Tag Archives: Immigration

Why did the DREAM die?

The DREAM Act, a bill that would have provided a path to U.S. citizenship for tens of thousands of young people in the United States, died before it reached the floor of the U.S. Senate, leaving supporters wondering what went wrong. As any measure working its way through the halls of Congress, this bill was guided, redirected and stopped by good old fashioned American partisan politics.

“As part of this legislative session there has been no serious movement to do anything that would improve the grievous situation of illegality at our border,” said Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, who led the opposition.  “Leaders in Washington have not only tolerated lawlessness but, in fact, our policies have encouraged it.”  Mr. Sessions added, “This bill is a law that at its fundamental core is a reward for illegal activity.”

Opposition to the bill seemed to be centered around the fact that potential candidates for citizenship – some 65,000 or more high school graduates per year, according to DREAM Act advocacy groups – are undocumented or illegal aliens. The problem with that line of thinking, supporters say, is the youth are not illegal by choice. They are in the United States because they were brought to this country by their parents.

One Republican Senator in favor of the bill, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, released a statement after the failed vote saying she sympathized with their difficult situation.

“I support the goal of the DREAM Act which is to enable children who were brought to the United States by their parents to earn citizenship through service in the armed forces or pursuit of higher education,” she said. “ I do not believe that children are to blame for the decision of their parents to enter or remain in the United States unlawfully. The reality is that many of these children regard America as the only country they ever knew. Some were not even told that they were unlawfully in the United States until it came time for them to apply for college. America should provide these young people with the opportunity to pursue the American dream. They have much to offer America if given the chance.”

President Obama, in his year-end news conference Dec. 22, said the defeat of the DREAM Act was his “biggest regret” of the lame-duck session of Congress.

“It is heartbreaking,” Mr. Obama said, pointing out how these youth don’t even realize they are illegal aliens until they try to enroll in college or sign up for the military.  “That can’t be who we are. To have our kids, classmates of our children, who are suddenly under this shadow of fear through no fault of their own. They didn’t break the law – they were kids,” the president said.

Republican members of Congress stated in interviews this week that they opposed the DREAM Act because it would “open the door” for some 11 million undocumented aliens to gain citizenship. They said the bigger problem to address is the country’s southern border with Mexico, a portal for millions of illegal immigrants.

“It is pointless to talk about any new immigration bills that grant amnesty until we secure the border, since such bills will only encourage more illegal immigration,” Republican Senator Lamar Smith of Texas said in a statement.

Senator Smith and other Republican colleagues said the bill would “reward violators of the country’s immigration laws and encourage new waves of illegal immigration.”  Opposing Senators also said the requirements of the DREAM Act, that candidates attend two years of college or serve at least two years in the military were too easy and that it would allow “lawbreakers to become citizens.”

President Obama said his administration is working hard on border security, and that is something the American people have a right to expect. The president said the fate of the young people should not get lost in the shuffle, though.

“I think it is absolutely appropriate for the American people to expect that we do not have porous borders and anyone can come in here anytime,” Obama said. “But I also think about those kids and I want to do right by them.”

Details of the DREAM Act and immigration law reform will certainly remain fuel for debate until the Congress reconvenes in the new year.

Senate Squashes the DREAM

A block by Republican members of the U.S. Senate as time was running out on the lame duck session of Congress squashed – at least for now – the dreams of tens of thousands of young people of becoming a United States Citizen.

The DREAM Act, or the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would provide a way for children of undocumented aliens to gain U.S. citizenship after attending four years of college or enlisting for military service, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and went to the Senate for approval.  There, Republicans opposed to the bill used a filibuster, a political technique similar to running out the clock in a football game, to ensure it never came up for a vote before the current session of Congress ended December 17.

