The Supreme Court has dominated most aspects of the news in America in recent weeks. While forest fires continue to threaten the country's wildlife, it is the decisions that a group of nine unelected judges have made, and whether they should have the power to make them, which is attracting the most coverage.
The Supreme Court last week upheld President Obama's healthcare plan, commonly known as Obamacare, in what many are calling the most signifcant indicator of the incumbent's first term. The decision ignited a fierce political debate of its own but it was the court's previous decision, on Arizona's controversial US immigration law which has continued to fuel debates far beyond the reach of politics, even appearing on the cover of Time magazine and featuring as the main focus of an episode of Aaron Sorkin's HBO show Newsroom.
The debate over the constitutionality, the fairness and the actual enforcement of SB 1070 is expected to roll on for the forseeable future but its effect on the upcoming presidential election, as well as its influence on other states dealing with immigration problems, is already being seen.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has kept his silence on his US immigration policies, refusing to comment any further on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the most controversial part of Arizona's tough immigration law, SB 1070...read more.
The American State Department has defended the decision to grant Hani Nour Eldin, a recently elected Egyptian politician, a US visa amid concerns he has ties to the organisation Gamaa Islamiyya, which both the US and the EU classify as a terrorist organisation...read more.
After the Supreme Court's ruling which struck down three provisions in Arizona's controversial US immigration law, SB 1070, but upheld the most controversial, other states are moving forward with their own, SB 1070 inspired, laws...read more.
Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez has voiced his opposition to Arizona's controversial US immigration law by openly mocking the 'show me your papers' provision upheld by the Supreme Court this week in the House of Representatives...read more.
Playboy model Shera Bechard has been granted a US visa under a category reserved for 'individuals with extraordinary ability'...read more
Romney remains quiet on SB 1070
Mitt Romney's immigration stance
needs to be precariously balanced.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has kept his silence on his US immigration policies, refusing to comment any further on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the most controversial part of Arizona's tough immigration law, SB 1070.
The Supreme Court handed down its judgement this week, stating that while the state does not have power to overrule the federal government in writing their own US immigration laws but upheld the state's enforcement officers' right to verify an individual's immigration status during a lawful stop or arrest.
The ruling has ignited a ferocious political debate with politicians and activists from across the political spectrum claiming a victory and promising further legal challenges. However, Mr Romney's response has been guarded at best.
"I believe that each state has the duty, and the right, to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities," said the former governor of Massachusetts after the court's ruling.
Mr Romney faces a tough proposition when it comes to immigration; the hard line he trod during the primary may have endeared him to the Republican Party's conservative base but it hurt his standing among Hispanic voters who have vested interests in the country's attitudes toward illegal immigration.
Mr Romney refused to state whether he supported the law, instead opting to criticise President Obama without stating his own plan to tackle immigration.
"As a candidate Obama, he promised to present an immigration plan during his first year in office. But four years later we are still waiting."
The response has naturally frustrated analysts and journalists alike, as well as Hispanic Republicans.
"I'm getting increasingly frustrated as Republican Hispanic, not seeing him engage," said strategist Ana Navarro. "Telling us that Obama is not enough. He's got to tell us that he's good and what his plan is."
Mr Romney has avoided reporters on the issue since; during a flight between campaign stops, Mr Romney remained in the front of the plane and instead sent an aide to answer journalists' questions.
Despite being questioned on the matter a total of 16 times, Romney aide Rick Gorka repeatedly reiterated the candidate's non-committal responses.
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State Department defends Egyptian ‘terrorist’ US visa
The decision to grant a US visa
to the Egyptian politician has
proved most controversial.
The American State Department has defended the decision to grant Hani Nour Eldin, a recently elected Egyptian politician, a US visa amid concerns he has ties to the organisation Gamaa Islamiyya, which both the US and the EU classify as a terrorist organisation.
Eldin was granted a US visa so he could form part of a delegation of newly elected Egyptian politicians who met with American officials last week.
However, the decision to grant a member of Gamaa Islamiyya has attracted the ire of the House Committee on Homeland Security who has demanded answers on how Eldin's application was processed.
"The nature of Eldin's visit suggests an absence of full vetting rather than a policy choice, or perhaps a breakdown in the screening missions of and coordination among our federal agencies," said Representative Peter King who heads the committee.
Gamaa Islamiyya has been responsible for a number of terrorist attacks, including the 1997 Luxor massacre in which 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed.
However, Victoria Nuland, a spokesperson for the State Department said major political changes were occurring in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring and the US needs to cooperate with politicians from its allies but that due process was not sacrificed in this case.
"We neither had then, nor do we have now, any reason to believe that this particular individual, who at the time of his application was a member of parliament, would post a threat to the United States," said Ms Nuland.
"It's a new day in Egypt; it's a new day in a lot of countries across the Middle East and North Africa. So new political personalities are coming to light.
