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Upset With Obama, GOP Punishes Young Immigrants

A particularly cruel fate awaits the so-called DREAMers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. They grow up knowing no other country than the United States, and may even think they are American citizens, but one day they learn they are not — and that they are vulnerable to deportation. They learn that opportunities and rights available to their schoolmates — ones they themselves had counted on enjoying — are off limits to them.

They must live forever in the shadows.

And that’s exactly where a lot of Americans — including the dominant right wing of the Republican Party — want to keep them.

Witness the repugnant move by Missouri’s Republican-controlled legislature calculated to force certain DREAMers to drop out of college. These academically qualified, fee-paying students are allowed to attend state colleges without fear of deportation thanks to President Obama’s 2012 executive order, which made their presence in the U.S. lawful. They had been able to attend public colleges in Missouri at affordable in-state rates — until legislators tucked some extortionary language affecting tuition rates for these students into the preamble of the state’s higher education appropriations bill. Any institution that didn’t charge DREAMers foreign student tuition rates risked having funds in the appropriations bill yanked.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, signed the bill but maintains that the language isn’t legally binding because it didn’t go through the legislative process and is not in the bill’s text. Unfortunately, Missouri universities are complying. Letters are being issued to returning students, telling them of the change. They face a doubling or tripling of their tuition costs (depending on where they attend) as they enroll in the state’s universities and college’s this fall.

The University of Missouri system believes that 20 to 30 students currently enrolled across four campuses will be affected, but they expect the number to increase with incoming freshmen. Immigration attorneys think the number is far higher, saying that 40 such students are already enrolling at the university system’s Kansas City campus alone. And there are potentially far higher numbers of such students at community colleges and other schools.

The governor, the ACLU, immigration attorneys, high-school educators, and the state’s colleges and universities are all seeking ways to mitigate the damage.

A Facebook page and a GoFundMe account have been set up to raise the extra tuition fees these students will owe. Some students are being advised that they may need to transfer to state schools in Kansas because paying out-of-state rates there may still be cheaper paying foreign-student tuition rates in Missouri.

In fact, Kansas — renowned as ground zero of right-wing insanity — is one of about 20 states that charges in-state tuition for such students residing there. The Kansas Board of Regents has been among many strong voices protecting those students from similarly misguided attacks that pop up annually in Kansas.

There is little doubt that this sneak attack will be repeated by copycats in other states. After all, the Republican Party is locked in a death grip with anti-immigrant demagogues.

That’s a pity, because Republicans were once among these students’ greatest advocates. Sen. John McCain of Arizona was an early and prominent backer of the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. This bill, first introduced in 2001 and reintroduced numerous times since, would set up a multiphase process whereby people who came to this country illegally as kids — in other words, through no choice of their own — could apply for conditional residency and, after satisfying further qualifications, permanent residency.

Unfortunately, the students who would benefit have been political pawns for going on two decades. After Obama became president, erstwhile Republican supporters found reasons to withdraw their assent.

Disgusted with Congress’s stalling, Obama acted in 2012. He issued an executive order for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. About 665,000 immigrants (4,885 in Missouri ) have qualified so far for the temporary, renewable reprieve from the fear of deportation, but not all of them are seeking a higher education. Many are working. The immigrants have filled out paperwork, gone through checks to certify their character, met education requirements, been fingerprinted and photographed and paid fees.

That rankles the anti-immigrant firebrands of the GOP. So they lash out at a blameless, vulnerable class of immigrants.

But these young DREAMers, by virtue of what they have already overcome, are twice the men and women that the legislators who attack them can ever dream of becoming. And whatever the other obstacles thrown in their path, they will overcome.

(Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via email at msanchez@kcstar.com.)

Photo: Todd Dwyer via Flickr

More Anger, Action At Ferguson Commission Meeting

By David Hunn, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (TNS)

ST. LOUIS — Anger again overtook the Ferguson Commission, in its second meeting Monday night, with residents and protesters packing aisles of a school gymnasium and shouting down speakers.

