Achy Obejas

writer & translator


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Sen. Mark Kirk and other story follow-ups

So the cat is out of the bag and you all now know this is the last month for certain blogs here at WBEZ. I’ll go into the specifics of my situation later, in my last blog, but in the meantime, I wanted to continue doing updates on some of the stories I’ve been covering for the last three years.

* In June 2010, I wrote about Sen. Mark Kirk, our state’s junior senator, who said he’d “misremembered” the circumstances of his military service, the memory conveniently enhancing his resume. Kirk is something of an enigma, a Republican from a blue state, one of the Democratic president’s home states, and occasionally a line-crosser.

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Our Iron Curtain

A U.S. Border Patrol agent stands at the border fence in Nogales, Ariz. (John Moore/Getty Images)

A U.S. Border Patrol agent stands at the border fence in Nogales, Ariz. (John Moore/Getty Images)

As the U.S. senate considers an immigration reform bill in June that includes a path to citizenship for currently undocumented residents—a very long path, at least 13 years—border security has emerged as the great bugaboo in the debate.

The bill, put together by the bipartisan team of senators called the Gang of Eight, cleared the Judiciary Committee after more than 300 attempts to amend it—including many by conservative Republicans intended to kill it by piling on provisions that couldn’t pass.

And, in fact, the bill only made it to the Senate floor because the Gang accepted at least eight amendments from GOPers requiring symbolically enhanced border security as a condition for any kind of road to citizenship. Among these was an amendment requiring that 90 percent of all unauthorized crossings be stopped, and another tightening the monitoring of student visas. (This last was an imbecilic response to the Boston Marathon bombings, which were committed by one U.S. citizen and one legal U.S. resident, neither of whom had ever held student visas.)

Republican senators can count on a Fox poll to back up their border vigilance: 73 percent of Americans support increasing border security before considering any other aspect of immigration reform. After the bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, Speaker of the House John Boehner vaguely threatened to derail the bill, referring to border security as “dysfunctional.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Drunk with hope

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

Edward Snowden didn’t vote for Barack Obama but he trusted—or, perhaps, ironically, had enough hope—in his candidacy that he waited until after the 2008 elections to make the decision to unveil the extent of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program.

You could say Snowden hoped candidate Obama—so publicly against the Iraq War, so dubious about domestic spying and other programs, so happy to be viewed as a reformer—might actually undo some of the harm, and potential harm, established by the post 9/11 terrorism cure-all known as the Patriot Act.

Candidate Obama was, after all, the constitutional lawyer who understood the limits of government, the Illinois State Representative who asserted “it means something to be a citizen,” the U.S. Senator who described some of the specific provisions that have allowed PRISM as “way aboard.”

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Want to get back at the politicians who denied marriage equality?

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

The failure of the Illinois state legislature to pass the marriage equality bill has certain folks suggesting payback for those elected officials at, of all misguided and silly things, the annual Pride Parade coming up June 30. There’s even a petition over at Change.org asking that politicians be denied entry into the parade. It’s already garnered more than 1,800 signatures.

But as Tracey Baim very reasonably explains in a current editorial in Windy City Times, it’s a questionable tactic.  For starters, the only two state reps who are registered to participate are Greg Harris and Sarah Feigenholtz. Denying them would actually be denying ourselves.

And, anyway, it’s too late: the Parade is set, whomever was going to come and party with us decided to do so before the vote on marriage equality. Want to make a political calculation out of the parade? Count the absences, then cross reference them with the promises we’ve been hearing this last year.

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Achy Obejas on Chicago Newsroom

Guest host and WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore is joined by Ethan Michaeli, We The People Media, Britt Julious, WBEZ and Achy Obejas, WBEZ. They discuss the state of public housing and Chicago’s neglected neighborhoods. This program was produced by Chicago Access Network Television.


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Tom Dart for Mayor?

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Follow up on recent stories:

* On Wednesday I wrote about potential challengers to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and listed Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle as a significant challenger and Rep. Luis Gutierrez as capable of mounting a passionate campaign. A lot of people asked about Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. I like Dart, but Dart doesn’t have a natural constituency. He may have credibility but he doesn’t have the deep roots or ethnic/racial identification of the other candidates. I say if it’s Emanuel and Dart, Rahm slaughters him.

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