Saturday, November 7, 2009
Immigration Judge Noel Brennan on the pages of the Fordham Law Review offers her thoughts on the need for pro bono representation of noncitizens. The NYC immigration court, she reports, "is an extremely busy court. My twenty-four immigration judge (IJ) colleagues and I each have approximately 1000 cases on our respective dockets."
UC Davis Law Student Janet Kim reminds us of the continuing problem of "unaccompanied immigrant children" migrating to the United States:
Unaccompanied juvenile immigrants come to the United States from a number of dire situations ranging from civil war and forced labor to the sex trade and forced soldier recruitment, to severe poverty. Children arrive in the U.S. without guardians or parents, perhaps after having been separated from family during the migration, or sent by their family. The average age of an unaccompanied minor is fifteen years old. Since 2001, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the number of unauthorized, accompanied and unaccompanied, juvenile apprehensions exceeded 86,000 annually. See Haddal, Chad C, Unaccompanied Alien Children: Policies and Issues (Congressional Research Service 2007). Approximately 4 of 5 of these children are Mexican nationals, a majority of who are voluntarily returned. Approximately 85% of unaccompanied minors in Office of Refugee Removal (ORR) custody are from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. See id. at 28.
The United States is one of the few remaining countries in the world that continues to detain children. In 2002, INS had 500 youths in its custody each day, but due to limited detention space, many are sent to juvenile centers or even adult jails. See Michael Welch, Detained: Immigration Laws and Expanding I.N.S. Jail Complex 20 (2002). Human rights organizations have harshly criticized U.S. policy for detaining children. Most other countries follow the guidelines of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that suggest child welfare programs as alternatives to incarceration. See Carolyn J. Seugling, Toward a Comprehensive Response to the Transnational Migration of Unaccompanied Minors in the United States, 37 Vand. J. Transnat'l L. 861, 870 (2004). The fight for these children culminated into the Flores v. Reno settlement agreement in 1996 that established the first uniform standards for the care and treatment of immigrant minors in government custody. See Flores Settlement Agreement, Flores v. Reno, Case No. CV 85-4544-RJK (C.D. Cal. 1996). However, since the agreement from 13 years ago, there have been persistent violations of its provisions. These violations include unnecessary and excessive secure confinement of children, commingling of non-delinquent juveniles with delinquent juveniles, denying children adequate education, and failing to provide adequate explanation of legal proceedings to the children.
The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a worldwide effort to mandate general standards of care for children. See Lara Yoder Nafziger, Protection or Persecution?: The Detention of Unaccompanied Immigrant Children in the United States, 28 Hamline J. Pub. L. & Pol’y 357, 377 (2006). The CRC addresses the need for the State to protect children from “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation.” United National Convention on the Rights of the Child, G.A. Res. 44/25, U.N. Doc. A/RES/44/25 (Nov. 20, 1989). The CRC provides specific guidelines for the detention of child. Only after six years of the establishment of the CRC, the United States signed the agreement, however, the United States has yet to ratify the Convention. See Carolyn J. Seugling, Toward a Comprehensive Response to the Transnational Migration of Unaccompanied Minors in the United States, 37 Vand. J. Transnat'l L. 861, 894 (2004). If the U.S. government ratified the Convention, these guidelines would likely improve the conditions and decrease the number of youth in immigration detention.
Josh Gerstein of Politico.com reports on how the Supreme Court "is forcing the Obama administration to wrestle with the limits of states’ authority to enforce immigration laws — and also is throwing an uncomfortable spotlight on Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano." On Monday, the Court asked the the Solicitor General (former HLS dean Elena Kegan) to offer the views of the United States in a case challenging an Arizona law that requires employers to verify the immigration status of potential employees. As governor of Arizona, Napolitano signed the bill into law in 2007. "Napolitano has stated that she believes the law is constitutional, but business groups and immigration reform advocates generally in President Barack Obama’s camp are asking the Supreme Court to strike down the statute."
The case is U.S. Chamber of Commerce v. Candelaria. The issues in the case are
whether an Arizona statute that imposes sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized aliens is invalid under a federal statute that expressly “preempt[s] any State or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ, or recruit or refer for a fee for employment, unauthorized aliens”;
whether the Arizona statute, which requires all employers to participate in a federal electronic employment verification system, is preempted by a federal law that specifically makes that system voluntary;
whether the Arizona statute is impliedly preempted because it undermines the “comprehensive scheme” that Congress created to regulate the employment of aliens.