“We’re tired of the bull crap!” yelled Anthony Levine, 46, from Florissant.

At its peak, attendance swelled to about 250, with protesters filling aisles, sides and the back of the gym at Mullanphy School in the city’s Shaw neighborhood – across the street from the memorial to VonDerritt Myers Jr., who was shot and killed this summer by a St. Louis police officer.

The meeting got off to a smooth start. The governor-appointed commissioners restructured the agenda this time, starting with a half-hour meet-and-greet, and then a half-hour of public testimony. Speakers were punctual and respectful.

But after about an hour, the commission asked St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson to the microphone. Boos rang out from the crowd almost instantly.

Dotson tried to give a prepared speech. But the room began to fill with protesters and residents frustrated with official responses to the recent string of police shootings. And they wouldn’t let Dotson talk.

“Man, your two minutes are up,” one yelled. “Get off the mic.”

At the same time, residents in attendance got frustrated with the outbursts.

“Well, technically this meeting is over,” said Acme Price, 82, a University City resident and a former Mullanphy School principal.

Price had been worried about outbursts. “If they’re going to create a success, the commission needs to be thrown out of these buildings,” he said earlier Monday. “They need to get a travel bus, like they’re going on vacation, and ring doorbells.”

One commissioner, local attorney Gabriel Gore, said he watched acquaintances leave, as the shouting continued.

Still, he said, it was only a handful of speakers talking over everyone. The rest of the meeting progressed about as it should, he said. And the next one, he predicted, would be even better.

Nixon announced the commission in October and its members in November. He asked them to address the “social and economic conditions” highlighted by months of protests surrounding the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, by Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white.

Nixon said the group would have three goals: to study the underlying causes of the unrest, to tap into expertise needed to address those concerns, and to make specific recommendations for “making the St. Louis region a stronger, fairer place for everyone to live.”

The commission opened its first meeting Dec. 1 inside a half-full gymnasium at the new community center in Ferguson. Fourteen of the 16 commissioners attended. The meeting was scheduled for five hours. But after three, some in the audience got frustrated that they hadn’t yet been given time to speak. Several jumped up to voice their opinions.

Monday’s meeting was even larger, perhaps double the attendance of the week prior. More gathered in the aisles and sides. More yelled.

Still, the commission also got more of the hard work done. After at least 50 residents and protesters left, mid-meeting, the commissioners broke the remaining 150 or so into three groups, where they hammered out common ground concerning police, use-of-force, racial-profiling and community relations, among other topics. That was the good, hard work, commissioners said.

“Citizens were talking to each other,” said co-chairman Rich McClure, after the meeting. “They were giving great feedback.

“I understand what leads,” he continued. “But that was an incredible time. Don’t lose that.”

As the meeting closed, co-chairman Starsky Wilson asked for 30 seconds of silence.

By then, the protesters had largely left. Residents were listening.

And the gymnasium at Mullanphy went silent, with hardly a cough, barely a murmur, for the first time that night.

The next meeting will be at 5 p.m. next Monday.

It will tackle predatory municipal court practices. The commission is seeking residents who have been victims themselves to speak at the meeting.

AFP Photo/Mladen Antonov

Missouri Governor Triples National Guard Presence In Ferguson

Ferguson (United States) (AFP) – The governor of the U.S. state of Missouri on Tuesday ordered hundreds more National Guard troops into the riot-hit town of Ferguson and said their role would be expanded in a bid to quell violence.

Looting erupted and businesses were set ablaze in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis, late Monday after a grand jury decided not to charge a white police officer who shot dead an unarmed black teen in August.

Governor Jay Nixon told reporters that a total of 2,200 National Guard troops would be deployed in the area Tuesday — triple the 700 who were on the streets when violence exploded the night before.

“Lives and property must be protected. This community deserves to have peace,” Nixon said.

“The Guard team will be positioned and ready to act at a moment’s notice if challenges arise.”

