AM Update 8/14/12
8:47 am
Wed August 15, 2012

AM Update: DREAM Begins for Some, Voter Registration Decision Upheld, Tobacco Settlement Revisited

Program To Help Young Undocumented Immigrants Begins

An Obama administration executive order takes effect today that provides some protection from deportation for young undocumented immigrants who meet certain criteria. The order is seen as something of a work around by the administration after Congress failed to pass the so-called DREAM Act earlier this year.

The Texas Tribune reports that in order to apply for Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals, 

immigrants must have been brought to the country before they were 16 and must be younger than 31 as of the June 15 announcement. They must have graduated or currently be enrolled in school. Applicants must have also lived in the country consistently since June 15, 2007 and may not have been convicted of a serious misdemeanor, three misdemeanors or a felony.

The program aims to provide a reprieve from deportation by deferring action for a two-year period, Citizenship and Immigration Services officials say, but it does not equal permanent status. Nor does it provide a pathway to citizenship.

Applications for the program are available online and will be accepted starting today. Applicants will have to pay a $465 fee and provide proof of their eligibility, such as school transcripts, medical and financial records to qualify.

Locally, members of UT-Austin's  University Leadership Initiative will participate in a national campaign to assist those who wish to apply.

Some estimate that as many as 1.7 million may be eligible for the new program, as many as 200,000 in Texas.

Judge Keeps Parts Of New Voter Registration Laws On Hold

A U.S. District Court Judge upheld a ruling yesterday that blocks enforcement of some of Texas’s new voter registration laws. U.S. District Court Judge Gregg Costa made his second decision on the matter yesterday in Galveston.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had asked the judge to temporarily suspend an injunction put in place earlier this month, but the judge upheld his previous decision.

The non-partisan group Voting for America filed a lawsuit against the state, saying several of the new laws make it harder to register people to vote. The case is known as Voting for America v. Andrade

The laws limit who can hand out voter registration cards and who can collect completed forms.

Taxes on Tobacco Firms Under Scrutiny

Texas lawmakers are considering expanding the terms of the state's multi-billion dollar settlement with major cigarette companies like R. J. Reynolds, reached in 1998.

The idea is to apply the fees levied on those companies to additional tobacco firms that weren't covered under the original settlement. Lawmakers say they're seeking the funds to help compensate the state for health care costs associated with tobacco use. 

Members of the Texas House Ways and Means Committee met yesterday to hear testimony and discuss whether previously proposed legislation, which dealt with similar expansion issues, should be revisited in the coming session.

As KUT News reports, bringing currently non-participating companies in to to pay taxes could raise up to $40 million in revenue.