President Obama is unveiling today his long-awaited executive action that will protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Obama previewed his plan in a video statement Wednesday night.
President Obama: "Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken. Unfortunately, Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long. And so, what I’m going to be laying out is the things that I can do, with my lawful authority as president, to make the system work better, even as I continue to work with Congress to encourage them to get a bipartisan comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem."
Obama will announce his plan in a prime-time address from the White House tonight. He will then speak at a Las Vegas high school on Friday where he laid out his plan for comprehensive immigration reform two years ago.
The executive actions will reportedly not provide any formal, lasting immigration status. But many immigrants will receive work permits, which will give them Social Security numbers and the ability to work legally under their own names. Another key component will prevent the deportation of parents whose children are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. But it will not provide relief to farm workers or to the parents of undocumented children, even those children who qualified for deferred action under President Obama’s executive order in 2012. In another decision that falls short of immigrant rights advocates’ goals, those who receive permits under the executive order will not be eligible for healthcare benefits under the Affordable Care Act. It appears that decision was made as a nod to right-wing opposition, as many legal experts say Obama has the authority to extend health benefits. Obama’s action sets up the likelihood of a major showdown with Republicans, who have vowed to block it when they take control of Congress next year.
President Obama’s announcement comes as a troubled New Mexico detention center for undocumented migrants will be closed. The Department of Homeland Security says it will shut down the Artesia facility by the end of the year. Artesia has held hundreds of women and children from Central America fleeing violence and danger in their home countries. Click here to watch our August report by Democracy Now! producer Renée Feltz on the poor conditions and lack of due process for the migrants held there.
Colombia’s FARC rebels have agreed to release an army general captured over the weekend. The release of General Rubén Darío Alzate and four others could pave the way for a resumption of peace talks with the Colombian government, which were due to begin this week. The deal was brokered by mediators from Cuba and Norway.
As the destruction of Palestinian homes has resumed, the Israeli government has announced the construction of new homes in its illegal settlements. On Wednesday, the Israeli government announced a tender for 78 new homes in East Jerusalem. In a statement, the State Department said: "[we] reiterate our clear and consistent opposition to construction activity in East Jerusalem."
The United States has carried out new airstrikes on the Syrian border with Turkey. A Pentagon statement claims the attack killed two militants from the Nusra Front, in the fourth such strike on the al-Qaeda group since September. The United States also claims to have hit a Khorasan Group storage facility, but residents say at least six civilians were wounded in an adjacent home.
A new report says Syrian government airstrikes have escalated over the past month. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the regime of Bashar al-Assad has launched more than 1,500 strikes since October 20, killing nearly 400 civilians and wounding at least 1,500 others. The increase in Assad regime airstrikes comes just weeks after the U.S.-led bombing campaign targeting the Islamic State began in September.
Protests continue in Ferguson, Missouri, ahead of the grand jury’s decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown. On Wednesday, demonstrators braved sub-zero temperatures to rally outside the Ferguson Police Department. Speaking in New York, the civil rights leader Al Sharpton criticized Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon for declaring a state of emergency in the absence of any unrest.
Rev. Al Sharpton: "I think that it is very tense. I think that the role of the parents and leadership is important to keep a tone there. I also think that a lot of the young activists that have been marching and keeping things going have been very responsible and pointedly nonviolent, and we must support them. But there’s a lot of tension out there, and I do not think it’s helpful when the governor (of Missouri) lectures and does not have a balance."
The grand jury’s decision on whether to charge Wilson is expected any day.
Several major media corporations have canceled projects with the entertainer and comedian Bill Cosby over new claims of rape dating back more than 40 years. On Wednesday, NBC announced it is canceling a pilot deal with Cosby while the streaming service Netflix said it would postpone an upcoming special. The network "TV Land" has also pulled reruns of "The Cosby Show" from its schedule. Cosby previously settled a case with a woman in 2004 who alleged he drugged and raped her. At the time, the plaintiff, Andrea Constand, found 13 other women to testify about similar assaults. But in recent weeks, two more women have come forward, bringing the total to at least 15. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier on Tuesday, former model Janice Dickinson became the sixth woman to go on the record, saying Cosby raped her in 1982.
Janice Dickinson: "In my room, he had given me wine and a pill. The next morning, I woke up, and I wasn’t wearing my pajamas. And I remember before I passed out that I had been sexually assaulted by this man."
Kevin Frazier: "You took the pill, you drank the alcohol."
Janice Dickinson: "Red wine."
Kevin Frazier: "Red wine. And then what happened?"
Janice Dickinson: "Before I woke up in the morning, the last thing I remember was Bill Cosby in a patchwork robe, dropping his robe and getting on top of me."
Cosby’s attorneys have called Dickinson’s claims "an outrageous and defamatory lie." His camp has also dismissed the previous allegations from over a dozen women as "discredited," but without explaining how. Cosby himself has been asked about the rape allegations in at least two recent interviews but has refused to answer, including this one with NPR’s Scott Simon.
Scott Simon: "This question gives me no pleasure, Mr. Cosby, but there have been serious allegations raised about you in recent days. [Two seconds of silence.] You’re shaking your head no. [Two seconds of silence.] I’m in the news business. I have to ask the question: Do you have any response to those charges? [Two seconds of silence.] Shaking your head no. [Two seconds of silence.] There are people who love you who might like to hear from you about this. I want to give you the chance. [Five seconds of silence.] All right."
In addition to losing the network deals, he has canceled appearances on at least two television talk shows.