Tag Archives: petition

Hundreds of thousands of petitioners call for Trump’s impeachment

More than half a million people have joined the campaign and signed the petition at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.orgwhich calls on the Congress to initiate an impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.

The petitioners cite constitutional violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and Domestic Emoluments Clause, as well as violations of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 — also known as the STOCK Act.

“On Inauguration Day, we issued the call for Congress to investigate whether President Trump should be impeached for violating the Constitution by holding onto his business interests,” said Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech For People. “In just 11 days, over half a million people joined the campaign and the movement grows with every new revelation. Donald Trump is profiting from the presidency at public expense — and people are suffering as a result.”

Norman Solomon, co-founder and coordinator of RootsAction.org, added, “A groundswell for impeachment is underway at the grassroots. In districts around the country, House members will face escalating calls from constituents who believe that the president must not be above the supreme law of the land. This historic movement is just getting started.”

The petitioners say Trump’s personal and business holdings in the United States and abroad present unprecedented conflicts of interest and place him in direct violation of the Constitution.

The Foreign Emoluments Clause reads says: No person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under (the United States), shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” The purpose of this provision is to prevent foreign influence or corruption. “Emoluments” from foreign governments include “any conferral of a benefit or advantage, whether through money, objects, titles, offices, or economically valuable waivers or relaxations of otherwise applicable requirements,” even including “ordinary, fair market value transactions that result in any economic profit or benefit to the federal officeholder.

The Domestic Emoluments Clause says: The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

This provision, which Congress cannot waive, intended to prevent corruption.

The petitioners say there is sufficient basis to investigate other potentially impeachable violations. For example, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 is a federal ethics statute that specifically includes the president. Among other provisions, it prohibits the president from using nonpublic information for private profit and from intentionally influencing an employment decision or practice of a private entity solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation.

Action alert

Impeach Donald Trump Now is a nonpartisan campaign led by Free Speech For People and RootsAction.org. To join the campaign, read the proposed impeachment resolution or to learn more, go to www.ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org.

 

6 wealthiest countries host less than 9 percent of world’s refugees

The six wealthiest countries host less than 9 percent of the world’s refugees, an Oxfam analysis shows.

Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, South Africa and the Occupied Palestinian Territory host more than 50 percent of the world’s refugees and asylum seekers but account for under 2 percent of the world’s economy.

Collectively, the United States, China, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom hosted 2.1 million refugees and asylum seekers last year — just 8.88 percent of the world total.

Germany recently welcomed far more refugees than the other richest nations, yet a major gap remains with poorer countries providing the vast majority of safe havens for refugees.

Ahead of two major summits about refugees and migrants in New York in September, Oxfam called on governments to host more people in need of safe havens and commit to do more to help the developing countries sheltering the majority of refugees.

“It is shameful so many governments are turning their backs on the suffering of millions of vulnerable people who have fled their homes and are often risking their lives to reach safety,” Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International said. “Poorer countries are shouldering the duty of protecting refugees when it should be a shared responsibility, but many richer countries are doing next to nothing.”

“The international displacement we are seeing is an unprecedented and complex challenge requiring a coordinated global response,” she added. “The richest countries need to be part of the solution and do their fair share by welcoming and protecting more refugees.”

More than 65 million people have fled their homes because of conflict, persecution and violence; the highest level since records began.  A third of these people are refugees and asylum seekers, while the majority have been internally displaced.

The conflict in Syria has been a major factor, but people are also fleeing violence in South Sudan, Burundi, Iraq and Yemen and elsewhere.

This is happening as the mood for offering safe havens to people on the move is darkening. The recent deal between European governments and Turkey left thousands of people detained in Greece in often appalling conditions and legal limbo.

The Kenyan government, when announcing the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp, said that if Europe could turn away Syrians, Kenya could do the same for Somalis.

“Too many people who have taken treacherous journeys to reach safety end up living in degrading situations littered with abuse, hostility and discrimination and too few governments are doing anywhere near enough to help or protect them.”

On the Web

Oxfam’s petition 

Urging censure of Madison police chief

As stated in our petition, I have observed Madison Police Chief Michael Koval assume and carry out this important position of public leadership and trust.  I write to urge official censure of him and the filing of a complaint against him with the Madison Police and Fire Commission.

