Ted Cruz’s immigration plan: tough on legal immigrants, tougher on unauthorized ones


On Friday afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) released an immigration plan. The plan is arguably more similar to Donald Trump’s plan, released this August (and which Donald Trump himself seems to have forgotten), than to Cruz’s own position from past years.

In 2013, Cruz wanted to expand legal immigration, and proposed an amendment — which Cruz allies now claim didn’t represent his actual position — to legalize unauthorized immigrants currently in the US without allowing them to become US citizens. Presidential candidate Ted Cruz wants to freeze legal immigration, make it much harder to get visas for high-skilled workers, and increase deportations.

And while he doesn’t explicitly say this, his plan includes all the elements of past policy proposals for “attrition through enforcement” — the policy agenda known as self-deportation.

Cruz wants to make it much harder for employers to hire foreign workers

In 2013, Cruz opposed the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill that Marco Rubio helped write. At the time, Cruz made it clear that he opposed unauthorized immigration but supported legal immigration. He voted against amendments from Sen. Jeff Sessions to reduce legal immigration and actuallyintroduced an amendment to make the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers five times bigger. And even during the speech unveiling his immigration plan, Cruz called for the US to focus on skilled workers such as doctors.

But he appears to be worried that the Republican base voters he’s hoping to win away from Donald Trump are just as worried about legal immigrants taking their jobs as they are about unauthorized immigration. (He’s probably right.) So his plan actually calls for a freeze on legal immigration levels — and it specifically targets the H-1B visa program.

Cruz’ plan would “suspend the issuance of all H-1B visas for 180 days” while investigating the program. (Since new batches of H-1B visas get issued twice a year, and they typically run out within hours, this could be timed so that it didn’t actually disrupt any visa issuances — but it would be tricky.) The H-1B visas will only start being issued again after his administration has made “fundamental reforms” to the program.

Cruz justifies the visa freeze by saying the government needs to investigate allegations of abuse in the visa program. There have, in fact, been increased reports that some of the heaviest users of the system are using H-1B workers to replace American workers. But those reports involve employers breaking the existing federal rules for hiring high-skilled immigrant workers. Cruz’s “fundamental reforms” — which aren’t included in his written plan but which he mentioned in his speech — include a requirement that visa holders have a PhD-level degree (preferably from an American university); a ban on firing American workers for a certain amount of time after H-1B workers are hired; and a requirement that employers sign sworn affidavits that they’ve tried to hire American workers first.

Cruz wants a freeze on legal immigration

Cruz also wants to freeze legal immigration levels across the board “as long as work-force participation rates are below historical averages.” How high a bar that sets depends on how you define “historical”: If you go back to the 1950s, the current labor force participation rate is on par with the historical average. Since Cruz doesn’t think that’s the case right now, it appears he’s setting the bar a little higher.

Technically, he wants to prevent legal immigration levels from being “adjusted upward.” That could just mean that he wouldn’t let Congress raise quotas in the law. But if he means he would freeze the number of applications that the federal government could approve to come legally each year, it could have a pretty big impact.

 

Article continues:

http://www.vox.com/2015/11/13/9731908/ted-cruz-immigration

Alibaba lobbies to stay off U.S. blacklist list for fakes – BY JOHN RUWITCH Sun Oct 18, 2015 12:26am EDT


People ride a double bicycle past a logo of The Alibaba Group at the company's headquarters on the outskirts of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province November 10, 2014.  REUTERS/Aly Song/Files

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is lobbying hard to stay off the U.S. Trade Representative’s blacklist after coming under renewed pressure this year over suspected counterfeits sold on its shopping platforms.

Re-inclusion on the USTR’s annual list of the world’s most “notorious markets” for sales of pirated and counterfeit goods, while not carrying direct penalties, would be a blow to the company’s efforts to shed perceptions that its sites are riddled with fakes and that its anti-piracy policies are inadequate. It could also hurt Alibaba’s beleaguered share price.

Two Alibaba sites – the business-to-business platform Alibaba.com and the hugely popular Taobao Marketplace – were on the USTR’s “Notorious Markets” list from 2008. Alibaba.com was removed in 2011. Taobao was taken off in 2012 for its “notable efforts” to work with rightholders to clean up the site.

On September 10, the USTR called for public input as it formulates its latest list, expected in the coming months. At least three industry bodies have publicly responded with criticism of Alibaba, alleging counterfeits remain widespread on its sites and that the company is difficult to work with or inefficient when seeking redress.

The company’s new government affairs chief, Eric Pelletier, who took up the post in June, has sent two formal letters to the USTR this month, including a rebuttal of the industry group criticism.

Last week, Pelletier and an Alibaba lawyer met with an inter-agency working group coordinated by the USTR to discuss Alibaba’s anti-counterfeit efforts, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

In his letters, Pelletier says Alibaba has gone above and beyond in dealing with the problem, but that primary responsibility for policing and deterring infringements rests with brand owners, according to copies seen by Reuters.

