Citizens United is standing in the way of immigration reform
"You have the right not to open the door. You have the right to be protected from unlawful searches by ICE agents. You do not have to sign any documents that a government official asks you to sign. Know your rights."
This mantra was memorized by immigrants across the country after President Trump announced large-scale Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids this summer. A single tweet thread created a new reality for immigrants and their families. Many now fear leaving their homes, going to work or even answering a knock at the door. You don't have to be a Catholic nun to understand that forcing people to live in terror is wrong.
The Catholic social justice teaching is that all people possess an equal and inalienable worth. Scripture tells us that we too were once strangers in a strange land and so we must love immigrants as ourselves. But the Trump administration is attacking our immigrant sisters and brothers in the Supreme Court.
Beneficiaries of DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, are a generation of young immigrants who were brought to our country as children, but are now at risk of losing their protections. For many, the United States is the only home they have ever known. Until recently, they have lived their lives without fear of deportation. Soon, that may change.
And our minimally regulated campaign finance system is part of their problem.
The Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in three cases that will determine the future of the DACA program. If the court sides with the Trump administration, nearly 700,000 aspiring Americans will be deported. Their home is here and to end the DACA program goes against all moral teachings of my faith.
For almost two decades, Congress has failed to establish a permanent pathway to citizenship for people who were brought to the United States at a young age, also called "Dreamers." Although several bipartisan versions of the Dream Act have been introduced in Congress, none has passed. And so, in 2012 the Obama administration created the DACA program, granting "Dreamers" a temporary reprieve while Congress worked on a permanent solution.
The House passed such a bill this June, with bipartisan support. However, like so many other critical common good bills, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has buried the legislation in his Senate graveyard and refuses to take any action.
This isn't what the voters want. Polling shows 77 percent of Americans support a pathway to citizenship and protections for these young immigrants. However, due to paralysis in Congress, the fate of the program now rests in the hands of the Supreme Court.
One of the reasons Congress is so hamstrung on immigration, and many other critical issues, is because of the undue influence of wealthy far right donors. The only way we will ever have a government that is truly guided by the will of the people is to reform our democratic process and put the power back where it belongs — in the hands of voters.
In a secular democracy, elections are the closest thing we have to a sacrament. As a Catholic sister who follows Pope Francis' call to immerse ourselves in politics, I can see that our elections have been corrupted. The 2010 landmark decision in Citizens United v. FEC undermined democracy by opening the door for wealthy far right donors to spend unlimited — and often untraceable — amounts of money to influence voters.
Citizens United has also dealt an additional blow to our democracy by ushering in a Senate and president who care more about delivering on promises made to donors rather than the priorities of their constituents. This leaves important issues, like the fate of almost 700,000 DACA recipients, in limbo.
The only way to finally pass common-sense, good legislation is to reclaim our democracy and end the outsized influence of big money. HR 1, passed by the House this spring, is a comprehensive approach to fixing our democracy. It will help restore faith in our government by protecting every person's vote, reducing the power of lobbyists and removing big money from campaigns. This is faithful democracy in action.
The Supreme Court now has the opportunity to make things right for DACA recipients. However, Congress must act to reverse the corruption of Citizens United and ensure all Americans have the opportunity to participate in our democracy and thrive in our country. This is the faithful way forward. It is only when every vote counts that "We the People" can truly be heard.
In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.
The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.
With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.
This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.
Laura Williamson says her career was shaped by growing up in North Carolina, which she describes as being historically at the center of the best and worst of American democracy. She spent seven years working with young people at progressive groups and got a master's in public affairs at Princeton before joining Demos in the summer of 2018. The think tank aims to combat "threats to democracy, racial equity and economic inclusion" and as a senior policy analyst she's focused on voter registration, voting rights, money in politics and civic participation. Her answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?
Abolishing all disenfranchisement schemes and achieving an inclusive, multiracial democracy.
Describe your very first civic engagement.
Testifying at the North Carolina General Assembly against cuts to funding for vocational education. The woodworking classes I took throughout high school were among the most formative of my public school education, so as a high school senior I advocated for their continued funding to lawmakers in Raleigh.
What was your biggest professional triumph?
It's actually a triumph-in-progress. At Demos, we are privileged to work with powerful grassroots leaders redefining democracy and pushing the reform conversation across the country. Alongside these Inclusive Democracy Project leaders we are dreaming and scheming about what it would take to build a truly inclusive democracy — without limiting ourselves by what's perceived as politically feasible or reasonable — and to chart a radical reform agenda that meets the challenge. Our agenda is in progress and, like all real victories, is benefitting from the efforts of many smart and talented people. Stay tuned, it'll be ready for public consumption soon!
And your most disappointing setback?
They have always come after I've not listened well enough, have brought too much ego and taken things too personally, or not followed my gut about when a process or decision felt off.
How does your identity influence the way you go about your work?
I'm from North Carolina, where we pioneered multiracial, pro-justice fusion politics during Reconstruction, civil disobedience during the civil rights movement and franchise-expanding voting reforms since the 1990s. More recently, we have also been home to the vanguard of voter suppression and other democracy stifling tactics since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. I stand on the shoulders of giants and against the abdication of our identity as democracy leaders. I also do this work because, as a white woman, I know the exclusion of entire communities from our democracy was — and is still — led by my people and, often, in my name. I work every day to undo that legacy and ongoing reality.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Learn to simultaneously practice patience and show up with urgency in all the work I do.
Create a new flavor for Ben & Jerry's.
Impeaches and Cream
West Wing or Veep?
West Wing — for the sometimes-too-earnest belief that government can be a force for good, not the centrist politics!
What's the last thing you do on your phone at night?
Turn on do not disturb.
What is your deepest, darkest secret?
I'm deeply terrified by karaoke.
Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.
With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.
Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.
Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.
I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.
Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.