January 28th, 2013
08:20 PM ET

Boy Scouts reconsidering policy against gay membership

By Ashley Fantz, CNN

(CNN) - The Boy Scouts of America is considering changing its longstanding policy against allowing openly gay members, according to a news release from the organization.

The organization, which has 2.7 million members, is "potentially discussing" doing away with its national policy after months of protest, including hundreds of angry Eagle Scouts renouncing their hard-earned awards and mailing back their red-white-and-blue medals.

Many parents of Scouts across America found the national policy excluding gays confusing - and at odds with basic scouting ideals.

Social media were abuzz with outrage over the policy; gay men who used to be Scouts spoke out in first-person blogs. On her TV talk show, Ellen DeGeneres featured a California Scout who had been denied his Eagle rank because he is gay.

Members of the organization's national board are expected to bring up the issue at a regularly scheduled biannual meeting in February. Any change would be announced after that.

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Filed under: Sexual orientation • Who we are
January 28th, 2013
04:08 PM ET

Fast Facts: Immigration in the United States

By CNN Library

(CNN) - On Monday, a bipartisan group of senators announced a new immigration effort in Congress before a scheduled speech by President Barack Obama on immigration reform.

Here are facts on immigration, by the numbers:

- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained 409,849 undocumented immigrants in 2012.

- The estimated total number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. was 11.5 million in 2011.

- The number of people who obtained legal permanent resident status in 2011 was 1,062,040. The top 10 countries were Mexico, China, India, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Vietnam, South Korea, Haiti and Canada.

- 59% of undocumented immigrants are from Mexico (6.8 million). The other top countries are El Salvador (660,000), Guatemala (520,000), Honduras (380,000),  China (280,000), Philippines (270,000), India (240,000), South Korea (230,000), Ecuador (210,000)  and Vietnam (170,000).

- 2.8 million illegal immigrants reside in California, while 1.8 million live in Texas.

- In the first half of 2012, 41 legislatures enacted 114 bills and adopted 92 resolutions that address legal immigrants, migrant and seasonal workers, refugees or undocumented immigrants.

Asians, more than Latinos, are largest group of new arrivals in U.S.


2008: The Department of Homeland Security apprehends 792,000 foreign nationals - 88% of those were natives of Mexico. Immigration and Customs Enforcement apprehends 379,000 people.

2008: DHS removes 359,000 undocumented immigrants from the U.S., sending 69% of them to Mexico, 8% to Honduras and 7.7% to Guatemala.

2008: 811,000 illegals accept offers to return to their home countries without being forcibly removed.

2008: 97,100 criminals who are also undocumented immigrants are removed from the U.S. by DHS; 36% of those were convicted of drug-related crimes.

2009: The number of children born to at least one unauthorized immigrant parent is 350,000 - 8% of all U.S. births.

2010: Number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. labor force is 8 million - 5.2% of the labor force.

2010: 1.04 million people receive legal permanent resident status - 139,120 of them were born in Mexico, 70,863 in China and 58,173 were born in the Philippines.

2011: ICE removes 396,906 undocumented immigrants from the U.S. - 216,698 (nearly 55%) have been convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, the largest number in the agency's history.

April 23, 2012: The Pew Hispanic Center announces that the net migration from Mexico to the U.S. has stopped and possibly even reversed. They note that from 2005 to 2010, about 1.4 million Mexicans immigrated to the U.S. and about 1.4 million Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born children moved from the U.S. to Mexico.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Department of Homeland Security; National Conference of State Legislatures; Pew Hispanic Center; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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Filed under: Asian in America • Immigration • Latino in America • Politics • Who we are
Senators outline bipartisan immigration plan
January 28th, 2013
10:30 AM ET

Senators outline bipartisan immigration plan

By Political Unit, CNN

Washington (CNN) – A bipartisan group of senators plans to announce Monday an agreement on reforming the nation’s immigration system, which President Barack Obama has called a priority in his second term in office.

The eight lawmakers’ proposal includes provisions for a path to citizenship for immigrants already living in the United States, and guest worker and employment verification systems.

What's in the plan?

The proposal in the Senate and Obama’s trip Tuesday to Las Vegas, where he’ll press for immigration reform, signal the largest movement in years for major reforms to the county’s immigration system.

