GRIJALVA: STOP DEPORTATIONS NOW
With comprehensive immigration-reform legislation stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Raul Grijalva joined 27 other Democrats to urge President Barack Obama to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to all undocumented immigrants now in the United States.
Obama established the DACA program, which allows potential DREAM Act kids to be safe from prosecution and deportation, last year. But in a November speech at a fundraiser, he dismissed the idea of expanding the program in response to a heckler who demanded he stop deporting undocumented immigrants.
"What you need to know, when I'm speaking as president of the United States and I come to this community, is that if in fact I could solve all of these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so," Obama said. "But we're also a nation of laws. That's part of our tradition. ... So the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. What I'm proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic process to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve. But it won't be as easy as just shouting. It requires us lobbying and getting it done."
In a letter to Obama, Grijalva and his fellow Democrats said they "cannot continue to witness potential citizens in our districts go through the anguish of deportation when legalization could be just around the corner for them. We look to you to firmly contribute to advancing inclusion for immigrants by suspending deportations and expanding DACA."
"Every deportation of a father, a sister, or a neighbor tears at our social consciousness; every unnecessary raid and detention seriously threatens the fabric of civil liberties we swore to uphold," the letter reads. "We are talking about American families and American communities. Criminalizing American families or giving local law enforcement the responsibility to choose who stays and who goes, is not the right option."
The notion that Obama will cease deporting all undocumented people in the United States is farfetched. The Obama administration has actually set a record for deporting more than 385,000 people annually between 2009 and 2011, according to the Pew Research Center. The deportations were part of a strategy to show that the federal government was going to get tough on illegal immigration as a way of building support for comprehensive immigration reform.
But Obama could have rounded up and deported 10 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented people now in the U.S. and House Republicans would still complain that he was too soft on border enforcement, so the record number of deportations haven't really had an impact on the immigration debate.
Speaking of the immigration debate: While The Skinny remains skeptical that anything can get done once the 2014 midterms get all hot and heavy next year, some pundits are wondering if House Speaker John Boehner's recent hire of Rebecca Tallent suggests that Boehner is serious about finding a way to pass something.
Tallent has worked for Jim Kolbe, the Southern Arizona congressman who retired in 2006, and Sen. John McCain.
Tallent's most recent gig was working as director of immigration policy for the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Haley Barbour, former governor of Mississippi and co-chair of BPC's Immigration Task Force, said in a press release that Boehner "could not have chosen a better person to help House leadership develop effective immigration reform legislation."
"Our work at the Bipartisan Policy Center demonstrates that it's possible to develop immigration policy that addresses the interests of conservative Republicans, reform advocates and everyone in between," Barbour added. "Speaker Boehner's choice to hire Becky is affirmation of his strong desire to move legislation in 2014."
As we come to the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre at Newtown, Conn., support for restrictions on guns is falling in public polls.
A CNN/ORC poll released last week shows that support for making gun laws more strict dropped from 55 percent in January to 49 percent in November, while a Gallup survey shows that support for stricter gun laws has fallen from 58 percent right after the Sandy Hook shootings to 49 percent in October 2013.
But one bit of gun regulation passed the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives last week: A 10-year extension of the 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act, which bans guns that can't be spotted by metal detectors.
The bill passed the U.S. Senate earlier this week, but Sen. Chuck Schumer was unsuccessful in his effort to expand the legislation to prevent gun owners from using 3D printers to build plastic gun parts that could be used to bypass metal detectors.
PROUD DROPS OUT
It appears that former lawmaker Terri Proud is not headed back to the Arizona Legislature.
Proud, who was elected to one term in 2010, had said earlier this year she was interested in making a comeback in Legislative District 11, a GOP-leaning district that stretches from Oro Valley up to the town of Maricopa. But last week, she told The Skinny she was giving up on the idea of running again.
Part of the reason goes back to the $800,000 claim that Proud has filed against the state following her dismissal from a job the Department of Veteran Affairs. Proud was canned from the job before she even started after she said during an interview with Arizona News Service that women might have trouble serving in combat because of their menstrual cycles.
"I personally think it's unethical to have a notice of claim against the state while running," Proud said via Facebook.
Here's how the LD 11 race is shaping up without Proud: There are no incumbents in the House race because Rep. Adam Kwasman has congressional ambitions, while Rep. Steve Smith is making a move for the LD11 Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Al Melvin, who has gubernatorial ambitions.
Republicans Vince Leach and Mark Finchem have formed a slate for the House seats and are teaming up with Smith. Leach is a Republican activist in SaddleBrooke who has already won the endorsement of GOPers like Kwasman and Jonathan Paton; Finchem is a former fire fighter and cop who has also worked for a software company and in real estate.
Republican Bob Westerman, a former chair of the Pima County Republican Party, is also collecting signatures for an LD11 House run.
The latest Republican to launch a House campaign is Scott Bartle, a Maricopa resident who has served on the Maricopa Unified School District as well as the Maricopa Parks, Recreation and Libraries Committee.
Bartle has owned a marketing company and a news website, InMaricopa.com.
"Our government needs pragmatic problem-solvers who can build effective coalitions and get things done," said Bartle in a press release. "My experience in public policy at the local level and insatiable desire to do what's best for my constituents will help ensure I'm an effective representative of the residents and communities in District 11 and our great state."
Pima County pulled off a big land grab last week: It acquired 818 acres of state trust land to expand Tortolita Mountain Park.
Pima County had wanted the parcel for some time and was finally able to use a state Growing Smarter matching-fund grant of $1.2 million dollars, along with some development fees and general-fund dollars, to purchase the parcel at a State Land Department auction.
The total cost of the purchase was $2.45 million.
Tortolita Mountain Park, located north of Tucson, contains more than 5,600 acres of open space.