The bill was not without supporters in the Senate, however, gaining a vote of 55-41 in favor, but 60 votes were required to block the filibuster and bring it to the floor for a vote.  Senators that approved the bill told media outlets they were encouraged the DREAM Act won a majority, and despite disappointment over the filibuster, were encouraged enough to push the bill in the next session of Congress. They said they would continue to champion the bill, on its own or part of the overall reworking of U.S. immigration law Democrats support.  The Republican Party controls the majority in the House of Representatives, but the Senate Democrats said they believe the parties could come to agreement on the bill.

President Barack Obama, in a statement, called the outcome “incredibly disappointing” and said that he would continue fighting to win approval of the bill.

“It is not only the right thing to do for talented young people who seek to serve a country they know as their own, it is the right thing for the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said. “Our nation is enriched by their talents and would benefit from the success of their efforts.”

“The DREAM Act is important to our economic competitiveness, military readiness, and law enforcement efforts,” he said, adding, “It is disappointing that common sense did not prevail today but my administration will not give up.”

Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois was one of the fiercest supporters of the bill. He urged his colleagues for weeks to enter a “yes” vote.  “I want to make it clear to my colleagues, you won’t get many chances in the United States Senate, in the course of your career, to face clear votes on the issue of justice,” he told the New York Times.

“Thousands of children in America who live in the shadows and dream of greatness,” he said. “They are children who have been raised in this country. They stand in the classrooms and pledge allegiance to our flag. They sing our ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ as our national anthem. They believe in their heart of hearts this is home. This is the only country they have ever known.”

Young Hispanic men and women filled the spectator galleries of the Senate, many of them wearing graduation caps and tassels in a symbol of their support for the bill. They held hands and bowed their heads in silent prayer as the Senate clerk called the roll.  When the bill’s defeat and the filibuster’s victory was announced, many wore a shocked expression.

At a news conference after the vote, Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, former superintendent of the Denver school system, said he was thinking about the thousands of students he knew there as he cast his vote in favor of the DREAM Act.

“Please don’t give up,” Mr. Bennet said. “Don’t be disappointed because we couldn’t get our act together.”

The DREAM of Immigration: A New Path to Citizenship?

The immigration law community is all abuzz over recent developments in an idea first introduced in 2001 that would give certain undocumented young people a pathway to United States citizenship.  The Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, would provide a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of people that came to this country when they were children, in exchange for either serving in the military or enrolling into college.

According to the DREAM Act Portal (http://dreamact.info), an advocacy website, over three million students graduate from high school in the U.S. each year, with some 65,000 of them undocumented immigrants. Because they carry the label of “illegal immigrant,” the website says, these young people are unable to pursue the American dream, even though they have lived in America most of their lives.

The DREAM Act was was  re-introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives back in March, and passed last week.  It is written to provide high school graduates of “good moral character” that arrived in the U.S. illegally as minors and have lived in this country for at least five straight years, after enrolling in college for two years or enlisting for at least two years of military service, to get six years of temporary residency.  Within these six years, they must have, as the Act states, “acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or [have] completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the United States,” or have “served in the uniformed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, [have] received an honorable discharge.”  If they choose to serve in the military, they must sign up for an eight year commitment, and serve in active duty for between two and six years.

Like other bills moving through the Congress, the U.S. Senate had its own version of the DREAM Act, but it was put aside by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, in hopes the House version of the bill would be accepted before the current “lame duck” session of Congress comes to a close December 17.  Reid said he was certain the Senate’s version of the bill would fail, eliminating the possibility of it getting approved. If the Senate approves its version of the bill, which is pretty much identical to the one in the House, it would go to President Obama to be signed into U.S. law.

“The DREAM Act is not a symbolic vote,” Reid and Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durban (D-Ill.) said in a statement released last week. “We owe it to the young men and women whose lives will be affected by this bill, and to the country which needs their service in the military and their skills in building our economy, to honestly address this issue. Members on both sides of the aisle need to ask themselves if we can afford to say to these talented young men and women there is no place in America for you.”

Opponents of the DREAM Act include mostly Republican lawmakers and some Democrats that say the bill is too broad and needs to more specifically address how the provisional citizenship would work.  They have stated their fear is others could slip into citizenship alongside the students the DREAM Act was intended to help.  Whatever happens in next few days, DREAM Act supporters say, the futures of hundreds of thousands of people hang in the balance.