Aides say the president's Tuesday remarks will touch on the blueprint he's detailed in the past: improving border security, cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers, and creating a pathway to "earned" citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Those align closely with what the eight senators laid out in a framework of their legislation, though specific details have yet to be hammered out. According to the framework obtained by CNN, the lawmakers will push four “legislative pillars” containing mainly broad stroke measures:

Read the full post on CNN's Political Ticker blog
DREAMer's clout increases in immigration debate
DREAMers are some undocumented youth who would have benefitted from the DREAM Act.
January 26th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

DREAMer's clout increases in immigration debate

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

(CNN) - When Erika Andiola's mother and brother were detained by immigration agents this month, she jumped to action.

She summoned the help of undocumented youths like herself, known as DREAMers, and within hours, immigration officials were flooded with dozens of phone calls.

Andiola's mother and brother were released.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say the detention of the pair and their eventual release had nothing to do with Andiola's activism.

But that does not dampen her spirit. As far as she is concerned, the DREAMers snatched her mother from the brink of deportation.

"For us to get them to do that, it takes a lot of pressure," she said.

Her work, along with other DREAMers, has increasingly become a powerful voice shaping discussions on immigration reform, which President Obama has vowed to pass in his second term.

Dubbed DREAMers, their name is derived from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which, if passed,  would have granted some undocumented immigrant youth legal status in return for attending college or joining the military.

In 2009, DREAMers knocked on doors and begged for support of the DREAM Act, a bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for certain youth who came to the United States as children and live in the country illegally.

Today, the movement  is enjoying a certain amount of clout. FULL POST

U.S. Department of Education: Schools must provide sports for students with disabilities
New guidance from the U.S. education department says schools must provide sports for students with disabilities.
January 25th, 2013
02:00 PM ET

U.S. Department of Education: Schools must provide sports for students with disabilities

By Brad Lendon, CNN

(CNN) – Schools must give students with disabilities equal opportunities to participate in extracurricular athletics, including varsity sports, the U.S. Department of Education said Friday. And if existing sports don't meet the needs of those students, schools must create additional athletic programs.

Some advocates compared the move to Title IX, the 1972 amendment that mandated gender equity in education and sports programs at schools receiving federal funds. The department’s Office for Civil Rights pointed to a 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office that said disabled students were not getting equal opportunities to participate in sports, a right they were granted under the Rehabilitation Act, passed in 1973.

Denying disabled students’ participation meant that they “may not have equitable access to the health and social benefits” of playing sports, the education department said in a statement Friday.

“Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in the statement accompanying the guidelines.

Examples of the kinds of accommodations the department is seeking included offering a visual cue, along with a starter pistol, to allow deaf students to participate in track races or allowing a one-hand touch to end swimming races, rather than a two-hand touch, which would allow students with only one arm to participate.

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Filed under: Disabilities • Education • How we live • Where we live
January 25th, 2013
09:18 AM ET

Groups: NYC soda ban unfair to small, minority-owned businesses

By Jason Kessler, CNN

New York (CNN) - New York City's attempt to keep people from fattening up on sugary soft drinks, by banning some of them, would disproportionately hurt small, minority-owned businesses, according to the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation.

The two groups have filed a joint brief supporting a lawsuit by the American Beverage Association in which they say New York's unelected Board of Health overstepped its power in approving the ban the sale of sugary drinks bigger than 16 ounces in certain city venues.

Due to take effect in March, the ban is meant to combat obesity and encourage residents to live healthier lifestyles, according to the New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office. But many have decried the ban as a sign of the growing "nanny-state" and an unfair intrusion on personal freedom.

It was passed in September by the New York City Board of Health, following weeks of intense debate.

In their jointly-filed amicus brief, the NAACP New York State Conference and the Hispanic Federation repeatedly claim that small, minority-owned businesses will suffer from the ban while their much-larger competitors will get a pass.

The ban will "selectively and unfairly harm small and minority-owned businesses by discriminatorily preventing them from selling large 'sugary beverages' while allowing their large competitors such as 7-11 and grocery stores to carry the banned sugary beverages," according to the brief.

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Filed under: Black in America • Economy • Health • Latino in America • Where we live
Former troops say time has come for women in combat units
Marines Sgt. Sheena Adams, Lance Cpl. Kristi Baker and Navy Hospital Corpsman Shannon Crowley in Afghanistan in 2010.
January 24th, 2013
12:25 PM ET

Former troops say time has come for women in combat units

By Chelsea J. Carter and Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) - For women who have already seen combat, it is a decision that is well overdue. But for the skeptics, it is a setback that will damage the military.