From the beginning, Koval has demonstrated an unwillingness and inability to listen.

Many of us have attended community meetings and forums, and found that Koval uses these as his personal stage. He is verbose, arrogant and disrespectful.

Although citizens are able to get in a few questions, for the most part Koval dominates every conversation and leaves no doubt of his “my way or the highway” approach to leadership.

In one instance early on in his tenure as chief, he screamed at a community member for presenting statistics and was then brought to tears citing “passion” as the culprit, but with no intention of addressing that culprit. He apparently does not know how to listen or deal rationally with unpopular feedback.

In a multi-institutional and multi-constituency setting, a leader can only be good if he or she is a skilled and compassionate communicator — adept at presenting a position, listening to others, negotiating compromises and nurturing relationships that will facilitate those compromises. Chief Koval has a serious problem with anger and with disrespect for the political process. Like many people these days, he seems to view politics with disdain, as something beneath him.  In fact, the political process is the mechanism with which democracy operates.

These attitudes were on full display in the blog he posted June 5.  He demonstrates blatant disrespect and insubordination for the Madison Common Council, including his threat that “You are being watched.  And be on notice:  this is a pre-emptive first strike from me to you.” (this from the person who controls an armed police force); contempt for Madison’s citizenry (“PC Madison”); and uses terms coined by Rush Limbaugh to describe citizens who raise questions and concerns about the conduct of MPD (the “perpetually offended”).   

Appallingly, his behavior at the June 9 Madison Common Council meeting topped even this. His blatant disrespect, erratic physical behavior and out of hand dismissals of the concerns of our elected officials, his table pounding, petulant pacing about, and outright mockery of the few non-white alders in the room bespeaks a man who believes his own department’s policy governing the professional behavior of Madison police officers is beneath him.

This is inexcusably bad leadership and management, and rather than know this, he instead boasts about these serious transgressions.  He is setting the worst example for the rank and file.  This is not what public service, and leadership of a public institution, should look like.

Alarmingly, earlier this summer we witnessed the beat-down of 18 year old Genele Laird, a slight, African-American girl who, from the video capture of the event, was not obviously resisting the officer on the scene when a much larger white officer charged her and brought her to the ground with violent knee strikes and a taser.  How much of what he felt empowered to do was informed by the attitudes expressed or training received from Chief Koval?  Is this really the use of force standard that we want for our city? I hope not.

The chief of the Madison Police Department is a public employee and public servant.  He is not an emperor or dictator.  Insofar as he shares his disgust with the political process with MPD officers — as he has — he is dangerous. He is widening the “Us vs. Them” gap when one of his first objectives as a chief should be to narrow it. Because he has postured as champion of police, rather than chief of police, many officers will see him as their champion and any effort on the part of the city to reign Koval in or run him out may result in serious problems with the department.  These will be problems of his making.

Alarm over Koval’s apparent anger, disrespect and outright contempt, is spreading in our community.  A public employee and public official who displays the kind of contempt for elected officials and citizens should be fired.  However, I call on you, the only elected people in our city with the power to directly censure Madison’s chief of police, to do so for Koval’s repeated, culturally supported displays of insubordination, disrespect, and contempt for citizens and elected officials.  I call on you to file a formal complaint against him with the Madison Police and Fire Commission seeking to have him removed as chief for the many violations of his own department’s policy as well as for the direct insubordination of the Common Council.

I implore you to get educated on the true scope and extent of the powers you have to affect change within the police department in the form of lawful orders which the department is, in fact, compelled to obey.  Finally, next time a chief is selected for this city, do everything you can to guarantee we do not get “more of the same.”

Amelia Royko Maurer lives in Madison.

On the Web

Progressive Dane of Dane County is circulating a petition that urges the Madison Common Council to pursue filing censure and a complaint with the Police and Fire Commission against Police Chief Koval. The petition is at https://www.change.org/p/madison-city-council-file-complaint-against-chief-koval-with-pfc

Year in Review: Abortion rights, clinics under growing attacks in 2015

More than 300,000 Americans and a coalition of 140 progressive groups want the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the deadly shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as an act of domestic terrorism.

