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Friday, June 22, 2012

The President's Immigration Policy Change

By Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S., Reference Librarian

In a Rose Garden speech last week, President Obama announced an immigration policy change. At the President's direction,the Department of Homeland Security is setting up a process to begin in sixty (60) days in which certain young immigrants can be assured that the possibility of deportation will be deferred.  The process is called Deferred Action Process for Young People Who are Low Enforcement Priorities.  Despite news reports to the contrary, the policy change is not styled an Executive Order, but is called a Directive. However, the Office of legal Counsel of the Department of Justice wrote an opinion which says there is no difference in substance between an Executive Order and a Directive.

The qualifications for deferral are:
  1. Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
  3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
  5. Are not above the age of thirty.
Deferral will be decided on a case by case basis. There is a blog post at the whitehouse.gov site which provides questions and answers on the directive.

For the ability to contrast this Directive with the proposed legislation known as the Dream Act of 2011 refer to H. R. 1842, Introduced in the House of Representatives May 11, 2011 and S. 952 introduced in the Senate on the same date.  These full-text PDFs were retrieved using the FDsys system provided by the Government Printing Office.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Changes to the First Floor of the Fred Parks Law Library

The first floor of the Fred Parks Law Library has long been established as the "Ultra Quiet Floor." Upcoming changes will allow the floor to hold true to its description, even when patrons are using the microfiche machines on that floor. 
 
Construction has begun to turn part of the staff office area into a soundproof room for the microfiche readers and printers. We have been informed that the noisiest days will be Monday June 18-Wednesday June 20. The project is estimated to be complete on Monday July 9th, 2012. 

If you have any questions or problems concerning this new library project, please don't hesitate to ask a librarian. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Texas Forensic Science Commission - Forensic Science Seminar

Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S., Reference Librarian

The Texas Forensic Science Commission  was created by HB 1068 in the 2005 Texas Legislative Session. This Forensic Science Seminar,  June 4 - 5, 2012, unlike most continuing legal education events, brings together DNA and arson experts, arson investigators, medical examiners, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, medical doctors and civil rights activists, to make scientific evidence used in the legal system more reliable.

The two big areas of forensics that are familiar to most are arson investigation and DNA analysis. In Texas, the Todd Willingham case is an example; he was executed for the deaths of two children, when it now appears that the suspect fire was accidental.  Faulty arson investigation is blamed.  It is also now apparent that post-conviction DNA analysis reveals that a significant number of people have been wrongfully convicted due to faulty forensic testimony to juries.

But forensics includes more than just arson and DNA analysis.  The federal government has sponsored a report called Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward. The report's author is Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Sciences Community, National Research Council. It is commonly referred to as the NAS Report.

A paragraph from the report tells us forensic science encompasses:

...a broad range of forensic disciplines, each with its own set of technologies and practices. In other words, there is wide variability across forensic science disciplines with regard to techniques, methodologies, reliability, types and numbers of potential errors,research, general acceptability, and published material. Some of the forensic science disciplines are laboratory based (e.g., nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analysis, toxicology and drug analysis); others are based on expert interpretation of observed patterns (e.g., fingerprints, writing samples, toolmarks, bite marks, and specimens such as hair). The “forensic science community,” in turn, consists of a host of practitioners, including scientists (some with advanced degrees) in the fields of chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and medicine; laboratory technicians; crime scene investigators; and law enforcement officers. There are very important differences, however, between forensic laboratory work and crime scene investigations. There are also sharp distinctions between forensic practitioners who have been trained in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, and medicine (and who bring these disciplines to bear in their work) and technicians who lend support to forensic science enterprises. Many of these differences are discussed in the body of this report.