It will be interesting to see how the Obama administration finesses this matter. State and local immigration ordinances have sprouted up across the country, often fomented by anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican sentiment. We are likely to see more legal challenges like Candalaria percolate in the courts in the near future.
Friday, November 6, 2009
As details of the terrible tragedy at Fort Hood and we mourn thesenselessloss of life and injury, we need to remind people that they should not react to this by blaming the horrific actions of one man, who happens to be Muslim American, on the many Muslim Americans who condemn the violence.
This is critical to avoid acts of hate, prejudice and discrimination that we know from history can follow such an incident. Anti-Muslim/Middle Eastern hate crimes in Los Angeles County shot up 2000% after the September 11th attacks in 2001. Nationally, there was a sharp increase in incidents of hate and discrimination against those Americans who looked Muslim. Most of them occurred in the 3 weeks immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
We call upon our leaders - in government, in faith communities, in business and in community and civic organizations - to speak out on this to prevent acts of prejudice and hatred against innocent Americans solely because of their appearance or religious beliefs. Let us not compound the tragic violence at Fort Hood with more tragedy, victimizing innocent people based on stereotypes and prejudice. We need law enforcement leaders to stand with Americans of the Muslim faith, with Sikhs, and other vulnerable groups, to make it clear that scapegoating will not be tolerated in our communities. We need teachers and leaders in schools, faith communities, civic and business organizations of all types to engage with their respective stakeholders and members on this issue, and to discourage the bigotry and stereotyping against innocent fellow Americans that so easily emerge during these times of high emotion.
L.A. County Human Relations Commission
See also, Bill Ong Hing, Vigilante Racism: The De-Americanization of Immigrant America, 7 MICH. J. OF RACE AND L. 441 (2002).
National Council for La Raza (NCLR) has designed a student-friendly resource handbook to help undocumented students better prepare for postsecondary education options and, in particular, a college degree. The guide presents information on state-level initiatives which offer in-state tuition to undocumented students as well as information on the “Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.” In addition, students will learn about college requirements, means of fundraising for college, and academic and extracurricular activities which pave the way to college. To read the guide, click here.
A hateful e-mail floating around the internet:
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Symposium:
San Francisco’s Role in Shaping National Immigration Policy
November 9, 2009
5:30- 8:00 p.m.
State Building, Milton Marks Auditorium
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, California
SYMPOSIUM DESCRIPTION: The purpose of this Symposium is for the Immigrant Rights Commission to hear from national experts on comprehensive immigration reform and obtain guidance on how local governments, commissions and community organizations can weigh in on the issues. This symposium serves as the Commission’s monthly meeting for November 2009. A five-member expert panel will (a) contextualize the immigration policy debate and discuss prospects for passage of immigration reform by Congress; (b) summarize the main issues of new proposed reform bill(s); and (c) provide recommendations to the Immigrant Rights Commission on how San Francisco can best impact immigration policy. Three community members will relate their immigration experiences at the end of the panel discussion.
Panelist include: Mary Giovagnoli, Executive Director of the Immigration Policy Center, Cynthia Avitia of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren's office, Nellie Reyes, an immigrant rights activist, and Bill Hing, UC Davis Law Professor
George Mason University Study Shows Deep Anti-Immigration Sentiment in Pockets of Prince William County
Prince William County's response to immigration and immigrants have been a frequent subject of postings on Immigrationprof. Now, a press release has announced the release of a study by George Mason University researchers finding that a majority of residents in two Manassas neighborhoods express deep-seated anti-immigrant sentiments, though fewer than half say immigration has affected them personally. The survey, which included life history interviews, was conducted from Spring 2008 to Summer 2009 to attain an in-depth understanding of the forces inciting a local movement to adopt legislation to "crackdown" on illegal immigration in Prince William County. Forty-six percent of those surveyed indicated that immigration had had either no effect on them personally or has had a positive effect. A total of 79 percent stated that they like their neighborhoods and 56.9 percent said that they planned to stay in their neighborhood in the next 5 years. Yet, 53 percent of residents in the Weems and Sumner Lakes neighborhoods surveyed stated that the U.S. should take decisive action to deport illegal immigrants, and/or blamed them for depleting local resources such as health care and education. Some expressed strong anti-immigrant sentiments as indicated by the statements: “The place is being barraged with Latinos…Everywhere you go, there are swarms of them,” and, “Can I send them on a bus and load it up until they all speak English?” Others were more moderate in their sentiments, citing the issue of immigrants having entered the country illegally as a key concern.
