It’s not often that a newspaper can attack another state, pontificate on a hot-button national issue and deliver a targeted economic development pitch in one go.
That’s what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board did Tuesday with its open letter, “Hey, Mercedes, time to move to a more welcoming state.”
News surfaced this week that police in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, recently pulled over a man because of a problem with a tag on his rental car. The man, who was German, didn’t have handy what the state considers proper identification, so he was arrested under a provision of Alabama’s immigration law, which is considered the strictest in the land.
Turns out, the man was Detlev Hager, a 46-year-old Mercedes-Benz executive traveling on business. About 10,000 people in the region rely on the company for their livelihood, according to Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, which happens to be the state’s largest exporter.
Hager – one of 66 people charged with not having proper identification since October 1 – had his charges dropped after an associate tendered Hager's passport and German driver’s license, the Tuscaloosa News reported.
Not before the Post-Dispatch took its shot, though.
The Obama administration is deporting undocumented residents at a faster rate than that of any other president. Meanwhile, many southern states are pushing forward with their own immigration laws designed to achieve maximum deportation, as well.
In all, there is a national backlog of about 270,000 immigration cases. And that is a big problem for the courts, Atlanta immigration lawyer Charles Kuck says.
(Click the audio player to hear more on this story from CNN Radio's John Sepulvado)
“We’re actually seeing far more cases because of the tough laws at the state levels. So the cases are getting slower here,” Kuck said. “So cases that should take four, five (or) six months are taking one and a half to two and a half years to get adjudicated.”
A political debate isn't a good one without a few awkward and fiery moments. Tuesday night's Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas was certainly no exception. The candidates clashed over all kinds of hot button issues like taxes and health care. In today's Gotta Watch, we wanted to feature some of our best political debate smackdowns, starting with arguably the most heated exchange from the Vegas debate between Mitt Romney and Gov. Rick Perry.
Gloves come off – It's a really awkward exchange that includes a lot of yelling, bickering and even a condescending pat on the shoulder. Watch what ensues after Gov. Rick Perry accuses Mitt Romney of hiring illegal immigrants.
Nearly 400,000 people were deported from the United States in the past fiscal year, the largest number in the history of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the government announced Tuesday.
The year-end removal numbers "underscore the administration's focus on removing individuals ... that fall into priority areas" such as lawbreakers, threats to national security and repeat violators, the agency said in a news release.
Overall in fiscal year 2011, immigration officials said, 396,906 individuals were removed. Of these, 216,698, nearly 55%, had been convicted of felonies or misdemeanors. That's an 89 percent increase of criminals from three years ago, the enforcement agency said.FULL STORY
A federal appeals court has blocked enforcement of parts of a controversial immigration enforcement law in Alabama.
The injunction issued Friday from the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta came after the U.S. Justice Department - supported by a coalition of immigrant rights groups - requested the legislation, known as HB 56, be put on hold until the larger constitutional questions can be addressed, a process that could take some months at least.
The Obama administration argues the Constitution does not permit states to deter illegal immigration, saying an issue with foreign policy implications is the exclusive mandate of the federal government.
Alabama's law, passed by the legislature this summer, would allow state and local officials to check the immigration status of public school students; to detain suspected illegal aliens without bond; and make it a crime for immigrants who lack proper documents to conduct business with the state for things like driver's licenses.
Among selected provisions blocked from being enforced are:
– Section 10, requiring immigrants to carry an alien registration card;
– Section 28, allowing public school students to be questioned about their immigration status.
Among selected provisions Alabama will be allowed to enforce are:
– Section 30, blocking undocumented immigrants from entering into a "business transaction";
– Section 12, allowing local law enforcement to stop, detain or arrest upon reasonable suspicion anyone "unlawfully present" in the state
Presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry is taking heat from many in his own party for supporting a state policy giving in-state tuition rates to children of illegal immigrants.
But while this position may be seen as favorable for Latinos – a large majority of Texas’ illegal immigrants are Latino, with more than 60 percent of them hailing from Mexico alone, according to the Pew Hispanic Center – it hasn’t gained him much Latino support in his own state.
Almost two-thirds of Latino voters in Texas vote Democratic, and Latinos overwhelmingly vote against Perry, a Republican.
In a GOP presidential debate last month, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney criticized Perry for supporting Texas’ illegal-immigrant tuition policy. Perry responded this way: “If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state … by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart.”
After the debate, Perry fell from frontrunner status.
Undocumented immigrant students in California will be able to receive state-funded financial aid in 2013 to attend college under a new law signed Saturday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The law allows top students who are on a path to citizenship to apply and receive the state aid, the governor said.
About 2,500 students are projected to receive Cal Grants totaling $14.5 million, according to the California Department of Finance. That averages out to $5,800 per student.
The funding amounts to 1% of the overall $1.4 billion Cal Grant program, officials said.
The new law, AB 131, is one of two pieces of legislation known as the California Dream Act and will become effective January 1, 2013, officials said.FULL STORY
The Department of Homeland Security announced plans this week to review 300,000 pending deportation cases in federal immigration courts to determine which individuals meet specific criteria for removal and to focus on "our highest priorities."