"We have more folks who want to come here, want to know us, want to learn about the United States, want to develop relationships with us. We have the same interest with regard to them."
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States move forward with tough US immigration laws
Several states are now moving
forward with their own US
After the Supreme Court's ruling which struck down three provisions in Arizona's controversial US immigration law, SB 1070, but upheld the most controversial, other states are moving forward with their own, SB 1070 inspired, laws.
The Supreme Court upheld the controversial 'show me your papers' provision in SB 1070 which permits law enforcement officers to ascertain an individual's immigration status during a routine stop.
The political debate the ruling ignited looks set to continue for some time yet but in the meantime, other states have begun progressing with introducing their own tough US immigration laws.
Georgia, Utah, Indiana, South Carolina and Alabama, the latter's law, HB 56 is considered even tougher than SB 1070, have all introduced similar laws to Arizona and are currently the subject to similar lawsuits.
However, while the outcome of the lawsuits is awaited and lawmakers are optimistic in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling, the laws are beginning to be implemented.
A specially trained staff in South Carolina, known as the Immigration Enforcement Unit, with its own marked cars and uniforms is preparing to be deployed and the 'show me your papers' provision is ready to be enforced.
Not only are states moving forward with their laws, Kris Kobach, author of both SB 1070 and HB 56, says the Supreme Court's ruling has opened up the possibility of other states such as Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Mississippi introducing their own laws.
"When the state legislatures start up again next year, you will probably see those bills introduced," said Mr Kobach.
Almost all of the laws are subject to legal challenge, either by the Obama administration, immigration advocates or both who claim the laws promote racial profiling.
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Civil rights activist mocks Arizona’s US immigration law
Representative Gutierrez is
known for his oratory skills.
Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez has voiced his opposition to Arizona's controversial US immigration law by openly mocking the 'show me your papers' provision upheld by the Supreme Court this week in the House of Representatives.
The Supreme Court this week struck down three out of the four provisions in SB 1070, the controversial US immigration law which opponents say encourages racial profiling. However, the court upheld the provision known as 'show me your papers' which permits law enforcement officials to ascertain an individual's immigration status during a lawful stop or arrest.
Rep Gutierrez of Illinois, a noted civil rights activist, derided the law in the House yesterday by playing a game he called 'pick the immigrant'. Using pictures of famous journalists, sports stars and even Supreme Court justices, Rep. Gutierrez demonstrated the difficulty Arizona's law enforcement officials face in identifying illegal immigrants during traffic stops and arrests.
Rep. Gutierrez used pictures of broadcasters Geraldo Riviera and Ted Koppel (Mr Riviera was born in Brooklyn, Mr Koppel in the UK), basketball players Jeremy Lin and Tony Parker (Lin was born in Los Angeles, Parker was born in Belgium and raised in France) and Supreme Court justices Sonya Sotomayor and Antonin Scalia (both are US citizens but Justice Scalia is the child of Italian immigrants while Justice Sotomayor is descended from generations of Puerto Rican US citizens) to demonstrate his point.
But it was Rep Gutierrez's use of teen pop couple Justin Bieber and Selina Gomez which has proved most popular. Bieber, a Canadian is often mistaken for an American while Ms Gomez, a Texan, is frequently presumed to be from Central or South America.
"I'm sure Justin helped Gomez learn all about American customs and feel more at home in her adopted country," said Rep. Gutierrez. "Oh wait a minute, I'm sorry; because I'm not a trained Arizona official, I somehow got that backwards.
"Actually, Miss Gomez of Texas has helped Mr Bieber of Canada learn about his adopted country.
"Justin, when you perform in Phoenix, remember to bring your papers."
Rep. Gutierrez concluded his mockery of the provision by deriding the law itself.
"The idea that any government official can determine who belongs in America and who doesn't simply by looking at them is completely ridiculous, unfair and un-American, and yet this absurdity is the law of Arizona."
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Playboy model granted ‘genius’ US visa
Playmate Shera Bechard was
granted a 'genius' US visa.
Playboy model Shera Bechard has been granted a US visa under a category reserved for 'individuals with extraordinary ability'.
The Canadian born 26-year-old who has also dated Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, 86, was granted a US visa in the O-1 category, usually deemed a 'genius visa'. The United Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines the O-1 visa as inteded for either
- Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry)
- Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry
While Ms Bechard may not appear to fit into either of those categories, Los Angeles based US immigration lawyer Chris Wright argued that the playmate's achievements, which include being crowned Miss November 2010, make her eligible for the highly selective category.
"There's nothing in those regulations that requires you to be a genius," said Mr Wright.
"It's quite condescending to say 'oh, the idiot Playboy playmates, they don't qualify'."
Ms Bechard said her role in the 2009 movie Sweet Karma, which won her a best actress award at the Texas-based Fantastic Film Festival had added weight to er application.
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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau.
©Visa Bureau 2003-2013