Thursday, May 29, 2008
The amount of disrespect and inhumanity showed to these hard-working and church-going people seems to reach a new depth each week. And the lack of TV media coverage of these outrages only ensures change will be more difficult to bring about. Just as during the Civil Rights movement, it took whites joining with blacks to end injustice. It took Catholics, Jews and Baptists acting as one. It took people from the North and people from the South standing together. First, however, all these different people must be informed and told how to get involved.
For now, let us take solace and encouragement from three small but important victories.
1) In a suburb of Dallas, a local ordinance prohibiting apartment rental to undocumented workers was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge.
AP reported the following: "The ordinance, passed last year, would have required landlords to verify the legal status of applicants. It would have exempted minors and applicants 62 or older from having to prove their immigration status or citizenship. Residents endorsed the measure by two to one in May 2007."
The federal judge said the city and its voters could not create a class of people to be discriminated against. Praise God for the Constitution.
2) The county clerk here in Nashville's Davidson County ended a 10-year ban on marriage licenses to undocumented workers. His decision came after the state attorney general, in reviewing a federal lawsuit brought against the state of Tennessee, sided with the Hispanic plaintiff claiming unequal protection under the law. Gov. Phil Bredesen, supposedly a Democrat, had sided against the Hispanic plaintiff and in favor of continued discrimination.
It's strange, but aren't all the forces pushing for more harsh treatment of undocumented Hispanics supposed to be in favor of family values like love and marriage?
3) John Lamb of hispanicnashville.com reports that state judicial authorities have again reprimanded a Dickson County juvenile court judge in Tennessee, this time for disparate treatment -- including jailing -- of Hispanic children of undocumented workers at three separate hearings. The complaint was brought by local civil rights attorney Jerry Gonzalesz. A reprimand is one step short of ouster. The judge predetermined any Hispanic before his court was illegally here. And when he was challenged, he jailed the children as unruly even though the petition before him made no mention of the youth's conduct, state judicial authorities ruled.
Judge A. Andrew Jackson was previously reprimanded for public intoxication at a juvenile law conference, where he made disparaging remarks about an African-American attendee and the same to a female attendee. See Lamb's in-depth story at http://www.hispanicnashville.com/
Tell state judicial authorities what you think of Judge Jackson. Send an e-mail to: email@example.com Be respectful to Ms. Allison, however. She is a nice person and is only the public information officer for the courts. Aim your comments at state judicial authorities and ask her to forward your e-mail to them.
Yes, these three victories are very small when set against the outrages in Postville from the ICE raid and the terror in Nashville from the 287(g) deportation program. But we must continue to hope, because economic and moral right are on our side.
This week, I came across what was called the "Tim Chavez Poll" initiated by the Nashville Atheists Meetup Group. It was posted around Thanksgiving time in 2005, so someone must have been feeling quite charitable then.
Here is the poll:
Tim Chavez is:
e) all of the above
I'm only thankful my extended family didn't participate in assembling of the poll or there might of been a few more additions to the list.
Seriously, when you put your name and writing out for public consumption, you are fair game. Are you listening, Sen. Barack and Michele Obama? So I take no offense whatsoever to the poll. I know I came on strong back then and didn't write in a way that should have been more inclusive and less rigid. Some of the most moral people I know are atheists. So for my past offenses, I do apologize. I would have even participated in the poll but my leukemia diagnosis came down like a load of bricks several days later.
But there is one thing I cannot forgive. That's the lack of the final poll results on the website. There is a contact person on the site, and you're invited to contact her. But when you click on her name, you have to register for the website. And I don't believe the atheists would want me poisoning their network with my name.
So, if there is someone out there in cyberspace who can give me the final poll results, please send me an e-mail. I'm thinking that the top choice was probably "e", but I'd still like to know for certain. I'm making a kind of scrapbook of things that happened during my time on the brink, and this poll will be a highlight.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
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 Andrea.M.Jones@abc.com 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.
When she was at Purdue in the late 60s, women were not allowed in the marching band and to go out on appearances. So she couldn't take her high school marching band experience to West Lafayette, Ind., all because of her gender.
Now, women can be in the marching band. Actually, they can be in a lot of places that once restricted their gender. But in a very few instances, that doesn't necessarily make things better.
Consider Sunday morning's appearance of former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers on the non-Hispanic roundtable portion of This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Myers, who has written a book about something concerning if women ruled the world, verbally stomped on Sen. Hillary Clinton's candidacy by wondering what the New York senator really wanted by staying in the race.
Well, Dee Dee, she wants the presidential nomination of her political party. And her numbers work when it comes to the electoral college map and the states she has won compared to those of Sen. Obama. And some of the Obama states won't even be playable for a Democrat in the general election.
Sen Clinton is -- at this time without much African-American support -- the most electable candidate. And she is the favorite of most Hispanic voters and would tromp Sen. John McCain in competing for them.
She is not the most charismatic. She is not a member of a minority group. She doesn't draw the largest crowds. But when it comes to how the superdelgate process is supposed to work in the Democratic Party, she is making the right kind of pitch at the right time.
Myers confirms a complaint my wife has about younger women who did not have to go through all the outrages of denial and restrictions older women faced. There is a lack of recognition of even recent history, and with that blindness, there is a lack of respect to female pioneers.
I'm not saying that Myers should automatically speak favorably of Clinton becuase she is a woman, too. But Myers should at least cut her some slack and listen to what she is saying. Ascribing less-than-admirbale motives to Sen. Clinton is unfair. The campaign is still ongoing. And the campaign is a historic one.
A woman still in the race for a major political party's nomination at this point of the campaign is a sign of progress for this nation, even if Myers can't recognize it and attaches ill motives instead.
Liz is the best political writer in the state. And the comments she fields about Phil Bredesen being VP stock for the Democratic Party ticket must drive her mad for their far removal from reality. In a fine column a month or so ago, she called out Bredesen for his betrayal on many issues. Gov. Dino's most frequent excuse has been that he did not have the time for the issue.
Gov. DINO -- a Democrat In Name Only who is a Flintstones' dinosaur when it comes to proposing, supporting and preserving progressive political policy -- has cut state health care rolls, threatened the employment of the working poor in state jobs and proposed to maintain a $100 million goody bag for corporations under the "one size fits all" category of economic development. Meanwhile, Tennessee families being buried by rising medical bills saw any help for them snuffed out this legislative session.
Yet, Nashville Democrats continue to tout Gov. DINO as someone worthy to be on a national ticket of change. Former Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., not of Nashville, has even said the same. Do these people not want a new political party in the White House? Gov. DINO would be a better fit as Sen. John McCain's running mate on the GOP side, since he has run state government as if Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn was in the executive mansion. The only real difference between him and Blackburn is that he knows how to keep his campaign finance books in accordance with the law.
So when it comes to that political animal called Nashvillius Democratus, I just don't know. Could someone tell me what qualities and positions on issues distinguish this being from the GOP counterpart? So far, it looks like they're more stuck on celebrity and wealth, which should help Miley Cyrus when she decides to run for governor.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
As New York Times reporter Julia Preston finely reported, the workers -- mostly Guatemalans -- were processed and sentenced to jail in only four days. Yes, four short days. Many did not have access to attorneys. So they pleaded guilty, not knowing what they were in for. In particular, Guatemalans are challenged in communicating and understanding because they do not necessarily speak Spanish. Many have a different dialect unique to their culture.
Preston pointed out that illeal presence in this country has normally been treated as a civil misdemeanor with deportation. Now it is being treated as a criminal offense for imprisonment, based on the wrong of carrying false documents. The sentencing of these meatpacking workers from Postville and Waterloo took place at the nearby National Cattle Congress. How fitting, for a policy that indeed treats human beings like animals and defecates on due process guaranteed in our Constitution.
The rising stench is unbearable. May our founding fathers forgive us.
I would not have believed possible this kind of savagery of people and their families, let alone this corruption of this country's sacred promise of due process. Twice, I have sat across from President George W. Bush in interviews at the White House, and he has claimed compassion for people just seeking a better life.
Afterall, his parents employed a Mexican nanny in Houston. She had come across the border to better support her boys. Bush told that story to me with tears in his eyes. He called her "a scond mother". So why the Gestapo tactics now?
