President Obama kicked off his second-term push for immigration reform on Tuesday with a speech in Nevada, a battleground state whose growing Latino vote helped him win the November election.
President Obama: “I’m here today because the time has come for commonsense comprehensive immigration reform. The time is now. We have to deal with the 11 million individuals who are here illegally. We all agree that these men and women should have to earn their way to citizenship. But for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship.”
Obama omitted detailed proposals from his address, instead backing the bipartisan Senate plan that includes a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the United States, but also tougher border enforcement and a system for tracking those who overstay visas. In his remarks, Obama took aim at anti-immigrant sentiment, saying foreign nationals are being maligned by people who forget their own ancestral past.
President Obama: “It’s easy sometimes for the discussion to take on a feeling of 'us' versus 'them.' And when that happens, a lot of folks forget that most of 'us' used to be 'them.' We forget that. And it’s really important for us to remember our history. Unless you’re one of the first Americans, a Native American, you came from someplace else. Somebody brought you.”
Despite embracing the bipartisan Senate plan, Obama vowed to send his own immigration bill to Congress if lawmakers do not take immediate action.
The Senate has confirmed Democratic Sen. John Kerry as President Obama’s new Secretary of State, replacing Hillary Clinton. The final tally was 94 in favor and three opposed. After the vote, Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois paid tribute to Kerry’s legacy.
Sen. Chuck Schumer: “We so admire the job he has done in his past life and many different phases. We’re excited that he’ll be our secretary of state. And I think for John Kerry the best is yet to come.”
Sen. Dick Durbin: “His passionate pursuit of a safe and just nation and world, his deep sense of patriotism and commitment to America’s most challenged values are well documented. While I’m sorry to loose him in the Senate as a colleague, I can think of no better person to serve as our nation’s next secretary of state.”
The bodies of at least 80 people have been found in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo, each with their hands bound and gunshot wounds to the head. Amateur video shows the dead corpses laid out after being collected from a bank on the river. Most of the victims appeared to be young men, possibly in their teens.
Speaking to reporters after a briefing to the U.N. Security Council, U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said both sides of the conflict in Syria are taking part in the country’s destruction.
Lakhdar Brahimi: “Syria is being destroyed. You know, I sometimes say, and of course the parties are very angry at me when I say that, objectively, they are cooperating to destroy Syria — in destroying Syria. Syria is being destroyed bit by bit. And in destroying Syria, the region is being pushed into a situation that is extremely bad and extremely important for the entire world. That is why I believe the Security Council simply cannot continue to say, you know, 'We are in disagreement, therefore let's wait for better times.’”
The Obama administration has formally signed an agreement with Niger allowing a permanent U.S. military site in the African country. Reports emerged this week that the United States will build a base in Niger from which to fly drones for surveillance and potentially even missile strikes. Niger borders Mali, where the United States is aiding a French-led military operation in the country’s north.
In Mexico, police have recovered the bodies of 12 people from inside a well in the city of Monterrey. The victims were members of the band Kombo Kolombia and their staff who had been abducted last week.
Israel has become the first country to boycott a U.N. Human Rights Council review of its record on human rights. The acting president of the Human Rights Council convened the session in Geneva on Tuesday, only to see that no Israeli representatives had shown up.
Remigiusz Henczel: “We were to convene this afternoon to proceed with the review of Israel; however, I see that the delegation of Israel is not in the room.”
Israel severed contacts with the council last year after the body launched an investigation of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The news agency Reuters is reporting John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee to head the CIA, had detailed knowledge of the agency’s torture program while serving there under President George W. Bush. Official records apparently show Brennan received regular internal CIA updates about the progress of torture techniques, including waterboarding. It is unclear if Brennan raised any objections at the time he was made aware.
Attorneys for five alleged conspirators in the 9/11 attacks have asked a military judge to allow them to spend 48 hours at the Guantánamo Bay prison where their clients have been held. On the second day of a pretrial hearing, Navy Commander Walter Ruiz said the conditions of the suspects’ imprisonment should factor into whether they are ultimately sentenced to death.
Walter Ruiz: “It’s a case where we’ve asked to put people to death. And when the government sets out to put people to death, our Supreme Court has said standards are this high. One of those standards is our ability to go in and look at their conditions of confinement, look at how they live.”
Activists from across the country gathered at the Education Department in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to demand federal action on a wave of school closures. Parents, students and organizers told Education Secretary Arne Duncan and top aides that school closings are hurting entire communities, disproportionately those made up of low-income residents and people of color. The Education Department is currently probing complaints that school closings in six cities — D.C., Newark, Philadelphia, Detroit, New York City and Chicago — violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Karran Harper Royal, a parent and activist from New Orleans, said the administration’s policies are hurting students and their neighborhoods.
Karran Harper Royal: “Our communities are more than just data. Our children are not data points. So I think it is time for President Obama to reevaluate what his Department of Education is doing and its effect on our communities.”
At least one person has been killed in a shooting and kidnapping aboard a school bus carrying children in Alabama. The gunman fatally shot the driver before seizing a young child. The gunman is said to be holed up in a bunker with the child hostage.
In testimony on Tuesday before lawmakers at the Connecticut legislature, Neil Heslin, a grieving parent who lost his six-year-old son in Newtown’s Sandy Hook massacre, pleaded for a ban on assault weapons.
Neil Heslin: “I just hope that everybody in this room, as I said before, can support change, ban assault weapons and high-capacity clips and magazines, and that’s a step in the right direction.”
A Georgia man is in custody and facing murder charges after allegedly shooting a Cuban immigrant who mistakenly arrived at his home due to faulty instructions from a GPS navigator. Twenty-two-year-old Rodrigo Diaz was shot and killed after reportedly pulling into the wrong driveway. The alleged shooter, a 69-year-old white man named Phillip Sailors, reportedly came out of his house and fired into the air with a handgun, then shot Diaz as they were attempting to leave. A lawyer for the alleged shooter says he was suspicious after a recent robbery in the area and claimed the victim had accelerated the car toward him.
A state judge in Texas has granted a last-minute reprieve to a woman who had been set for execution. Kimberly McCarthy, 51, won the stay on Tuesday just hours before she was to be killed. McCarthy would have been the first woman put to death in the United States since 2010. Attorneys for McCarthy, who is African American, say the mostly white jury that convicted her was improperly selected on the basis of race.
A group of activists opposed to the Keystone XL oil pipeline has agreed to settle a lawsuit with TransCanada, the company behind the project, after the firm alleged a months-long protest blockade cost it millions of dollars. Environmentalists with the Tar Sands Blockade have tried to halt the pipeline’s route through Texas to Gulf Coast refineries with tree-sits and other protests. Opponents say the tar sands pipeline would devastate the environment and pollute communities in its path. After TransCanada alleged blockaders had cost them $5 million, the activists say they chose to settle in order to protect local residents who could have lost their homes and life savings. While the group has agreed not to trespass on Keystone XL property in Texas or Oklahoma, they say the fight against the pipeline will continue. Protests against the project have also erupted in Nebraska, where Gov. Dave Heineman recently approved the state’s section of the pipeline route. President Obama has delayed a decision on the pipeline until the spring after initially putting it until after the November election.
The Boy Scouts of America has announced it has begun discussing an end to its longstanding ban on gay members and leaders. A spokesperson for the group says the 103-year-old ban is currently under review and could be reversed at a national board meeting next week. The move comes just months after the Boy Scouts defiantly reaffirmed its ban after a secretive two-year review.