We’ll keep a close watch on the proceedings in this blog space, and try to make sense of it all along the way.  Stay tuned.

Becoming a U.S. Citizen: 10 Minute Civics Lessons (Part 11)

Part of the process of becoming a naturalized United States citizen is demonstrating knowledge of your new country’s history and government. During your interview, you will be asked up to 10 questions from a list of 100, and must get six correct to pass. Applicants 65 years old and up who have been living as a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years follow a “20 for 20” rule: They are only required to study 20 of the 100 civics test questions, with a minimum of six correct required to pass. We’ll mark these with bold type. More information can be found in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services booklet M-638 (revised 12/09), called  “Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test.”

Section B. System of Government (continued)

Q29.  What is the name of the Vice President of the United States?

A.  Joe Biden

Joseph “Joe” Biden is the 47th vice president of the United States, and was elected along with President Barack Obama in 2008.  Mr. Biden was born November 20, 1942 in Pennsylvania.  The Biden family later moved to the state of Delaware, where he grew up to become elected as a U.S. Senator from that state.  Mr. Biden served in the Senate for 36 years, from 1972 until 2008.  Vice President Biden has a special role in the government.  He serves as the president of the United States Senate, and is second in command.  The vice president assumes the role of president if something happens the the holder of that office.  For example, after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, his vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, took the oath of office and replaced JFK as president.

Q30.  If the President can no longer serve, who becomes President?

A.  We answered this test question above.  The next in succession after the president is the vice president.  Because the vice president is so close to the office of president, the offices have the same qualifications. The vice president should have the same level of experience as the president, and should be able to step up in case of national emergency.

Nine times in U.S. history the vice president has become president, including the case of President Kennedy we discussed above.  In 1841, President William Henry Harrison died in office, as did President Zachary Taylor in 1850.  President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, and in 1881 President James Garfield was assassinated, only four months after he took office.  President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, succeeded by Vice President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt.  President Warren Harding died in office from a heart attack in 1923, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in 1945, suffering a brain hemorrhage while he sat for a portrait painting at the “Little White House” in Warm Springs, Georgia.

Unlike his counterparts that  left the office because of death, President Richard Nixon resigned from office in 1974, in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

Q31.  If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?

A.  The Speaker of the (United States) House (of Representatives).

The path of succession to the presidency after the vice president was not made official until the passage of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution in 1967.  Before then, the president pro tempore of the Senate was next in line after the vice president. The president pro tempore (temporary) presides over the senate when the U.S. vice president (president of the senate) is absent.  Later, the U.S. Secretary of State was third in line after the vice president, but in 1947, the Presidential Succession Act restored the duty to a member of congress, which eventually became the Speaker.

Becoming a U.S. Citizen: 10 Minute Civics Lessons (Part 10)

Part of the process of becoming a naturalized United States citizen is demonstrating knowledge of your new country’s history and government. During your interview, you will be asked up to 10 questions from a list of 100, and must get six correct to pass. Applicants 65 years old and up who have been living as a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years follow a “20 for 20” rule: They are only required to study 20 of the 100 civics test questions, with a minimum of six correct required to pass. We’ll mark these with bold type. More information can be found in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services booklet M-638 (revised 12/09), called  “Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test.”

Section B. System of Government (continued)

Q24.  Who does a U.S. Senator represent?

A.  All the people of a state

Members of the United States Senate are elected to serve six-year terms.  Each of the 50 states has two senators, totaling 100 in all.  In the years leading up to 1913 and the passage of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, senators were elected by the state legislatures. Now, state voters elect their senators directly.

Q25.  Why do some states have more representatives than other states?

A.  Because of the state’s population.

The Founding Fathers of the United States believed that, in the new country they were creating, the people should be represented fairly in the government. They felt that states with the largest populations should have the loudest voice in the House.  Currently, the state with the most representatives is California, with 53.  The states with the fewest representatives are Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.  These states have only one representative in the House.

