Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin

  • Second Boston Marathon victim identified: Krystle Campbell

    Krystle Campbell (Facebook)

    A second victim in the Boston Marathon bombings has been identified: Krystle M. Campbell, a 29-year-old originally from Medford, Mass.

    Her father, William A. Campbell Jr., told Yahoo News he's in shock that his daughter was killed.

    "My daughter was the most lovable girl. She helped everybody, and I'm just so shocked right now. We're just devastated," he said. "She was a wonderful, wonderful girl. Always willing to lend a hand."

    Campbell was at the finish line with a friend, Karen Rand, to cheer on her boyfriend, who was running the race. William Campbell said he doesn't know if Rand's boyfriend finished the race before the bombs went off.

    Karen Rand survived, but was in surgery for her serious injuries through Monday night. Cheryl Rand Engelhardt, Karen Rand's sister-in-law, wrote on Facebook that Krystle's parents at first believed that Karen was their daughter, and that she had survived the attack, because Karen was carrying Krystle's ID. Krystle's family was finally ushered into

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  • No surprise: Vast majority of unauthorized immigrants would apply for citizenship

    A protester rallies for immigration reform on April 10. (Marlon Correa/The Washington Post via Getty)

    A new poll of Hispanic immigrants who entered the country illegally or overstayed visas finds that 87 percent would apply for citizenship if it's offered in a new immigration reform bill.

    A group of senators is expected to release a draft version of a bill Tuesday that lays out a nearly 15-year path to citizenship for the country's 11 million unauthorized immigrants, if they pay hefty fines and pass background checks.

    The poll, which was commissioned by the pro-reform advocacy group America's Voice, covers only immigrants who come from Latin America, who are estimated to make up about 80 percent of the total unauthorized immigrant population in the country.

    More than 60 percent of respondents said they had a U.S.-born child, while 85 percent have at least one family member who is a U.S. citizen.

    The poll of 400 adults has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

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  • Immigration restrictionist groups hope to launch grass-roots revolt against reform bill

    Mike and Bill Crowder of Charlotte, N.C., attend an anti-immigration reform rally in 2007. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

    As a bipartisan group of senators prepares to release a bill that could put as many as 11 million immigrants on a path to legalization and eventual citizenship, opponents of immigration reform—which many opponents refer to as "amnesty"—are trying to recreate the grass-roots backlash that helped kill the last major attempt at changing U.S. immigration law.

    So far, the kind of outrage that doomed immigration reform in 2007 seems scarce. Since the November presidential elections, where President Barack Obama drew 71 percent of the Hispanic vote against Republican Mitt Romney, key GOP leaders have insisted the party must embrace reform in order to become more competitive among Hispanics.

    It was a far different situation six years ago. On the June 2007 day the Senate was set to vote on the last immigration reform bill—President George W. Bush's top domestic goal—the Capitol phone system was so inundated with outraged calls that the Senate sergeant at arms announced that the switchboard had stopped working entirely.

    Republicans who backed the bill, including the party's soon-to-be presidential nominee Arizona Sen. John McCain, faced particularly tough blowback from their constituents, who accused them of betrayal.

    Meanwhile, dozens of "Minutemen" groups sprouted up around the country, encouraging thousands of volunteers, many armed, to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border to bring attention to illegal crossings and drug trafficking. (The Minutemen movement has since almost entirely died out.)

    In the end, the bill died in the Senate with only a handful of Republican senators supporting it.

    Two groups at the center of the opposition movement in 2007 are hoping to revive similar grass-roots opposition this time.

    The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is hosting an event called "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" next Thursday in Washington. The group plans to bring in 50 conservative talk radio hosts in a "Radio Row" to blast their opposition to the reform bill over the airwaves.

    "It's widely acknowledged that talk radio played a heavy role in the defeat of the McCain-Kennedy bill back [in 2007]," Bob Dane, FAIR's communications director, said. The talk radio hosts will ask their listeners to "flood the Capitol switchboard."

    Boston's Howie Karr, whose show is syndicated in New England and New York, is one of the radio hosts expected to join, as is Lars Larson, a nationally syndicated talk radio host based in Oregon. Both are staunch opponents of illegal immigration and any efforts to legalize the status of those who overstayed visas or entered the country illegally.

    Dane says about 30 lawmakers and an unspecified number of special guests—including sheriffs from around the country and ranchers from border states—are expected to attend.

