EDINBURG, Texas (AP) — Hilda Vasquez squirreled away the money for her U.S. citizenship application by selling batches of homemade tamales at South Texas offices. Carmen Zalazar picked up extra babysitting jobs at night after caring for kids all day in Houston.
The women scrimped and saved for months to pay for the $680 application, but for other applicants in the future, it might not be enough.
As President Barack Obama renews his quest for immigration reform, some proposals would impose fines of $2,000 on top of application fees, making the financial hurdles much taller for people who are here illegally.
“You have more rights when you are a citizen, like to vote,” said Zalazar, a legal resident. As soon as she started a citizenship class, “I started to save because I knew otherwise it won’t be possible.”
The struggle is familiar to millions of immigrants. A 2012 survey by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that only 46 percent of Hispanic immigrants eligible to become citizens had done so. The top two reasons were lack of English skills and lack of money to pay for the application.
Ryan: Distrust of Obama so deep that immigration legislation unlikely to pass this year
WASHINGTON (AP) — Days after House Republicans unveiled a roadmap for an overhaul of the nation’s broken immigration system, one of its backers said legislation is unlikely to pass during this election year.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said distrust of President Barack Obama runs so deep in the Republican caucus that he’s skeptical the GOP-led House would pass any immigration measure. He said a plan that puts security first could only pass if lawmakers believe the administration would enforce it — an unlikely prospect given Republicans’ deep opposition to Obama.
“This isn’t a trust-but-verify, this is a verify-then-trust approach,” Ryan said.
Last week, House Republicans announced their broad concerns for any immigration overhaul but emphasized they would tackle the challenge bill-by-bill. Immigration legislation is a dicey political question for the GOP. The party’s conservative base opposes any measure that would create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living here illegally, but many in the party worry that failing to act could drive many voters to Democratic candidates. In 2012, Obama won re-election with the backing of 71 percent of Hispanic voters and 73 percent of Asian voters. The issue is important to both blocs.
Republicans have preemptively been trying to blame the White House for immigration legislation’s failure, even before a House bill comes together. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said “there’s a lot of distrust of this administration in implanting the law.” And Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., last week warned that distrust of Obama would trump the desire to find a solution for the estimated 11 million people living in the United States illegally.
Despite increases in security measures, school shootings continue in American schools
WASHINGTON (AP) — There’s been no real reduction in the number of U.S. school shootings despite increased security put in place after the rampage at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
In Pennsylvania and New Mexico, Colorado and Tennessee, and elsewhere, gunfire has echoed through school hallways, and killed students or their teachers in some cases. “Lockdown” is now part of the school vocabulary.
An Associated Press analysis finds that there have been at least 11 school shootings this academic year alone, in addition to other cases of gun violence, in school parking lots and elsewhere on campus, when classes were not in session.
Last August, for example, a gun discharged in a 5-year-old’s backpack while students were waiting for the opening bell in the cafeteria at Westside Elementary School in Memphis. No one was hurt.
Experts say the rate of school shootings is statistically unchanged since the mid- to late-1990s, yet still remains troubling.
A decade later, body of Palestinian teen suicide bomber among remains handed back by Israel
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — When 18-year-old Ayat al-Akhras blew herself up outside a busy Jerusalem supermarket in 2002, killing two Israelis, her grieving parents were unable to bury her and say their final goodbyes because Israel refused to send her remains home.
More than a decade later, after appeals from human rights groups, Israel is handing over some 30 bodies of Palestinian assailants, including that of al-Akhras, enabling her family to arrange a funeral.
Israel has returned the remains of Palestinian attackers from time to time during the decades of conflict, sometimes as part of prisoner swaps, but the current round involves the most recent suicide bombers and gunmen and has revived painful memories for families and friends of some of the victims.
In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, the teenage bomber’s parents, Mohammed and Khadra al-Akhras, expect an easing of their grief.
“The pain will end,” said Mohammed al-Akhras, 67, who chain-smoked while he talked and rested his hands — gnarled from years of manual labor — on top of the cane he uses to walk with. “At any time during the day, during the night, we can go and visit her,” he added.
Radicals with a taste for violence are wild card in Ukraine’s protests
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Wearing masks, helmets and protective gear on the arms and legs, radical activists are the wild card of the Ukraine protests now starting their third month, declaring they’re ready to resume violence if the stalemate persists.
When the protests started in late November, attracting crowds sometimes above 100,000 and visits from Western officials, the gatherings’ general determined peacefulness was an integral part of their claim to legitimacy. But in mid-January, the image of placid but principled people changed sharply, to frightening scenes of protesters heaving stones and firebombs at police.
The violence was sparked by the radicals within the larger protest movement, angered by President Viktor Yanukovych’s implementation of harsh anti-protest laws and increasingly impatient with the protesters’ failure to achieve any of their demands. In a vivid demonstration of frustration, they sprayed opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, the towering former heavyweight boxing champion, with a fire extinguisher when he pleaded for clashes to stop.
An uneasy truce settled in days later after three protesters died, but with no government concessions apparently in the works, the radicals say they’re preparing to fight again.
“We are ready for a national mobilization and complete blockade of the government quarter. The time for chatter has passed,” the leader of the radical group Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), Dmitry Jarosh, told The Associated Press. The group nominally cooperates with protest leaders, but often sharply differs with their views.