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By Bill Mears, CNN
Washington (CNN) - A deeply divided Supreme Court has limited use of a key provision in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, in effect invalidating federal enforcement over all or parts of 15 states with past history of voter discrimination.
The court said it is now up to congressional lawmakers to revise the law to meet constitutional scrutiny.
"Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to the current conditions," said Chief Justice John Roberts for the 5-4 conservative majority.
Section 4 of the law was struck down, the coverage formula used by the federal government to determine which states and counties are subject to continued oversight. Roberts said that formula from 1972 was outdated and unworkable.FULL STORY
by Dana Bash and Ted Barnett, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Washington (CNN) - A bipartisan amendment intended to increase Republican support for a Senate immigration bill would require 20,000 more border agents, completing a 700-mile fence on the frontier with Mexico and taking other steps before undocumented immigrants can get green cards, conservative Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday.
The proposal, negotiated by a group of senators from both parties known as the "Gang of Eight," also calls for deploying $3.2 billion in technology upgrades sought by the border patrol. Additionally, it seeks worker verification and border entry-exit controls before the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States can get full legal residency, according to the South Carolina Republican.
He noted it would take "a couple of years" to train and deploy the new agents in an expansion that would almost double the current force, and that the Department of Homeland Security would verify when the triggers for improved border security had been met to begin issuing green cards.
Graham, one of the four Republicans in the "Gang of Eight" that put together the compromise bill, also said the measure would include increased fees and other mechanisms to pay for the cost expected to exceed $20 billion.
Other GOP members of the "Gang of Eight" said they supported the plan.FULL STORY
By Paul Steinhauser, CNN
Washington (CNN) – While a small majority of Americans are in favor of the immigration bill currently before the U.S. Senate, according to a new national poll the old and young don't see eye to eye on the issue.
And a CNN/ORC International survey also indicates that more than six in ten say border security rather than a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants should be the bigger priority.
The poll's Tuesday morning release comes as a bill backed by the bipartisan 'Gang of Eight' senators faces more legislative hurdles. The measure would offer a 13-year path to eventual citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country. If the legislation passes through the Democratic Senate, it would face an uncertain future in the Republican dominated House of Representatives.
According to the poll, 51% say they support a bill that would attempt to increase border security and create a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants, with 45% saying they are opposed to such a measure.Read the full post on CNN's Political Ticker blog
By Ted Barrett, CNN Senior Congressional Producer
(CNN) - The Senate is to vote later Tuesday to begin debate on immigration reform, an emotionally charged proposal with huge political stakes that may never get through Congress despite years of negotiation and major compromise.
It aims to create a 13-year path to citizenship for most of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants, a bipartisan proposal hammered out by the so-called "Gang of Eight" senators this spring that has the backing of President Barack Obama.
Polls show many Americans also favor some form of immigration policy overhaul, depending on the details of legislation.
GOP leaders have signaled their support for starting debate, so a procedural motion aimed at doing so is expected to receive the 60 votes necessary to take that next step even if the fate of the legislation is uncertain.
Obama and congressional Democrats are anxious to fulfill a long-delayed pledge to Latino voters to pass reforms to the troubled immigration system. Passage could pay political dividends for their party for many years.
Republicans are in a more difficult bind.
Latinos backed Obama over Mitt Romney by a 44-point margin in November and GOP strategists are concerned about the party's long term viability in national elections if that trend is not reversed.
Some congressional conservatives say opposing the "Gang of Eight" plan is a matter of principle and they won't bend. They remain skeptical about any measure offering a path to citizenship. A lot of them consider it amnesty.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) - Former Wyoming Sen. Al Simpson knows a thing or two about passing landmark immigration reform. My friend and former graduate school professor did it in 1986 with the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which he co-authored with former Rep. Romano Mazzoli.
Simpson knows that the endeavor is not for the faint of heart, or the thin-skinned or the easily disillusioned. It means navigating one of the wackiest and wickedest debates in our public discourse. The immigration debate, he likes to say, is filled with "emotion, fear, guilt and racism."
It is no wonder that most lawmakers won't go anywhere near the immigration issue. For those who grab the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground, things can get frustrating.
So began the education of Marco Rubio. The Florida senator is the de-facto leader of the Gang of Eight, the bipartisan group of senators pushing for immigration reform. Rubio has become the face of immigration reform. He is the most articulate advocate and the game's most valuable player in large part because he is charged with rounding up Republican votes.
Meanwhile, if Rubio were to withdraw support for the bill, it wouldn't just be a game changer. It would be game over.FULL STORY
by Alicia W. Stewart, CNN In America Editor
(CNN) - It's not often that we toot our own horn, so please allow us a moment.