The study has not yet been released. Stay tuned and we will post a link when it is.
UC Davis law student Janet Kim prepared this preview of Padilla v. Kentucky, a case recently argued before the U.S. Supreme Court:
Facts and History: Petition Jose Padilla is a legal permanent resident from Honduras and has lived in the United States for approximately 40 years. In 2001, he was indicted by a Kentucky grand jury on three counts of drug offenses and one tax-related crime. Upon advice from his defense attorney, he entered a guilty plea for the three drug charges so that the tax offense was dropped. His attorney advised him that his guilty plea would have no effect on his immigration status, despite the fact that these convictions are "aggravated felonies" under the Immigration & Nationality Act, which trigger mandatory deportation. Padilla filed for post-conviction relief arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment. The Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed Mr. Padilla's conviction and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing. On appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, the court held mandatory deportation is a collateral consequence, thereby outside the scope of the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel. On February 23, 2009, the United Stated Supreme Court granted certiorari.
1. Whether providing effective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment requires defense attorneys to research and advise noncitizen defendant about the possible immigration consequences that may result from entering a guilty plea.
2. Whether affirmatively misadvising the defendant of immigration consequences warrants a claim to ineffective assistance of counsel and setting aside the guilty plea.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees effective assistance of counsel for criminal defenses. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), set forth a two-prong test illustrates what constitutes ineffective assistance. First, the defendant must prove his or her counsel’s performance fell below objective standard of reasonableness. This standard of reasonableness is evaluated by “prevailing professional norms.” Next, there must be a reasonable probability that if counsel had performed adequately, the results would have been different.
Oral Argument Review
Representing Petitioner Jose Padilla, Stephen Kinnaird argued that the test for misadvice depends on whether the misrepresentation was material in the defendant’s decision to plead guilty. When the Justices pressured him to draw a line for what types of collateral consequences “count and those that don’t”, Mr. Kinnaird replied that the Stickland two-part test would resolve these situations. The Justices questioned whether courts would also be held to the same standard as defense attorneys to counsel on severe consequences, which Mr. Kinnaird was persistently answered “no.”
Assistant Attorney General Robert Long and Michael Dreeben for the United States asserted that collateral consequences are not protected to under the Sixth Amendment. However, Mr. Long admitted that all affirmative misadvice, collateral or not, constitutes deficient representation under the Stickland test. Justice Alito presented a hypothetical under which a defense attorney affirmatively misadvises a defendant and discourages her from obtaining competent advice from an immigration attorney. Even in this situation, Mr. Long answered that the defendant would have no relief under the Sixth Amendment.
In the rebuttal, Mr. Kinnaird asserted the major points. First, Strickland had been applied to parole eligibility, so does not apply solely to trial consequences. Secondly, Brady is predicated on the assumption that the defendant receives competent advice from his or her attorney. Lastly, the misadvice rule has not overburdened the jurisdictions that have endorsed it.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
This first report titled Economic Progress via Legalization provides insight into the socioeconomic improvement of immigrants legalized in the 1980's under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). The findings presented in this report support the notion that legalization of unauthorized immigrants can play a role in promoting economic growth and lessening socioeconomic disparities. It was produced by Rob Paral and Associates.
The second is a perspectives piece titled Back to the Future: The Impact of Legalization Then and Now by economist Sherrie A. Kossoudji, Ph.D. This thought piece is an overview of the many years of research she has conducted on the link between legal status in the United States and economic outcomes.
The third publication, Earned Legalization: Repairing our Broken Immigration System, is the first in a series of solutions papers produced by the IPC to highlight the various aspects of a legalization program that must be part of comprehensive immigration reform.
To read the publications in their entirety see:
Economic Progress via Legalization (IPC Special Report, November 5, 2009)
Back to the Future: The Impact of Legalization Then and Now (IPC Perspectives, November 5, 2009)
Earned Legalization: Repairing our Broken Immigration System (IPC Focusing on the Solutions Series, November 5, 2009)
In a procedural vote on the Commerce-Justice-Science funding bill, the Senate blocked further consideration of the divisive Vitter-Bennett proposal that would have required the Census Bureau to add to the 2010 Census a question on whether or not the respondent is a U.S. citizen in order to only count citizens when new House districts are reapportioned.
