When not wrangling copy for the MoJo crew, Ian writes about immigration, sports, and Latin America. His work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, Wired, and Slate. Got a comment or a tip? Email him: igordon [at] motherjones [dot] com.
Now that the White House plan for immigration reform has leaked, we have an idea of how the administration plans to deal with the 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the United States: They would have to wait eight years with "lawful prospective immigrant status" before applying for a green card, and ultimately citizenship. Opponents are falling over themselves to portray it as amnesty, but the Obama plan shows the White House's sensitivity to the "back of the line" question: How do you keep people who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas from jumping in front of folks who have taken the legitimate route?
The thing is, the back-of-the-line concept doesn't really apply here, because there is no single line—there are a lot of them, and most are frightfully slow. Depending on where you're from, what you do, and whom you're related to, your wait can range from a couple of years to interminable. Think you can find your way through America's bureaucratic and political immigration labyrinth? Take this interactive for a spin:
South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, has been charged with murder for shooting his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, early this morning. While initial reports suggested that the 26-year-old athlete had mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar, the BBC reported that authorities were skeptical: "Police say neighbours heard screaming and shouting around the time of the shooting, and that they had been called to investigate incidents of a domestic nature at the same house in the past."
(Following the shooting, Nike pulled a South African TV ad featuring Pistorius and the tagline "I am the bullet in the chamber.")
The shooting is the most high-profile case from a country that, like the United States, has recently grappled with the impact of its well-established gun culture. Interestingly, firearms are not mentioned in the South African constitution, and a tough gun control law was passed in 2000. When it went into effect five years later, it put a five-gun limit on most citizens, allowing just one gun per person for self-defense purposes. As the Times explained:
But getting any gun at all, critics say, is the big task. Guns are to be automatically denied to drug or alcohol abusers, spouse abusers, people inclined to violence or "deviant behavior" and anyone who has been imprisoned for violent or sex-related crimes. The police interview three acquaintances of each applicant before deciding whether he or she is competent to own a gun. Prospective gun owners must pass a firearms course. They also must install a safe or strongbox that meets police standards for gun storage.
South Africa now ranks 50th in the world in gun ownership rates, and gun-related crime has dropped 21 percent since 2004-05. Shooting murders of women, particularly by their partners, has dropped, as shown by this chart from a 2012 report (PDF) by the South African Medical Research Council. (Murders by partners are called "intimate femicides.")
Still, in 2007, the country's gun homicide rate was among the highest in the world, ranking 12th at 17 gun murders annually per 100,000 people. To put that statistic in context: In 2007, there were 8,319 gun deaths murders in South Africa, a country of roughly 49 million people. The United States—No. 1 in gun ownership, and with more than six times as many people—had 9,960 gun deaths homicides in 2012.
In many ways, American and South African gun culture and gun violence are quite different. But the possibility that Pistorius intentionally shot and killed Steenkamp brings to mind two of the most prominent pro-gun myths: namely, that keeping a gun at home makes you and your loved ones safer, and that guns make women safer.
Remember all the excitement when the San Francisco 49ers became the first NFL team to make an "It Gets Better" video in support of bullied LGBT teens? Now the Niners are the first NFL team to have its "It Gets Better" video pulled from Dan Savage's site.
In the wake of a presidential campaign that saw Mitt Romney popularize the term "self-deportation" and President Obama clobber his rival among Latino and Asian American voters, Obama and the Senate's bipartisan Gang of Eight have announced the broad strokes of their respective immigration reform plans, which aim to deal with the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. We put together this primer to help you follow the debate now brewing.
What is "comprehensive immigration reform"? For years, this expression has been code for an immigration compromise. It would include tougher border enforcement (more Border Patrol agents, fencing, etc.), while also proposing a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants already here. Guest worker programs are often the third prong, in theory providing a legal way for foreign workers to fill temporary jobs in the US.
As my colleague Adam Serwer pointed out, Obama's plan makes no mention of a guest worker program, while the proposal put forward by the Gang of Eight—Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)—calls for a "humane and effective system" for "immigrant workers to enter the country and find employment without seeking the aid of human traffickers or drug cartels."
In a corporate sports world dominated by controversy-averse players giving boilerplate non-answers, Chris Kluwe is a glimmering sparklepony of candor. The former Minnesota Vikings and current Oakland Raiders punter is best known for his now-infamous letter to a same-sex-marriage opponent in the Maryland General Assembly, assuring Delegate Everett C. Burns Jr. that gay people "won't turn you into a lustful cockmonster."
Kluwe's devastating takedown, posted on the Gawker sports blog Deadspin in September, generated 2.3 million pageviews and launched the 31-year-old into a new stratosphere of visibility. So much for the stereotypically lonely kicker: Kluwe now has nearly 150,000 Twitter followers (his handle, @ChrisWarcraft, is a nod to his gaming habit) and was even named Salon's Sexiest Man of the Year.
While Kluwe's marriage diatribe prompted some homophobic trolling, he says the response to it and his other outspoken opinions on climate change, corporate responsibility, and "stupidity in general" has been overwhlemingly positive, even in hostile territory. "We were at Green Bay," he says, recalling pregame warm-ups in a nearly empty Lambeau Field. "All of a sudden I hear from the stands: 'Chris Kluwe, I love your politics!'"
Yet even internet celebs aren't immune to their boss' grumbling: In mid-December, the Vikings' special-teams coach complained that the punter was becoming a distraction. Asked if he'd approached Kluwe, the coach responded, "Nah. He don't listen."
Here's Kluwe doing his thing on the January 8 episode of The Colbert Report:
Mother Jones: What first prompted you to dive into the marriage-equality debate?
Chris Kluwe: Minnesotans for Equality. One of the people involved with them had been following me for a while on Twitter and figured I would help them out in terms of defeating the amendment, and so I said, "Yeah, that sounds like a great thing." There's no reason to enshrine discrimination into a state constitution.