense attorneys have to advise their non-citizen clients about the possible consequence of guilty plea, and they cannot remain silent on the fact that a deportation may occur. If this is not observed, the non-citizen attorney's failure to advise can be regarded as the ineffective assistance of counsel and set aside the criminal conviction.
 Chaidez learned that her criminal conviction can lead to deportation only in 2009 when she applied for US citizenship. She filed a coram nobis petition to restore her to a pre-conviction state (as she was erroneously convicted) six years after her guilty plea since her probation was completed and she could not file a habeas corpus petition because she was no longer "in custody."
On January 22, the Washington Post reported (Va. Republicans' redistricting maneuver draws criticism) that the day before, while Virginia State Senator Henry L. Marsh, a Democrat, the first African-American mayor of Richmond, and a former civil rights lawyer, was in Washington attending President Obama's inauguration, the State Senate, without notice or hearings, passed a radical Congressional redistricting bill which concentrates minority and other normally Democratic voters into three heavily Democratic House districts and would make it easier for Republicans to win control of eight other Congressional districts, six of which are now held by Democrats.
Since that Chamber is split evenly between 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats, if Senator Marsh had been present, there would have been a tie vote and the measure would have failed. The underhanded way that the Virginia Senate acted was so reprehensible that even the Republican governor, Robert F. McDonnell, a staunch conservative, was critical of the maneuver.
But why is this a cause for concern, and what does this have to do with immigration reform? After all, gerrymandering electoral districts to favor the party in control is as American as apple pie.
In reality, gerrymandering has a great deal to do with the chances of passing immigration reform. In the 2012 election, there were more votes cast nationwide for Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives than for the Republicans, but the Republicans won a majority of the seats, due to the skewed way that Congressional districts were drawn in many Republican-controlled states (washingtonpost.com, November 9, 2012)
As mentioned in my comment on January 23, House Speaker Boehner has announced that he will not even take up immigration reform for the next two or three months at least, because he has other priorities which in his view are more urgent. And if an immigration reform bill ever is taken up by the House, one can only imagine what kind of poison pills may be in it. If majority rule had prevailed in the 2012 election, there would have been a Democratic controlled House which might already be considering real immigration reform proposals as we speak.
But this is by no means the most pernicious or dangerous effect that gerrymandering of Congressional districts by Republican controlled state legislatures could have on the chances for immigration reform and on immigrant rights in general.
Only two days after the gerrymandering bill passed the Virginia Senate, a subcommittee of that body, by a 3-3 vote in which the committee chairman abstained even though she is also a Republican, approved a proposal that would allocate the state's electoral college votes by Congressional district, instead of according to the overall popular vote, as is now the case in all but two states.
Without going into the details, which are reported in the January 23 Richmond Times-Dispatch (Bill to change allocation of Virginia's electoral votes advances) it is enough to point out that if this plan had been in effect last November, Mitt Romney would have won a majority of Virginia's electoral votes, even while losing the popular vote.
And this would have been even before the latest skewed redistricting plan mentioned above. Other Republican controlled states are planning to rig the electoral system the same way, as reported in thinkprogress.org on January 23 (Virginia State Senator Declines To Back GOP Electoral College Rigging Scheme).
If widespread electoral college rigging had been in effect in 2012, this week's inauguration ceremony would not have featured a speech by a president who is at least talking about immigration reform (while deporting 400,000 people per year). Instead, Mr. "Self-Deportation" himself would now be our new president, and the only immigration reform under consideration might be "reforming" the border fences to make them bigger and the immigration jails to hold more people.
We have to remind ourselves why immigration reform is under discussion at all after the last election. Nearly everyone in both parties agrees that it is because Latinos, Asians, African-Americans and other US citizens of color voted, despite massive, intense and sophisticated attempts by Republican officials in crucial states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida to keep them away from the polls. If these attempts had worked, not many people in Washington would be talking about immigration reform today.
If attempts to rig the electoral college so that Latino and other minority votes do not count in future presidential elections succeed, any hope of immigration reform will vanish, along with America's democracy.
Coptic Christians in Egypt and other Eastern Orthodox churches in the Middle East and throughout the world celebrated Christmas Eve on Sunday, January 6, 2013. Coptic Christians (or Copts) represent about 10% of Egypt's population of 84 million, the majority of which are Sunni Muslim. Due to recent incidents of violence against Copts in Egypt, however, most Christmas masses began and ended earlier than the customary midnight mass. Coptic Christians in Egypt have long suffered discrimination and violence. Under the current regime of the Muslim Brotherhood's President Mohamed Morsi, the future of Copts remains perilous. The newly enacted Constitution seeks to further polarize Egypt's minority as it essentially legitimizes religious discrimination by failing to protect freedom of expression and religion. The Constitution also explicitly indicates that the legal code stems from "the principles of Islamic law" and many believe that this language allows for the implementation of Islamic Sharia law. On October 9, 2011, thousands of protestors gathered in the Maspero section of Cairo to demonstrate against the Egyptian government's failure to protect Coptic Christians against several deadly attacks on churches which occurred in 2011. To end what were otherwise peaceful protests, the Egyptian military fired at unarmed civilians resulting in the deaths of nearly 30 innocent protestors and injuries to over 200 people. The violent incident came to be known as the Maspero Massacre. To date, not one member of the Egyptian military has been charged or convicted in connection with the killings of Coptic Christians in the Maspero Massacre. Going into 2013, Copts justifiably fear that their interests are not being represented by Egypt's new government and Constitution. Likewise, Copts are afraid that if Egypt moves towards operating under Islamic law, the daily activities of all Christians will be stifled. Specifically, Copts fear an impending government mandate forcing Christian women to wear veils in public, which is against the Coptic religion, or worse, that fundamentalists will mob churches to force conversions to Islam as rumored by various media outlets. Although corruption and greed ousted longtime former President Hosni Mubarak following the revolution that began on January 25, 2011, Copts and secular liberal Egyptians are truly uncertain of what the future holds for Egypt under the reign of President Morsi and his allies, the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite the uncertainty, however, one thing is clear: Copts in Egypt continue to live in fear and repression.