Tag: Aswini Anburajan


Reporter’s Notebook: Conn. Priest Shows How to Earn the Trust of an Immigrant Community

FI2W reporter Aswini Anburajan produced a radio piece for NPR’s Latino USA on Father James Manship, a Roman Catholic priest in New Haven, Conn., who teaches his immigrant parishioners how to stand up for their civil rights, and who has been in the news in the past for being arrested in a confrontation with local police officers. Here, Aswini narrates how she managed to produce the piece, which aired on Latino USA and which you can listen to below.

By Aswini Anburajan, FI2W contributor

If you think that ethnic reporting isn’t critical to knowing a community, read on. This is the first piece I’ve done for Feet in 2 Worlds that hasn’t been on Indian Americans. The basis of FI2W is to get reporters to write about their own communities, but even I didn’t realize why this is so important until I delved into a project for Latino USA.

My piece was originally supposed to be on the economic life of a day laborer or someone new to the country, undocumented and trying to establish a life in the U.S. That piece remains undone. Being an Indian American with some high school Spanish under my belt, I thought it would be a cake walk. Call some social service agencies, reach out to immigrant coalitions, and I could “break in.”

Manship in 2008 visited with family and friends of his Connecticut parishioners, in the province of Morena Santiago, in the rainforest regions of Ecuador. (Photo: Courtesy J. Manship)

Manship in 2008 visited with family and friends of his Connecticut parishioners, in the province of Morena Santiago, in the rainforest regions of Ecuador. (Photo: Courtesy J. Manship - Click for more images)

Four months later, I had to think again. Without truly knowing a community, or having cultural or language associations with them, I found it impossible to get through and talk to individuals who were undocumented. It wasn’t that every door I knock on was slammed in my face. Most of the time, people pretended they weren’t home. This ranged from individuals I knew with ties to the Latino community to social service agencies.


News Analysis: Geithner’s Problems Refocus Attention on Undocumented Gardeners and Housekeepers

Aswini Anburajan, FI2W contributor

Aswini Anburajan, FI2W contributor

Democrats and Republicans alike appear to have little stomach to derail the nomination of Tim Geithner, President-elect Obama’s pick for Secretary of Treasury, despite his failure to pay $43,000 in taxes on time, and his hiring of a housekeeper who briefly lacked proper work papers.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dismissed Geithner’s troubles this week as “a few little hiccups” in the nomination process.

Does political dismissal of Geithner’s troubles reflect a change in attitudes toward issues like the hiring of undocumented workers?

Little attention has been given to Geithner’s hiring of the worker, whose legal papers expired while she was employed him. Instead pundits and papers have focused on the irony that the man who will lead the Internal Revenue Service can’t figure out how much he owes in taxes.

Getty Images/Wall Street Journal)

Geithner (Getty Images/Wall Street Journal)

Geithner’s hiring of a housekeeper whose work papers expired should be noted, not as a criticism, but as a reality that the 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country are interwoven in the American workforce.

Geithner isn’t the first public official in this situation. In the presidential primaries, as Republican Mitt Romney campaigned around the country promising to crackdown on undocumented immigrants, the Boston Globe revealed that undocumented workers had been part of the landscaping firm hired by the Romneys.

Two of President Bill Clinton’s nominees for attorney general, Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood, were both disqualified for hiring nannies that were undocumented and for not paying social security taxes on their wages.



Morning in Harlem: Voices of Immigrant and First-Time Voters in New York

Through Election Day, Feet in 2 Worlds reporter Aswini Anburajan interviewed voters from very different origins. She talked to a Polish first-time voter in Harlem, and then she interviewed two Bangladeshi men and an Argentinean woman in Jackson Heights, Queens. She even had time to make an appearance on PRI’s nationally syndicated show The World.