“We, the undersigned, urge the Department of Justice to investigate the recent attacks on reproductive-health clinics using all appropriate federal statutes, including domestic terrorism,” read an appeal sent in December to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “Since the release of the first deceptively edited video from the Center for Medical Progress intended to vilify Planned Parenthood, and, by proxy, all abortion providers, anti-choice extremists have launched an unprecedented and multi-pronged assault against women’s reproductive rights.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America, UltraViolet, CREDO Action, Courage Campaign and others said the November shooting was politically motivated.

“People are dying, clinics are burning — and only a domestic terrorism investigation can help us find out who is driving this violence,” said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet. 

Thomas cited acts of violence at other clinics in five states in 2015 intended to terrorize women and “scare them away from accessing health care.”

Since 1977, there have been 11 murders and more than 220 bombings and arson attacks at abortion facilities in the United States, according to the National Abortion Foundation.

The request for investigation was made days before shooting suspect Robert Dear, accused of killing three people and injuring nine in the Colorado attack, stepped into a courtroom on Dec. 9 and declared himself a “warrior for the babies.”

Leaders of the progressive groups said politicians should be held accountable for the irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric that fuels such thinking and the resulting violence.

Planned Parenthood redoubled clinic security after the shooting and, in many states, the organization’s supporters marched on their capitols in displays of solidarity. A national day of solidarity was observed on Dec. 5. In Wisconsin, activists gathered at the Capitol on Dec. 10.

“While we’ve seen the continuation of hateful rhetoric toward Planned Parenthood by those who oppose our work, their voice clearly does not represent the majority,” said Teri Huyck, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin. “Our resolve to keep our doors open is stronger than the continued political rhetoric calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, because we care deeply for the people who rely on us for high-quality, nonjudgmental care.”

Throughout 2015, supporters of Planned Parenthood, which serves more than 60,000 women and men each year in Wisconsin, put up a defense against repeated GOP legislative efforts to cut funding and restrict access to health care in Wisconsin, other states and at the federal level.

In November, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit rejected Wisconsin’s efforts to reinstate a restriction on access to abortion. The appeals panel affirmed the decision of U.S. District Judge William Conley that the state’s admitting privileges law, which requires physicians who prescribe so-called “morning after” pills and perform abortions, to be affiliated with a nearby hospital. Conley said the measure places an undue burden on women’s access to safe and legal abortions. The circuit court panel said the law does nothing to support patient safety.

“To those who go to shocking extremes to shut us down, know this: These doors stay open,” Huyck vowed.

IN 2015

Lawmakers in 16 states, including Wisconsin, passed nearly 50 bills restricting access to abortion in 2015, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Two state legislatures — Wisconsin’s and West Virginia’s — voted to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Five legislatures voted to lengthen waiting periods for abortions.

— L.N.

Talking about 2015

The most prominent theme to emerge among users on Dictionary.com was in the expanding and increasingly fluid nature of conversations about gender and sexuality, and also racial identity.

This led the online reference service to name “identity” the 2015 Word of the Year.

— Lisa Neff

White House backs bans on ‘ex-gay’ therapy for minors

The White House this week responded to a petition with more than 120,000 signers seeking “help to ban the practice known as ‘conversion therapy.’”

The White House said, “We share your concern about its potential devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer youth. This administration believes that young people should be valued for who they are, no matter what they look like, where they’re from, the gender with which they identify, or who they love.”

The petition came in response to the story of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender youth who committed suicide after being subjected to so-called “ex-gay” therapy, a discredited practice not endorsed by any major medical and mental health associations but advocated by some on the Christian right.

“The White House statement today is historic and sends a clear message that this dangerous and discredited practice should be relegated to the dustbin of history,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Psychological abuse has no place in therapy, no matter the intention. Conversion therapy uses fear and shame that no child should be exposed to, telling young people that the only way to find love or acceptance is to change the very nature of who they are.”

“Ex-gay” or “conversion therapy” is a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Minors are especially vulnerable to the practice, and conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness and suicide.

HRC and the National Center for Lesbian Rights are working closely with state equality groups to pass state legislation to prevent licensed providers from exposing minors to conversion therapy, including laws passed in California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia.

At least 18 states have introduced similar legislation this year — Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Washington.

In August 2013, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s law which was signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in 2012.

In September 2014, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld New Jersey’s law, which was signed by Republican Governor Chris Christie in August 2013.

In February, a New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled that misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder violates the state’s consumer protection laws.