He said the company had made it easier this year for brands to remove listings of suspected fakes while toughening penalties for merchants who violate company policies.

“When you step back and look at our overall efforts to combat illicit activities, our track record is clear. We are certainly not perfect, and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us…we will continue to do everything we can to stop these activities,” he wrote.

INDUSTRY PRESSURE

Others think Alibaba should do more.

The American Apparel and Footwear Association pressed the USTR to re-instate Taobao on the blacklist due to Alibaba’s “unwillingness to make serious reforms” and failure to address the organization’s concerns.

 

 

Article continues:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/18/us-alibaba-counterfeits-idUSKCN0SC04620151018

NBA player Thabo Sefolosha’s trial is just the latest case in excessive police use of force – Updated by German Lopez on October 9, 2015, 3:20 p.m. ET


On Friday, Atlanta Hawks player Thabo Sefolosha was acquitted of charges that led police to forcefully arrest him — in a case that could lead to yet more litigation over racial disparities in how police use force in America.

On April 8, New York City police officers told Sefolosha, who is black, to leave an area around a club where another NBA player, Chris Copeland, had been stabbed, ESPN reported. Police said Sefolosha disobeyed orders, forcing them to take him into custody. But Sefolosha said he had moved off the block after being ordered out by a vulgar police officer, and was trying to give $20 to a beggar before he was taken to the ground by cops.

The cops’ use of force fractured Sefolosha’s right leg — a very, very bad injury for a professional basketball player, and one that ended the season early for him. Sefolosha said he hasn’t made a decision on whether he will sue the city for the takedown and injury — but if other cases are any indication, a lawsuit could cost taxpayers millions of dollars, especially if a jury considers the potential impact of a season-ending injury for a basketball player.

But more than being potentially damaging to Sefolosha’s career, the case highlights yet another instance of police using force against an unarmed black man. With this issue getting more attention in the year after the Ferguson, Missouri, protests, any potential litigation could become part of a much broader national conversation on racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Police officers said Sefolosha was disobeying orders, so they took him to the groun

Sefolosha was departing from a nightclub in New York City when police took him to the ground, allegedly for taking too long to leave the area of a crime scene in which two women and Indiana Pacers player Chris Copeland were stabbed.

Police said Sefolosha wasn’t involved in the stabbing incident, but he was charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration, and resisting arrest after allegedly disobeying police orders to leave the scene.

A video showed police grabbing Sefolosha by the neck and taking him to the ground

Prior to the takedown, Sefolosha had said that he challenged the tone of an aggressive officer who told him to leave the area, according to ESPN. Sefolosha, who is 6-foot-6, said he called the 5-foot-7 officer “a midget.”

A video, released by TMZ Sports, showed police grabbing Sefolosha by the neck and taking him to the ground. One officer brandished a baton in the video. But it’s not clear in the footage what caused Sefolosha’s injury, although he’s shown seemingly limping away.

Prosecutors offered Sefolosha a plea deal to dismiss the charges in exchange for one day of community service, but he said he wanted to set the record straight. The jury took roughly 30 minutes to deliberate, according to CNN, finding Sefolosha not guilty.

Sefolosha’s leg injury required surgery. He’s now been cleared to play, but only after the injury ended the previous season early for him, including the playoffs.

Beyond hurting Sefolosha’s leg and potentially his career, though, the case reveals a startling fact about criminal justice: Black people are much more likely to have police use force against them.

Article continues:

http://www.vox.com/2015/10/9/9488877/thabo-sefolosha-police-video

 

Ferguson Commission Shines Light On Racially Divided St. Louis – JASON ROSENBAUM SEPTEMBER 14, 2015 1:01 AM ET


Members of the Ferguson Commission, including co-chairman Starsky Wilson, second from right, listen at a recent hearing of the Ferguson Commission. After months of deliberation, the commission is releasing a report laying bare racial and economic inequalities in the St. Louis region, and calling for change. Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio

Members of the Ferguson Commission, including co-chairman Starsky Wilson, second from right, listen at a recent hearing of the Ferguson Commission. After months of deliberation, the commission is releasing a report laying bare racial and economic inequalities in the St. Louis region, and calling for change.
Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio

Members of the Ferguson Commission, including co-chairman Starsky Wilson, second from right, listen at a recent hearing of the Ferguson Commission. After months of deliberation, the commission is releasing a report laying bare racial and economic inequalities in the St. Louis region, and calling for change.

When Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., last August, his death set off riots and violence — and posed deep questions about race relations in America. The Ferguson Commission, appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, was tasked with finding some answers.

The commission set out to examine racial and economic gaps through the St. Louis region, and come up with policy recommendations. In their final report, the commission provides an unvarnished look at how a racially divided St. Louis underserves the African-American community.

The report provides a host of recommendations to transform how the region polices and educates itself – and its most vulnerable citizens. And in many cases, the suggestions would require the backing of a state legislature that may well balk.

In all of this, Starsky Wilson, the co-chairman of the commission, knows he’s venturing into familiar territory.