Yet, while the president has sacricifed more than 4,000 American lives and spent nearly a trillion dollars in a nation where people really don't like us, he has violated any sense of human decency with people here who see America as a shining light on a hill. And their sons and daughters, not even citizens, have fought and died for this country in Iraq. America's Green Card soldiers have distingushed themselves and see citizenship as something to be earned. In contrast, most Americans won't even this nation's flag in front of their home, even on Memorial Day.
There will be unintended consequences. The Bush administration's action will only put Americans in foreign countries more at risk to be treated in the same inhumane way. We protect the rights of non-Americans here as a safguard for Americans abroad. That's a point most radio talk show hosts can't seem to understand. President Hugo Chavez will use these human rights abuses in America to make a new pitch of this country's bigoted evils toward Latin America and its peoples. And if he is successful, Chavez will rise in stature and create more of a national security threat to our nation on our southern borders.
This terrible turn in immigration policy -- of now bringing federal criminal charges on undocumented workers -- just opens the door further to more abuses of these workers and their families. In cities like Nashville where I attend church, the filing of criminal charges will only encourage the anti-immigrant forces to become more aggressive. Here, we have what's called the 287(g) deportation program. The local sheriff -- who is elected -- made an agreement with the Feds to detain immigrants on traffic charges of driving without a seat belt or fishing without a license. Then he checks their immigration status on an INS database and holds them for the Feds.
He sold the program to Nashville, which is predominantly a Democratic and liberal city, as a way to just deport criminal elements of undocumented workers. Now, after 3,000 deportations in only a year, he is basking in praise from local radio talk show hosts, including Phil Valentine of The Tennessean newspaper and local radio.
But the sheriff, who claims to be a Democrat, is now backtracking from claims he started the program to deport criminals. That's because more than two-thirds of the 3,000 people deported did not have criminal records. They did, however, have families. And those families are now being torn apart. The children suffer the most, not knowing when they kiss Papa goodbye for school in the morning if they'll see him for months or years after they return home in the afternoon.
With the Feds terrible turn in Iowa, the sheriff here will now be able to cover his political ass. He'll paint all deported undocumented workers as federal criminals who need to be off the street. This kind of political two-step looks and sounds like more of the actions and logic surrounding the Iraq war. Keep changing the reason for your failed foreign or domestic policy until one sticks.
The ultimate question behind this growing outrage in the treatment of undocumented workers is this: What happened to Bush and his supposed "compassionate conservatism"?
His compassionate conservatism has been left on the manured floor at the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, to be trampled and finally buried in the last days of his presidency. That's fitting. That's where his pledge about compasionate conservatism belonged in the first place -- among cattle pies surrouded by flies.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
The days mark the sacrifice made to protect our freedom to write as we do. The First Amendment or whatever amendment to the U.S. Constitution is only as powerful as the willingness of our citizens and non-citizen immigrants to put their lives on the line.
Each person in uniform takes an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. I've never been asked to take such an oath as a journalist.
The graves that will be visited today and tomorrow represent my freedom to write as I do, along with other journalists -- whether we want to prominently acknowledge it or not. And the freedom to write, as Jefferson said, keeps our nation free by ensuring an informed citizenry. First, however, you have to have people willing to die for that freedom. That's what today and tomorrow are about.
It doesn't matter if the war in which the sacrifice took place was in Iraq or Vietnam or on Normandy. It is the willingness of men and women of the military to take orders from civilian leaders that keeps this nation free. They know their lives are on the line, and their families could be left damaged. Still, they go.
These men and women also are the force behind court decisions protecting individual constitutional rights of the most vulnerable, even if it means going into actual cities like the 82nd Airborne did in Little Rock in the 1950s to enforce a school desegregation order. The military and its members are not perfect. But they ultimately answer to us and our values. We determine those values at the ballot box.
So when I think of Memorial Day, I think of Marine Capt. Brent Morrell of Martin, Tenn. He died in Iraq four years ago saving his convoy from an ambush. He was the only person to die in the attack. As it says in scripture, greater love does no man have than to lay down his life for his friends. Morrell's parents, Mike and Molly, are two of the finest people I've ever known. I carry a Marine challenge pin with their son's name and day of sacrifice inscribed on the back. It is a reminder to me to conduct myself with the same kind of honor as their son.
I also think of Marine Cpl. Patrick Nixon of Gallatin, Tenn., who was one of the first American soldiers across the main bridge into Baghdad. He was killed leading the charge. I think of Marine Pvt. Jeremiah Savage, Marine Pvt. Tyler Cates and Marine Cpl. Tim Creager, all of Tennessee. To Eva, Pam, Patricia and Marilane, all I can say is an inadequate "thank you." Your loved one's sacrifice for my rights will never be forgotten as long as I can write.
Journalists also have been killed in battle, from Iraq to Normandy to other far away places. Their sacrifice to report the truth also is much appreciated.
Memorial Day means everything to me. It is a day, particularly for journalists, when we should show our deep appreciation.
Too much attention in the local news media has been focused on the retirement of state Sen. John Wilder for being in office since Abraham Lincoln was president. He also had led the Senate since George McGovern ran for president. Gee, if longevity is so newsworthy, I'm wearing underwear I've owned for 10 years as I type this blog post. Anyone want a picture and an interview?
But Rodgers focused on the most important topic for taxpayers and people who believe in open government. And you'll find it in a 48-page City Paper published Friday. Forty-eight pages? As TV's Craig Ferguson says, "I know!" There's also a good story on Mayor Karl Dean and whether he's keeping up with the neighborhood legacy left by predecessor Bill Purcell. Dean comes from the Bredesen political camp. And one of the first things he talked about as mayor was building a $600 million convention center. Like his mentor, Dean may have an unfortunate Edifice Complex.
But that's for another blog post. Take time to read Rodgers' piece on the ethics' backtrack at the General Assembly.
Nashville will no longer fight love.
Arriola was convinced by a state AG's opinion that sided with a federal lawsuit plaintiff, Vanessa Saenz. She claimed she was being denied full protection under the law. The Nashville attorney said she and her fiance were denied a license because he had no hope of getting a Social Security number. Gov. Phil Bredesen, a DINO (Democrat In Name Only) and a dinosaur when it comes to progressive public policy, tried to get the lawsuit dismissed.
A lot of people deserve credit in this victory for human rights and love. Saenz, her attorney George Barrett and Father Joe Pat Breen, the greatest man I have ever known.
Arriola said in the article in today's Tennessean that Breen, a friend of his, had been pressuring him for years to reverse the policy. Father Breen has been a staunch advocate for Hispanic immigrants in Nashville, fighting discriminatory and abusive local and state government policies against our undocumented neighbors. He even rented a bus last year to transport immigrants to Kentucky to get licenses, then he performed the marriages here. Courageous and compassionate man.
Barrett is a noted civil rights attorney and advocate. Unlike so many non-Hispanic, liberal, civil rights stalwarts in Nashville, he has not stayed on the sidelines during the ongoing human rights outrages here like the 287(g) deportation program.
Tennessean reporters also deserve credit in trying to cover all these outrages -- from the 287(g) program to rising reports of abuses against Hispanics to today's story on licenses. The newspaper's editorial board, however, remains disturbingly quiet on the human rights outrages here and washes its hands in claiming wrongs like 287(g) are tied to failed federal immigration policy. That way, The Tennessean doesn't have to criticize anyone locally. And there are plenty of people locally to blame for 287(g) if you read this blog.
Still, Barrett, Saenz, Breen and Arriola can feel satisfied that right has prevailed. (And let's hear it for love and marriage, which are supposed to be family values.) Their courage hopefully will move more non-Hispanic, liberal, civil rights stalwarts to get off their hands and get into this human rights fight.
OUTRAGE: Federal officials with the nation's Border Patrol were in Nashville the past week trying to recruit African-Americans to join their policing ranks. The Feds were here under the rationale that these good folks could then send their earnings back to their good parents in Nashville.
Wait a minute! Isn't that all that many undocumented workers are doing in this country? They're working hard here to send money back home so they can return to a better life. I guess if you can't beat them, then join them, under this federal government's thinking. And yes, "I'm from the federal government, and I'm here to help."
