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If there’s been one area in which the current leadership of the General Assembly has been at its most cynical when it comes to directly contradicting past promises and rhetoric, it’s almost certainly in the area of legislative process. It’s gotten to the point at which it seems that scarcely an important piece of legislation advances on Jones Street without some kind of abuse of legislative rules (or, at least, the spirit thereof). Whether they’re crafting budgets in secret,  holding unannounced, middle-of-the-night sessions, providing lack of time and opportunity for public comment or just springing entirely new legislation out of thin air as last-minute  amendments, both the House and the Senate have frequently seemed intent of bending every guideline of fair play and open government.

And, of course, the amazing thing about all of this is that it’s not even necessary even from a crass, down-to-brass-tacks political perspective. The leaders in both Houses have huge, rubber-stamp majorities that make such shenanigans utterly unnecessary.  Sometimes it feels as if leaders are engaging in such exercises just because they can.  See for example, last week’s decision by House leaders to spring a last-minute, out-of-nowhere amendment on Senate Education Committee chairman Jerry Tillman on Common Core legislation.

So, with the final days of the 2014 session apparently upon us, observers of the General Assembly will do well to pay very close attention over the next week or two. Indeed, the House Finance Committee meets at 5:00 pm today to take up a bill that’s been sitting on its calendar since last summer and that will almost certainly be gutted and entirely rewritten with a “committee substitute.”

The bottom line: Notwithstanding the Senate’s just-for-show talk of making budget negotiations open, it’s almost a certainty that the upcoming days will  feature loads of secrecy and bad, behind-closed-doors lawmaking. Stay tuned and watch closely if your stomach can take it.

CambioWe as Americans know when a person is arrested and jailed in our country he or she has the right to a lawyer regardless of ability to pay.

Here’s the thing, though. People –including American citizens — who are jailed on immigration violations DO NOT have those same rights.

An immigration lawyer sure would have been helpful in the case of North Carolinian Mark Lyttle, a mentally ill native of Rowan County who was deported TWICE to Mexico in 2008. And there’s this doozy, where a man (finally determined to be a U.S. citizen by birthright) whose father is a U.S. citizen was deported at least four times based on a non-existent passage in the Mexican constitution.

Yes. As crazy as it sounds, American citizens get jailed and deported. Regularly.

According to immigration lawyer Kara Hartzler’s 2008 testimony in front of the U.S. House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Immigration, her Arizona non-profit sees between 40 and 50 cases per month of people in immigration detention who have potentially valid claims to U.S. citizenship.

“These individuals will commonly be detained for weeks, months, and even years while attempting to prove their citizenship. While some are ultimately successful, others often abandon their cases in the face of what can feel like indefinite detention,” Hartzler states.

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