Unfinished Business

Civil Rights News: Transportation Law Controversy; Latino Voters React to Obama’s Support for Undocumented Youths; Use of Solitary Confinement Raising Concerns in U.S.

Compiled by Maddie Peare, a Summer 2012 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

URBAN NATION: Cities Losing Out in Transportation Bill Debate
By Ben Adler
Next American City

Currently, the House and the Senate are attempting to compromise on the reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Law, which was renewed with bipartisan support and with no alterations to the current rules. Although the Democrats would ideally like to invest in more efficient and environmentally friendly transportation, at least the law has been extended for another two years, which will enable cities to undertake projects without the possibility of losing federal funding. Furthermore, the House Republicans are trying to add amendments to the reauthorization of the bill that would have negative effects on lower-income areas.  H.R. 7, the bill Republicans failed to pass, would have disproportionately affected low-income people because it would have increased the cost of public transportation. However, Republicans are still attempting to pass some of the provisions of H.R. 7 in what some believe is a deliberate refusal to compromise in order to ensure that President Barack Obama does not have this achievement before the election.

Obama’s DREAM Policy and My Undocumented Brother (Opinion)
By Matias Ramos

In an opinion piece on AlterNet, Matia Ramos writes that President Obama’s recent announcement that he would halt deportations and allow some undocumented alien immigrants to find legal employment will likely increase the percentage of Latinos who will vote for the president in the upcoming election. Ramos also notes that Mitt Romney has to date neither supported or denounced the DREAM policy.

The Abuse of Solitary Confinement
The New York Times

Prisons in the United States are increasing the number of prisoners who serve time in solitary confinement, which is usually reserved for more violent prisoners. Solitary confinement is an abusive practice, which can lead to mental illnesses and even suicides. Senator Richard Durbin, D-Ill., is currently writing legislation to increase transparency of the use of solitary confinement in the state and federal prisons as well as to protect the rights of inmates in solitary confinement.