Thankfully, a lot of African-Americans saw through this sham and didn't show up. Besides, who wants to work in the miserable heat and choking dust of the border -- except maybe, undocumented workers? Wake up, America!
Even RFK's son, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., made a statement acknowledging the point of Clinton's remark. She also cited her husband's initial run for the Democratic nomination when he didn't clinch the prize until June.
Don't stop the nomination process so early -- even in June; that was all Sen. Clinton was saying.
But the news media and pundits have jumped on the comment as if Clinton is someone who will say anything to get the nomination of her party. In the case of this comment in particular, she is not. Too often the pundits just have to have something to talk about or they'll whither on the screen and won't be called back for another appearance. Clinton's comment was just fresh meat.
She said what she said and most of us know what she meant. Give Sen. Clinton a break and quit making the comment into something it was not.
Friday, May 23, 2008
His Pith in the Wind entry -- http://blogs.nashvillescene.com/pitw/2008/05/kim_phils_bff.php#more -- detailed McMillan's appearance on Liberadio and analyzed her answers as to where she stands politically, or really doesn't stand at all.
When I was following ethics legislation earlier this decade at the state Capitol, McMillan was House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh's lead blocker and obstacle to openness in state government. She helped thwart Rep. Frank Buck's efforts to make it much more difficult for powerbrokers at Legislative Plaza -- elected and non-elected -- to hide who and what they represented and conduct business outside of public scrutiny and at lobbyist-paid functions. There's nothing illegal about any of this, except if public meetings are held behind closed doors. It's just a bad way to conduct the business of the people if government is to first serve the needs of the people, particularly the most vulnerable.
Barry's recount of McMillan's fawning comments about Gov. Phil Bredesen must have been cruel and unusual punishment to transcribe. The fact that she couldn't come up with one thing about how her administration would differ from a Bredesen one may be as much a testament to intellectual laziness as to a lack of a political backbone.
Bredesen is a Democrat in name only. He gutted TennCare after he promised to fix it, he has run government like a business akin to the callousness of Exxon and he proposed to balanced this year's state budget on the backs of the working poor -- which includes state workers. Yet he proposed to keep intact a $100 million economic development fund to reward corporations. Can you smell another Dell deal where the taxpayers get the short end and the much-wooed company eliminates the manufacturing jobs it originally brought to Nashville? Stinks like sweaty feet, doesn't it?
Barry's assertion that McMillan wants Bredesen's endorsement is sadly apparent. And that Bredesen would still have political clout in the state Democratic Party after all he has done says something more damning about Tennessee's Democratic leadership than him.
Hopefully, Bill Purcell will run for the Dem gubernatorial nomination. He's a man who does not want anything to do with Bredesen or an endorsement. Yet he has has the kind of experience that will be needed in a new Tennessee governor. He already has had to clean up after Bredesen as Nashville mayor.
If Purcell doesn't run, then we'll be left with candidates like McMillan, who offer few values that distinguish Tennessee's Democratic Party from card-carrying Republicans nationally.
Barry may not want my praise since my name is 'mud' or something worse in liberal circles locally. But I've got to call them as I see them, and his blog entry on McMillian was good and necessary for voters to know before it's too late. I also owe Rep. Buck, who took a lot of insults and crap at Legislative Plaza for his noble and needed ethics efforts. His retirement from office is this state's great loss.
From California, U.S. Rep. Jim Costa and Rep. Dennis Cardoza , the latter who previously supported Sen. Hillary Clinton, announced their decisions that put Obama within 59 delegates of the number needed to secure the nomination.
Clinton handily won the California primary with large Hispanic support. The number of 59 delegates is contingent on Clinton being unsuccessful before the Democratic Rules Committee or on the convention floor in seating the Michigan and Florida Dem delegations as selected by voters.
The endorsements, however, do not mean Obama is doing better with Hispanic voters. The Hispanic blogosphere today has mostly been negative about Obama's speech in Florida on U.S. relations with Latin America if he is elected.
For the record, I endorsed Sen. Obama in the Hispanic press before the Texas primary. I did not endorse on the GOP side. But I would have chosen Sen. McCain if his race was still in question. The candidate who will remove federal authorization of the 287(g) deportation program that is savaging the innocent in Nashville and stop ICE raids like the ones we have seen in Postville will get my endorsement and continuous blogging support.
Also, that candidate must be honest and not say different things to different constituences. Reform of the nation's immigration policy must include securing the border and establishing a guest worker program and steps toward legalization for undocumented workers and their families already here. One change must not proceed without the other.
Obama has said he will push comprehensive immigration reform in his first year in office. That is not enough. He must also stop the ICE raids and 287(g). His buddy, Gov. Deval Patrick of Masschusetts, did not help Obama in the believability department among Hispanics when he decided this week not to honor his pledge to back legislation that would have granted in-state tuition and fee rates to the undocumented. The Boston Globe reported about the decision through administration sources and noted that Gov. Patrick had earlier endorsed the legislation as "the right thing to do."
The federal version, called "The Dream Act", has gone nowhere in Congress. It would help the children of the undocumented who have been educated in our schools and are now ready to be the professionals who will fill the economic void left by retiring Baby Boomers. But they can't afford to go on to be doctors and engineers and scientists because of the unaffordability of college at non-in-state rates. This nation's historical bigotry is getting in the way of doing the right and smart thing for the future.
McCain, too, has said he will push comprehensive reform. And he has in the past taken an incredible amount of heat from fellow conservatives. He should be respected for that. However, while he is now saying comp reform to one crowd, he is saying "secure the border first" to another group. That's not good enough, particularly with undocumented workers and their families are being savaged in Maricopa County in McCain's home state of Arizona.
I have sat across from Secretary of State Rice and then-AG Gonzales in one-on-one interviews and asked about border security. Both were adamant that the border was secure against terrorists through the use of technology. And in fact, a guest worker program in which all people registered their names and IDs would make the the United States safer.
So there you have it: two candidates from two parties who have yet to go far enough to covince Hispanic voters of their credibility and willingness to do the right thing.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
My moment wasn't handled very well at the Nashville hospital where I began my journey two and a half years ago. In a lab room, a stranger and physician told me I had leukemia -- without my wife with me or anyone to provide comfort. Then, I had to hold still for a series of CAT scan pictures. I didn't know whether to cry or laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I just stayed quiet with my eyes fully dialated, trying to process the unbelievable.
When I was wheeled back to my room, there was my poor wife. And I had to tell her I had leukemia. We hugged and shed just a few tears, each not wanting to bring the other too far down by outright crying. We later listened to specialists speak of the treatment schedule. I didn't ask about life expectancy then, because I already had a good idea. Never ask about something you really don't want the answer to.
Then you pray. I wasn't angry at God. I just was just in disbelief. I said all the right things about needing His help and wanting to live, but the words still didn't come from the wrenching gut. Yet.
I was happy to see Sen. Kennedy play with his dogs and then go sailing after he got out of the hospital. Life for the moment is really all that any of us have. Terminal cancer just makes us realize that truth more readily. It makes the rat race of meeting work demands and getting to soccer games on time that much more meaningless. I can tell you that in your hospital bed after being told of your cancer, those things don't even come to mind. Living for the moment actually is a better way to live, and to love those around you.
This quote sent to me by a Nashville judge who has survived cancer really summed it up: "If I only knew that I was caught in the trap of living for tomorrow and a future that existed only in my imagination, I would have slowed my pace, drawn boundaries around my work and taken time for the people I love."
It is only in the days to come after the initial diagnosis, however, that the earth begins to shift beneath you and shatter in places. The flood of emotions and questions that sweep over you are overwhelming, including the great truth contained in the quote above. Sleep is the only refuge but then you have to wake up and realize that you have a cancer that is probably going to kill you soon. Your days always begin on a down note.
My diagnosis around Christmas didn't help. It seemed the whole world was celebrating, and here I was with my wife caught in an entirely underground place that few people really notice.
Yet people in that outside world did want to help, and they reached out to me and my wife. But for whatever reason, my days after diagnosis were very private to me.
In one way, I was ashamed of having leukemia. How did I let my body fall apart? Of course, leukemia is not about that.