Q26.  We elect a President for how many years?

A.  The President of the United States is elected for a four year term.

The Founding Fathers, wanting to break away from the British king, believed he had too much power over the people, and didn’t believe a ruler should hold power for a lifetime.  This is the main reason they decided the leader of the United States — the President — should have a limited term, and they felt four years was appropriate.  The President is the only leader in the United States that is elected by the entire country, through a system called the Electoral College.  When the Constitution was written, the Electoral College was set up to be a compromise between the idea of the President being elected by the Congress and the idea of the President being directly elected by the people.  The way a presidential election works is basically like this:  citizens vote for electors, who then vote for the President.  Each state has a certain number of electoral votes, which add up like points toward the final score needed to become elected President. Larger states have more electoral votes, and since 1964 there have been 538 in each presidential election.  To win the presidency, a candidate must receive 50% plus 1 of the electoral votes, for a total of 270.  President Obama won 365 electoral votes in 2008; his challenger, Senator John McCain, took 173.

Q27.  In what month do we vote for President?

A.  November

The U.S. Constitution did not originally set up a special day for national elections.  Once, states had their own election days for federal offices.  In 1845 Congress passed legislation that established the Tuesday after the first Monday in November as Election Day.  Why was November, in the fall, chosen over, say, July, in the summer?  The answer lies in the makeup of the United States in the mid-1800s.  Back then, the country was mostly rural, and many people made their living on a farm.  By November, farmers across the country had completed their harvests and had time for other things.  November was also before winter set in, making it easier for people to travel into the city or town nearby to cast their votes.  Tuesday was chosen because it gave people a full day to travel (Monday), after taking Sunday off to be with their families or to worship if they chose.

Q28.  Who is the President of the United States now?

A.  Barack Obama

President Obama was elected in 2008 as the 44th President.  Mr. Obama was the first African American president in U.S. history.  He was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961, and graduated from Columbia University in New York City.  President Obama graduated from Harvard Law school, and served as a U.S. Senator from the state of Illinois.

As President, Mr. Obama is the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military, meaning he is in charge of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and U.S. Coast Guard.  The President’s wife holds a special position called First Lady.  The First Lady has no political power, but she can be of great influence.  Mrs. Michelle Obama, for instance, has been a very strong advocate for education and the future role of women in society.  Recently, the First Lady launched the Let’s Move! campaign to bring together community leaders, teachers, doctors, nurses, moms and dads in a nationwide effort to tackle the challenge of childhood obesity.

President and Mrs. Obama have two children, daughters, Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9. Like their mother, the girls were born on the South Side of Chicago.

Becoming a U.S. Citizen: 10 Minute Civics Lessons (Part 9)

Part of the process of becoming a naturalized United States citizen is demonstrating knowledge of your new country’s history and government. During your interview, you will be asked up to 10 questions from a list of 100, and must get six correct to pass. Applicants 65 years old and up who have been living as a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years follow a “20 for 20” rule: They are only required to study 20 of the 100 civics test questions, with a minimum of six correct required to pass. We’ll mark these with bold type. More information can be found in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services booklet M-638 (revised 12/09), called  “Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test.”

Section B. System of Government (continued)

Q21.  How many voting members are in the House of Representatives?

A.  435

The House of representatives is the largest chamber of the U.S. Congress.  Since 1912, it has had 435 voting members. With shifts in U.S. population, however, how they are distributed among the states has changed.  The Constitution requires that each state have at least one representative.  After that, the number of representatives depends on a state’s population.  The most populous state, California, has many more representatives than the least populated state, Wyoming, for example.  Every 10 years, the government conducts a census to determine the populations of the states and the country overall.  The results of this census, the most recent of which took place in 2010, determines how many representatives each state should have.  Although the number of representatives from each state could change due to population shifts, the overall number — 435 — remains the same.

