DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson Reevaluating Deportation Priorities

WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday he’s re-evaluating the Obama administration’s deportation priorities to make certain they’re focused on national security, public safety and border security, amid growing pressure from the Latino community and President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats.

Johnson spoke Wednesday after a closed-door meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which has been pressuring the administration to scale back the high number of deportations since Obama took office. The number now stands near 2 million.

Activists contend many people are deported who pose no threat, have little or no criminal record, and are being sent away even if they have entrenched families in the U.S.

With comprehensive immigration legislation stalled in the House, activists are increasingly looking to Obama for a solution. The president announced last month that Johnson would be conducting a review to see if deportation practices can be more humane.

That review is now under way. Johnson gave no hint of a timetable or ultimate conclusions in his brief remarks to reporters Wednesday, but he did indicate he’s learning of issues with the current system, which the Obama administration has defended.

“I have heard a number of cases that lead me to want to reevaluate our priorities to make sure we’re getting this right, and that’s what I’m doing right now,” said Johnson.

“I am dedicated and committed to ensuring that our removal priorities are focused on threats to national security, public safety and border security.”

Earlier in his administration Obama granted deportation relief to certain immigrants brought here illegally as children, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wants the president to expand that to other low-risk groups, such as parents of children who are U.S. citizens because they were born in this country.

Activists have been fasting on the National Mall and outside the White House to bring attention to the issue.


Florida Suspends Another Error-Riddled Voter Purge

“Florida Suspends Another Error-Riddled Voter Purge” – From thinkprogress.org

Slide from 2012 Florida voter purge PowerPoint
CREDIT: Florida Department of State

By Josh Israel on March 28, 2014 at 9:52 am

Once again, Ken Dentzer, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) handpicked Secretary of State, has unsuccessfully attempted to mount a massive purge of Florida’s voter rolls. And once again, he has been forced to abandon this effort due to his lack of an accurate list of who is and is not eligible to vote.

In a memo, Dentzer told the state’s local election supervisors that the purge would be postponed until 2015. He plans to utilize a new federal database which he believes will be up and running by then and will provide more accurate data on who is and is not a U.S. citizen.

In late 2011, Scott ordered a statewide purge of all “non-citizens” from the voter files. Despite questions about the accuracy of the purge list, Dentzer ordered local elections supervisors to mail letters to thousands in 2012, informing them that they appeared to be ineligible to vote. Hundreds of these letters went to U.S. citizens who were indeed legitimate voters, including a 91-year-old WWII veteran. After seeing the high error rates, even in a pared down list of “sure-fire” non-citizens, election officials of both parties spoke out and called a halt to the efforts. The U.S. Department of Justice also demanded an end to the purge, deeming it illegal under the Voting Rights Act.

Dentzer pared down the initial list to just 198 names of people he deemed non-citizen voters. Even that turned up almost no non-citizens who had actually ever voted — just 39 of the state’s 11 million-plus registered voters. And even that small list included some documented U.S. citizens. Still, Dentzer called the purge effort his “passion” and “moral duty.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, a federal court dismissed the legal challenges and Dentzer announced plans to resume the purge process. Again, local elections supervisors like Republican Deborah Clark spoke out, noting the unreliability of the state’s data. “We just don’t have any confidence in the information the state sends,” she told a local reporter. In October, Dentzer took responsibility for the disastrous 2012 purge and vowed that the next one would be better. “We learned from the mistakes we made,” he claimed. “We won’t make the same mistakes.”

Local elections supervisors cheered the news Thursday that there would be no further purge attempts in 2014. “It is a good idea to postpone the project until we’re sure we have it right,” Citrus County Supervisor Susan Gill (R) told the Tampa Bay Times. “The closer it gets to the election, which I know you’re well aware of, the more likely is it is that we’ll get a lot of criticism.”

Scott is up for re-election this November. Should he lose, his replacement would likely be able to appoint a new Secretary of State before any 2015 purge.

Rick Scott’s Top Latino Fundraiser Leaves Campaign After Campaign Staff Allegedly Made Racist Jokes

Rick Scott’s Top Latino Fundraiser Leaves Campaign After Campaign Staff Allegedly Made Racist Jokes – from thinkprogress.org

By Adam Peck on March 24, 2014 at 10:46 am

Rick Scott’s Top Latino Fundraiser Leaves Campaign After Campaign Staff Allegedly Made Racist Jokes

Florida Governor Rick Scott (R)

Florida Governor Rick Scott (R)


On late Thursday, billionaire Mike Fernandez abruptly resigned his post as the finance co-chair of Governor Rick Scott’s (R-FL) reelection campaign. The prominent Cuban-American health care mogul’s departure has fueled rumors of racism among Scott’s campaign staff.

Tensions between Scott’s campaign staff and Fernandez had been building for weeks. And the last straw, according to people within the campaign who spoke with the Miami Herald this weekend, was an incident in which several of Scott’s campaign staffers allegedly began joking around in a cartoonish, over-the-top Mexican accent while on the way to a Mexican restaurant.

Fernandez, who is Cuban, reportedly shot off an angry email to campaign leadership after word of the incident leaked out. In statements made to the press following his departure, he didn’t address the controversy at all, instead pointing to disagreements with the direction of the campaign and shouldering some of the blame himself.

But the charges of racism by members of his staff comes at a delicate time for Scott, who has been on something of an Hispanic outreach kick in recent weeks. He came out in favor of allowing in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants earlier this month, and selected Carlos Lopez-Cantera as his lieutenant governor in January, the first time a Latino has held that position in Florida.

Complaints of racial insensitivity by people in his employ could further undermine Scott’s efforts to attract more Hispanic voters in November. Republicans on the national and state level have been very public about their minority outreach in states like Florida, where non-white voters make up a huge percentage of the eligible voter population, but they continue to alienate even their own minority employees.

Fernandez’s departure from the campaign is the latest blow to Florida Republicans’ outreach efforts. Last May, the RNC’s State Director of Hispanic Outreach, specifically hired to attract more Hispanic voters in Florida, resigned and registered as a Democrat after noting his former party’s “culture of intolerance.” Earlier this year, Ana Rivas Logan, a former Republican state representative, changed her party affiliation because she felt the GOP was becoming “a party that attacks women and minorities.”

Scott’s campaign manager Melissa Sellers tried to downplay the severity of the racist remarks that supposedly motivated Fernandez’s departure, but stopped short of denying they took place. “Mike was not in the van,” she told the Miami Herald via email. “I spoke to every staffer in the van…If something was said in an accent, no one remembers what it was. We are a diverse organization and we do not tolerate inappropriate comments.”

In his four years as governor, Rick Scott has faced tremendous backlash from the state’s sizable Latino population after supporting legislation like HB 7089, which contained many similar provisions to those found in Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 bill. He is also the chief architect and staunchest defender of many of the state’s voter suppression efforts, which Republicans have admitted was targeted at the state’s minority population, a constituency that has historically favored Democrats by a wide margin.