Commentary, News

Trump’s latest immigration proposal: Short on details and endorsements

President Trump revealed a new immigration proposal on Thursday afternoon. In a speech in the White House Rose Garden, Trump announced his plan to boost “merit-based” immigration, which he says would “transform America’s immigration system into the pride of our nation and the envy of the modern world.”

His plan focused mostly on legal immigration, with no provisions for undocumented migrants already in the country or Dreamers.

Currently, our immigration system favors migrants with family already in the U.S. and allots a minority of visas – around 12 percent – to immigrants with higher education or special workforce skills. Trump’s proposal would increase that 12 percent to 57 percent and decrease family visas from 66 to 33 percent. Applicants would be required to speak English and pass a civics test. Preference would be given to younger, financially stable applicants entering the country with an existing offer of employment.

Under Trump’s proposal, family-based migration would be limited to the nuclear family, so that spouses and minor children would still be given high priority. Extended family members, however, would not qualify.

Trump also addressed asylum, saying that “legitimate” asylum-seekers would “quickly be admitted,” but those with “frivolous” claims would “promptly be returned home.” The president did not expand on what might constitute a “frivolous” claim for asylum. The percentage of total visas provided for humanitarian purposes would decrease from 22 to 10 percent.

“Like Canada and so many other modern countries, we will create an easy-to-navigate points-based system,” said Trump. Unlike Canada, however, Trump made no commitment to resettle thousands of refugees.

The plan is unlikely to garner bipartisan support. Democrats probably will not support any immigration plan that does not discuss young people covered under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, but White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump’s plan does not include DACA for a reason. Read more

Commentary

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Why is it OK to hate teachers?

I was reading the comments attached to a news story about public school teachers staging a rally in my home state of North Carolina (“Come for the No. 34 ranking in nationwide teacher pay; stay for the barbecue”) when it hit me: People really are idiots.

Not all of y’all. But I gotta give a shout-out to the laboratory-quality dumbbell who wrote—and I am not making this up—“Teachers is paid enough. If they want more money, they should have went to school for something else.”

Yes. And maybe he should’ve went to school a little longer. Or at all.

You know those bumper stickers that say: “If you can read this, thank a teacher”? Yeah, I haven’t seen one in ages either.

Of all the groups I would’ve considered safe from snark and, worse, vilification, it would be teachers.

Admittedly, I have a dog in this fight. As the daughter of a public school teacher and the mother of a newly minted one who has signed on to work in a high-poverty school for the next two years, yeah, I have to say this shift in the national conversation is a head-scratcher at best and a head-in-the-oven at worst.

I don’t get this even a little bit. If “Should’ve went” was the lone voice, I wouldn’t pay much attention. It’s like how people ignore the guy in every small town who walks around in chaps with a skunk on a leash but no! It’s now OK, even trendy, to hate on teachers.

TEACHERS.

The comments piled on, taking up “Should’ve went”’s rallying cry.

“Must be nice to have summers off.”

“Why do they complain? They stop work at 3 o’clock. A real job would kill them.”

“They don’t teach anymore; they’re just glorified babysitters.”

Anyone who knows a teacher knows the high horse manure content of those statements.

I know that lately, as a nation, we’ve gotten cranky. Politics has us divided, angry, frustrated. I used to be a cheerful sort, ask anyone. OK, maybe not the U-scan attendant at the grocery store BECAUSE IT NEVER WORKS but anyone else.

But our general American dyspepsia (ask a teacher, I mean, if you can pull her off the bar stool at 3:30 every afternoon. Oh, wait. I meant find him at his SECOND JOB) has now reached into areas that used to be undisputed, sacrosanct even.

We suck.

There’s just no gentler way to describe the national slide into hatefulness focused, astonishingly, on what could arguably be called “the least of these.” Teachers aren’t rich, they aren’t famous. But they are, to borrow a term from social media, true influencers. It took some doing but raging against teachers is a thing now. A lowdown, dirty, deplorable thing.

We hear a lot about saving the babies. Until they show up at kindergarten with 40 others and one valiant teacher who just spent half her first paycheck to make the classroom functional. Some of you don’t care about that at all. Fortunately, teachers do.

Celia Rivenbark

Celia Rivenbark is a New York Times-bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.

Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Stories on Policy Watch

1. Judicial nominee Farr joins GOP defense team in redistricting litigation

It appears that Thomas Farr is back in the game – the North Carolina redistricting game, that is.