Petition targets Walton Foundation push to privatize schools

Labor and education. Both were on the minds of Americans with the three-day holiday weekend that commemorates Labor Day and signifies the end of summer and the start of a new school year.

So the AFL-CIO figured it was a great time to take on the push by Wal-Mart’s owners to privatize — or corporatize — U.S. education.

In late August, Elizabeth Bunn, director of organizing for the AFL-CIO, urged labor advocates to sign a petition at aflcio.org to “keep Wal-Mart out of our classrooms,” and she wasn’t referring to the school supplies purchased for students at the discount store.

“Back to school isn’t the most fun time of year, but it is especially hard for teachers and students when you have billionaire families like the Wal-Mart-owning Waltons gearing up to use their billions to attack public education and shift much-needed resources to for-profit corporate schools,” Bunn said, appealing for petition signatures. “The Waltons have spent more than $1 billion on their corporate-style education scheme that’s opposed commonsense proposals like giving all kids access to free public pre-K education.”

The concern of the AFL-CIO and many progressive groups is that the Walton family is investing heavily in creating charter schools, promoting voucher systems that transfer taxpayer dollars to private schools, pushing policies drafted through the American Legislative Exchange Council and funding campaigns for conservative candidates from local school boards to the governor’s mansion.

Several years ago, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism documented the influence of Wal-Mart heirs on the 2010 election — six members of the family, none of them residents of the state, were among the top 10 individual contributors to winning state legislative candidates as Republicans took control of the government.

After taking office, Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP majority cut public school funding by $800 million over two years, allocated $17 million over two years to voucher programs and rolled back collective bargaining rights for public union employees.

Estimates suggest that since 2000, the Walton Family Foundation has put about $1 billion into initiatives that promote a corporate-friendly model of education, making Wal-Mart the largest funder of charter schools in the nation. 

The foundation, in 2013, invested millions to mold education policy — money went to the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the right-wing Alliance for School Choice, the New Teacher Project and Parent Revolution Inc., according to Inside Philanthropy — and to shape studies that endorse charter school programs.

Progressives’ worry is that the Walton Foundation’s efforts to privatize education are as threatening to public schools as Wal-Mart’s retail stores are to local businesses and Wal-Mart’s personnel policies are to the economic security of its employees.

Numerous studies show that expanding charter schools and school choice increases segregation — by race, ethnicity and income — and jeopardizes the stability of traditional public schools.

On the Web…

http://act.aflcio.org/c/18/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=8964

Wisconsin Unites for Marriage coalition launches

A new statewide coalition aimed at securing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Wisconsin launched on Aug. 7, less than 20 days before a federal appeals court will hear arguments on the issue.

The Wisconsin Unites for Marriage Coalition launched as a partnership of the ACLU of Wisconsin, Fair Wisconsin and Freedom to Marry.

The coalition representatives vowed an unprecedented grassroots public education campaign with the goal of winning the freedom to marry for all couples.

Launch celebrations were taking place on Aug. 7 in Appleton, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee, with religious leaders, civil rights advocates, attorneys and also the couples who are suing the state for marriage equality.

In a news release, Katie Belanger of Fair Wisconsin said, “This is the first time since the 2006 campaign against the constitutional amendment that we have had a diverse statewide coalition working together to achieve the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. We are thrilled to join forces with Wisconsin’s leaders in the business and faith communities, and state and national partners in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, as we move Wisconsin forward together.”

Chris Ahmuty, executive director of ACLU Wisconsin, added, “Wisconsin Unites for Marriage gives a voice to couples, their friends and families, and everyone committed to freedom and equality. You don’t have to be a plaintiff or lawyer to be heard as we make history together.”

The ACLU of Wisconsin and the ACLU national are representing same-sex couples demanding the right to marry in the state or recognition of their out-of-state marriages. They are challenging the constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages that was approved by voters in 2006.

In early June, a federal district judge in Madison overturned the amendment, a decision that for a few days cleared the way for more than 500 gay and lesbian couples to marry in the state.

The weddings ended as Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican who is not seeking re-election in November, pursued an appeal.

That appeal is now before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, with oral argument set for Aug. 26.