In America's race, identity and politics series won second place in the Series/Project category from the Society for Features Journalism 25th annual Excellence in Feature Writing Contest.
Moni Basu, John Blake, Jen Christensen and Todd Leopold wrote stories that explored race, identity and politics ahead of the 2012 presidential election.
Read their award-winning pieces:
The optics of politics: Seeing campaigns through a multicultural kaleidoscope
Last white House Democratic congressman in the Deep South fights for political survival
Civil rights icon fighting for change one registered voter at a time
Parallels to country's racist past haunt age of Obama
We are honored for the recognition and so grateful to our readers: Thank you.
See the full list of winners here.
By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
Washington (CNN) - The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill on Tuesday, sending the measure to the Senate floor for consideration and giving the bill's backers their first major legislative victory.
Members of the Democratic-controlled panel voted 13-5 in favor of the measure.
If enacted, the plan would constitute the first overhaul of the nation's immigration policy since 1986.
"The dysfunction in our current immigration system affects all of us and it is long past time for reform. I hope that our history, our values, and our decency can inspire us finally to take action," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said.
Spectators cramming the committee room applauded and cheered loudly following the vote.
The panel's 10 Democrats were joined in supporting the bill by three Republicans: Arizona's Jeff Flake, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, and Utah's Orrin Hatch. Flake and Graham are two of its four Republican authors.
Both party leaders in the Senate appeared supportive of the effort, a positive sign for backers hoping to win a solid majority in the full chamber.FULL STORY
By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
Washington (CNN) - Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform won their first major legislative victory this week when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to approve the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" plan.
If enacted, the measure will create a 13-year path to citizenship for most of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants.
It aims to strengthen border security while raising the cap on visas for high-skilled workers and establishing a new visa program for low-skilled workers on America's farms and elsewhere.
Here are five key things to know about the state of play on this issue:
1) There's still a long way to go
The Judiciary Committee's 13-5 vote was significant partly because three Republicans - Arizona's Jeff Flake, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, and Utah's Orrin Hatch - joined the panel's Democrats in backing the measure. Now, however, attention turns to the full Senate, where the level of GOP support remains an open question.
Assuming every member of the Democratic caucus backs the bill, five Republicans will be needed to ensure it receives the 60 votes needed to pass the 100-member chamber. The bill's backers have been hoping for as many as 70 votes, in order to give the proposal significant bipartisan momentum heading into the tougher GOP-controlled House.
And make no mistake - serious momentum will be needed in the House, where conservatives remain deeply skeptical about any measure offering a path to citizenship. A lot of conservatives consider that to be amnesty, which may as well be a four-letter word in this debate.FULL STORY
By Alex Castellanos, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - The images still inspire. Children sitting on their parents' shoulders amid a sea of American flags, fluttering on a cool Chicago night. A young black woman running to get as close as possible to the stage.
On November 4, 2008, Grant Park absorbed the world's focus: Barack Obama was elected president of the United States.
His victory speech stopped the Earth from spinning, if only for an evening, and drew the world's attention to an America where anything was again possible. Obama's victory energized a pulsing crowd of a hundred-thousand, their dream deferred no longer. Journalist Lois Wille called it "a great big huge happy evening" that would perhaps "wipe the memory" of a more divided America away.
Still, the podium was wrapped in bulletproof glass. Chicago charged all its 13,500 police officers with protecting America's great hope. It sent firefighters home wearing their uniforms so they would be ready to respond. We were not sure the promise and possibility of that moment was shared by every American. Yet that clear night, we celebrated the peaceful transition of power and the dawn of a different day.
This is a good country, full of good and great people, dedicated to an extraordinary American promise, our commitment to equal opportunity for everyone. That evening, even the most hardened partisan hearts could feel it. Our country had taken a step forward in racial relations, a big step, something that spoke of what our nation might yet become. A good nation had become an even better one, where the scars of some old wounds had healed and the pain of intense divisions, though not forgotten, had receded farther into memory.
Now the world is stopped no longer. How did we get from that America to this?FULL STORY
By Kevin Liptak, CNN
(CNN) - The way the military has prosecuted sexual assaults within its ranks is deplorable, two congresswomen who have served in the armed forces said Sunday, calling for a new system for reporting those kinds of crimes.
Reps. Tammy Duckworth and Tulsi Gabbard, both Democrats, said last week’s report indicating a 30% rise in the number of service members anonymously reporting sexual assaults was an indication the military’s leadership has failed in its duty to protect members of the armed forces.
“I want the military to be a place where women can succeed and thrive the way I was able to. And the military leadership at this point has shown that they have not been capable of fixing this problem,” said Duckworth, who represents Illinois and is an Iraq War veteran.