Wednesday, May 28, 2008

DAY 78: Stephanopoulos and the Ban on Brown

As Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama campaigned for Hispanic votes this past weekend in Puerto Rico, ABC's George Stephanopoulos and his This Week program decided to ignore the political obvious for the political nonsense of Clinton's comment about RFK's assassination

Meanwhile, Sunday's Washington Post carried a big political analysis of the hot pursuit of Hispanic voters by the campaigns of Sen. John McCain and Obama. The previous Sunday's NYT carried the same analysis. Brown votes are green salsa hot, baby! (My mother used to make green salsa for non-Hispanics who worked with my father. We'd laugh when they'd walk out our kitchen door all smiles with a jar, not knowing what awaited their delicate tongues. Somebody get out the fire hose. Arriba! Arriba!) That's why Obama followed up Puerto Rico with a Monday appearance in New Mexico.

But you wouldn't know it from George's roundtable and the all-white cast of commentators.

For the past 78 days since I tried to ask George and ABC News about the absence of Hispanic journalists and analysts on his roundtable, there has been no change. I've been ignored, as have Hispanics in general. My questions that I even put in writing for my column for Hispanic Link News Service in Washington, D.C., were not considered worthy of response. It is obvious that there is no respect for Hispanics and issues close to their families, their well-being and their hearts.

There has been no mention of the unprecedented Postville, Iowa, raid by federal authorities and the incredible policy change in sentencing. Now, being in this country illegally is a criminal offense, punishable by five months in federal prison. Before it was treated as a misdemeanor with deportation. One hundred federal agents backed by two helicopters pulled off this raid. Meanwhile, there are not enough federal employees to inspect all the crates being shipped into this country from abroad. A dirty bomb inside our borders remains a real threat to thousands of innocent Americans. But hey, we've got 297 undocumented workers locked up in prison for five months at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There also has been no mention of the inhumane 287(g) deportation program that is ravaging Hispanic families in cities like Nashville. At the direction of the local sheriff, more than 3,000 undocumented immigrants have been deported over the past year. Hispanic children in kissing their fathers goodbye in the mornings do not know if they'll see them for days, months or years in the evenings. Hispanic children carry phone numbers of family and friends on their bodies in case momma and daddy aren't home by the evening.

This program was sold politically to remove the criminal elements from the undocumented population here. But statistics show that way more than two-thirds of those deported had no criminal records at all. Instead, they are being deported for traffic offenses like not wearing a seatbelt, and in one instance, fishing without a license.

As Father Joe Pat Breen of St. Edward Catholic Church in Nashville told his congregation: "We wouldn't treat animals this way."

The panels on politicial TV shows are so critical toward getting the word out about these outrages and human rights abuses. What the show's moderator is not aware of, or does not consider newsworthy, the panelist can bring up. The only way that social awareness is going to be built across racial and class lines to stop these outrages is if Latino panelists on mainstream TV media programs speak up.

And that's not going to happen if we let people and programs like Stephanopoulos and This Week get away with not having any Hispanic journalists or analysts on their roundtables. And there are plenty of Latinos who are qualified, including one on the editorial board of the NYT. Carolyn Curiel, Indiana daughter to Mexican parents, is a former ambassador to Belize, former Clinton administration speechwriter and former writer and producer of Nightline during the Ted Koppel glory days. And she's a helluva sportswriter; so take that George Will!

The American public wants to know about what's happening. The NYT story Saturday -- on the prison sentences handed out to undocumented workers in Postville and Waterloo -- was the second most-read Web story for the newspaper for that day.

We, as Hispanic TV viewers, voters, advocates and simply believers in human rights no matter our ethnicity, must pressure TV political shows to include Latino voices. Even CNN, which to its credit features two Hispanic voices on its election night political panels, needs to take corrective action. Their Hispanic strategists are both Republicans. Most Hispanics, particularly Mexican-Americans who comprise two-thirds of Latinos in America, vote predominantly Democrat. And CNN's GOP panelists are not going to bring up the human rights and due process outrages in Postville and here in Nashville, because those wrongs are supported by the Bush administration and most conservative, Republican politicians.

Please, please, contact This Week and voice a complaint about the lack of Hispanic panelists on the roundtable portion of the show. E-mail And if someone out there knows someone else at ABC who can be contacted, please let me know.

We must get the word about these outrages into the mainstream TV, political media shows to bring about change and make these abuses into campaign issues that the candidates must address.

Please, take time this week to send one e-mail to the above address, and let's start a snowball effect that crushes the mainstream TV's tradition of excluding Hispanics from public discussions facing this nation and our people.

Or let's start talking and assembling a Hispanic TV news network that broadcasts in the English language to reach Latinos and non-Latinos alike with the truth about and issues confronting America's largest minority group.

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