Remembering Rosanell Eaton, An Outspoken Advocate for Voting Rights

When the Supreme Court shot down a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act — which required that certain places with a history of discriminating against voters get federal

With Trump At The Border, A Look Back At U.S. Immigration Policy

President Trump traveled to a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, today, continuing on his campaign to drum up support for a $5.7 billion border wall. The visit came after

What A Case Of Mistaken Identity Tells Us About Race In America

Jazmine Barnes, a 7-year-old black girl, was buried this week in Harris County, Texas. She was fatally shot while sitting in the car with her mother and siblings on the

Remembering Rosanell Eaton, An Outspoken Advocate for Voting Rights

When the Supreme Court shot down a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act — which required that certain places with a history of discriminating against voters get federal approval before making new changes to their voting laws — lawmakers in North Carolina wasted little time in passing sweeping new rules around voting. The state issued requirements for specific kinds of photo identification, cut back on early voting and preregistration.

Supporters of the new laws, who were overwhelmingly Republican, insisted that the measures were necessary to prevent voting fraud. But voting rights experts and advocates said that voter fraud was extremely rare and that the rules would make it much harder for younger voters, poorer voters, and black people — groups that were more likely to vote for Democrats and less likely to have official identification — to cast their ballots.

To Rosanell Eaton, the restrictive new laws seemed familiar. Eaton was the granddaughter of enslaved people who grew up under Jim Crow in Louisburg, N.C., and had been fighting against rules meant to keep black people from voting for nearly as long as she was legally eligible to cast a ballot. In the early 1940s, after she turned the legal voting age, Eaton traveled by mule wagon to register to vote at the Franklin County courthouse. But she found herself before three white men, who confronted her and tried to stop her. They demanded that she recite the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States — a common “literacy test” used to discourage and block and turn away black people from voting voters.

Remembering Rosanell Eaton

Eaton, unshaken, recited the entire thing. The men conceded and allowed her to register, making Eaton one of the first black voters in North Carolina since Reconstruction.

Eaton, who died on Saturday at the age of 97, was a well-known advocate for voting rights among Carolinians — she was a member of the NAACP, a county poll worker and a special registrar commissioner, helping thousands of people register to vote — but it wasn’t until she became the face of the lawsuit against the voting rules that North Carolina adopted in 2013 that she gained national prominence. Eaton, then 92, used her biography to place her state’s new rules into a larger history of disenfranchisement. “We have been this way before, but now we have been turned back and it’s a shame and a disgrace, and absolutely disgusting,” she said to a crowd at voting rights rally.

With Trump At The Border, A Look Back At U.S. Immigration Policy

President Trump traveled to a Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, today, continuing on his campaign to drum up support for a $5.7 billion border wall. The visit came after weeks of Congressional debate about border security that has resulted in a partial government shutdown.

In his address from the Oval Office on Tuesday, Trump described a “humanitarian and security crisis at our Southern border,” and focused on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

But as NPR has previously reported, studies show that undocumented immigrants in the U.S. commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans.

This fight over the border wall is just one part of the Trump administration’s hardline stance on immigration. He’s ended DACA, and pushed to make it harder for people to apply for asylum or to get greencards. He also tried to terminate the Temporary Protected Status program, which was designed to help people affected by environmental disasters or armed conflicts.

So we’re revisiting this interview with Hiroshi Motomura, an expert on refugee and immigration law who teaches at UCLA Law School. The subject of immigration isn’t merely academic for him. He comes from a family with mixed immigration statuses (he himself was declared “stateless” at one point,) and has spent decades researching, and living, the shifting fortunes of immigrants and their families.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Trump At The Border

Supporters of immigrants’ rights have criticized President Trump for saying he wants to limit family-based immigration. These critics have compared his policy proposals with parts of the Immigration Act of 1924, which had a national origins quota, or the Chinese Exclusion Act. Is that a fair assessment?

There’s a couple ways to think about the legislative proposals coming out of the White House. We’ve had a system for many years that has put a high value on family unity. So the proposals would seriously cut back on that.

What does that actually mean? Since 1965, we have family-based immigration playing a central role, as it always has, but a central role in a non-discriminatory system — at least as far as the legal categories are concerned. That’s meant that we’ve really diversified who can come to this country.

So now, the administration is trying to cut that back. One way to think about that is to look at the consequences: This would really make it hard to immigrate from Latin America. You’d have cutbacks in immigration from Latin America, you’d have cutbacks from Asia. The proposals to cut back on the diversity lottery would cut off a significant amount of immigration from Africa. So at one level it looks like it’s very neutral. But the fact is, in historical terms, it’s really a rollback to the period from the 1920s until 1965.