You may have noticed the term voting representatives has been used a couple of times in this section.  What does that mean, exactly?  U.S. territories such as Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico, for example, or the District of Columbia, are represented in the House, but these representatives have no vote.

Q22.  We elect a U.S. representative for how many years?

A.  Two

If you live in a representative’s district, you are known as a constituent. Constituents of a congressional district vote for the people that go to Washington to represent them, where they serve a term of two years. Unlike the Senate, members of the House serve shorter terms, because as the Framers of the Constitution saw it, they should be in closer touch with the people they represent, and be closer to public opinion. Serving shorter terms, they thought, would keep House members more in touch with their constituents and more aware of the issues important to the people.  Like the senators, there is no limit on how long a representative can hold office. Unlike the Senate, however, where only a portion of them are up for election every two years, ALL members of the House are up for election every two years.

Q23.  Name your U.S. representative.

A.  This question will vary, of course, depending upon where you live. There are representatives in every state and territory in the United States.  Only representatives from the 50 states have a vote in proceedings.  House members that serve constituents in the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands may observe and take part in debates, but they are not voting members.  To find the names your representatives, go to this web site: www.house.gov and search for your location.



Becoming a U.S. Citizen: 10 Minute Civics Lessons (Part 8)

Part of the process of becoming a naturalized United States citizen is demonstrating knowledge of your new country’s history and government. During your interview, you will be asked up to 10 questions from a list of 100, and must get six correct to pass. Applicants 65 years old and up who have been living as a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years follow a “20 for 20” rule: They are only required to study 20 of the 100 civics test questions, with a minimum of six correct required to pass. We’ll mark these with bold type. More information can be found in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services booklet M-638 (revised 12/09), called  “Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test.”

Section B. System of Government (continued)

Q16.  Who makes federal laws?

A.  Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives, and the U.S. (or national) legislature

Federal laws are made by the Congress (Senate and House), and they apply to all 50 states and all people in the United States. These are different than state laws, which only apply to residents of a particular state.  Members of the Senate or the House can propose a bill (the seed of a law) to address a need in the country, or to solve an issue. When Senators propose a bill, it gets sent to and voted on by a Senate committee, and bills brought forth in the House of Representatives are studied by a House committee.  These committees look at all aspects of the bill, and amend or change it as they feel is needed. Once the bill leaves the committee, it goes to the full House or Senate to be voted upon. Once approved by the members of the House and Senate, the bill (a Senate version and a House version) go to another committee called a conference committee. This committee has members from both houses of Congress, and they hammer out differences and come up with a final version of the bill. It’s then sent back to the full House and Senate to be voted upon again, and if it is approved by both sides, the bill becomes enrolled. An enrolled bill lands on the president’s desk, where it can be signed into federal law, provided the president approves it. If the president does not approve of the bill it can be vetoed, starting the process all over again under the Constitution’s system of governmental checks and balances.

Q17. What are two parts of the U.S. Congress?

A.  The Senate and the House of Representatives.

Congress is divided into two chambers in our bicameral legislature system, the upper chamber, the Senate, and the lower chamber, the House of Representatives.  They occupy the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.  The Senate sits on the north wing of the capitol building, while the House is located in the south wing.  Each chamber of Congress has unique powers.  For instance, only the Senate has the power to reject a treaty signed by the president or the president’s appointment to the Supreme Court.  The House has the sole power to introduce a bill that would require Americans to pay taxes.

Q18.  How many U.S. Senators are there?

A.  There are 100 Senators in the U.S. Congress, two from each state. All states have equal power in the Senate because each state has the same number of Senators. The population of the state doesn’t matter; the number is always two.  So, the state with the largest population — California has the same powers as the state with the smallest population — Wyoming.  The Framers of the Constitution planned it that way, that the senate would be the smallest chamber of Congress, in order to keep it orderly.  One of the Framers, James Madison, wrote in a document called Federalist Paper #63 the Senate should be a “temperate and respectable body of citizens” that does business in a “cool and deliberate” way.

Q19.  How long is the term of a U.S. Senator?

