In Brief | Nation & World | 7-15-14


Obama pushes for immigration overhaul at ceremony for foreign-born service members

WASHINGTON — Celebrating the ethnic diversity of America, President Barack Obama said more than two dozen foreign-born service members who became U.S. citizens at the White House on the Fourth of July are vivid reminders that welcoming immigrants “is central to our way of life.”

He pleaded anew for new immigration policies, saying the vast range of backgrounds and experiences that has made America a melting pot for more than 200 years also makes the country stronger. He argued that the system must be retooled for the U.S. to remain the greatest nation on earth.

“The basic idea of welcoming immigrants to our shores is central to our way of life, it is in our DNA,” Obama said after the 25 service members representing 15 countries raised their right hands and pledged allegiance to the United States.

“From all these different strands, we make something new here in America. And that’s why, if we want to keep attracting the best and brightest from beyond our borders, we’re going to have to fix our immigration system, which is broken,” he said. “Pass common-sense immigration reform.”

The immigration issue is earning renewed attention because of the influx to the U.S. of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America. Under U.S. law, they must be returned to their home countries, angering immigration advocates who already take issue with Obama’s enforcement of deportations. They want Obama to allow the children to stay.

Germany summons ambassador over arrest of man reported to have spied for United States

BERLIN — Germany summoned the U.S. ambassador in Berlin on Friday following the arrest of a man reported to have spied for the United States, heightening friction between the two countries over alleged U.S. eavesdropping in Germany.

U.S. Ambassador John B. Emerson was called in “in connection with an investigation by the federal prosecutor,” the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The U.S. envoy “was asked to help in the swift clarification” of the case, it added.

Federal prosecutors say a 31-year-old German man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of spying for foreign intelligence services. They did not identify the suspect or the intelligence services.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters that Chancellor Angela Merkel been personally informed of the arrest.

He declined to comment on reports by Der Spiegel magazine and the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the man worked for Germany’s foreign intelligence service, known by its German acronym BND.

Amid declines in private sector union membership, unions for government workers are gaining

WASHINGTON — Unions representing government workers are expanding while organized labor has been shedding private sector members over the past half-century.

A majority of union members today now have ties to a government entity, at the federal, state or local levels.

Roughly 1-in-3 public sector workers is a union member, compared with about 1-in-15 for the private sector work force last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, 11.3 percent of wage and salary workers in the United States are unionized, down from a peak of 35 percent during the mid-1950s in the strong post-World War II recovery.

The typical union worker now is more likely to be an educator, office worker or food or service industry employee rather than a construction worker, autoworker, electrician or mechanic. Far more women than men are among the union-label ranks.

In a blow to public sector unions, the Supreme Court ruled this week that thousands of health care workers in Illinois who are paid by the state cannot be required to pay fees that help cover a union’s cost of collective bargaining.

By wire sources