Editor's note: Angela M. Kelley is vice president for immigration policy and advocacy at the Center for American Progress, a progressive research and policy institute.
(CNN) - Working diligently for over four months, a bipartisan group of senators - the so-called Gang of Eight - has accomplished a remarkable feat: They have produced an immigration bill that is pragmatic, creative and forward looking. The bill, introduced early Wednesday, is - like any big piece of legislation - a compromise.
Stakeholders will find parts they love and parts they loathe.
First, the parts to love: The senators have largely navigated a dizzyingly complex arena - U.S. immigration policy - in ways that while not perfect, would substantially improve the dysfunctional status quo.
Among other things, the bill would bring the nation's 11.1 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and put them on a road to citizenship. It would increase and streamline border security, mandate a national employment verification system and eliminate the visa backlogs that have caused decades-long family separations. And it would promote economic competitiveness by revamping employment-based immigration so that business can bring in needed workers while still protecting the wages and jobs of American workers.
It is a remarkable starting point but with several crucial missed opportunities.FULL STORY
By Ben Brumfield, CNN
(CNN) - The border with Mexico must be secure.
This requirement is the cornerstone of an immigration reform bill a bipartisan group of senators are to file on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. There will be no path to legal residency for migrants without it.
Undocumented immigrants may also not reach the status of fully legal residents under the proposed legislation, until the Department of Homeland Security has implemented measures to prevent "unauthorized workers from obtaining employment in the United States."
The bill drafted by the "Gang of Eight" senators stipulates that the security of "high risk border sectors along the Southern border" must be verified, before most undocumented immigrants can access pathways to legal residency laid out in the proposed legislation.
The bill makes exceptions for those eligible for the DREAM Act, law-abiding immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors and completed high school in the country. It also includes allowances for certain agricultural laborers.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.
By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
San Diego (CNN) - Every gang needs a leader. And what has become undeniably clear in recent days is that the de facto leader of the Gang of Eight is Marco Rubio.
The Florida lawmaker, and potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, appeared on seven Sunday talk shows, discussing - in English and Spanish - the specifics of a comprehensive immigration reform bill that he hammered out with three other Senate Republicans and four Senate Democrats. The legislation is expected to be formally unveiled on Tuesday.
This means that, by Wednesday, just about everyone will be angry. Conservatives will declare the provisions of the bill too lenient, while Hispanics will condemn them as too punitive. Welcome to the immigration debate.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Adriana Leon (Aguilar) is the lead plaintiff in Aguilar v. ICE, a case brought by LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Winston and Strawn LLP against the Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency for its armed raids into Latino homes.
By Adriana Leon, Special to CNN
(CNN) - In the cold, predawn hours of February 20, 2007, shortly after 4 a.m., armed men stormed into the home I owned with my family and burst into my bedroom, shouting at me to show my hands.
My husband had left for work, and our 4-year-old son began to cry with fright. I stumbled out of bed in my nightclothes to the family living area, terrified and confused. Two armed men were coming upstairs from our basement, having searched it without permission, and others were demanding that we tell them the location of my ex-husband, with whom I had not lived for several years. As I had reported to the immigration service on my daughters' citizenship applications, I had been remarried for four years.
The men acted as if they had the right to be in our home, but we knew to ask questions: Who were they? Did they have a warrant? They refused to identify themselves or show a warrant, and they put their hands on their guns when we tried to move.
They interrogated my 12-year-old daughter and ordered my brother, a U.S. citizen since he was a teenager, to produce his papers. That's when I realized the men were U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. When they left, they threatened to return.FULL STORY
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - At 7, Analouisa Valencia was crowned Palmetto Princess in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She relished it - and like a lot of little girls, she dreamed of becoming Miss America one day.
In a few months, Valencia, now 19, will take the stage for the Miss South Carolina contest, hoping for victory and a chance to compete for the coveted national title.
But she's no ordinary contestant. She will mark a first in her conservative home state.
Valencia's father is from Mexico; her mother, an African-American. Valencia came out as a lesbian when she was in the ninth grade and took her girlfriend Tamyra Bell to her high school prom.
She was already shredding stereotypes of beauty pageants because she's biracial. But a lesbian beauty pageant contestant from South Carolina?