In another way, I was angry because of the people I had let done in my family and my job. Tennessee's governor, who some Democrats have foolishly pointed to as a potential vice presidential choice, had cut benefits to poor people on the Medicaid program in the state called TennCare. People were actually dying from the cuts. Despite my initial diagnosis of pneumonia from a month a half earlier, I drove down to Lawrenceburg and a clinic where the director claimed eight deaths of her patients from the TennCare cuts.
My wife rightly objected to the 60-minute drive because of my pneumonia, but I wasn't dying like the people who had been cut from TennCare. At least I thought I wasn't dying. I didn't get a chance to write about the outrage. My subsequent visit to the doctor for more antibiotics to fight my pneumonia produced the leukemia diagnosis and my hospitalization.
After that diagnosis, I didn't want to hear or talk with anyone except my immediate family and our cats. I didn't want to hear how much of a fighter I was and how I would beat the leukemia. Get real. Leukemia is a big and bad form of cancer. Bone marrow or stem cell transplants only work 30% of the time for adults and first you have to find a needle-in-the-haystack-of-a-match. There aren't a lot of Hispanics or other minorities in transplant data banks, so your chances of rescue and cure are even more remote. For the first time in my professional life, I had to stop completely and think and cry and even scream.
I'm not saying that Sen. Kennedy is doing all this. He is a much better man than I am. I'd hope, however, that the news media and his political colleagues would give Sen. Kennedy a little room in the days to come to sort everything out and set his priorities. The granting of privacy can be a great gift.
Those priorities start with your family. From my bed at home, I wrote out a summary of the assets we possessed. I called a good friend of mine and asked if he could update my will. I started to assemble paperwork my wife could find to get to these assets after my death. I re-checked beneficiary listings. And I let my heroic wife know how I wanted to be buried -- in nothing more than a wooden crate as the great Dr. King --and here in what I now considered my home state: Tennessee. I have been impressd by the goodness of the people here from all political backgrounds. I wanted to be buried among their loved ones.
I don't know why I am still alive today. And today is the only time I really count on. My hematologist really doesn't know either. I can only first credit God, my heroic wife and my brilliant Vanderbilt doctor. VUMC is a national treasure. It was not my original hospital. But it is my home now for the best and most compassionate treatment.
I pray that God will help Sen. Kennedy to defy the odds, not for himself, but for the rest of us. Brain cancer is even more sobering than leukemia. But just like in the story of Pandora's Box after all the bad escapes into the world, a small speck of light emerges that represents hope.
That's the word I ultimately scribbled on an 8 x 11 piece of white paper and taped to my wall in my bedroom. After the first days that diagnosis evolves from unbelievable to reality, hope is all you're left with. And surprisingly, hope can be enough to battle the odds of probable terminal cancer.
Hope, Sen. Kennedy, hope.
Even PBS' Judy Woodruff, in an interview last night with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, didn't ask her about being Obama's running mate. That's at least what I can surmise from Bloomberg News' story on the interview.
Sure, Pelosi is the most powerful woman in the world -- yes, even more powerful than Oprah and Miley Cyrus(clothes on) -- and would not want to leave her position with an even greater Democratic majority coming in.
But, she will be forced to consider the good of the party, and Obama is going to need a lot of help from a running mate in the general election. All the males being cited only help in one state and with one constituency. Pelosi appeals to Catholics, of which she is one, and that will make a difference in Pennsylvania and Ohio. And, of course, she is a woman. And they do most of the voting in every state in this country.
Pelosi can be more powerful as VP, particularly with foreign policy as her trips to Syria, Iraq and Tibet already have shown. She can also most effectively steer Obama's legislative agenda through the Congress as Senate president with a vote on ties and with her long-time contacts in the House. I'm sure she is owed a lot of favors.
Pelosi told PBS that women won't suffer a "step back'' if Hillary Clinton does not get the Democratic nomination, and rebuffed the complaint of sexism in the presidential campaign: "A woman is down to the wire in contention for the presidential nominee. You know she still may win this -- but whatever the outcome, new ground has been broken, and it won't be left broken. It will be built upon.''
It should be built upon now, for the general election. Obama should have a woman on his ticket, and the best person to help him is Pelosi.
Sen. Clinton is right in her appeal to superdelegates that the electoral map -- which is how we elect a president -- is tilted in her favor. Even discounting California and New York which are going to be in any Democrat's column, she carried the big swing states and won by a large margin in Florida with everybody's name on the ballot.
Superdelegates know, however, that they can't overturn the wishes of a majority of the elected delegates. Obama is it. And he is going to need a political heavyweight on this ticket to win in November. Pelosi doubts there can be an Obama-Clinton ticket. She's right. But an Obama-Pelosi ticket is even better.
Don't worry about the "too liberal" label. Americans are going to be paying $5 a gallon for gas when they vote in November. They're not going to care if Obama and Pelosi are Martians. They are going to vote for the people who they most believe will change things. And that, for now, looks like the Democratic ticket.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
That's the deadline to repay three generous local Catholics who -- a year ago -- put up $1.5 million for the land and buildings that now represent the first Hispanic Catholic church in this Middle Tennessee diocese. The church opened with much celebration last November. Weekend masses have been drawing more than 5,000 people.
If the three local Catholics are not repaid by June 30, Our Lady's will be forced to take out a loan with the Catholic diocese. And the church, which serves mostly the working poor, cannot afford a monthly loan payment and pay for the operations and staff of Our Lady's. That's why it would be forced to close.
Father Breen, who is the pastor of the nearby Catholic church of St. Edward, has made Our Lady's part of his congregation's mission. The parish has given almost $250,000 to settle the debt. But it cannot make up for the $500,000 that still is needed by the end of the next 40 days.
Forty days is a figure that shows up frequently in our faith. The 40 days are often a time of testing of how much we believe, of how much we are ready for the next challenge in life that God puts before us and our family.
A most generous gift this week from St. Philip Catholic Church in Franklin, TN., has helped close the gap to $500,000. Other area Catholic churches and schools have been contacted to help, in the spirit of Pope Benedict's recent call for Americans to protect our immigrants.
These next 40 days are going to be difficult. So much is at stake. Nashville Hispanics are under siege from the inhumane 287(g) deportation policy. More than 3,000 Hispanics have been deported in one year after being arrested for minor traffic offenses and even fishing without a license. Families have been torn apart. Children are living in fear that their parents will not be home when they return from school. As Father Breen told his congregation last Sunday, "We would not treat animals this way."
Our Lady's is a refuge in these Hispanic lives from that kind of treatment. To take it away now would be a tragedy for people already beset by outrage and fear.
If you are reading this blog post, please consider giving anything you can to help keep Our Lady's open. A donation of $10 or $20 or $30, coupled with many others, can make a difference. Or consider asking your church to make a contribution.
Here's how to give: Make out a check to "St. Edward Catholic Church"; in the memo part of the check, write "for Our Lady of Guadalupe."
Mail the check to St. Edward Catholic Church, Attn: Father Breen, 188 Thompson Lane, Nashville, TN., 37211.
Or go the church's website and make a credit card donation. The address is http://www.stedward.org/.
On the left side of the main page, you'll find a listing for Our Lady of Guadalupe. You can also view a presentation on the church.
May is the Marian Month. There is no better way to honor the Holy Mother in her month than to keep open a church named in her honor. Mary has always been there to protect the Hispanic people. Her appearance in Mexico is the only time the Holy Mother has been officially seen in this hemisphere.
I can assure you from my personal involvement that your donation to honor her will end up in the right hands and for the right cause of protecting our immigrant brothers and sisters. May God help us over these next 40 days.
That's her second trip to Iraq as House Speaker, in addition to her controversial visit to Syria last year.
What does all this mean? Nothing to all the political pundits on television. To me, it means she is cementing her national security credentials to be Sen. Barack Obama's running mate.
Everyone is talking about how Obama can ultimately get the votes of white, blue collar men in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia in the general election. Forget about that. Pelosi on the ticket means so much more. She would get the votes of a lot of women whose hearts, minds and souls have been rooted in the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton. Women do most of the voting in this nation, besides most of the toughest work in raising families in addition to being in the outside workplace.
The level of disappointment for many American women in the probable unsuccessful effort of Sen. Clinton to secure the Democratic nomination for president is high. And rightly so. The signs of this deep disappointment are everywhere, if all the TV punditry that is dominated by white men would shut up and notice for once.
