By Sudip Bhattacharya, CNN
Washington (CNN) – It should have been a happy day for Raymond Jose: He had been accepted to college, with scholarships to help pay for it.
But when he told his parents, his mother started to cry.
"I was puzzled why she was crying after hearing such great news," said Jose, who was to attend Montgomery College in Maryland. "That was when she started to explain to me we were undocumented, that we had overstayed our tourist visas."
Jose's family had come to the United States from the Philippines in 2000, when Jose was 9. They first lived in the Tampa Bay, Florida, area but moved four years later to Maryland.
Jose had been assimilated into American life and culture and didn't know that he was undocumented until that day. When he found out, he was heartbroken. His undocumented status prevented him from using scholarship money to help pay for school.
Every day after that, it was really hard to get out of bed," Jose said.
The debate over immigration reform has been focused on border security and immigrants from Latin America.
But the Asian population in the U.S. grew by more than 40% between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of those identifying themselves as Asians, either alone or in combination with another racial group, grew from 11.9 million to 17.3 million.
Of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., 1.3 million are from Asia, according to the Department of Homeland Security.FULL STORY
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 Alexander Mooney, CNN White House Producer
(CNN) – Seeking to ignite congressional movement on immigration reform, President Obama said Monday he expects the Senate to take significant action on the issue next month.
"I expect a bill to be put forward. I expect the debate to begin next month. I want to sign that bill into law as soon as possible," Obama said at a naturalization ceremony at the White House.
"We are making progress, but we've got to finish the job," Obama said.FULL STORY
By Halimah Abdullah, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Republican K. Carl Smith is African-American and he knows that the GOP's racial reckoning won't come from 100-page reports from party headquarters with carefully worded prescriptions about "outreach" to "demographic partners."
Instead, the type of sea change needed to shake the GOP's image as a party of old, white and culturally-insulated men will require the type of profound grassroots shakeup that might make some in the GOP uneasy.
"You got your establishment Republicans who want to keep things the same," said Smith, an Army veteran who grew up in Alabama during the Civil Rights era. "The status quo needs to go through some, I won't say diversity classes, but I'll say liberty classes and learn about helping people on the bottom of the ladder."
He said the party also has to deal with small but noisy elements that co-opt any message of inclusiveness if it wants to win the "propaganda battle."FULL STORY
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.
By Sarah LeTrent, CNN
(CNN) - Patrick Dati had reached his breaking point.
With a metal pin in his arm and Vicodin coursing through his veins, he picked up the phone to call his psychiatrist.
Dati had undergone surgery for a broken arm after his then-boyfriend allegedly threw him down the stairs when he tried to leave their home.
Now he sat on the phone with his doctor, explaining why he couldn't carry on, as he tried to overdose on painkillers.
The attempt to end his life, which landed him in a psychiatric ward for two days, resulted in part because he felt trapped in the abusive relationship and saw no way out.
"I couldn't let my boyfriend go because he wasn't allowing me to," Dati said.
Dati is one of an estimated 3.4% of adults who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, referred to as LGBT, in the United States. He's also one of a quarter of gay men in America who report having encountered intimate partner violence.
While Dati reached out to LGBT resources for help while he was ensnared in the abusive relationship, including the Center on Halsted Anti-Violence Project's 24-Hour crisis hot line in Chicago, many in his position find that help is hard to come by.
Now, thanks to new LGBT-inclusive language in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, signed into law this month, domestic violence victims like Dati will have access to many of the same abuse and trauma services as victims of heterosexual partner violence.FULL STORY
By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer
Washington (CNN) - Staffers in the voting rights section of the U.S. Justice Department - during both the Bush and Obama administrations - took political potshots at each other and often displayed a lack of professionalism, according to a report issued Tuesday.
The department's inspector general found camps within that office battled over priorities and cases for most of the past decade.
But the report found that there was "insufficient support for a conclusion that Civil Rights Division leadership in either the prior or current administration improperly refused to enforce the voting rights laws on behalf of any particular group of voters or that either administration used the enforcement of laws to seek improper partisan advantage."
The report covers a series of controversies during the years 2001 to 2011, when first George W. Bush, and then Barack Obama controlled the Justice Department.
The voting rights pot boiled over on November 4, 2008, when two members of the New Black Panther Party stood outside a polling station in Philadelphia dressed in boots and berets and carrying a nightstick. Civil charges for attempted intimidation were filed, but then dropped against three of four defendants.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.
By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor
San Diego (CNN) - Did you think the Republican Party had cornered the market on racism, nativism and ethnic demagoguery? If so, think again.
That is the GOP's modus operandi when it comes to the immigration issue. In an ugly trend that started in the Southwest in the 1990s but has now moved on to the South and Midwest, Republicans have learned to scare up votes by exploiting fear of changing demographics and the anxiety that many Americans have about an "invasion" of illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.
But this fear of foreigners has proven just effective enough that Democrats are now borrowing the GOP's playbook to advance their own causes.
Here's the difference: The voters who fear-mongering Democrats want to manipulate aren't so much afraid of what worries many conservatives - that immigrants are supposedly lowering our standard of living, changing the country's complexion and weakening our sense of national identity. They're more afraid that foreign workers - either here in the United States or even in their home countries - are going to take their jobs, lower wages, or prove so attractive to companies and factories that jobs go overseas.
In other words, the fears aren't cultural; they're economic. But the way that Democrats exploit those fears is still the same: racism, nativism and ethnic demagoguery.FULL STORY
By Michael Martinez, CNN
(CNN) - He has been declared America's "first gay president."
But President Barack Obama's evolution to that title hasn't been easy. His positions zig-zagged over almost two decades.
His advocacy of same-sex marriage began well before his White House years, tracing back to his early political service in Illinois. The effectiveness of his leadership, however, will be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court as it considers a California ban on same-sex marriage.
1996: While running for the Illinois Senate, Obama signs a questionnaire for a gay Chicago publication saying he favors legalizing same-sex marriages. He later wins the race.
1998: He alters course and answers "undecided" on same-sex marriage when questioned in another survey.
2003: In his campaign for the Illinois Senate, Obama says in a questionnaire that he is against repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law that states for federal purposes, marriage is defined as only between one man and one woman.
2004: When running for the U.S. Senate, he notes he is "a Christian" and that "marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman." He wins the race.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking with Grease." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.
(CNN) - On Tuesday, President Barack Obama was at the Capitol, joining leaders of Congress to dedicate a statue in honor of the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement," Alabama's Rosa Parks. About the same time, across the street at the Supreme Court, an Alabama lawyer was arguing that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act - the consequence and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement - was unnecessary and unconstitutional.
The irony lies not only in the timing or juxtaposition, but the institutions.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat when a white bus driver ordered her to move. Twelve years earlier, the same driver had grabbed her coat sleeve and pushed her off his bus for trying to enter through the front rather than the back door. This time he said, "Well, if you don't stand up, I'm going to have to call the police and have you arrested." She replied, "You may do that."
Her arrest led to a 381-day boycott of Montgomery buses by the black community. The boycott propelled the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to prominence as a civil rights leader. And the arrest of Parks and the boycott she inspired led to a civil law suit, Browder v. Gayle, in which the Supreme Court declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws requiring segregated buses unconstitutional.
It took Congress 10 years to catch up to the Supreme Court, when it passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Although Alabama's at it again with the new challenge, this time it seems the conservative majority of the Supreme Court wants to roll back the clock. Frank C. Ellis Jr., the attorney for plaintiff Shelby County, argues that Congress exceeded its authority in 2006 when it reauthorized Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years.FULL STORY