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  • Newtown families: Senators who filibuster gun background check bill should be ‘ashamed’

    A memorial for victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, on December 17, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. (Mario Tama/Getty)

    Dozens of relatives of victims in the Dec. 14 shooting spree in Newtown, Conn., released a statement Thursday shaming senators who attempted to block, or filibuster, a vote on legislation that would expand criminal background checks for gun purchases.

    Senators voted Thursday morning on whether to block the legislation crafted by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey from coming to a vote. While 31 senators, including two Democrats, did vote to block the bill, a bipartisan group of 68 senators from both parties voted to allow a debate and vote on the bill to proceed.

    "The Senators who have vowed to filibuster this bill should be ashamed of their attempt to silence efforts to prevent the next American tragedy," reads the statement, signed by more than 33 relatives of the 20 children and 6 educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. "We thank Senators Manchin and Toomey for coming together to honor the memory of the victims of Sandy Hook, and we

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  • Zuckerberg launches immigration reform advocacy group

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (R) speaks with a reporter at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on April 4, 2013. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

    Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is joining with top Silicon Valley CEOs to launch a political advocacy group called that, among other things, will urge lawmakers to pass immigration reform.

    Politico reports that Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer are among the group's major contributors. Former staffers in the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations have joined the group as well.

    Before launching, Zuckerberg had dipped a toe into politics when he donated $100 million to the struggling school system in Newark, N.J. He also held a fundraiser for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, in February.

    High-profile techies have argued that the current legal immigration system does not allow them to attract and retain high-skilled immigrants from around the world. In March, executives from Facebook, Google, eBay and dozens more tech companies sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to add more visas for high-tech workers.

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  • Obama welcomes senators’ deal on background check in gun bill

    Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., outside the weekly Democratic policy luncheon April 9, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., unveiled a deal in a press conference on Wednesday morning to expand background checks to nearly every commercial gun purchase. President Barack Obama said there were parts of the agreement "that I might prefer to be stronger," but welcomed the move and pushed Congress to "finish the job" of writing legislation to tamp down gun-related violence.

    Manchin called the agreement a "first step" to passing broader legislation.

    "The events of Newtown changed us all," Manchin said, referring to the Dec. 14 shootings that killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school. "Nobody here … with a good conscience could sit by and not try to prevent a day like that from happening again."

    Currently, only people who buy guns through federally licensed dealers have to undergo a criminal background check, leaving a loophole for some online and gun show shoppers. The new bill would expand checks to nearly every gun transaction except for some private sales and transfers among relatives, friends and neighbors. The background checks bar people who have committed felonies or have been declared mentally ill by a judge from purchasing firearms.

    Toomey said he did not think expanding background checks to cover current loopholes amounts to "gun control." Instead, he said, "It's just common sense."

    Both Toomey and Manchin are gun owners and have an A rating from the National Rifle Association, the largest pro-gun lobby group. Toomey said he added some provisions to strengthen gun rights in the bill, including allowing a legal gun owner to take his or her concealed weapon over state lines while traveling, even if that state does not allow concealed carry.

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  • Immigration activists, labor groups to descend on Capitol on Wednesday

    Activists rally for immigration reform in front of the White House on Nov. 8, 2012. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

    Labor and immigration advocacy groups are planning a rally of tens of thousands of supporters on Wednesday afternoon to urge lawmakers to pass immigration reform.

    Organizers of the "rally for citizenship"—which include the Service Employees International Union and several civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups—say people from dozens of states will gather at the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

    "Politicians learned a lesson this past election cycle: They ignore Latinos and immigrants at their own peril," Gustavo Torres, director of the CASA de Maryland advocacy group, told reporters on Monday. "Our communities are getting more frustrated and angry at the politicians who are delaying progress."

    A draft version of the immigration bill was expected to be released early this week, but members of the bipartisan group of eight senators working on the draft pushed that deadline back on Sunday. Disagreements between labor and business groups over how many low-skilled guest workers should be

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  • 1 in 9 middle and high schoolers suspended during school year

    George Mason high school basketball players on a school bus. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty)One in 9 students in middle and high schools in the 2009-2010 school year were suspended at least once, according to a new report by a civil rights group concerned that the high suspension rate may be pushing kids to drop out of school altogether.

    Most out-of-school suspensions were handed out for relatively minor infractions, such as violating the dress code or using a cellphone, the UCLA's Civil Rights Project found in the report, called "Out of School and Off Track: The Overuse of Suspensions in American Middle and High Schools."

    The report estimated that 2 million students were suspended that year, based on discipline data from 26,000 middle and high schools. That figure doesn't include the more serious punishment of expulsion, or the number of students who faced in-school suspensions.