A.  Six years.

The Framers of the Constitution wanted the Senators to be able to conduct their work independent of public opinion and without worry about running for reelection before they could get anything done.  The Framers thought that a term three times as long as served by members of the House would give Senators this protection.  Their counterparts in the House serve terms of two years and are more subject to public opinion.  What this means is they have a shorter window to please the people before gearing up for their reelection campaigns.  Public opinion of which political party is in the most favor can change rapidly, so longer Senate terms can ride out the waves of public opinion, the Framers thought.

There is no limit set by the Constitution of how many terms a Senator may serve in office, and elections for the Senate are held in even-numbered years.  Every two years, one third of the Senate is up for election.

Q20.  Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now?

A.  Obviously, the answer to this question will depend on which state you live in.  For a complete list of U.S. senators and the states they represent, go to www.senate.gov and search for your state.  This is a slightly trick question for people living in the District of Columbia or in one of the U.S. territories — there are no Senators from these!

Becoming a U.S. Citizen: 10 Minute Civics Lessons (Part 7)

Part of the process of becoming a naturalized United States citizen is demonstrating knowledge of your new country’s history and government. During your interview, you will be asked up to 10 questions from a list of 100, and must get six correct to pass. Applicants 65 years old and up who have been living as a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years follow a “20 for 20” rule: They are only required to study 20 of the 100 civics test questions, with a minimum of six correct required to pass. We’ll mark these with bold type. More information can be found in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services booklet M-638 (revised 12/09), called  “Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test.”

Section B. System of Government

Q14.  What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?

A.  Checks and balances, separation of powers

The United States Constitution separates the government into three branches — the Legislative, Executive and Judicial — to divide power and prevent one person or group from having too much authority or power over the people. This sets up a system of checks and balances, giving each branch the authority to block — or threaten to block — the actions of the other two branches of government.

Examples of checks and balances in action might include the Senate (part of the Legislative branch) blocking a treaty the President (part of the Executive branch) wants to sign with another country; another case would be where the U.S. Supreme Court (top of the Judicial branch) rejects a law passed by Congress (the House and Senate, part of the Legislative branch) because it rules the law violates the Constitution.  Giving one branch the authority to overrule other branches creates a separation of powers and limits the power of government overall, preventing it from violating the rights of the American people.

Q15.  Who is in charge of the Executive branch?

A.  The President of the United States.

The role of the Executive branch of the U.S. government is to execute, or carry out the laws passed by the Congress. The President is the head of the Executive branch, and serves a dual role — head of government and head of state. The President has the power to sign treaties with other countries and to select U.S. ambassadors to represent the country around the world. The president also proposes laws to Congress and sets national policies, and appoints the leaders of top federal departments. When a seat on the Supreme Court becomes vacant due to a death or retirement of one of the Justices, for example, the President has the authority to appoint a replacement. Of course, under the system of checks and balances, the Senate has the authority to block the President and refuse to confirm the President’s choice. This limits the President’s power, and ensures the office does not take on the role of a king or queen.


Becoming a U.S. Citizen: 10 Minute Civics Lessons (Part 6)

Part of the process of becoming a naturalized United States citizen is demonstrating knowledge of your new country’s history and government. During your interview, you will be asked up to 10 questions from a list of 100, and must get six correct to pass. Applicants 65 years old and up who have been living as a lawful permanent resident for at least 20 years follow a “20 for 20” rule: They are only required to study 20 of the 100 civics test questions, with a minimum of six correct required to pass. We’ll mark these with bold type. More information can be found in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services booklet M-638 (revised 12/09), called  “Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test.”

Section B. System of Government

Q13.  Name one branch of the U.S. government.

A.  Congress, Legislative, the President, Executive, the Courts, Judicial

There are three branches of the Unites States government, as set up by the Constitution. These are the Legislative, the Executive and the Judicial.

