World briefly 5/22


Senate committee OKs immigration bill

WASHINGTON — Far-reaching legislation that grants a chance at citizenship to millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a solid bipartisan vote Tuesday night after supporters somberly sidestepped a controversy over the rights of gay spouses.

The 13-5 vote cleared the way for an epic showdown on the Senate floor on legislation that is one of President Barack Obama’s top domestic priorities — yet also gives the Republican Party a chance to recast itself as more appealing to minorities.

The action sparked rejoicing from immigration activists who crowded into a Senate committee room to witness the proceedings. “Yes, we can! Si, se puede” they shouted, reprising the campaign cry from Obama’s first run for the White House in 2008.

In addition to creating a pathway to citizenship for 11.5 million immigrants, the legislation creates a new program for low-skilled foreign labor and would permit highly skilled workers into the country at far higher levels than is currently the case.

At the same time, it requires the government to take costly new steps to guard against future illegal immigration.

IRS official to take the 5th before Congress

WASHINGTON — Summoned by Congress, a key figure in the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups plans to invoke her constitutional right against self-incrimination and decline to testify at a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

Lois Lerner heads the IRS division that singled out conservative groups for additional scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns. She was subpoenaed to testify Wednesday before the House oversight committee.

But in a letter to committee leaders, Lerner’s lawyer said she would refuse to testify because of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.

Among the harsher Republican comments after the IRS targeting was revealed last week, House Speaker John Boehner said he wanted to know, “Who’s going to jail over this scandal?” Lerner’s Washington lawyer, William W. Taylor III, said Tuesday that his client “has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation, but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course.”

Ali Ahmad, a spokesman for Oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the subpoena stands, raising the possibility of a public spectacle in which Lerner would decline to answer question after question.

Gay teen faces battery charges for kissing girlfriend

MIAMI — An 18-year-old Florida cheerleader is facing felony charges that she had sexual contact with her underage, 14-year-old girlfriend, leading gay rights advocates to say the teen is being unfairly targeted because she’s gay.

The criminal case against Kaitlyn Hunt is unusual because it involves two females. Advocates say older high schoolers dating underclassmen is an innocuous occurrence that is not prosecuted and not a crime on par with predatory sex offenses.

Hunt played on the basketball team with her girlfriend and shared the same circle of friends, said Hunt’s mother, Kelley Hunt Smith. The two began a consenting relationship soon after Kaitlyn Hunt turned 18, and Hunt Smith said she assumed the younger girl’s parents knew that.

But Hunt was kicked off the basketball team after the coach learned of the relationship because players were not allowed to date each other, her parents said. Then, in February, she was charged with lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12 to 16. The day before she was arrested, police and the younger girl’s parents secretly recorded a phone conversation in which the two girls discussed kissing in the school bathroom, said Hunt’s father, Steve Hunt.

By wire sources