Tag: election 2008

In Puerto Rico, Sotomayor Becomes a Celebrity and a Source of Hope for Self-Determination

San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Sonia Sotomayor has become a celebrity. (Photo: Valeria Fernández)

San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Sonia Sotomayor has become a celebrity. (Photo: Valeria Fernández)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Sonia Sotomayor has gone from virtually unknown to a symbol of national pride for Puerto Ricans after her nomination by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This has been a major event in our country, very flattering,” said Marcial Díaz, 61, a Humacao resident who chose the Spanish word país, or country, to refer to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

“In Puerto Rico, they might not know how she decided even one of her cases but for them, and for us, she’s Puerto Rican,” said Susanne Ramírez de Arellano, news director at the Univisión affiliate in Puerto Rico.

“She is a heroine, as (Joe) Acaba, the astronaut, is a hero, as Benicio del Toro is a hero.”


Today They Celebrate, Tomorrow They March For Immigration Reform

*Note: This post includes an update after the march, at the end.

Today is a day for celebration across the land. Tomorrow the real task of governing begins for some, and for others the work of lobbying and pushing for reform starts. Before the dust of the inauguration has time to settle a group of pro-immigrant organizations will hold a march in Washington D.C. for “just and humane” immigration reform. (See more below.)

Latino civil leaders and lobbying organizations intend to keep the issue in the front burner despite a new nationwide poll showing the economy, not immigration, is Latinos’ top concern.

Latino leaders reminded the incoming administration just that Monday during the Latino State of the Union gathering, organized by the National Council of La Raza, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and the League of United Latin American Citizens.


FIRM banner displayed on D.C. cabs this month. (Photo: anewdayforimmigration.org)


Immigrant Students, DREAM Act Supporters Hoping Obama Will Take Up Their Cause

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

As the much-anticipated presidential inauguration of Barack Obama approaches, one group of immigrant activists in particular is feverishly pushing for their cause to be heard by the incoming president. They are young undocumented immigrant students who grew up in the U.S. and their supporters, who are hoping that the new administration will push for passage of the DREAM Act, a law that would allow the students to become U.S. citizens provided they meet certain conditions.

Undocumented students, hoping to come out of the shadows.

Hoping to come out of the shadows. (Video capture: ADreamDeferred.org)

Their cause got an extra bit of support through an online contest organized by Change.org, a social action network (not to be confused with the president-elect’s website Change.gov.)

For the last few weeks, the site hosted an online vote to select “the best ten ideas for change,” which will be announced today at an event at the National Press Club.

The contest was born as a response to Obama’s call to Americans to get involved in their government. “We started the Ideas for Change in America initiative in the hope that we could translate the energy behind the Obama election into a citizen-led movement for change around the major issues we face,” the organizers said.

Thousands of ideas were submitted and over 600,000 votes were cast. Activists for causes as varied as marijuana legalization, gay marriage, and green energy mobilized to make their voices heard and to gather votes for their ideas. As of 5pm EST Thursday, when the vote closed, passage of the DREAM Act stood in eighth place, making it one of the ten winners. (Marijuana legalization was first.)


Guest Column: The Obama Effect on Black and Latino Communities

To begin the New Year, Feet in Two Worlds invited ethnic media journalists to write about the most significant challenges they see facing the communities they cover, and their expectations for the Obama administration and the new Congress. The following article was written by Sharon Toomer, Managing Editor of BlackandBrownNews.com (BBN).

The Black and Latino communities share the same challenges as the greater society – the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, healthcare, and so on. But these communities also face some unique challenges.

BBN is concerned – deeply so – about the education achievement gap, immigration, and the incessant violence in the Black and Latino communities. That 48% of Black males (Latinos are not too far behind) don’t graduate high school on time is a civil rights failure. Poorly educated or uneducated citizens cannot progress economically, socially or politically.

We are equally concerned about the issue of immigration, in particular the nasty anti-Latino immigrant rhetoric that we believe has directly led immigrants of Mexico and Central America to be the target of vicious hate crimes and other forms of prejudice.

People in the Black and Latino communities endure an inordinate amount of violence that is unacceptable in a civil society. It is inconceivable that any human being can be expected to live a quality of life and progress when they are constantly either a victim of or witness to the degree of violence these two communities are subject to.