CNN exit polls in Kentucky showed two-thirds of Clinton voters would not support Obama. That's scary. Yes, he's not going to carry Kentucky in the fall anyway. But consider that former Dem VP nominee Geraldine Ferraro said yesterday that Obama is a sexist and she doesn't know if she'll vote for him in the general election. Former Clinton administration press secretary Dee Dee Myers told CNN that most exit polls are only asking people if race played a role in their vote, not gender. Big mistake.
I believe from my own conversations with female voters that their investment in Hillary Clinton's campaign is not so easily transferable intellectually and emotionally to Obama. Women have endured more indignites than we males ever realize. And even some women don't realize it. My wife, the best writer and journalist in our family, shakes her head when younger female journalists don't acknowledge the doors that were opened for them by older women reporters, copy editors and editors. My wife makes sure to show deference to these vets. It wasn't that long ago that women were not allowed to write on politics, sports, cops and a lot of other issues and beats of importance. Society pages and recipes were their place.
The trailblazers in my profession took a lot of crap and harrassment and were paid a lot less than males doing the same job. And these were men who had even fewer skills and less education. The wage gap still is there in all professions.
I remember a segment from the CBS show Northern Exposure in which the town's cerebral DJ(man) was talking with the town's hypocondriac(woman). The supposed sensitive male was speaking of how he wanted to get in touch with his feminine side. To that, the hypocondriac female retorted: "Well, cut your pay in half!"
Sen. Clinton has spoken about the slights she has endured on the campaign trail. The use of the B-word, the focus on fashion and hair and even cleavage represents ridiculous things that have nothing to do with being president of the United States. And yes, media coverage has been skewed against her, as Saturday Night Live humorously and poignantly satired.
Where does all this rambling of wrongs leave us? It should encourage pundits to quit focusing on white, blue collar males and start talking about and listening to the people who do most of the voting in this country: women. Any Democratic ticket about change must include political progress for African-Americans and women.
And Obama, if he is as brilliant as folks say, has already gotten the commitment from Pelosi to be his running mate.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Sen. Kennedy has been a true defender of worker rights, particuarly for the working poor, a champion for more health insurance for the sick and marginalized and a bipartisan force in getting the No Child Left Behind reforms passed into law.
He has been a true and lasting friend to the Hispanic people, just like his late brother, Bobby.
This man accustomed to tragedy will show this nation the meaning of courage in his coming fight against cancer. Pray that treatment will reduce the size of the tumor. Pray that God will ease the pain the senator will suffer from chemo and radiation. Most of all, pray for a miracle that Sen. Kennedy will survive, for the good of this country, its most struggling citizens and its abused undocumented workers.
Cancer, potentially lethal cancer, is a difficult burden for everyone to carry, not just the patient. I know that from my ongoing fight with leukemia. So pray for the senator's family and their strength in the coming days. And pray for this nation, that it will outwardly let the senator know how much he is loved and respected.
Fight, Teddy, fight. This nation needs you.
Under the headline "Immigrants’ Children Find Better Lives, Study Shows", Times reporter Sewell Chan showcased a 10-year study of the children of new immigrants in New York and found encouraging levels of achievement and social progress. Go to http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/nyregion/18immigrants.html) to read the story.
Here is one excerpt: "The study identified broad similarities among adult children of immigrants. They were overwhelmingly fluent in English; were less occupationally segregated than their parents; lived longer with their parents than native-born Americans; and were firmly rooted in the United States, with fewer personal and financial ties to their ancestral homeland than their parents."
Best of all, they are voters who will hopefully elect candidates who will stop the ongoing savagery of undocumented workers by federal agents of the Bush administration. Time and the tide of demographics in this nation are on our side.
A book is being written on the study by Philip Kasinitz, a sociologist at the City University of New York Graduate Center; John H. Mollenkopf, a political scientist at the Graduate Center; and Mary C. Waters, a sociologist at Harvard, Chan reported.
Here is one last excerpt from the story that should give us all hope, whether wer'e Hispanic or not: Most of the young people studied worked in white-collar clerical or service jobs in retail and major financial services and most had achieved “real, if modest, progress over their parents’ generation.
One important reason why, according to the authors, is that even poor, uneducated immigrants have often “shown that they have the drive, ambition, courage and strength to move from one nation to another,” and transmit their determination to their children. And the new second generation is able to take advantage of civil rights programs, including affirmative action policies, in applying to universities and for jobs.
Drive, ambition, courage and strength. A better and more just day is coming to America.
OUTRAGE: More than half the school children in Postville, Iowa, did not show up for classes the day after the Feds with two helicopters and 100 agents toting guns raided an agricproccesor there for undocumented workers.
That's one way for President Bush to meet the goals of his No Child Left Behind education reforms. If Hispanic children do not go to school out of fear, then they technically have not been left behind. They've just been outcast.
This country is risking much more than just violating the human rights of people without a political voice. The atrocities committed here are reverberating throughout Mexico and Latin America. The raids, deaths of immigrants in detention facilities, the tearing apart of families and putting fear in the minds of children are only reinforcing what President Hugo Chavez says about this country and its president. He can use this example of America's historical bigorty in dealing with Hispanics to broaden his influence in this hemisphere. Then, America will be much less safe with a more powerful Hugo Chavez and his oil reserves.
Think about it America. Is it really worth the risk?
As a news media person for 33 years, complaints about content are going to fall on deaf ears with media decisionmakers. It all gets tied into the First Amendment and the right to free speech, particularly unpopular speech. And there's another factor with Dobbs; he brings in conservative viewers from the FOX network who would otherwise not watch CNN. So his show and its tone is a must-protect asset for the network.
CNN, however, is vulnerable on ethical issues regarding Dobbs. In his show, he freely expresses his opinions on issues and politicians. He comes off with such bravado. Where CNN has ethically erred is in letting Dobbs outside of his hour of fear-mongering, to outrageously serve as a moderator on election coverage asking questions of panelists. Ethically, he should not be allowed to step from opinion-giver to a moderator role. A moderator is supposed to be an unbiased observer asking questions. Dobbs' fame is for being biased.
Another wrong by CNN is in using Dobbs as a source for their stories on immigration. Besides being unethical, that's just plain lazy. Dobbs cannot be an opinion-giver about immigration on a network, and then a source for immigration stories on other network shows and an unbiased moderator in election coverage. It just doesn't wash. It really stinks.
After making this case on ethics to CNN, Hispanic leaders should then go to organizations that oversee the news media and call out journalists and their employers for wrongdoing. The Columbia Journalism Review, Poynter Institute, Editor and Publisher magazine, the Society of Professional Journalists and a host of other groups should be lobbied.
Finally, Hispanic leaders should ask CNN for the appointment of an ombudsman, a person employed by a news organization to field questions and complaints from the public about the outlet's product. News outlets like The New York Times and National Public Radio boost their credibility by employing independent observers, who then are free to write about what viewers or listeners or readers are complaining about.
Sometimes, they join the public in the condemnation and call for corrective action. A CNN ombudsman should be given air time in prime time to daily speak up for the viewers, or to explain to the viewers why they are wrong in their complaint.
Dobbs has made factual mistakes in his show that he has been slow to admit or rationalized away. 60 Minutes uncovered a whopper concerning immigrants and claims they were increasingly bringing disease into this country. A CNN ombudsman would not have to wait on Dobbs to correct his mistakes. That person could call him out in a timely manner.
A report released this week by Media Matters Action Network -- "Fear and Loathing in Prime Time: Immigration Myths and Cable News" -- found that 70% of Dobbs' shows in 2007 cited illegal immigration.
The best hope for Hispanic leaders is to limit Dobbs to his hour of fear-mongering on CNN. Fear-mongering, no matter the negative consequences, is protected free speech. But CNN is wrong in letting Dobbs spread his poison beyond his show in different roles unethical for an opinion-giver to assume.
Monday, May 19, 2008
I wrote about the problem a couple of months ago for Hispanic Link News Service. It is run by the great Charlie Ericksen, an NAHJ Hall of Fame member. George and ABC News wouldn't respond to my repeated attempts to ask "why" and what has now become a Ban on Brown.