The recent Trump nominee for a federal judgeship in North Carolina’s Eastern District filed paperwork last week to appear in court on behalf of the GOP legislative defendants in Common Cause v. Lewis, a challenge to the 2017 legislative map on grounds that it violates the state constitution as an extreme partisan gerrymander.

Farr is no stranger to litigating North Carolina laws and maps enacted by Republican legislators – he has defended several of the state’s maps that were struck down as racial gerrymanders. And in 2013, he defended the state’s sweeping “monster” voter ID law, which was also declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it was racially discriminatory. [Read more…]

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2. PW exclusive: Toxic chemical contamination detected in Charlotte; NC lawmakers decline to act

For decades Charlotte firefighters would periodically suit up and step into one of 12 gravel-lined pits at the city’s training center on Shopton Road. Industry would donate their flammable solvents, which would be poured into the pits or injected by underground piping. Materials, such as junk cars, would be set on fire, and the firefighters would then attack the blaze.

Sometimes, firefighters would use water. Other times, though, they would use foam — a special type of aqueous foam we now know contains toxic PFAS. Also referred to as perfluorinated compounds, this is a class of 4,000 to 5,000 chemicals, some of which are found in the body of nearly every person on Earth.

Even though PFAS have been linked to dozens of disorders, including cancer, none is regulated by the state or the EPA. This week, several members of a US House subcommittee balked at proposals in several bills to regulate PFAS as a class. And in the state legislature, bills introduced in both the House and Senate to ban PFAS in firefighting foam were exiled to committee, where they never received a hearing.[Read more…]

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3. Five quick takes as the legislative session passes its symbolic midpoint


North Carolina lawmakers sped past their self-imposed crossover deadline last week – the date by which many bills must pass at least one house to remain alive for the session. Here are five quick takes on where things stand:

#1 – GOP bulldozer downsized to a Bobcat – Traditionally, and especially during the last several years of conservative rule, the crossover deadline has served as an excuse/opportunity for legislative leaders to push through scores of controversial proposals during a series of marathon sessions that have often stretched into the wee hours of the night. This year, things were different.

Owing in part to the desire of some Republican leaders to attend a national conservative gathering in Asheville and, in part, to the demise of GOP supermajorities (a fact that has served to place a modest check on the Right’s ambitions), crossover passed in much quieter fashion this year. Instead of pulling “all-nighters” and bulldozing through a mountain of bills, lawmakers called it quits early, having advanced a somewhat less imposing pile. [Read more…]

Bonus read: Fifteen great ideas that were lost in the legislature’s crossover deadline shuffle

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4. Republicans, education advocates square off again over expanding private school voucher program

You can hear the anger rising in Yevonne Brannon’s voice as she talks about the state’s controversial school voucher program.

Brannon, a spokeswoman for Public Schools First N.C., a K-12 advocacy organization, thinks it’s outrageous that a family with an annual income of more than $71,000 could receive state tax dollars to help pay for private school tuition.

But that’s exactly what would happen under state Senate-proposed changes to North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program.

“It undermines and contributes to the demise of public education in North Carolina,” Brannon said. [Read more…]

Bonus read: Colleges will soon be able to factor SAT ‘adversity score’ into admissions decisions

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5. Delay in ‘Silent Sam’ decision reflects divided UNC leadership while spurring suspicion, concern in community


At its meeting next week, the UNC Board of Governors was scheduled to unveil a new plan for the future of the Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam.”

But late Tuesday afternoon, board Chairman Harry Smith released a statement saying the board has decided to again postpone it.

“In early March, we set the May meeting of the UNC Board of Governors as a tentative reporting date to consider possible solutions for the confederate monument at UNC-Chapel Hill, commonly known as Silent Sam,” Smith said in the statement. [Read more…]

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6. A gun in my classroom? No thanks.

I am a public school teacher in Forsyth County. As a special education teacher, I work with students at the middle school level and help them manage learning disabilities, ADHD, and other factors keeping them from performing on grade level. I love my job, but would leave it in a heartbeat if given the opportunity to carry a gun in my classroom.

Friends and family members tell me this could never happen in North Carolina, but why not? The Florida legislature just voted to allow this. At least one school district in Texas has been doing it for years. And our elected officials in Raleigh have introduced a bill this session (SB 192) to allow this very thing – the badly mislabeled “School Security Act of 2019.”