The Legislative branch is made up of the United States Senate and the United State House of Representatives. It is called a bicameral legislature because of these two “houses.” These two houses make up the Congress, and they are the elected officials that make the laws of the land. The Senate has 100 members, made up of two senators from each of the 50 states. The Senate is called the upper house of Congress. The lower house of Congress is the House of Representatives. The House has 435 members, and the states are represented proportionally — meaning the states with the largest populations have the most representatives. California, the largest state by population, has the most representatives at 53. The main job of the House is to pass federal legislation, or laws that affect the entire country. Before they become locked in as law, however, they must be approved by a majority vote by the Senate. If the Senate approves the House bill, the proposal goes to the President, who can sign it into law or deny it, using the veto. The only way a House bill can become law without the president’s involvement is if it passes the House AND Senate by a two-thirds majority vote.

The Senate  has several exclusive powers not granted to the House, including the oversight of treaties with other countries; approval of members of the Cabinet, federal judges, military leaders and ambassadors; and the power to conduct trials of federal officials impeached by the House. Two presidents in recent U.S. history have been impeached and put on trial in the Senate, Nixon and Clinton.

The Legislative branch of the government is established by Article I of the Constitution.

Article II of the Constitution establishes the second branch of the government, the Executive. The job of the Executive branch is to enforce the laws the Congress passes. The President of the United States is the head of the Executive branch, an office currently held by Barack Obama. The Vice President (Joe Biden) and the President’s Cabinet, made up of the Secretary of State (Hilary Clinton), the Secretary of the Treasury (Timothy F. Geithner), the Secretary of Defense (Robert M. Gates), the Secretary of Justice (Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.), the Secretary of the Interior (Kenneth L. Salazar), the Secretary of Agriculture (Thomas J. Vilsack), the Secretary of Commerce (Gary F. Locke), the Secretary of Labor (Hilda L. Solis), the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Kathleen Sebelius), the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (Shaun L.S. Donovan), the Secretary of Transportation (Ray LaHood), the Secretary of Energy (Steven Chu), the Secretary of Education (Arne Duncan), the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Eric K. Shinseki), and the the Secretary of Homeland Security (Janet A. Napolitano).

The third branch of the government, the Judicial, is set up by Article III of the Constitution, and is headed by the Supreme Court. The purpose of the Judicial branch is to make rulings to ensure the laws of the land agree with the Constitution. People can challenge laws through the court system, starting locally and working their way up to the Supreme Court, a nine-member body that has the final say on whether a law is constitutional.

Your Green Card Status After a DUI

If you are a permanent resident, your green card may be in danger after a DUI. You won’t always be deported, but you might face some legal problems. First off, avoid a DUI. While this is easy to say after the fact, being charged with drinking and driving is a serious offense. If you are unsure of what all the terms mean, here is a brief refresher.

All states penalize drivers who drink in excess and drive. All states use the .08% blood alcohol content level limit; if you reach that, you can and will be charged. You can expect your driver’s license to be suspended, to face potential jail time, and also to be fined. This is not even considering your green card status.

What happens if you are charged? If you have no green card, your ability to apply for one is in danger. If you have a green card, you risk losing it and being deported. Typically you are deported for more serious charges – if you are far over the BAC (blood alcohol content) limit and face long jail time. Also, this DUI will be on your record for life – if it stands – and the charges can hurt you for years to come.

You should now get a DUI lawyer. This is different than your immigration lawyer: you want someone who specializes in DUI law. It will be his or her job to question and challenge what happened and the charges. For example, profiling immigrants who are of a certain ethnic background is not unheard of, and if that occurs the charges can be thrown out. If the officer had no reason to pull you over – you made no mistakes and this can be proven – a strong defense is possible. Also, you may not have been over the limit; the breathalyzer test is not 100% accurate. There are many other possible defenses an experienced lawyer can make. You do have the option of a court appointed lawyer if you cannot afford a professional; while less effective, this is better than defending yourself.

Finally, if you want to protect your green card status, it’s time to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. It’s his or her job to ensure you can keep your green card and permanent residency status, that you can still apply for citizenship, and to stop any deportation