This past Sunday, George featured a New York Times editorial writer on the panel. And of course, white males are very difficult to find to comment on the news. Yet there was a much more qualified editorial writer for the panel, from the best newspaper in America. She is a former Clinton administration speech writer, ambassador to Belize and writer and producer for Nightline with Ted Koppel. Carolyn Curiel also has been on The Times editorial board since 2002. She writes on local government, social issues, national trends and environment.
Carolyn Curiel is a child of Mexican parents and grew up in Hammond, Ind. She is a graduate of Purdue University, just like my wife. Go Boilers!
While George and ABC may consider my point to be one of political correctness, it actually ties into getting the needs and issues of Hispanics noticed by this nation. For instance, the immigration raid on Postville by federal authorities wasn't even mentioned on the show. The 287(g) deportation program wasn't mentioned on the show. Nothing of the inhumanity that so many Hispanic families are enduring across this nation was mentioned on the show.
And these issues won't be adequately addressed, let alone noticed, until there is a Hispanic contributor on This Week's roundtable segment. That's why our representation on panels on political TV shows is so important in raising national awareness. David Gregory's show on MSNBC -- an outlet noted for its in-your-face liberalism -- didn't feature a Hispanic voice on its political panel last Friday.
Give CNN and what really is "the best political team on television" credit for at least featuring two second-row Hispanic analysts on their election night coverage. But the two analysts are Republican strategists! Most Hispanics, particularly Mexican-Americans, vote Democratic. So CNN is giving a false image of Hispanic politics.
If we as Hispanics and advocates are going to get the nation to take notice of the outrages of the Postville Raid and the 287(g) deportation program in places like Nashville, then we must call up or e-mail and complain to the TV networks about the lack of Hispanic voices as panelists. Our blogs telling each other about the outrages will not create the needed political masse for change.
Let's start with ABC and This Week with George Stephanopoulos to make this point about the inclusion of Hispanic voices. Don't bother to try and call George, he is always indisposed. But e-mail Andrea.M.Jones@abc.com. Ask for her to reply to you and my contentions. It is always much better to be criticized than ignored. Please send an e-mail today.
Every cause that creates national change always has that one incident that stirs the masses to act. Postville can be it, despite the suffering of families there.
Here's how you can help in the moment. Go to fairimmigration.wordpress.com and read about the outrage and reaction in Iowa. Then contribute to a fund set up to help the families of the detained workers. It is St. Bridget's Hispanic Ministry Fund, c/o Sister Mary McCauley, P.O. Box 369, Postville, Iowa. In the memo part of the check, put "Postville Raid". Or you can call (563) 537-0002.
After you've mailed a check or called, take a moment to ask Our Lady of Guadalupe for intercession. May is the Marian month. And she appeared to St. Juan Diego for a reason. Ask her for the courage and wisdom to fight these oppressors. Ask her to move Catholic bishops and dioceses across the nation to speak up and act out in new and politically saavy ways. This inhumanity should be the subject of every sermon across this nation this Sunday.
If it's not, ask your priest and bishop "why."
Here's how my priest, Father Joe Pat Breen at St. Edward Catholic Church, preached about the evils of the 287(g) deportation program run by the sheriff's office here:
The Nashvillle priest at the Saturday evening mass spoke to his congregation of children kissing their daddies goodbye in the morning before the school day, not knowing if this moment would be the last time to see daddy for days, months or years.
The Nashville priest at the Saturday evening mass spoke of plans in many families of what to do if momma and daddy suddenly were not home or could not be found after school. The phone numbers of aunts and uncles and cousins were kept on their small bodies to call.
The Nashville priest at the Saturday evening mass spoke of a dedicated worker on his staff who had left for another job. Her husband was stopped for a traffic violation and she could not find him for seven days. In tears, she called Father Breen for help.
"We wouldn't treat animals this way," he told the hushed congregation.
Surely, the priest was talking about something of this world's terrible past, even at its worst -- the persecution of our Jewish brothers and sisters in Nazi Germany. Remember, with the Holocaust, we as a world promised never to forget.
Shockingly, the priest was talking of modern day, of now, in Nashville, by authorities who are supposed to be representing our values in a city with more than 1,000 places of worship to God.
So far, in one year, 3,000 undocumented workers in Nashville have been deported after being arrested for traffic offenses -- and in one case -- fishing without a license.
OUTRAGE: Latinalista.net reports that federal agents are using schools and the children of undocumented workers to track their parents. Latina Lista is published by a good friend of mine who I met in Oklahoma. Her website is a very worthy and invaluable read with original reporting you're not going to get in the mainstream media.
"This afternoon, ICE agents parked across the street from the Oakland, California Public School, Stonehurst Elementary. Troy Flint, press contact for the Oakland Unified School District, told Latina Lista that ICE agents parked across the street from the campus but did not try to enter.
'They knew they couldn't (enter) because Oakland is a sanctuary city,' said Flint. When asked if the agents appeared to be waiting for parents to come and pick up their children, Flint said he didn't have information regarding that but that he knew that ICE had arrested someone in Berkley earlier in the day. "
What can we do? For the moment, don't forget. Remember this incident. Our day is coming to stop this oppression, here is Nashville, Postville, Waterloo and Oakland.
"These folks should lay off my wife," Obama said Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America.
"Bill Hobbs, in his job for the Tennessee Republican Party, unleashed the video last week to coincide with Michelle Obama's visit to the state for a fundraiser. I know Hobbs and have respected his personal blog over the years for its accuracy in reporting state finance numbers.
Reuters said the video "repeatedly showed Michelle Obama making the 'proud' remark interspersed with comments by Tennesseans about their own patriotism." I got to see a bit of the video on This Week with Bob Mueller, which airs locally before George S's national show.
"Whoever is in charge of the Tennessee GOP needs to think long and hard about the kind of campaign that they want to run," Sen. Obama said Monday.
Obama is right that any effort to judge who is more patriotic during the presidential or any campaign is wrong and "low class". That kind of road only encourages fanaticism and facism. This marks the second time the state party has drawn national attention in the ongoing presidential campaign for going too far and too low -- even for politics.
But Obama's wife should be more careful. Her comment about being proud of her country for the first time in her adult life was startling, particularly here. And it is fair political game, because she is asking for votes for her husband based on the credibility of her words and experiences.She tried to explain away the comment later, and the campaign successfully spun it.
Cindy McCain -- wife of GOP presidential nominee John McCain -- then jumped on the comment and said she has always been proud of America. I'd always be proud of America, too, if I inherited a beer distributing franchise and loads of cash and privilege.
But maybe the explanation and spin were not for the best for this nation. Maybe Michelle Obama should have tried to educate folks -- and Cindy McCain -- that being a woman and an African-American in the United States is very difficult when it comes to fairness and justice in the workplace and society in general. And that's really true.
As an American of Mexican ancestry, there are many parts of American history I am not proud of.
This nation's flag flew over Mexico City in an illegal war for territory under the immorality of Manifest Destiny invoked by President James Polk.
This nation's flag flew next to the 4,000 fallen bodies of American Indians on the Trail of Tears that winds through the heart of Tennessee. This country's Indian removal actions were in direct violation of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of the Cherokee Nation. Yet the court decision was outrageously ignored.
I mention these two parts of U.S. history because they happened or begun under the presidencies of two Tennesseans, Polk and Andrew Jackson, who still are celebrated in this state where I live. And that is cause for shame and a triumph for ignorance.
I still don't understand how African-Americans can join in Jefferson-Jackson Day celebrations to raise funds for the Democratic Party. Both of these presidents were slaveholders. While he wrote great words in this nation's cherished documents, Jefferson's lifestyle defiled them. While a populist, Jackson enslavement of blacks and degradation of Indian rights were offenses against humanity. If the GOP had fundraisers in the name of Republican presidents who committed such grevious wrongs, they'd be ridiculed by the news media.
Yet, I still fly the American flag in front of my house, just as my father did. I'm the only person on my street who still flies the flag out front, despite this nation's ongoing savagery of Hispanics and their families over immigration status. I love this country despite its faults and hypocrises. And I fly the flag for the men and women who put their lives behind it, like my good friend Zach who is a Marine unit leader in Afghanistan and my nephew who is in the Navy and my cousin who is a captain in Army intelligence.