In the morning, Anburajan talked to Keith Shaka Daway, an immigrant voter from the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Daway saw an eventual Obama victory as “a vindication” of his ancestors and the “freedom fighters” of the past. You can read more about him here and you can listen to him speaking on this audio clip:


Another interviewee was Carl Duck, an African American man in his fifties who voted today for the first time in his life. “It’s time to make a change,” he told Anburajan. You can listen to him on this clip:


Tamar Owens and her daughter Oprie, 7, were at the same polling place. “Its exciting to vote for a person that’s real. That’s real by heart by soul,” the mother said of Barack Obama. The kid, as you can hear on this audio interview, was also very enthusiastic:


Two Bangladeshis and An Argentinean Walk Into A Polling Place …

JACKSON HEIGHTS, NY – Aswini Anburajan, FI2W reporter

Only in New York City, and especially only in Queens, would this reporter find herself surrounded by three loqacious voters of such different origins — two Bangladeshi men and one Argentinean woman — all eager to break down the reasons why they were voting for Barack Obama.

Mohammed Rahamatullah and Khandkar Haque are good friends and six-year residents of Jackson Heights. They list healthcare and changing world opinion about the U.S. as their top reasons to vote. Haque says that this is his first presidential election. He’s been a U.S. citizen for less than a year.

Rahamatullah joked that the world cares so much about this election that his brother called him from Bangladesh last night to remind him to go to the polls.

Sandra Hidalgo, originally from Argentina, is a 35-year resident of Jackson Heights. She calls McCain “ugly,” says she’s sick of the Republican Party and declares that Obama is the best choice for Latinos. She raised the issue of immigration and questioned –like a Polish voter in Harlem did earlier today– why some people who had been in the country for years couldn’t apply for legal residency.

All three voters talked with passion about the Democratic presidential candidate, declaring adamantly that voting for a Republican would just continue the current administration’s policies.

They also spoke with first hand knowledge of the recent economic crisis, saying that friends’ businesses had suffered tremendously.

Stores have closed in Jackson Heights and the ethnic restaurants that made the area famous in New York have seen their customer-flow dwindle to a trickle. Undocumented immigrants are the first to be hit, said Hidalgo, and she argued that problems in the economy ripple upward.

Polls are open for a few more hours in New York, and the lines are long and getting longer. Though the election hasn’t come to an end, and the votes haven’t been counted, at least in this part of New York people already seem to be celebrating.

Why the Republican Party Should Embrace Immigrants

By Feet in Two Worlds reporter Aswini Anburajan

Of all the questions and fascinating possibilities raised by the 2008 election, one of the least pondered has been this: Will immigrants and ethnic minorities as a whole ever find a home in the Republican Party?

To put it another way, will the Republican Party embrace minority voters? Or do the desires of these voters and the GOP platform differ too widely to build a relationship between the two?

Here’s why this question matters: demographics. By 2050 the United States will be a majority minority nation, per projections by the Census Bureau. The impact of that demographic shift is already being felt politically, most significantly in the West where Latino voters have allowed Democrats a chance to win in states where they have struggled to be competitive in recent presidential elections.

A study from the William C. Velasquez Institute found that without Latino support in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, Obama’s lead in those states would either disappear or fall within the margin of error.

Latinos and Asians, especially those who are immigrants or the children of immigrants, are either solidly Democratic or trending that way. Newly naturalized voters are also voting Democratic. In this election that might make sense for several reasons: immigrant voters want change. Many voters, who aren’t white, also feel a kinship with Barack Obama. The closest we’ve come to such an ethnic identification may be John F. Kennedy and Irish Americans in the sixties.

But what about future elections? Will these voters be voting Democratic in 2010 and 2012 too?

The answer is most likely yes, for three reasons. First, and most important, is the problem minority voters have with the Republican brand. Republican opposition to immigration reform and movements like the Minute Men have reinforced the idea that the GOP is hostile to voters who aren’t white.