    The report highlighted racial disparities in suspensions, an issue the U.S. Education Department is investigating in several school districts, including Los Angeles. A quarter of black students in middle and high school were suspended during the year, compared with 7.1 percent of white students. One in 3 black middle school males was suspended at least once, the report found.

    Some schools had a particularly high rate of suspensions. In 519 of the high schools studied, more than half the student body had been suspended over the course of a year. Out of all the school districts studied, Chicago had the most secondary schools (82) that suspended at least a quarter of their student body in the year period.

    The report's authors argue that students who are suspended are more likely to drop out of school altogether. They point out that students who are suspended might not be supervised by an adult for the duration of their out-of-school time, which they believe makes it an ineffective form of discipline.

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  • One clear result if DOMA is struck down: Immigration benefits for gay couples

    Same-sex marriage supporters rally at the U.S. Supreme Court on March 27, 2013. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

    Earlier this week, we wrote about how if the federal Defense of Marriage Act is struck down by the Supreme Court this summer, it may lead to confusion for same-sex married couples who live or work in the 38 states that specifically bar the recognition of gay marriage.

    If DOMA is struck down, same-sex couples who live in the nine states (and District of Columbia) that allow gay marriage will see their marriage recognized at the federal level for the first time ever, qualifying them for more than 1,100 federal statutes that provide benefits and responsibilities to married couples.

    But if a same-sex married couple moves from New York, which allows gay marriage, to North Carolina, which does not, would their marriage still be recognized at the federal level for things like tax breaks, Social Security survivor benefits, and the ability to apply for family medical leave from work?

    An exchange between the attorney arguing against DOMA, Roberta Kaplan, and Justice Samuel Alito during oral arguments in the case last week suggested that the answer might be no.

    Alito asked whether a New York gay couple who moved to North Carolina could qualify for the same federal estate tax breaks that heterosexual married couples enjoy if one spouse dies. "Our position is only with respect to the nine states ... that recognize these marriages," Kaplan responded.

    Kaplan's answer suggested that if DOMA is struck down, same-sex married couples who moved to states that don't recognize their union would lose both federal and state recognition of their marriage, effectively causing their union to temporarily disappear.

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  • Background checks: Who isn’t allowed to buy a gun?

    Licensed dealer Jacob Dewell discusses the legal aspects of a sale at a gun show March 31, 2001, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Kevin Moloney/Liaison)

    Later this month, the Senate is expected to begin debating a Democrat-backed bill to vastly expand the federal background check system for gun buyers. The proposed legislation, part of President Barack Obama's recent push to curb gun violence, would close the so-called gun show loophole that allows a substantial minority of overall gun sales to take place without background checks.

    The bill's proponents say fewer domestic abusers, felons and mentally ill people will be able to buy weapons if Congress passes it. The National Rifle Association, however, says expanding the checks won't stop crime, because most criminals get their guns on the black market. The group also pointed out that gaping holes in the national background check system make it ineffective.

    So what does the background check system do, and who will be prevented from buying weapons if it expands to cover every gun purchase?

    The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is managed by the FBI, quickly checks the name of a prospective buyer against federal and state criminal records to see if he or she is disqualified from buying a gun. Federal law prevents the sale of weapons to people who have been convicted of a felony, have a warrant out for their arrest, have used drugs within the past year, were committed involuntarily to a mental institution or ruled mentally incompetent by a judge, are living in the U.S. illegally, have a domestic-violence-related restraining order against them or have a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. People who were dishonorably discharged from the military or who have renounced their U.S. citizenship are also barred from gun purchases.

    Between 1998 and 2010, the Justice Department turned down just 2.1 million of 118 million gun applications, most of them people with felony convictions who tried to purchase a gun.

    But some people—including at least one mass murderer, Seung-Hui Cho—who should not have been allowed to buy guns have slipped through the cracks over the same period.

    The problem is states vary greatly in the amount and quality of information they provide to the database, especially when it comes to mental health issues. (The federal government cannot compel the states to share all their records with the database, though it can offer them financial incentives to do so.)

    In 2007, Cho was able to buy a weapon from a licensed dealer and then kill 32 people at Virginia Tech, even though he had been declared mentally ill by a judge in 2005. The state never submitted that record to NICS, so his name cleared the database when he bought the gun. The incident spurred 18 states to pass laws requiring agencies to report more mental health information to the database, and a Government Accountability Office report from last year found that mental health records in the system increased eightfold from 2004 to 2011.

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