Obama's so far successful candidacy may indeed be the first time his wife as an adult is proud of America and its citizens. And that's all right. Tell us the truth; don't feed us the spin. We as a nation need to be educated. And in the process, she may find she needs to be educated, as her husband was when he made his comments about rural people clinging to religion and guns.
Yes, the game of who is the bigger patriot is ridiculous. The TN GOP should avoid it in the future or risk more condemnation. But as long as the senator uses his wife to campaign, her words are fair target for scrutiny and even ridicule. It's all free speech, whether we like the speech or not.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Postville, from this reporting by a local TV station, is being forced to endure what I call The Arizona Experience, which means shooting yourself in the foot by making the deportation of undocumented workers and their families into a law enforcement priority. Then you have to embarrassingly backtrack after you realize historical bigtory and fear are poor motivations for public policy. There is now a bill in the Arizona Senate to bring back undocumented workers under a two-year work permit.
You can read about The Arizona Experience in a previous post on my blog or look at this comment from one Arizonan who read the KCRG story:
"same things are happening here in arizona. they raided all the business and now no one wants those jobs economy is dropping and now the law makers that pushed so hard to get them out are now pushing harder to get them back to save us. everyone hates to admit it but we need the illegals. so good luck up there. oh and the issue with the whole splitting the families is becasue their childern are legal and cant be forced to leave the country so really they are saving you money in tax think about it."
Read the KCRG story about the arrests of nearly 400 workers at kcrg.com/news/local/18906174.html
Proponents of a foolish, fear-based immigration policy point to the law. It is against the law to be in this country illegally. It is, but it is not a felony. Crossing into this country illegally is a civil offense. Yes, and you pay a fine.
America has lots of law. We're also supposed to inspect all shipments coming into America's ports. But we don't, because we don't have enough inspectors. So we're making it easy for a dirty bomb to slip into this country and kill a lot of innocent and good people.
The real issue here is law enforcement, and the priorities that should be followed by authorties -- local, state and federal -- in best protecting the well-being of the citizenry. Here is another reader comment to the KCRG story that points out the obvious to those poor souls motivated by fear or unconscious, historical bigotry:
"2 helicopters and 100 FBI types(to conduct the Postville raid). You got Osama bin Laden, right?"
No, we haven't. He's alive and well and planning more terrorist attacks. And we're not looking for his supplies coming into America's ports, because we've got federal agents crawling like ants all over meat processing plants to catch undocumented workers. Talk about ignoring the war on terror. It's time to start a war on ignorance and this punitive immigration policy, pushed by a Bush administration that has fallen asleep at "compassionate conservatism" wheel.
State financial guru Dave Goetz was grilled before a legislative committee and left a lot of questions unanswered about the fiscal worth of the jobs cuts for 2,000 state workers. And yet to be examined in adequate fashion are the TennCare cuts and the real cost to the state if we allow more families to sink into poverty from mounting medical bills. Won't they then consume more social services' dollars?
There seemed to be a consensus among those of us on This Week with Bob Mueller -- Bob, the Rev. Enoch Fuzz, Steve Gill and myself -- that a lot of questions remain to be answered by Bredesen and Goetz. And amid our amazement at the revolt, there is the realization that this moment of crisis could yield some interesting light on areas of the state budget and spending that have purposely been kept hidden from taxpayers.
Toward more light, lawmakers led by House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh on Tuesday should tell Bredesen "no" on his cram-down budget. If politically possible, they should offer Bredesen passage of an emergency standstill budget for one month of state operations. Then they should ask the governor to convene a special legislative session to pass a budget based on answers to all questions. I sure hope that lawmakers would not balk at further examination because they would not get paid. Let's write a Profiles in Courage here.
As it stands now, Bredesen's budget is balanced on the backs of the working poor with the cuts to state workers and TennCare. Rev. Fuzz tells me that he has many state workers in his congregation at Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville. And they head households existing on just $30,000 to $40,000 a year.
Rising medical bills can turn any family into almost paupers. I can testify to that from personal experience. My leukemia and the loss of my job at The Tennessean have left our family scrambling, and we're better off than families needing TennCare help. (For purposes of full disclosure, I've never been on TennCare nor has any member of my family.)
Meanwhile, Bredesen proposes to keep a $100 million economic development fund to reward mega-corporations and won't dip into the Rainy Day Fund that is at a record level. Contrary to rumor, I can officially dispel any truth to the whispers that Bredesen won't touch the Rainy Day Fund because of his wife. There are NOT -- to my limited knowledge -- plans by the First Lady to build a mega-mall under the governor's mansion to adjoin the bunker. The "We Will Prevail" Mall of Tennessee is not real, I think. (Caution to readers: this paragraph is mostly satire, which is an exaggeration of reality -- I hope.)
The governor expected state lawmakers to swallow his last-minute, cram-down budget, just like the Metro Council did with his projects that turned out to be losers for taxpayers. Incredibly, however, Democratic lawmakers revolted. Now you must call their offices and encourage them to keep up the fight and not accept another Bredesen boondoggle.
Remember that the Dixie Chicks, according to defenders of the president's policy in Iraq, did bad when they used a foreign forum to criticize Bush. I was one of the critics of the Dixie Chicks for that specific reason.
Granted, Bush helped Obama much more than he hurt him. The president elevated Obama's stature on foreign policy, allowing the Illionois senator to dominate network newscasts for two days with his rebuttal and a subsequent speech and press conference. Sen. John McCain was forced to align himself again with an increasingly unpopular president and make a ridiculous statement that Obama did not think America had any enemies in the world.
I strongly support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. While I wrote ferociously against entering into a war in Iraq, I toned down my criticism after our troops were on the ground. I still volunteer with a Marine families group here in Tennessee, and they're the real heroes in all this thing. We don't talk politics. But officially, I endorsed Obama in the Hispanic press on the Democratic side before the Texas primary. I did not endorse on the GOP side, because McCain was going to clinch the nomination. If that were not the case, I would have endorsed McCain on the GOP side.
No matter. Somewhere, the Dixie Chicks must be laughing ... and penning a pointed song for the fall general election.
The conditions for these undocumented workers are often deplorable. The New York Times, The Washington Post and 60 Minutes have uncovered immigrant deaths in detention, including an 81-year-old Baptist minister fleeing violence in Haiti. Medical care has been grossly inadequate.
What can you do? Go to progressillinois.com and learn who to contact to get House Bill 2747 passed in the Senate and signed into law.
Then what? After GOP presidential nominee John McCain wipes off all his makeup from his Saturday Night Live appearance, ask him what he is going to do to stop this federal persecution of undocumented workers and their families. He'll be coming to your state to campaign even before the GOP convention. Put him on the spot, make him take a stand against federal raids and the 287(g) deportation program.
Tell him to call Bush out on the matter in front of the TV cameras. Tell him to tell the president to take some time away from bashing Barack Obama and sketching the sunroom addition to his ranch in Crawford and call off the federal dogs.
OUTRAGE: Hurricane season begins June 1. Federal border officials have announced that they will check the legal status of all evacuees from south Texas when they board evacuation buses and get off of them at safe points.
This callous action will only ensure a humanitarian disaster on the Texas Coast. Undocumented workers and their families will not evacuate for fear of being deported and losing all they've gained as dependable workers, taxpayers, church goers and community members.
Sorry Republicans. But this again is your party's doing. Sen. McCain and President Bush must speak up and reverse this policy or more innocent blood will be on their hands.
And we as Hispanic voters will not forget in November.
Friday, May 16, 2008
From today in The Wall Street Journal:
"Big picture, May 2008:
The Democrats aren't the ones falling apart, the Republicans are. The Democrats can see daylight ahead. For all their fractious fighting, they're finally resolving their central drama. Hillary Clinton will leave, and Barack Obama will deliver a stirring acceptance speech. Then hand-to-hand in the general, where they see their guy triumphing. You see it when you talk to them: They're busy being born.
"The Republicans? Busy dying. The brightest of them see no immediate light. They're frozen, not like a deer in the headlights but a deer in the darkness, his ears stiff at the sound. Crunch. Twig. Hunting party."