The second reason these voters may continue to vote Democratic is because the Democratic Party reached out to them in 2006 and again in 2008. The Obama Campaign in particular has focused on creating a grassroots army of Latino voters in the West, and has well-coordinated fund-raising programs throughout the country with Asian donors, many of whom are immigrants or the children of immigrants. These voters have now participated – and will most likely continue to participate – by running for office, working on future campaigns, and lobbying for their issues. If Democrats continue to be open to these voters and the issues they care for, then it’s likely that they will continue to vote Democratic.

Third, a study by the Immigration Policy Center says that children of immigrants will be a crucial voting bloc, not just in this election, but in future elections as well. Many of these children were born in the United States to undocumented parents. Their political identity, for better or for worse, may be shaped by what happens to their parents and their legal status.

It was reported in the past month that conservatives, regardless of who wins the White House, are planning a strategic retreat in Virginia after the election to decide on the future of a party that has already been badly damaged. The goal some conservatives have said is to see how the party can rebuild a national grassroots network in the way they did after the Carter victory.

But who will that new party and grassroots movement include?

A recent article by Pat Buchanan on RealClear Politics argued that with Democrats in control of the White House and Congress, they would pass immigration reform and flood the country with new citizens, all of whom would vote Democrat and leave regions, such as the West, completely out of reach of Republicans.

But perhaps Buchanan is suffering from a little inside –the-beltway myopia. The converse of that argument is that a flood of new citizens could provide both parties a pool of new voters to choose from. These voters, unlike those who have been born and raised in the United States, don’t have an ingrained party identification or set of stereotypes to associate with either Democrats or Republicans. This argument that was underscored by a recent survey of Indian American voters conducted by the Campaign for America’s Future.

Latinos were seen as Republican voters in 2004, won over by Republican outreach efforts that stressed a shared vision of the American dream and similar social values. Many Asian Americans also voted Republican, motivated by the desire for lower taxes and the message of personal responsibility. It’s only been in the past four years that these ethnic groups have made a significant shift to, or back to, the Democratic Party.

Rather than shy away from immigrant voters, the Republican Party, with its emphasis on conservative social values and the power of individual entrepreneurship, could win these voters over with the right arguments. In terms of sheer population their strength as a party may depend upon it. But they must be willing to demonstrate that the GOP is open to immigrants. Support for comprehensive immigration reform would be a step in that direction.

Does McCain Still Have A Chance? FI2W's Aswini Anburajan Analyzes the Campaign on New York Public Radio

Fi2Ws Aswini Anburajan on The Brian Lehrer Show at Hofstra University

Aswini Anburajan on The Brian Lehrer Show at Hofstra University. (Photo: WNYC)

Feet in 2 Worlds journalist Aswini Anburajan joined WNYC‘s Brian Lehrer this morning to talk about John McCain’s waning prospects in the presidential election, the role of race in the campaign and other election-related issues. Here’s an excerpt of her analysis of tonight’s debate.

It’s on John McCain: what does he have to offer to the American public in terms of real, tangible solutions. It doesn’t matter anymore if someone knew a radical in the ’60s, when they were in Chicago, because this is about the fact that Citibank is pulling out of every university in this country; you cannot get students loans, it’s much harder. It’s about the fact that there are foreclosures. It’s about the fact that my parents, too, lost twenty to thirty percent on their 401k.

There are real economic hardships happening and I think that John McCain has a great opportunity tonight, because no one really thinks that Barack Obama has explained the situation that well.

The Brian Lehrer Show was broadcast live from Hofstra University on Long Island, N.Y., site of tonight’s third and final presidential debate.

To hear the first hour of the program, featuring Aswini Anburajan, Lawrence Levy, executive director of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra, and Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone political correspondent, click here.

To see more photos from Hofstra on the WNYC Flickr photostream, click here.

Who Won the Vice Presidential Debate?

If you can win a debate without answering a majority of the questions asked, Sarah Palin hit a home run. The Republican Vice Presidential nominee kept the debate on her own turf, returning to issues she felt comfortable talking about – energy, small town values, and taxes – and avoided delving into the nitty gritty of policies either foreign or domestic.