The Pentagon's reported decision to lift the ban on women in combat units will take time to put into effect, but many former service members are lauding reports that the Defense Department will make the change soon.

"We have an all-volunteer force, and I think that this opens up a pool of folks who could serve in these positions," said Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost both legs and the use of one arm when her helicopter crew was shot down in 2004. "Any time that we've opened up our military to performance-based service ... we've benefited as a military. This is good for the nation."

The new policy will be implemented over the next three years, and some units may apply for exemptions, a senior defense official told CNN.

New Mexico governor takes aim at immigrant driver's licenses
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has said the law made the state a magnet for people from other states seeking a license.
January 24th, 2013
09:18 AM ET

New Mexico governor takes aim at immigrant driver's licenses

By Gustavo Valdes, CNN

(CNN) - New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said Wednesday that she plans a new push to repeal the state law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

Martinez, who has tried to get the law repealed twice before, described it as dangerous in a post on her official Facebook page.

"I am once again asking the legislature to repeal the law that gives driver's licenses to illegal immigrants," said Martinez, a Republican. "I am always willing to discuss this issue with legislators from both parties and explore ways to find common ground, but I believe the most effective solution is to simply repeal this dangerous law."

Her comments are the latest salvo in a nationwide debate over the controversial issue.

Some were hopeful that the nod toward compromise was a sign that her approach may have changed from past attempts to repeal the measure.

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Filed under: Immigration • Politics • Where we live
Military to open combat jobs to women
January 23rd, 2013
04:29 PM ET

Military to open combat jobs to women

By Chris Lawrence, with reporting from Barbara Starr, CNN

(CNN) –The U.S. military is ending its policy of excluding women from combat and will open combat jobs and direct combat units to female troops, CNN has learned. Multiple officials confirm to CNN that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make the announcement tomorrow and notify Congress of the planned change in policy.

“We will eliminate the policy of ‘no women in units that are tasked with direct combat,’” a senior defense official says.

But the officials caution that “not every position will open all at once on Thursday.” Once the policy is changed, the Department of Defense will enter what is being called an “assessment phase,” in which each branch of service will examine all of its jobs and units not currently integrated and then produce a timetable in which it can integrate them.

The Army and Marine Corps, especially, will be examining physical standards and gender-neutral accommodations within combat units. Every 90 days, the service chiefs will have to report back on their progress.

The move will be one of the last significant policy decisions made by Panetta, who is expected to leave in mid-February. It is not clear where former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the nominated replacement, stands, but officials say he has been apprised of Panetta's coming announcement.

“It will take awhile to work out the mechanics in s

Read the full post on CNN's Security Clearance blog
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Filed under: History • How we live • Military • Veterans • Women
Opinion: Latina 'Dear Abby' brought wit, wisdom, light
The author remembers advice columnist Dolores Prida, left, who died Sunday at age 69.
January 23rd, 2013
12:30 PM ET

Opinion: Latina 'Dear Abby' brought wit, wisdom, light

Editor's note: Sandra Guzmán is a journalist, blogger, media consultant, and author of, "The New Latina's Bible: The Modern Latina's Guide to Love, Spirituality, Family & La Vida." Find her at http://www.sandraguzman.com.

By Sandra Guzmán, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Imagine if Dear Abby had been a Cuban feminist living in New York's Spanish Harlem.

Imagine she was a lesbian with gravitas, an immigrant rights activist with spunk, sass and a wickedly mischievous sense of humor - and you have Dolores Prida, an advice columnist widely known and beloved in the Latino community.

She died this weekend, at 69, and her dignified and elegant persona, her significance in New York's theater world, its artistic community, Hispanic life, and journalism cannot be overstated, even if you've never heard of her.

An oldest of three children, Ms. Prida, who was born in a Cabairién, Cuba, came to New York City in 1961 with her siblings and parents, and before long worked in the theater.

She would go on to be a playwright, and among the most important plays she wrote was "Beautiful Señoritas," a searing exploration of the role of women in society. It was written two decades ago, but many of the issues that plagued women then, particularly immigrant women, are still being negotiated today: how to balance the desire for a meaningful career with being a mother and wife when you're stuck in traditional, strict, and suffocating gender roles.

She also taught classes at several colleges and wrote political columns for the New York Daily News and El Diario.

But it was in her role as the voice behind Latina magazine's advice column, Dolores Dice, (Dolores Says) where Ms. Prida's generous spirit, lyrical eloquence and playful wit would find its glory.

Read Sandy Guzmán's full column
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