Peggy Noonan is right. The GOP faces historical losses in November, and the loss of a congressional seat this week in a Mississippi special election just confirmed the obvious. The GOP's presidential nominee John McCain can also read the demographic tea leaves. The base of the party continues to shrink because Republicans and conservatives have chosen the politics of smallness and selfishness. The gains the party could have made with Hispanic voters after Bush's record haul of that electorate in 2004 could have rescued the party.
But Republicans like Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Marsha Blackburn have chosen to advance their political careers at the expense of the party. They've embraced and pushed the anti-immigrant agenda of talk show hosts and nativists. The 287(g) deportation program in Nashville has produced some of the most inhumane treatment of people in this nation since the Civil Rights movement days and the internment of Japanese-American families during World War II.
Alexander and Blackburn were part of a recent press conference to celebrate the deportation of 3,000 immigrants. (What was Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat, doing on that stage for that political farce? It's time to recruit and finance a tough primary opponent for Cooper in 2010. Cooper is about as dynamic as lint on a sticky roller.)
We Hispanic voters and their advocates will not forget that press conference. The only credible person on that stage who spoke was Metro Police Chief Serpas, who criticized the inaction of lawmakers like Alexander, Blackburn and Cooper on resolving immigration issues. It is a federal matter, not something that good Metro police officers should have to deal with.
There is no joy for me in writing this piece about the GOP. This country needs a strong two party system. Actually, it needs three strong parties. Hispanics should be pursued by both parties so that our issues for a better America will be addressed. The almost blind allegiance African-Americans have paid to the Democratic Party has not served their needs well. They've been taken for granted. I've been in the housing projects and on Tennessee's death row to see that fact. Yes, this nation is on the cusp of electing its first black -- or more accurately "bi-racial" -- president. But the steps that have been taken by some Democrats to stop that advancement in favor of Sen. Hillary Clinton have been disillusioning and shocking.
Noonan errs, however, in placing much of the blame for the GOP's supposed death rattle on President Bush. And that makes her part of the GOP's problem as well.
Despite blatant appearances, the GOP has always tried to market itself with the "Big Tent" analogy. Its leaders have contended the party is flexible and open enough to expand the tent when it comes to the diversity of members under it. The GOP can't rely on Cuban-American faces anymore to prove a diversity point. The political advantage Republicans held with Cuban Hispanics in Florida has been diminished by demographics. The number of non-Cuban Hispanics now almost matches the number of Cuban Hispanics. The real difference is that more of the non-Cubans are not eligible to vote in Florida. But time is on their side.
Bush provided the opportunity for Big Tent expansion with his victory in 2004. Yet in his last term, the president simply got tired of fighting fellow Republicans like Alexander and Blakcburn over immigration reform and started sketching out the sunroom addition he wants in retirement for his ranch in Crawford, Texas. To his discredit, he has let the INS run wild with raids of worksites, meanwhile this nation doesn't inspect the shipments coming in from overseas into American ports. He has allowed 287(g) programs for local authorities to enforce this nation's immigration laws. Meanwhile, small business owners and young people in college are getting murdered in Nashville.
Yes, being in the United States illegally is against the law. But it's not a felony. Crossing over into this country illegally is a civil offense. I've sat directly across from Secretary of State Rice and then AG Gonzales in one-on-one interviews. And both told me this nation is using available technology to make sure border crossings are not a terrorist threat. So what's all the concern about non-felony, civil offenses?
The University of Arizona recently compiled a study that showed undocumented workers and their families contribute almost $1 billion more in revenue to Arizona coffers than they take. So cost is not an issue.
Proponents of 287g in Nashville point to three violent crimes committed by undocumented workers in 2006 as the impetus to make sure people illegally in Nashville are deported. Get rid of these people, and you save lives, they say. But if we're supposed to keep tally, undocumented workers have saved more lives than they've taken here. It was the testimony -- in Spanish -- from an undocumented worker that put serial killer Paul Dennis Reid behind bars.
Long-term research from sociologists like Dr. Robert Sampson of Harvard University show that newcomers actually reduce a city's crime rate. His study released in February of violent crime in Chicago from 1990-2004 showed that Mexican-Americans and Mexicanos were not a violent crime problem. If you commit a crime, then you get noticed and get deported. So you obey the laws and keep your nose clean.
Here in Midstate Tennessee, a drunk-driving undocumented worker killed a couple in a traffic accident. It was a tragedy, and I despise the man who committed this grevious offense. He had been arrested for drunk driving or like offenses 14 other times. The sheriff's department sent his name into the Feds for deportation, and Washington did nothing. So instead of forcing Washington and its deportation system to work as it should -- which comes under the responsibility of Alexander and Blackburn and all lawmakers -- the local sheriff chose to become Nashville's lead immigration law enforcer. How much does it cost taxpayers for Nashville to do Washington's job? The local news media has yet to ask the question. But the sheriff is racking up big political points with the program.
The president surrendered to the Alexanders and Blackburns of his party so they could get the immediate gratification from addressing the wailing of the loudest of their constituencies. And word of the inhumanity in Nashville is reaching every Hispanic voter household across this nation. While Alexander and Blackburn will not pay the price in their upcoming re-election bids, the party nationally will. And Alexanders and Blackburns of the GOP will have even less to say about the direction of this nation when they return to Washington. Maybe that's not a bad thing.
The GOP will continue to be around, and very strong in some congressional districts and states. I know a lot of good and decent people who call themselves "Republican". But with three special election losses this year, the number of GOP safe places are shrinking. And rightly, the GOP as a party will suffer for its inhumane and opportunistic approach to immigration and the savaging of Hispanic human beings.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Some recent missteps and the ongoing persecution of immigrants in Arizona's Maricopa County have disappointed Hispanic voters and advocates across the country. And McCain's unveiling of his Spanish language website on Cinco de Mayo carried encouragement to hardliners that border security must first be addressed in America's immigration impasse.
In places like Nashville and in Maricopa County, deportation swings and other aggressive actions by local authorities have left undocumented workers and their families terrorized and their advocates outraged. McCain's intent to first seek the more punitive measure of border security smacks of just more piling on. Most undocumented workers have ended up in this country via temporary work visas. Then they've overstayed their legal term. Some have started families, often with U.S. citizens. Others like the good life we enjoy. Securing the border is not the issue.
The same contention that punitive measures must be pursued first in federal immigration legislation -- before addressing legalization and guest worker programs -- has been used by McCain's fellow Republicans to block needed action in Congress. And that impasse allows outrages like 287(g) to take hold. More than 3,000 immigrants have been deported the past year from Nashville under this program.
How does it work? First, immigrants are stopped for minor traffic offenses like driving without a seat belt on -- or in one instance, fishing without a license. When they cannot produce a driver's license with a picture because the state of Tennessee does not allow undocumented workers and their families to have licenses, they can get arrested and taken downtown for fingerprinting and processing. The sheriff's office then gets to rack up the political points by processing the immigrants through INS software. If they are found to be here illegally, the immigrants are held until the Feds arrive.
Yes, McCain did buck his own party last year in supporting comprehensive immigration reform instead of just punitive measures. Yes, he has spoken out at GOP debates that immigrants also are God's children. However, that's why his Cinco de Mayo comment stood out.
Some Hispanic politicos in Arizona are saying that the raids there have now put Arizona up for grabs in the general election. If McCain cannot carry his own state like Al Gore couldn't in the year 2000, he won't win the presidency.
McCain also has been caught using the term "illegal alien". That term just reinforces the stereotype that there is something mysteriously different and damaging about Hispanics. Citizen or not, we all get stained with the same brush. Hispanics are not extra-terrestials. We are like everyone else in the United States -- we go to church, we work hard in our jobs, we are dedicated to our families, we buy homes and pay property taxes and we fight and die in Iraq and Afghanistan.
McCain may be better than Hispanics could have hoped for from the GOP ranks. But that doesn't mean Hispanic voters have to settle for him. Bush took 45% of the Hispanic vote in 2004. He wouldn't come close to that if he could run again because of 287(g), raids across the country and the shocking detention and deaths of immigrants seeking refuge in the United States from political and violent persecution.
McCain will have to make up for his missteps and assure Hispanic voters that the days of punitive measures first on immigration are over. Then, he'll get a serious look and consideration.