Corey Dade

Although he's been a public figure for three decades, the Rev. Al Sharpton is more visible these days than ever, often in ways even he wouldn't have dreamed when he was leading protests on the streets of New York in the 1980s.

If you watched the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama, you probably saw the dais behind him filled with the usual lot of past presidents, members of Congress and so on. You also may have caught sight of a new, and improbable, addition: Sharpton.

The new Congress will hold its first hearing on overhauling immigration laws on Tuesday, and some pro-immigrant groups and Democrats already are grumbling that the makeup of witnesses scheduled to testify before a House panel is weighted toward conservatives who oppose citizenship for illegal immigrants and support a limited flow of newcomers.

Critics are concerned that the witness list signals that Republican lawmakers' post-election embrace of immigration reform may not materialize. None of the pro-immigrant groups is represented among the speakers.

Years of criticism and even a U.S. Supreme Court challenge couldn't force the Boy Scouts of America to admit openly gay members and leaders. But money talks, and after the defections of major donors, the 103-year-old organization is poised to lift its national ban.

Just last summer, the Boy Scouts reaffirmed the ban after a lengthy internal review. Several incidents since then have tarnished the organization's image and fueled an aggressive nationwide protest led by an Eagle Scout.

President Obama's highly anticipated speech Tuesday outlining his blueprint for an overhaul of the nation's immigration system was perhaps most notable for the big issues left unaddressed.

A bipartisan Senate plan unveiled Monday to overhaul the U.S. immigration system frames a pitched debate expected in Congress around the areas of border enforcement, a path to citizenship for those already in the country and the future flow of new arrivals.

Editor's note: NPR's Corey Dade recently traveled to New York to interview the Rev. Al Sharpton about the unusual arc of his checkered career, from pugnacious street fighter for racial justice to savvy insider with ties to CEOs, a successful television show and the the ear of a soon-to-be second-term president.

With immigration expected to be a top issue in the new Congress, lawmakers in both parties continue to call for a bipartisan approach — while also preparing for battle.

The messaging from many House Democrats and Republicans about the chances of passing an immigration overhaul remains optimistic. And some of them, such as Republican Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Democrat Zoe Lofgren of California, have begun to meet privately.

But other moves indicate that lawmakers are hedging their bets and girding for a fight.

In a sign of growing opposition to President Obama's immigration policy, Iowa has become the latest state to deny driver's licenses to young illegal immigrants who receive deferments from deportation.

African-Americans voted this year at a higher rate than other minorities and may have topped the rate for whites for the first time, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

Possible revisions to how the decennial census asks questions about race and ethnicity have raised concerns among some groups that any changes could reduce their population count and thus weaken their electoral clout.

The Census Bureau is considering numerous changes to the 2020 survey in an effort to improve the responses of minorities and more accurately classify Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern and multiracial populations.

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