Blue Devils Against SB 666

We may be Blue Devils, but Senate Bill 666, filed yesterday in the North Carolina General Assembly, is a threat to our voting rights. The first page of this bill contains the following text: “The taxpayer is allowed an exemption amount for each qualifying child, as provided by section 151(c) of the Code for the taxable year, unless the qualifying child has changed their principal place of abode from that of the taxpayer as indicated by the qualifying child’s voter registration.”

Senate Bill 667 is similar in spirit: “The following additions to taxable income shall be made in calculating North Carolina taxable income, to the extent each item is not included in taxable income: … (16) Any personal exemption allowed for a child if that child is registered to vote at an address other than that of the person claiming the exemption and the child does not cancel the child’s voter registration within 30 days of receiving a letter of notification under G.S. 163-82.7(c1).”

What both of these bills have in common is that they seek to limit the right of students to vote at college by putting a financial penalty on their families–and creating financial incentives to vote in a certain manner is dangerous in itself. As a North Carolinian student myself, I would have to vote at home instead of participating in the elections that will have a direct impact on me for the majority of the year.

Regardless of whether this kind of bill passes, this is not the first effort by the General Assembly to limit your right to vote on campus, nor will it be the last.

Recent findings show need for immigration reform

The New York Times posted two brilliant articles on immigration in the past week. One revealed a positive (and unintentional) consequence of President Barack Obama’s immigration policies, and the other showed a negative ramification. But they both highlight the urgent need for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.

Angy Rivera, an undocumented immigrant, was sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend. Many undocumented immigrants are fearful of reporting crime to law enforcement because of the possibility of deportation. But Obama’s policy of deferred action — allowing young undocumented immigrants to apply for the right to temporarily remain in the country and work under certain conditions — allowed Rivera to apply for a visa for victims of crimes. Unfortunately, though, deferred action only amounts to a stopgap solution because it only lasts for two years.

The other article centered on immigrants held in solitary confinement. The Obama administration has increased the immigration detention population, and undocumented immigrants are typically given sentences without end dates and stay in confinement until they sign deportation papers. This article contains many harrowing anecdotes of people subject to the unimaginable anguish of losing all human contact. Delfino Quiroz was placed in solitary confinement for four months “for his own protection” because he is gay, for example.

These two articles epitomize the need for immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship. As Voto Latino President and CEO Maria Teresa Kumar said on Real Time with Bill Maher March 22, anything short of a path to citizenship would create two classes of people in America: citizens and those who work for citizens. The United States has already lived that history, and we need to confront this issue as one of civil rights. Creating a permanent underclass in America is immoral and does little to address the issues faced by immigrants who find themselves in confinement for civil (not criminal) infractions or for those who are victims of violence. Nearly two-thirds of all Americans — and a majority of Republicans — now support a pathway to citizenship. Leaders across party lines must pass a bill that includes a path to citizenship as soon as possible to bring these victims out of the shadows and into full-fledged American life.

Take a moment to think about the Iraq War’s 10-year anniversary

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. It is a momentous and solemn occasion, and one that also seems inaccessible to me. I clearly remember when the war began. I was in sixth grade. We discussed the first invasion force that took place on March 20 in class, and I remember thumbing through the local newspaper the next day after school with my mom. I knew it was something important—and I could tell from my mom’s strong reactions against the war that it was something I should be paying attention to—but I was not emotionally entangled enough to have any sort of visceral reaction. I finished skimming the news article, then put the paper down and returned to the issues that were more pressing for an 11 year old: finishing my math homework, going to my flute lesson and hanging out with my friend at the local ice cream parlor, where would catch up on each others gossip.

Although I was against the war while it was waged—supporting candidates who were against it and criticizing the Bush administration—I cannot say that I have ever felt truly engaged with the issue. It is a bizarre sensation of exteriority to something that plays a big role in defining the generation I grew up in. But strangely, I think a lot of Americans who never saw the war firsthand share those same sentiments. In a New Yorker blog today, George Parker writes about a new exhibit that will be hosted in New York for the next month entitled “Invasion: Diaries and Memories of War in Iraq.” Parker writes that although the images are personal and captivating, he also got the sense from viewing them that it is too soon to be seeing the Iraq War memorialized in a museum. After all, it is a conflict that continues to define America’s foreign policy and future, and cannot yet be put to rest behind museum glass.

“Anniversaries are uneasy things,” Parker writes. “They seldom correspond to a spontaneous state of mind, yet they call for an emotional response, and the required effort can leave you unsettled and dissatisfied.”

I agree with Parker, but in my case, I think addressing those unsettled and dissatisfied feelings are the closest way I can come to closure with the war, and to remember those people who did lose their lives or who are struggling to reintegrate themselves into daily life while post-traumatic stress still haunts their minds. War is a strange and bewildering idea and reality. For those of us who do not experience it firsthand, it is much easier to simply note the news articles and keep up with the facts without becoming emotionally entangled. But it is important—especially on a day like the war’s ten-year anniversary—to take a moment to really think about it.

Judge makes right call to strike down soda ban

Last week, Judge Milton Tingling struck down New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s limits on large sugary drinks. Despite Bloomberg’s noble intentions to curb obesity, his proposal amounted to a lazy way to fight the obesity epidemic.

For one, the limit had multiple loopholes: it did not apply to 7-Eleven and its Big Gulp soda or Starbucks and its lattés and milkshakes. If the limit was allowed to take effect, it is conceivable that one New York store would have sodas larger than 16 ounces available, and another store right next door would not have those drinks available. The limit also did not apply to refills, so patrons would still be able to consume the same amount of soda that they would have wanted to.

It is true that Americans’ unhealthy lifestyles bloats the exploding cost of health care. But it’s also unhealthy to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol excessively. Instead of making cigarette or alcohol sales illegal, the United States taxes those products. That, opposed to banning products outright, is the solution; apparently some have forgotten the failures of Prohibition. A negative externality may exist in cigarette smoking — the idea that the price of cigarette packs may be lower than social costs. A tax is imposed to make purchasing cigarette packs harder and to make the market act in a more efficient manner.

This limit serves as easy fodder for the right-wing pundits to seize on the idea of the “nanny state”; the idea that liberals think they know better than others and have never met a regulation on “bad behavior” they didn’t like. Public policy should undoubtedly address America’s obesity epidemic. But simply banning the sale of some sugary drinks in some stores won’t solve much. Children should receive education about healthy lifestyles, underserved communities should have access to fresh produce and perhaps sugary drinks should be taxed. Limiting soda represents a misguided choice, and Judge Tingling did the right thing for New York with his decision.

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