Besides the extra $1 billion it would have cost to include the question and reprint the surveys so close to the April 2010 Census, the Vitter-Bennett amendment was politically divisive and would have disenfranchised millions of people—naturalized citizens and immigrants—who are entitled to be counted under our system of government, including for the purpose of dividing up the population into congressional districts.
“Instead of beginning a serious and intelligent discussion about how to deal with immigration reform, some lawmakers are intent on demonizing immigrants and destroying the integrity of the census process. It's ugly political gamesmanship at the expense of all Americans,” said Angela M. Kelley, Vice President for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress.
“The Constitution is clear that all persons are to be counted. We expect that this vote has ended the debate [on the amendment] once and for all,” Kelley said.
Grassroots Effort to Oust Lou Dobbs Now 100,000 Strong
Latino leaders and their allies who are part of BastaDobbs.com vow to continue online campaign putting pressure on CNN to drop Dobbs
NEW YORK – BastaDobbs.com, a national, Latino-led coalition of organizations calling on CNN to fire Lou Dobbs for spreading misinformation and fear about immigrants and Latinos, announced today that 100,000 people have joined them in demanding that Dobbs be dismissed from the network.
The milestone comes less than two months after the bilingual multi-media campaign launched in mid-September, including a viral YouTube video and radio PSAs that drove text-message sign-ups. It also follows a series of events in 18 cities, organized in conjunction with the Oct. 21-22 premiere of the CNN special Latino in America. The events and the campaign have garnered significant press coverage in both Spanish-language and mainstream media.
“Our campaign continues to gain momentum and our message to John Klein and CNN is clear: We aren’t going away until Lou Dobbs is gone from the network,” said Roberto Lovato, co-founder of Presente.org, a national online advocacy organization coordinating the BastaDobbs.com campaign in conjunction with more than 40 local and regional Latino organizations from across the country. “Our community is committed to making sure CNN knows that they can’t court Latino viewers while still allowing Dobbs to use its network to vilify us.”
The BastaDobbs.com petition to CNN President Jon Klein can be viewed here:
Coffee House TV has an informative interview by Professor Angela Davis (American) of Tom Perez, the newly confirmed Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Justice. Perez inherits a Division that was highly politicized under the Bush Administration. Perez is talking to offices throughout the agency to listen to career prosecutors and to enforce all laws, not just the ones that a particular administration favors ideologically. The focuses of the Division under his leadership will the 2010 Census, reapportionmentand ensuring the enforcement of Voting Rights Act, holding predatory lenders accountable, and protecting victims of hate crimes.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona have formalized an agreement to develop a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant Enhanced Tribal Card (ETC)—signed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Assistant Commissioner Thomas S. Winkowski and Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona Chairperson Ned Norris, Jr. The ETC verifies tribal citizenship and identity for the purpose of entering the United States by land or sea—enhancing safety and security of U.S. borders while facilitating legitimate travel and trade. "Today’s agreement reflects Secretary Napolitano’s commitment to close coordination with tribal partners across the United States on security initiatives and underscores the mutual commitment of DHS and the Tohono O’odham Nation to enhance border security and combat threats of terrorism and transnational crime through secure identification."
There are over 28,000 enrolled citizens of the Tohono O’odham Nation. The Nation’s lands contain 75 miles of the international border in south-western Arizona and extend into Mexico, covering an area the size of Connecticut.
DHS is working with a number of tribes on similar agreements.
Susan J. Cohen, who chairs the immigration section at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo in Boston, has turned to folk music to help her process some of those hard-to-forget immigration cases. "She recently released In Time, a self-produced CD in which she shares some of her work experiences through music." For the full ABA Journal story, click here.
The Wonk Room: Four Lessons That Should Stop Vulnerable Democrats From Cowering Away From Immigration Reform
The conventional wisdom is that Democrats -- especially in highly contested districts and states -- will duck-and-cover on immigration reform in an election year. That is why some fear that immigration reform will be extremely difficult in 2010, with the midterm Congressional elections. Borrowing from a Robert Creamer post on the Huffington Post, the Wonk Room offers "Four Lessons That Should Stop Vulnerable Democrats From Cowering Away From Immigration Reform." The lessons seem sensible enough but will Democrats have the courage to push hard on immigration reform? Or will they cower? Time will tell.