Asked about the subprime mortgage crisis, she went back to energy policy and taxes. Asked about whether she thought the Bush Administration had handled the Israel-Palestinian conflict well, she latched onto moderator’s Gwen Ifill’s mention of a two-state solution, limiting her comments to a policy issue that’s part of the colloquial dialogue about the Mideast and is widely approved of by all parties.

Palin also won on emotional appeal. She was likeable. She was funny and warm from the start. One of the best unexpected moments – she greeted Joe Biden at the start of the debate with a, “Can I call you Joe?”

She smiled broadly as she said over and over that Biden and Obama were too focused on the past, criticizing Bush’s record rather than offering better policies of their own. She seemed nice, next-door, homespun, even on the attack. But then didn’t we already know that about her?

Does that make someone worthy of being president? If Palin was expected to pass a commander in chief test, I wonder if voters felt she could step into those big shoes. The mention of Vice President Cheney’s use of his office made one think back to 9-11, when he played a significant role in helping govern the country. Could Palin do that?

That’s why Joe Biden won the night too. He showed a fluency with subjects and topics that make those uncomfortable with Barack Obama’s experience feel that there are people around him who would help him answer the 3AM phone call. Palin did not, but maybe that was never in Palin’s job description to begin with.

The nice thing as a viewer of this debate: It was civil. It was polite. It was nice to not see two candidates claw into each other for ninety minutes. But that raises another question.

Palin didn’t answer the questions. She made some mistakes. And Biden didn’t take the opportunities to go after her, as Palin at times attempted to do with him. It makes you wonder about the role of sexism, and did Biden treat her like any other opponent? Maybe that reflects the political manipulation of this campaign’s narrative. The McCain campaign turned questioning Palin about her past experience into charges of sexism. Would pushing Palin on the issues, calling her out about not answering the questions have been seen as Joe Biden unfairly going after her? It wouldn’t if he had been on stage with Hillary Clinton, as he often was during the primaries. Perhaps it’s experience-ism that was being practiced here, trying to purposely not show up someone who lacks knowledge of the issues.

To sum it up. No fireworks. No YouTube moments. Instead, a civil exchange on politics that will be remembered more for the hype that preceded it than what actually transpired over 90 minutes.

Feet in Two Worlds on The Brian Lehrer Show and Marketplace

Pilar Marrero and Aswini Anburajan joined Brian Lehrer on Thursday (9/25/08) on WNYC, New York Public Radio to talk about the impact of mortgage foreclosures and the financial crisis on immigrants in the US. They also discussed how economic concerns may affect the election in battleground states like Nevada and Florida, which have large numbers of Latino voters.

Click here to listen to the segment.

In a piece that aired on Marketplace on Friday (9/26/08), Aswini Anburajan reports on the rising political influence of Indian Americans. During the presidential primaries, Indian American donors gave $5 million each to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and half a million dollars to John McCain. Now some of these Democratic voters are seeking to expand their national presence with a political action committee, the Indian American Leadership Initiative.

Listen to the full story on the Marketplace Web site.

Feet in Two Worlds Covers the Conventions

Feet in Two Worlds kicks off its coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions tomorrow, featuring reporting by immigrant journalists from around the country who are attending the conventions. We’ll be podcasting and blogging from Denver and St. Paul, and our reporters will be on public radio with reports and analysis. Listen to the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, New York Public Radio each morning at 10:40 for segments with ethnic media journalists.

Journalists whose work we’ll be featuring include Pilar Marrero from La Opinion in Los Angeles, Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska from the Polish Daily News in New York, and freelance journalist Aswini Anburajan.

Monday we’ll present the first in a series of panel discussions on Deconstructing the Ethnic Vote, an in-depth look by ethnic media journalists at the conversations going on in immigrant and ethnic communities about the presidential candidates, the issues, and the parties. This event is co-sponsored by the New York Community Media Alliance. If you’re in Denver, please join us Monday at noon at the Big Tent. We’ll have more information soon about where you can hear and see this conversation on the Web, TV and radio.