Let’s set aside the horrifying possibility of a student or intruder gaining control of my weapon. In addition, let’s not consider the morass of lawsuits that are likely to crop up surrounding real, or even potential, situations a gun in the classroom would introduce. The main reason I would object to carrying a gun is the way the relationship with my students would change. [Read more…]

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7. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center

Fifteen great ideas that were lost in the legislature’s crossover deadline shuffle

The North Carolina General Assembly passed its self-imposed “crossover” deadline last week — the date by which many bills must be approved by at least one house to remain eligible for final passage this session. While the crossover rule is more of a guideline than a hard and fast requirement and is regularly ignored by legislative leaders, one can, by surveying the aftermath, get a good indicator of the priorities of legislative leaders and where the session is headed.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, this year’s deadline passed without consideration of a raft of excellent proposals that would have helped advance economic opportunity in our state. Here are 15 of those proposals that were lost in the crossover shuffle:

HB 46, Economic Security Act of 2019 — Sponsored by Representatives Fisher and Harrison, this bill was intended to increase the economic security of working North Carolinians. The bill would have increased the state minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, eliminated gender-based discrimination in pay, required employers to provide paid sick and family medical leave, attacked the state’s wage theft crisis, repealed collective bargaining restrictions for public employees, enacted a state-level Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, and enacted a “ban the box” provision in order to assure that job applicants with criminal records get a better opportunity to enter the workforce.

HB 5/SB 3, Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap — With this proposal, lawmakers in both houses sought to expand Medicaid to close the coverage gap for the 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians who lack adequate access to health care due to their lack of health insurance coverage.

HB 968, Local Government Inflation-Adjusted Minimum Wage — Representatives Farmer-Butterfield and Smith sponsored this bill to provide an inflation-adjusted living wage for local government employees, in order to ensure that they can afford to continue their work in the public sector.

HB 762, Nutritional Assistance for Employment Deserts — Representatives Queen, Turner, Ager, and Gailliard sponsored this bill with the intention of increasing access to food assistance for struggling job seekers. The bill would have allowed for a waiver of the time limits associated with the SNAP able-bodied adult employment requirements. With such a change, able-bodied adults would be able to continue to receive food assistance despite work requirements if they live and are seeking employment in an economically-depressed locale where a lack of available jobs makes the state’s current three-month time limit to find work prohibitive.

HB 946, Free Lunch for Some Students/Stop Lunch Shame — With this bill, Representatives Brockman, and Horn sought to appropriate $5 million to pay for the portion of school lunch not covered by federal funds for those students who are eligible for reduced priced lunch. The bill also requires schools to direct any communications about meal debt to parents rather than children, and cease any behavior that identifies or stigmatizes children who cannot afford a school meal or owe a meal debt.

HB 947, Free Breakfast and Lunch in K-12 Public Schools — Representatives Brockman, Quick, and Autry introduced a similar bill to appropriate funds to provide breakfast and lunch at no cost to students of the public school system.

HB 319, In-State Tuition Equity — Representatives Meyer, Fisher, Harrison, and Brockman sponsored this bill with the intention of increasing educational and future employment opportunities for all North Carolina youth. The bill would have extended the in-state tuition  rate for public colleges and universities to immigrant youth, regardless of immigration status, who attended North Carolina schools for at least two consecutive years or received a high school diploma from a North Carolina high school.    Read more

Commentary

On its 65th anniversary, Brown v. Board of Education and school desegregation are in jeopardy

Tomorrow is the 65th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education — the decision that ordered the desegregation of American public schools. Most of us are familiar with the foot-dragging and obstructionism with which that ruling was met for many years, but fewer are aware of the hard fact that the political right is, quite literally, still doing its worst to reverse the ruling. As advocates for fair courts in Washington have been pointing out with disturbing regularity of late, some of President Trump’s nominees to serve lifetime appointments on the federal bench have refused to affirm that Brown is and should remain the law of the land.

As Paul Gordon of People for the American Way recently explained:

Nominees for the court that issued Brown have long expressed their agreement with the decision without generating headlines. But since President Trump took office, judicial nominees’ support for Brown has gone the way of so many other democratic norms.

Perhaps the first to refuse to acknowledge the correctness of the case was Wendy Vitter, a Louisiana district court nominee scheduled for a confirmation vote this week. Since then, it has become commonplace.

Their excuse is that judicial ethics prohibit them from suggesting how they might rule in a particular case that might come before them. But do they really believe it likely—or even possible—that the principle of Brown is going to be relitigated? Revisiting separate but equal has not been a subject of any serious debate, at least in public.”

Gordon then goes on to list a dozen Trump nominees with “poor records on issues related to racial equality” who help pose a threat to Brown.

Meanwhile, a new report released last week by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA and the Center for Education and Civil Rights at Penn State University tells the sobering story of the Right’s ongoing resistance to Brown. This is from the a release on the report distributed by the National Education Policy Center: Read more