New Immigration Article: Of Hope and Humility: Christian Realism, Immigration Reform and Executive Leadership
Here is the latest immigration law article from the Social Science Research Network (www.ssrn.com) :
"Of Hope and Humility: Christian Realism, Immigration Reform and Executive Leadership" Penn State Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-2009 VICTOR C. ROMERO, The Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law. ABSTRACT: Drawing upon President Barack Obama’s admiration of Reinhold Niebuhr’s work, this Essay outlines a Protestant, Christian realist approach toward immigration policy, with specific focus on the role of the executive in providing providential leadership. Embracing realism in its political, moral, and theological dimensions, Christian realism offers a pragmatic, yet optimistic, alternative to secular liberalism’s faith in reason by striving instead to adhere to God’s guidance on matters, taking into account the fundamentally flawed nature of man. The specific policy prescriptions described here mirror the twin virtues of Christian realism by promoting the hope in pursuit of the peaceable kingdom and the humility to acknowledge the fallibility of man in crafting the less-than-perfect, penultimate answer. Opportunities for exercising effective executive leadership will be discussed, from negotiating the proper role of states and localities to the promotion of comprehensive immigration reform, preferring immigrant integration to stringent law enforcement as the better means to further hospitality to the stranger.
BLOGGER'S NOTE: Romero's work is always worth reading. This article is especially interesting because it offers a religious look at immigration through a Protestant, not Catholic (or liberation theology), lens as much of the other scholarship in this genre does.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The nomination of Postville prosecutor Stephanie Rose as U.S. Attorney in Iowa continues to provoke opposition. The Friends of Justice: Urges senate committee to vote no on Rose issued the following press release:
"Accountability or Promotion for Federal Postville Prosecutor?
The nomination of Stephanie Rose to be the new United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa is just plain wrong. It has been reported that the Senate Judicial Committee will vote on her nomination on Thursday, November 5, 2009. As Deputy Criminal Chief, Stephanie Rose helped execute the unprecedented use of expedited trials and exploding plea agreements to convict 306 undocumented workers at the Postville. At the time of the Postville Prosecutions, Rose was not a low ranking member of the office but was in a leadership position as third in charge in the office for criminal prosecutions. Earlier this year, Stephanie Rose was asked about her role at Postville. Even in hindsight, she defended the raid and prosecutions saying “executing the massive operation required amazing effort and a ton of good work.
” Dr. Erik Camayd-Frexias makes a compelling case for a D.O.J. investigation of the Postville Prosecutions and raises important questions regarding Stephanie Rose’s role in the Postville Prosecutions. (See attachment) Previously he wrote a very strong OP-ED published in the Des Moines Register (May 28, 2009). ( See below) The American Immigration Lawyers Association made a similar statement earlier this year. American Immigration Lawyers Association officer David Leopold also has raised serious questions about Stephanie Rose’s nomination. (See below.)
No organization has spoken out more clearly and forcefully regarding the egregious Postville Prosecutions that ACLU. The May 4th statement Iowa ACLU Executive Director Ben Stone praising the Supreme Court ruling in Flores-Figueroa v. United States characterized the Postville prosecutions perfectly: “the critical and novel element that sets Postville apart from prior ICE Raids was the pre-planned and massive prosecution of immigrant workers for allegedly using false documents to work.”
The ACLU statement submitted in July 2008 to the U.S House of Representatives Committee looking into the Postville matter was a damning summation of the many due process violations present in the Postville prosecutions. It is far past time to get to the bottom of who is responsible for the Postville Prosecutions and hold them accountable. We cannot allow these due process violations to happen in our country and then be brushed under the rug. ( See http://tinyurl.com/lq66be)
The actions of the federal employees who organized and executed the Postville worksite raid and prosecutions were taken on behalf of the people of the United States. Collectively, the Postville raid and prosecutions were arguably the most important cases ever to be handled by the Northern District of Iowa United States Attorney Office. All Assistant United States Attorneys who played a role in the prosecutions were acting as officers of the court sworn to uphold high ethical and legal standards. As in all potential criminal cases stemming from a federal or state investigation, each Assistant United States Attorney had a responsibility to carefully review and scrutinize the investigation and potential prosecution to determine whether were are any ethical or constitutional due process problems present.