"I just really wanted to be an advocate for equality for everyone this year," she says on the phone before heading off to classes at Spartanburg Community College. She eventually wants to earn a business degree at the University of South Carolina.
Her participation in the Miss South Carolina contest is in part a human rights campaign: she is promoting rights for people with special needs (she coaches Special Olympics gymnasts), for racial minorities, for gay people.
She has already thought about her answers if the judges question her on this score. She will be perfectly open and honest about who she is, about their opinions.
"I want to show the judges who I really am," she says. "I want to show them how passionate I am about my platform, how passionate I am for being an advocate for equality."
South Carolina ranks low nationally on LGBT rights. It bans same-sex marriage, does not afford employment, housing or hate-crime protections for LGBT people and has unconstitutional sodomy laws still on the books.
For Valencia to make a run for Miss South Carolina is "courageous," says Ryan Wilson, the executive director of the South Carolina Equality Coalition, a statewide LGBT civil rights group.
"I think it takes a lot of courage for any young person to live openly and authentically. We are extremely proud of Analouisa," Wilson says.
He says beauty pageant contestants can be stereotyped, but they can often afford young women a chance to show leadership.
"She can be a role model for LGBT youth," Wilson says.
There hasn't been negative feedback, Valencia says. So far.
But she's prepared to cope with ugliness if it surfaces. For the time being, she's enjoying her title of Miss Lyman, her hometown just a few miles from Spartanburg.
She's been taking voice lessons every Friday. At the Miss South Carolina pageant in July, she will sing Leona Lewis' "Footprints in the Sand." She's confident she will make an impression.
(CNN) - Randi Kaye reports on the international custody battle over Elián González 13 years ago, and what's happened since then.
By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
Washington (CNN) - Last November, Hispanic voters planted the seeds for serious immigration reform when they backed President Barack Obama by a record margin.
This April, we'll see if those seeds can grow in Capitol Hill's toxic partisan soil.
Congress returns from spring break Monday, and immigration reform tops the agenda. The Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" is preparing to release its long-awaited plan for resolving the status of 11 million undocumented men, women, and children now living in America's shadows.
Can a unique confluence of factors - a Democratic president trying to build his legacy, a Republican Party grappling with new demographic realities - overcome the usual strong bias for inaction in a sharply divided Congress? The answer remains unclear.FULL STORY
By Michael Martinez and Mariano Castillo, CNN
Los Angeles (CNN) - Jonathan Larios hears it all the time: Someone walks into his Honduran restaurant and they think it's a Mexican place.
"Oh, I hate that. That bothers me a lot," said Larios, 21, general manager of two Los Angeles-area restaurants called Honduras Kitchen. "They always ask, 'How's the Mexican food?' It gets frustrating over time.
"It's like the most race that people always see is black, Mexican and American. They don't see anything else," said Larios, whose mother is Honduran and father Salvadoran.
His first-hand experience shows that some Americans confuse all Hispanics as being Mexicans. While it's true that Mexicans make up the largest segment of the Hispanic population in the United States, a new Brown University study that shows Latinos are hardly a monolithic group.
The demographic has wide differences in nationalities that are becoming more salient, the study said.
"When studies are done of Hispanics, the results mostly reflect the experience of Mexicans, who are more than 60% of the total," the study says. "But observers would be mistaken if they thought they knew Hispanics in the U.S. by looking only at Mexicans."
By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN
(CNN) - On Monday, President Barack Obama nominated Thomas E. Perez, an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department of Dominican origin, to be the next secretary of the Labor Department. He will replace Hilda Solis, the nation's first Latina Cabinet member, who resigned in January.
Supporters say it is a step in the right direction for the Latino community, and they hope it sets a precedent.
“This move is significant because there has been at least one [Latino or Latina] in the president’s Cabinet since Ronald Reagan’s years,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. “What’s even more significant is that it's not somebody who is Mexican-American, Puerto Rican or Cuban-American as in previous years.”
In 2010, there were an estimated 1.5 million Hispanics of Dominican origin residing in the United States, comprising 3.0% of the U.S. Hispanic population.
Perez is the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with French-speaking Haiti. He was the first lawyer in his family. Speaking in English and Spanish, Perez spoke about his upbringing at Monday's announcement.