“My partner Katy and I have been together for over 25 years and want very much to get married. To be honest, before we won the case in federal court, we didn’t realize how much marriage meant – mostly because we could never let ourselves imagine it, because it wasn’t a reality for us for so many years,” said Judi Trampf, one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

Her partner, Katy Heyning, added, “But now more than ever, I think about what would happen if something happened to Judi. In the eyes of the legal system, we’d be little more than two people who knew each other. After 25 years of commitment, living together and loving each other – we’d be nothing.”

As the coalition was announced to the public, its website went live at www.wisconsinunites.org. 

The site invites people to share their marriage equality stories, offers freedom to marry facts and announces opportunities to volunteer.

Nintendo says no to virtual equality in Life game

Nintendo isn’t allowing gamers to play as gay in an upcoming life simulator game.

The publisher of such gaming franchises as “The Legend of Zelda” and “Mario Bros.” said this week it wouldn’t bow to pressure to allow players to engage in romantic activities with characters of the same sex in English editions of “Tomodachi Life.” This follows a social media campaign launched by fans last month seeking virtual equality for the game’s characters, which are modeled after real people.

“Nintendo never intended to make any form of social commentary with the launch of `Tomodachi Life,'” Nintendo of America Inc. said in a statement. “The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We hope that all of our fans will see that `Tomodachi Life’ was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary.”

Tye Marini, a gay 23-year-old Nintendo fan from Mesa, Arizona, launched the campaign last month, urging Kyoto, Japan-based Nintendo Co. and its subsidiary Nintendo of America Inc. to add same-sex relationship options to English versions of the hand-held Nintendo 3DS game.

The game was originally released in Japan last year and features a cast of Mii characters – Nintendo’s personalized avatars of real players – living on a virtual island. Gamers can do things like shop, visit an amusement park, play games, go on dates and encounter celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Shaquille O’Neal.

“I want to be able to marry my real-life fiancé’s Mii, but I can’t do that,” Marini said in a video posted online that attracted the attention of gaming blogs and online forums this week. “My only options are to marry some female Mii, to change the gender of either my Mii or my fiancé’s Mii or to completely avoid marriage altogether and miss out on the exclusive content that comes with it.”

“Tomodachi Life” has been a hit in a Japan, where Nintendo said last December it had sold 1.83 million copies of the game.

The English-language packaging for “Tomodachi Life” – “tomodachi” means “friend” in Japanese – proclaims: “Your friends. Your drama. Your life.” A trailer for the game boasts that players can “give Mii characters items, voices and personalities, then watch as they rap, rock, eat doughnuts and fall in love.” However, only characters of the opposite sex are actually able to flirt, date and marry in the game, which is set for release June 6 in North America and Europe.

“It’s more of an issue for this game because the characters are supposed to be a representation of your real life,” Marini said  in a telephone interview. “You import your personalized characters into the game. You name them. You give them a personality. You give them a voice. They just can’t fall in love if they’re gay.”

The issue marks not only a cultural divide between Japan, where gay marriage is not legal, and North America and Europe, where gay marriage has become legal in some places, but also in the interactive world, where games are often painstakingly “localized” for other regions, meaning characters’ voices and likenesses are changed to suit different locales and customs.

“The ability for same-sex relationships to occur in the game was not part of the original game that launched in Japan, and that game is made up of the same code that was used to localize it for other regions outside of Japan,” Nintendo noted in an emailed statement.

While many English-language games don’t feature gay characters, several role-playing series produced by English-speaking developers, such as “The Sims,” “Fable” and “The Elder Scrolls,” have allowed players to create characters that can woo characters of the same sex, as well as marry and have children. Other more narrative-driven games, like “Grand Theft Auto IV,” “The Last of Us” and “Gone Home,” have included specific gay, lesbian and bisexual characters.

“We have heard and thoughtfully considered all the responses,” Nintendo said of the (hash)Miiquality campaign. “We will continue to listen and think about the feedback. We’re using this as an opportunity to better understand our consumers and their expectations of us at all levels of the organization.”

Marini isn’t calling for a boycott of “Tomodachi Life” but instead wants supporters to post on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag (hash)Miiquality, as well as write to Nintendo and ask the company to include same-sex relationships in an update to “Tomodachi Life” or in a future installment.

He noted in response to Nintendo’s statement that excluding same-sex relationships in the game is a form of “social commentary.”