That could be good news for some students who have been putting their illegal status out in the open in protests around the country. Such protests target immigration enforcement legislation or push for federal laws that would give illegal immigrants a path to become residents or citizens.
One such protest took place in Atlanta earlier this year when seven students, all undocumented, sat in the middle of a major road and blocked traffic.
"The civil disobedience we follow that from the civil rights movement," says Dulce Guerrero, 18, a recent high school graduate who ended up in a police van that day.
Guerrero and her friend Nataly Ibarra, 16, were drawn together by their choice to speak out about their illegal status despite serious consequences, including deportation.
Undocumented students like Guerrero and Ibarra, many of whom have lived in America since childhood, use the phrase, "coming out." Instead of "coming out of the closet," the phrase used in the gay rights movement, they say "coming out of the shadows.”
"It is rhetorically powerful because undocumented immigrants are supposed to be in the shadows. An illegal alien is someone who isn't supposed to be around, so to say that you are coming out of the shadows means that you are flaunting the whole idea of being illegal of not belonging,” said Dr. David Cisneros, a communications professor at Boston’s Northeastern University.
The Office of Homeland Security is signaling that it might be willing to give people like Ibarra a break by not prosecuting low priority cases. It's a move that could open the door for more illegal immigrants to come out.
Listen to the full story here:
The Department of Homeland Security is going to begin reviewing all 300,000 pending deportation cases in federal immigration courts to determine which individuals meet specific criteria for removal and to focus on "our highest priorities."
Officials say immigration court dockets are clogged, putting public safety in jeopardy, costing money, resources and time. They want to see DHS enforcement resources diverted from illegal immigrants who don't have criminal records to individuals who pose a threat to public safety and national security.
So what does all this mean for illegal immigrants and what are the "highest priorities?"
In a memo, director of U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement John Morton lays out what circumstances should be taken into account when it comes to prosecuting immigration cases.
Local leaders across the country were presented Tuesday with the results of a report that calls for the end of a controversial Department of Homeland Security program involving local officials in immigration enforcement.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement program, known as Secure Communities, seeks to find unauthorized immigrants who have criminal records and deport them. According to ICE, the program is a "simple and common sense" way to carry out its agency's priorities, which include the removal of those who pose a threat to the public or are repeat immigration offenders.
But the report, written by a coalition of community organizations under the umbrella of the National Community Advisory Committee, found that a large number of immigrants being deported were not criminals and that it distracts from local police work.FULL STORY
Richard Chavez, who dedicated more than three decades to the the farm worker movement, died Wednesday of complications from surgery in Bakersfield, California, the United Farm Workers union announced. He was 81.
The younger brother of UFW founder Cesar Chavez, Richard Chavez was the one who designed the black Aztec eagle that became the famous symbol for the organization.
The Chavez brothers grew up during the Depression outside of Yuma, Arizona, and when the family lost their farm, they became migrant farm workers in California fields, according to the UFW.
By the early 1960s, Richard Chavez began helping his brother create the foundation for the union, and by 1966 was working full-time for the movement, the UFW said on its website Wednesday.FULL STORY
Norwegian massacre suspect Anders Behring Breivik was "a little bit surprised" that he was able to pull off a bombing and shooting rampage in which he is accused of killing 76 people in total, his lawyer said Tuesday.
His client was surprised that his plan "succeeded - succeeded in his mind," attorney Geir Lippestad told a news conference, adding that Breivik had not expected he would reach Utoya island, where he is accused of shooting 68 people dead on Friday.
Lippestad said it was too early to say if Breivik will plead insanity. Asked if his client was insane, he responded: "Yes, he may be."
Lippestad said it was "very difficult" to describe Breivik's manner - "he is not like anyone."
Breivik says he was in touch with two terror cells in Norway and in contact with other cells abroad, his attorney said, but that he acted alone in carrying out the attack on Utoya and the bombing in Oslo, in which eight people died.
"He says there are several cells around the western world, where I do not know," Lippestad said. Breivik is cooperating with police inquiries, "but he won't talk about the other cells," he added.
His client considers himself to be "in a war," Lippestad said.
Breivik also used some kind of drugs before the attacks on Friday that were designed to keep him strong and awake, his attorney said.FULL STORY
The Casey Anthony trial continues in Florida, while the debate over Libya heats up on Capitol Hill. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of these developing stories.
Today's programming highlights...
8:30 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Testimony resumes in the trial of the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.
10:00 am ET - DREAM Act hearing - A Senate judiciary subcommittee holds a hearing on the DREAM Act, which would give students in the U.S. illegally a chance to remain in the country.
10:00 am ET - Libya war powers hearing - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on the controversy regarding U.S. involvement in the Libyan conflict.
A federal judge in Atlanta, Georgia, has blocked a controversial state law cracking down on illegal immigrants from taking effect until the broader legal issues are resolved.
