By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, February 17, both US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) and US Representative Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) both issued statements urging the Senate to Pass DHS Funding in light of a ruling by a federal judge enjoining President Barack H. Obama’s controversial unilateral policy of granting legal status and work permits to millions of immigrants who are living illegally in this country and issuing executive actions making it easier for corporations to import more foreign workers into the United States. Republicans have been arguing for months that the President’s Executive Actions are unconstitutional.
A federal court in the Southern District of Texas has issued a temporary stay on the pending implementation of President Obama’s unilateral executive action related to immigration to give 26 states, including Alabama, time to present their case in court challenging the President’s unilateral changes to American immigration law.
Senator Sessions said in a written statement, “The court’s ruling is yet further affirmation that the President’s action – as the President himself admitted many times – is illegal. President Obama has suspended some 500 pages of existing immigration law passed by the representatives of the American people, and replaced it with the very measures those representatives have repeatedly rejected. The President’s action violates our laws, our Constitution, and the centuries of legal heritage that yielded our Republic.” According to Sen. Sessions office the President’s executive amnesty would provide illegal immigrants with work permits, photo ID’s, social security benefits, Medicare coverage, cash tax credits, and the possibility of citizenship and chain migration.
Congressman Palmer said in his statement, “This ruling is the first step in restoring constitutional governance by respecting and upholding the separation of powers. The ruling should come as no surprise to the Obama Administration or members of Congress given the clear lack of constitutional authority to support President Obama’s executive order.”
Sen. Sessions continued, “Congress, so threatened, can never acquiesce to this action by funding it. The President has acted unconstitutionally, and it is the President – not Congress – who must back down. We are a coequal branch of government, delegated with the powers necessary to defend our institution and our Constitutional role. We cannot and must not establish the precedent that we will fund illegal actions on the hope that another branch of government will intervene and strike down that illegal action at some later point. To establish such a precedent would be to empower any future President to demand Congress fund any unlawful decree, and then assert that Congress is ‘shutting down the government’ unless this illegal, off-the-books program is funded. Congress must reassert its waning power. We must reestablish the Constitutional principle that the people’s representatives control the purse.”
Rep. Palmer added, “Now that a federal judge has stayed the Obama Administration from implementing the executive order to grant amnesty to almost five million illegal aliens, there is no need for the Senate to delay passage of the DHS funding bill passed by the House of Representatives.”
Sen. Sessions continued, ““This ruling is not an escape hatch for Democrat lawmakers who have been filibustering… We cannot and must not establish the precedent that we will fund illegal actions on the hope that another branch of government will intervene and strike down that illegal action at some later point… Today’s ruling should furnish our colleagues with yet one more reason to end their filibuster… President Obama has already shut down the Department of Homeland Security by ordering tens of thousands of immigration officers and agents to violate our laws and their oaths, sabotaging immigration enforcement and border control. Republicans are trying every day to restore Homeland Security – only a Democrat filibuster stands in the way.”
Rep. Palmer said, “The fact that the House bill did not include funding for the processing and assimilating the illegal aliens should be a moot point and should not prevent passage of the bill. Unless the Democrats in the Senate wish to ignore the decision of the court, they should end their filibuster and allow the DHS funding bill to go to the Senate floor.”
Rep. Palmer concluded, “The House-passed DHS funding bill is consistent with the federal judge’s order and provides the funding necessary for ensuring that DHS can carry out its mission without undue and unnecessary interruption. The court decision affirms what President Obama had previously said; he had no authority to act unilaterally. Now is the time for the Senate to pass the DHS Appropriations bill that has already cleared the House and would restore separation of powers.”
In the waning hours of the previous Congress, the two parties agreed to a continuing resolution, C.R., which kept the government running until October 1. All the government except the Department of Homeland Security, since that is the Department charged with defending the borders against unwelcome immigrants as well as other threats. Homeland Security was funded only until the end of February. The President has demanded that Congress fund the carrying out of his unilateral executive amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants. The Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security that keeps the Department funded but does not include funding for President Obama’s controversial executive amnesty. The Republicans, for the first time since 2006, now control the US Senate; but they lack the 60 votes necessary to shut off debate and end a Democrat filibuster of the House Homeland Security bill.
Meanwhile the President’s controversial program to expand his 2012 amnesty have been put on hold by the ruling. The Administration is appealing the ruling and is asking an appeals court to lift the stay.
Former US Attorney and Alabama Attorney General Jeff Sessions has represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate since his election in 1996 to replace the retiring Howell Heflin (D).
Congressman Gary Palmer represents Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District. This is Palmer’s first term in the United States Congress after 24 years leading the conservative Alabama Policy Institute (API). Rep. Palmer follows the long tenure of Representative Spencer Bachus (R).
Sessions is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest.
Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels
Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192.
Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.
The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.”
Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.”
“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.
ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.
ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.
Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence
The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two.
Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on five of those counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another count.
Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”
Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.
Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his entrance should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.
“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law. Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”
Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday.
“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game.
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.
Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83
The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”
Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.
Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.
The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.
While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.
Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”
His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.
This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.