So one year later, what has happened to those responsible? Have the federal prosecutors who executed the mass “fast track” prosecutions learned from their mistakes or been held accountable? To date no one has been held accountable for the due process and civil liberties violations of that occurred in Postville prosecutions. In fact, the federal prosecutors who executed the prosecutions consider it a success story. The Northern District of Iowa United States Attorney Office was so pleased with the brutal efficiency of the Postville prosecutions that a press release was issued boasting about arraigning, pleading, and sentencing a record number of defendants in one day.
We find it impossible to understand what grounds Ms Rose and her colleagues had for choosing to exercise their prosecutorial discretion in this case with such aggression and lack of respect for due process, other than the requirements of their own ambition. They brought the full force of the USA office to bear on the most vulnerable members of a community with full knowledge that the U.S. Department of Labor was conducting an ongoing investigation of child- labor and wage violations at the plant where these same workers were being victimized. All of these workers were laboring in one of our most physically demanding industries, meatpacking-- an industry that historically has relied on immigrants. The workers were doing nothing more than striving to support themselves and their families. Rather than treat them with dignity, Ms Rose and her colleagues chose to grind them down further. They took advantage of the workers’ lack of resources, limited rights, and lack of powerful friends.
Even if that were not the case, Ms Rose and her team helped in expending vast resources to no useful end - a massive raid, the arrest hundreds of people, negotiated pleas, all done with cattle-call trials in cattle-ground trailers, and jailed hundreds of people for five months each, after which they were deported. Why did they bother? The workers were deportable anyway and the same end could have been achieved without all of the shameful pageantry. That, of course, would not have given Ms. Rose and her colleagues the chance to splash themselves all over the headlines and build their statistics. Postville was a massive failure on many levels, not the least of which was a failure of prosecutorial judgment. The fact that Ms Rose played a “central role” in this travesty is very disturbing. Her role in Postville should render her unfit to be a viable candidate to serve as a USA in the Obama Administration.
A vote for Stephanie Rose is a vote to endorse the Postville ICE Raid Prosecutions.
We urge a no vote!
Friends of Justice"
Alexander Bolton writes for The Hill:
Vulnerable House and Senate Democrats want their leaders to skip the party’s controversial legislative agenda for next year to help save their seats in Congress.
In the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections, they don’t want to be forced to vote on climate change, immigration reform and gays in the military, which they say should be set aside so Congress can focus on jobs and the economy.
“It’s hard; the most important issue in front of us is the economy right now, and that’s where most of us really want to stay focused, the economy and jobs, that’s what our constituency is concerned about,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), who is facing a tough race next year in Arkansas.
Rep. Bob Etheridge (D), a centrist contemplating a run for Senate in North Carolina, helped Democratic leaders in the summer by voting for climate change legislation on the House floor.
He now wants Democratic leaders to narrow their focus on jobs and the economy.
“Three things ought to be the top priority: jobs, jobs and jobs,” he said.
Lincoln said that lawmakers should focus on passing healthcare reform and wait until next year to effect financial regulatory reform and reduce unemployment.
“That’s an awful lot to bite off and chew for right now,” said Lincoln, who described herself as “not in a hurry” to tackle climate change, an issue she has some jurisdiction over as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D), who is running for reelection in conservative-leaning Indiana, said “jobs should be our top priority and we shouldn’t do anything that detracts from that,” echoing a sentiment of many colleagues in similar positions.
Bayh said he recognizes that Congress should be able to “walk and chew gum at the same time and hopefully do more than one thing,” but that controversial issues will become especially difficult next year.
Climate change legislation would be “difficult to accomplish under the best of times and doubly so when the economy is not at all good,” Bayh said.
But he did not fault his leaders for setting such an ambitious agenda, saying that “if at the end of the day [losing reelection] is your only concern, you should probably find another line of work.”
Climate change is only one of several lightning-rod issues Democratic leaders may ask their vulnerable colleagues to vote on next year.
They must also tackle the tricky issue of extending or repealing the tax cuts passed under former President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003. If they extend popular tax cuts, such as the marriage tax cut, the child tax credit and reductions to the estate tax, lawmakers must decide whether to pay for it with spending cuts (or other tax increases).
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), vice chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference, still wants to take up immigration reform next year. He told reporters. Click here for the full story.