Monday's order by Judge Thomas Thrash, which CNN has obtained, temporarily prevents enforcement of the law, which would penalize those who transport or harbor illegal immigrants.
The case is Georgia Latino Alliance v. Deal. The law, known as HB 87, was scheduled to go into effect Friday.
[Update 9:45 p.m. ET] - Turns out the New York Times only got the story after Jose Antonio Vargas' former employer, the Washington Post, turned it down. The Times, already set to go to print, "tore up the book" to get the story in, a Times blog post reports.
Jose Antonio Vargas has written many pieces that have put him in the spotlight - including ones on the Virginia Tech shooting that made him a Pulitzer Prize winner. But perhaps his biggest piece yet may be the one that could put him in the most precarious position - his New York Times Magazine piece in which he explains and documents his life as an illegal immigrant.
"I’m done running. I’m exhausted. I don’t want that life anymore," he writes in the personal essay. "So I’ve decided to come forward, own up to what I’ve done, and tell my story to the best of my recollection. I’ve reached out to former bosses and employers and apologized for misleading them — a mix of humiliation and liberation coming with each disclosure."
He acknowledges what happens now is up in the air - he could end up being deported.
"I don’t know what the consequences will be of telling my story," he writes.
The article has sparked a discussion online about the decision for someone to come forward so publicly and say they were an illegal immigrant.
"We were delighted to run the piece, which we believe is an extremely provocative and well-written piece of journalism," a spokeswoman for the New York Times told CNN.
Vargas is telling his story as he ramps up an effort with the advocacy group he founded called Define American, which says "It's time to have a real conversation about immigration in our country."
And perhaps there is no way more real to begin that conversation than with Vargas detailing his own story and struggles along the way.
Vargas, who came from the Philippines when he was 12-years-old, has spent most of his life flying under the radar: Using false documents and Social Security numbers to try to make it by. He even once gave the Secret Service an illegally obtained Social Security number so he could attend a White House dinner.
Though he may be a Pulitzer Prize winner, his tale is similar to that of illegal immigrants of every stature in this country, one of living in fear of being found out at any time.
Tough new state immigration laws are striking fear in the hearts of illegal immigrants with American-born children.
“I worry about my children,” says one father of two young kids in Carrollton, Georgia. He didn't want to give his name, because he has no legal right to reside in the United States. “My kids were born here. What will happen with them? We don’t know, and that’s the fear we have.”
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed a "tough illegal immigration law" Thursday morning, his press office said.
The bill is considered by both supporters and critics to be among the toughest in the nation, even stricter than controversial laws in Arizona and Georgia.
Under the new law, public schools will be required to determine the citizenship and immigration status of enrolling students through sworn affidavits or birth certificates.
Authorities will also be required to detain a person who they believe is in the country illegally if the person cannot produce proof of residency when stopped "for any reason."
Alabama businesses will be required to use a database called E-Verify to look up the immigration status of new employees. The use of the database was recently endorsed after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a separate Arizona immigration law.
It will be illegal for Alabama residents to knowingly give a ride or transport an illegal immigrant or for a landlord to knowingly rent a property to an illegal immigrant.
Cecillia Wang, managing attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's immigrants rights project, called the bill "outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional" in an interview with The New York Times before Bentley signed it.FULL STORY
The State Department has apologized for a computer glitch that invalidated results for thousands who thought they were chosen in the most recent green card visa lottery.
Millions of people worldwide apply for the 50,000 permanent resident visas issued a year to relocate to the U.S.
A computer randomly picks would-be immigrants who then undergo interviews, background checks and medical exams before visas can be issued.
"Due to a computer programming problem, the results of the 2012 diversity lottery that were previously posted on this website have been voided," the State Department said in a statement Friday. "We regret any inconvenience this might have caused."
GM jobs: General Motors will announce Tuesday a plan to add or preserve 4,200 jobs, the Detroit Free Press reports, citing "people familiar with the planning."
Up to 2,000 of the jobs will be in the metro Detroit area, the paper reported, with many of those going to the plant that produces the Chevy Volt, GM's extended range electric car.
GM is now planning on building 25,000 Volts this year, up from an earlier estimate of 10,000, the Free Press reported. It is considering building 120,000 Volts a year beginning in 2012, the paper said.
Immigration speech: President Barack Obama heads to El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday to give a speech on the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president's speech is likely to highlight border security improvements and the economic costs stemming from a failure to change course. And senior administration officials said the speech will kick off a campaign-style effort to rally support for an overhaul.
Obama wants to create "a sense of urgency around the country that matches his sense of urgency," one administration official said.
Mississippi River flooding: The Mississippi River level stood at 47.8 feet in Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday evening and is expected to crest at 48 feet today, forecasters said.
The Mississippi is the highest it's been at Memphis since 1937, when it crested at 48.7 feet – 14.7 feet above flood stage. That flood killed 500 people and inundated 20 million acres of land, said Col. Vernie Reichling, the Army Corps of Engineers' Memphis District commander.