A Long History Of Failed ‘Riot Commissions’

During the commission’s final meeting last week, Wilson, a St. Louis religious leader, talked about the work of political scientist Lindsey Lupo, who penned a book examining nearly one hundred years of “riot commissions” set up after American rebellion and unrest.

Many of these commissions failed, Lupo argued, because they failed to tackle latent racial tensions and systemic discrimination.

But Wilson and his fellow commission members are taking another path. Wilson looked to places like Cincinnati where residents dealt head-on with their community’s inequities — not just settling for “accommodation and quiet.” And the Commission’s final report, set to be publicly released today, pulls no punches about the underlying causes behind last year’s unrest.

“We have not moved beyond race,” the final report states.

Article continues:

http://www.npr.org/2015/09/14/440139685/ferguson-commission-shines-light-on-racially-divided-st-louis


 Illustration by Lincoln Agnew; Getty


Illustration by Lincoln Agnew; Getty

Before Bernie Sanders was the hot challenger to Hillary Clinton, before he was even an oddball Vermont congressman from Brooklyn, the proud socialist made a documentary film—and a long-playing record—about Eugene Victor Debs.

The 20th century’s most renowned American socialist, Debs has long been a hero to leftists and radicals of many persuasions. Numerous children were named after him; so were a radio station, a town in Minnesota and a couple of beers. In Sanders’ quaint, low-budget 1979 documentary, Eugene V. Debs—issued by the now-defunct American People’s Historical Society of 295½ Maple Street in Burlington—Debs is given the full Howard Zinn treatment, depicted as a fighter on behalf of exploited workers, a fearless critic of ruthless corporate power and a martyr to free speech.

With the insurgent Sanders showing no signs of flagging in the Democratic nomination race, his esteem for Debs—whose picture graces Sanders’ office wall in Washington—highlights the senator’s strong connection to America’s sometimes-forgotten socialist traditions. It remains unclear, though, what kind of impact we can ultimately expect a socialist like Sanders to have in an American election. While Debs clearly serves him as an inspiration, perhaps he should also function as a warning.

Article continues:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/09/bernie-sanders-socialism-eugene-v-debs-213093

Alabama’s Science Standards Get A Makeover – DAN CARSEN SEPTEMBER 10, 2015 2:33 PM ET


Evolution And Climate Change Are Under Debate

LA Johnson/NPR

Alabama schools are getting new science standards for the first time in a decade. The state Board of Education voted unanimously today to replace old standards that some teachers say were behind the times the moment they were approved.

As evidence, they point to their students’ biology textbooks, many of which currently come with warning stickers that call evolution “a controversial theory.” The state’s old science standards say students should “wrestle with the unresolved problems still faced” by evolution.

“You might not accept it, but that doesn’t change the fact,” says science teacher Ryan Reardon, who isn’t a fan of the old standards. “Talking about evolution in a classroom is controversial, but there is no controversy about how all the organisms on the planet are related to each other.”

Reardon teaches at Jefferson County International Baccalaureate, one of the nation’s best public schools. He also helps write textbooks, and he and other science educators say Alabama’s old standards were dated and thin on evolution. Not so the new standards, which call it “established scientific knowledge.”

“We were really pleased to see that,” says Minda Berbeco, program director for the National Center for Science Education. She praises the shift to what she calls “a really positive, pro-science perspective.”

She’s not alone. All of the nearly two dozen Alabama science teachers I heard from support these new standards.

But what about that other little science debate that’s been roiling the nation’s cultural waters for years, climate change?

“I just don’t think it’s taught,” says Reardon. One reason, he says, is that “climate science is not something that a typical Alabama science teacher is going to have had as part of their training.”

Berbeco says there’s another reason it isn’t taught widely. “We’ve certainly worked with plenty of teachers who are really concerned about pushback just for teaching the science.”

The three-year run-up to these new standards, though, has been oddly light on pushback. There are a few obvious reasons why. They have the official backing of the Alabama Science Teachers Association. Also, at public hearings where citizens could voice their concerns, the state required comments to be about specific standards. Critics couldn’t simply oppose the whole effort on principle.

One more possible reason for the lack of controversy: While the new standards have a little more on climate change, they still don’t say humans are a cause. On that count, Berbeco is diplomatic:

“You know, I always feel like standards could be even better, and they could incorporate more concepts and more ideas. But this is a great starting point.”

Perhaps the biggest change in the new standards comes in a third area — the “doing of science” itself. There’s more focus on hands-on exploration, unifying concepts like cause and effect or structure and function, and a favorite of Reardon’s: data analysis.

“I’m gonna let the data smack ’em in the face,” Reardon says of his students. “I’m gonna ask them what that suggests, and then I’m gonna ask ’em what the ramifications are.”

This may be the biggest selling point with teachers.

“So with the new standards, students are gonna be able to experience science and not just solely learn about it from a textbook, lecture or a worksheet,” said Alabama’s Teacher of the Year, Jennifer Brown, at a recent public hearing.

Educators hope the emphasis on process and thinking will help kids better grasp all subjects, politicized or not.