AFP Photo/Jewel Samad

 

 

Missouri Triples Waiting Period For Abortion As Both Sides Of Fight React

By Judy L. Thomas and Jason Hancock, The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In 30 days, Missouri’s abortion rules will rank among the most stringent in the country. On Thursday, that gave one side of the perennial debate much to cheer about and prompted the other to fret.

Abortion opponents spoke ecstatically, saying the new law would give women more time to reflect on a difficult decision. Abortion rights advocates called the action outrageous and degrading.

“We’re in shock,” said Jamie Tomek, president of Missouri National Organization for Women. “This is a slap in the face to women and their ability to make a judgment for what’s best for them and their family.”

The Missouri law will require a woman to wait 72 hours after an initial visit with an abortion provider before the procedure can happen. The law allows no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. That triples the current waiting period of 24 hours.

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the measure in July, but lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Legislature voted late Wednesday to override him.

The longer waiting period will be the second-most stringent in the country behind South Dakota, where the 72-hour wait can sometimes be longer because weekends and holidays are not included. The only other state with a 72-hour waiting period is Utah, but it allows exceptions for rape and incest and for girls 14 or younger.

Current Missouri law also requires that doctors provide women seeking an abortion with information about medical risks and alternatives and offer them the opportunity to have an ultrasound of the developing fetus.

The lack of an exception for victims of rape or incest in the new law was a hot topic Thursday.

During debate on the bill in May, Democrats in the Missouri Senate pushed for rape and incest exceptions. Their efforts were thwarted by the Republican majority, some of whom said it was wrong to devalue a life just because of the way it was conceived.

Nixon said the lack of such an exception led to his veto. He called the measure “extreme and disrespectful” and said it “demonstrates a callous disregard for women who find themselves in horrific circumstances.”

Lawmakers backing the measure said during Wednesday’s debate that it would give women added time to make a challenging decision.

“This bill is really an effort to balance the rights of the mother with the rights of the unborn child,” said Rep. Kevin Elmer, a Springfield-area Republican who sponsored the measure. “We are not denying the mother her rights, but simply asking her to give more thought before making a decision that she may later regret. I disagree with the governor that this is prolonging the suffering of victims of rape and incest. I will not diminish the lives that arise out of that. They deserve equal protection.”

Rep. Kathie Conway, a St. Charles Republican and a supporter of the bill, said it would not stop a woman from having an abortion.

“This is just giving them a choice,” she said. “They get a couple more days to think about the pregnancy, and it may change your mind or it might not.”

Critics say the extended waiting period represents an unconstitutional obstacle for women attempting to obtain a legal medical procedure. That’s especially true for low-income women, they argue, because the only Missouri facility that performs elective abortions is in St. Louis, meaning travel and hotel costs could prove daunting for those in rural areas.

Abortions are performed just across the Missouri state line in clinics in Overland Park and Granite City, Illinois.

“All it does is punish women, and in some cases, even imperil their health,” said Kathy Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation. Legislators “act like women are children and are not well informed about their own health and haven’t made a definitive decision when they head to the clinic for an appointment.”

Often, Spillar said, the women using the clinics are young, have lower incomes, and must take time off from minimum-wage or low-paying jobs.

“All this does is complicate things,” she said. Abortion opponents “love to say they’re just making sure women have considered all the options and it’s in the interest of women’s health. But these are just obstructions.”

Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said women who seek an abortion have already done a tremendous amount of reflection.

“We trust women’s decision-making capacity for what is right for their families and their lives,” McQuade said. “This is about demeaning and punishing women who make this choice and about limiting access.”

Currently, 26 states require a woman seeking an abortion to wait a specific amount of time — usually 24 hours — from when she receives counseling to when the procedure is performed.

Some of those allow counseling in the form of information sent ahead of time to the woman. The laws in 10 of those states effectively require the woman to make two separate trips to the clinic to obtain the procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization that supports the right to abortion.

Photo: World Can’t Wait via Flickr

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