“I would hope that they recognize the issue with the exclusion of same-sex relationships in the game and make an effort to resolve it,” Marini said. “Until then, Miiquality will continue to raise awareness of the issue.”

Online:

HTTP://WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/MIIQUALITY

HTTP://WWWW.TWITTER.COM/MIIQUALITY

HTTP://MIIQUALITY.TUMBLR.COM

Google exec quits board of anti-gay Christian relief agency

The director of corporate giving at Google has resigned from the board of World Vision, the evangelical Christian relief agency that announced recently that it would hire people in same-sex marriages and then reversed course and announced it would continue to discriminate against gays.

Google executive Jacquelline Fuller’s resignation from the World Vision board was announced on April 3 by social justice activists who have circulated petitions asking for board members to quit the agency in protest.

The petition campaign is fueled by Faithful America, which describes itself as the country’s largest online community of Christian social-justice activists. The group also wants Google senior project manager John Park to quit the World Vision board.

Said Faithful America director Michael Sherrard: “World Vision is distorting Christian faith to pursue a right-wing anti-gay agenda. As one of the most prominent Christian charities in the world, their decision to allow gay and lesbian employees was a major step forward, and their quick reversal a painful punch in the gut to those of us who believe Christians are obligated to speak out for equality and dignity for all. Jacquelline Fuller did the right thing by resigning from the board of an organization whose values don’t align with Google’s commitment to inclusivity and equality. Now it’s time for John Park to follow suit.”

About 16,000 people have signed the petition, which reads, “If you want Christian partners for your charitable giving, you can find plenty that don’t practice unchristian bigotry and discrimination. Please quit World Vision’s board of directors immediately.”

D310-0757-86_436126

House Democrats try to force vote on immigration reform

House Democrats deployed a little-used legislative move this week to force a vote on a comprehensive immigration bill, an effort doomed to fail but designed to increase the election-year pressure on Republicans to act.

“It is time for us to have a vote,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., who joined with dozens of Democrats, advocates and actress America Ferrera to mark 273 days since the Senate passed a bipartisan bill. They insisted that House Republican leaders act.

Standing on the east steps of the Capitol in a light snow and biting wind on March 26, proponents argued that they had the necessary votes in the House for a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally and tighten border security.

“We’re tired of the House of Representatives leaders and their refusal to act,” Ferrera said.

Democrats introduced a discharge petition that requires the signature of 218 for legislative action, an effort that stands little chance of success as Republicans, even those supportive of immigration legislation, are unwilling to defy their leadership. By the end of Wednesday’s House session, 149 of the chamber’s 199 Democrats had signed the petition.

Democrats would need the backing of dozens of Republican to force a vote.

The GOP is reluctant to consider the divisive issue in an election year, especially with all signs pointing to major gains for Republicans in the November midterms.

After months of conciliatory talk, President Barack Obama issued a statement praising the Democratic effort and chastising the Republicans.

“Immigration reform is the right thing to do for our economy, our security and our future,” Obama said. “A vast majority of the American people agree. The only thing standing in the way is the unwillingness of Republicans in Congress to catch up with the rest of the country.”

The Senate passed a comprehensive bill last June, but the measure has stalled in the GOP-controlled House where Republicans have argued for a piecemeal approach to reforming the system. That effort has gone nowhere as bills approved by the Judiciary Committee last summer have languished.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other GOP leaders unveiled a set of immigration principles in January, but rank-and-file members balked at moving ahead on any legislation. Boehner attributed the GOP roadblock to a collective distrust of Obama to enforce any new laws.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, dismissed the Democratic procedural move, pointing to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s admission earlier this month that they wouldn’t get the necessary 218 votes.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who helped craft the Senate bill, said he understands that “people are under political constraints, but those who believe in immigration reform but refuse to sign the petition have an obligation to propose a viable alternative that gets an immigration bill signed into law.”

The reluctance among House Republicans comes despite business groups, unions, religious leaders and other activists banding together to push for immigration legislation. National Republicans also have argued that failure to act this year could cost the GOP politically in presidential elections.

Opposition remains strong among some in the GOP who see the legislation as amnesty and detrimental to U.S. workers.

“Incredibly, House Democrats have unified behind an immigration bill that would double the inflow of new guest workers competing against jobless Americans in every single U.S. occupation – from engineering to teaching to manufacturing,” said Stephen Miller, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Budget Committee.