Generally, I believe an Obama administration will restore the country’s faith and confidence in our government. America has been profoundly wounded by the Bush administration’s disregard for laws and the Constitution by lying, misleading and irresponsible stewardship. This absence and abuse of leadership has damaged America and left us with a degree of distrust that is domestically and globally dangerous.


News Analysis: Immigration Policy in 2009

By Suman Raghunathan, FI2W columnist

As the dust begins to settle after the historic November elections, the incoming Obama administration has lost no time in assembling transition teams on a host of pressing issues, including immigration.

The new administration faces difficult questions about the recent focus on immigration enforcement, particularly after the Obama campaign’s promises to reform the nation’s immigration laws in a fair and humane fashion. In fact, one of President-elect Obama’s only explicit references to immigration policy during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was about the harsh effects of immigration raids on immigrant families – particularly on the over 5 million U.S.-citizen children nationwide with parents who are non-citizens.

What’s more, there’s a sense among many immigrant communities and civil rights groups that Obama is indebted to them after a landslide victory among immigrant voters. Strong Latino voter support for Obama tipped the balance against Sen. McCain in several key battleground states, including Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, and Florida.


A Brazilian Immigrant Journalist Looks Back at 2008

By Eduardo A. de Oliveira, EthnicNewz and FI2W reporter

For millions of immigrant workers 2008 began with a sour taste in all the mouths they have to feed. Six months into 2007, Congress had drowned their highest hopes by killing the Immigration Reform bill.

For many families there was no choice but to return home – in the Brazilian community of Massachusetts alone there were 10,000 retornados, according to the Brazilian Immigrant Center.

Among those who remained here, much of the rhetoric about the need for immigrants to learn English got stuck in the back of their heads. The consequences were best seen in Framingham, Mass.

During a lottery for seats in an English-as-a-second-language course at Fuller Middle School, 500-plus immigrants competed for 165 seats. Of course the ‘no cost’ policy wooed many. But more than ever, they saw English as the language of their future – whether or not they are documented.


Hairdresser Marta dos Santos smiles upon hearing the news that she is one of 165 immigrants picked for an ESL course at Fuller Middle School. More than 500 people tried to get a seat in the classes. Photo: EDUARDO A. de OLIVEIRA

Despite being an election year, 2008 also served to harden immigrants’ hearts.

In the Republican presidential primary, candidates debated who would be the toughest on deporting undocumented workers. Forget about the melting pot, at that point workers learned that to half of America, all that mattered was their immigration status.

In the end, the Republicans selected a presidential candidate who had a record of trying to help undocumented immigrants. But the workers’ future in the U.S. looked grimmer as gas prices hit $4 per gallon, straining the livelihoods of delivery men, truckers, and taxi drivers.

But David Grabowski, a Health Economist at Harvard Medical School, found something about higher gas prices that was not bad news at all.

“We’ve discovered that for every 10 percent in price increase, there are 2.3 percent fewer fatalities in traffic related accidents. Among teenage drivers, at least 6 percent more lives were spared,” said Grabowski, who compared data from Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), from 1985 to 2006.

In another health-related story, a Dominican doctor used her Boston University credentials to fill a gap left behind by the Massachusetts Health Care Reform law. (more…)

The Year Of The Latino Vote, The Giant That Finally Awoke

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

By Diego Graglia, web editor

Diego Graglia, web editor

Latino political leaders have been touting the potential power of Latino voters for years. Though we knew that demographics would end up proving them right sooner or later, their discourse was starting to sound like they had hired The Boy Who Cried Wolf as a spokesman.

Then, 2008 happened.

The November presidential election became the quinceañera party where the Latino vote was introduced in the grand ballroom of American politics as a powerful voting bloc which can have an important role in deciding a nationwide election. (As we’ve already said before, there are many, extremely varied “Latino votes,” but we use the term here to simplify — though not oversimplify — matters.)

Both exit polls and post-Election Day surveys showed that Latino advocates’ turnout predictions had been fulfilled: over 10 million Latinos voted, as compared with 7.6 million in the 2004 presidential election and over 6 million in 2000. An America’s Voice poll [get the pdf here] claims Latinos were 9 percent of the electorate, “approximately 11 million voters.”


Obama’s Latino Problem: Hispanic Leaders Criticize the President-elect's Cabinet Choices

By Pilar Marrero, La Opinión columnist and FI2W contributor

The last few weeks have proven again that for a “post racial” leader, elected for the content of his message -and regardless of the color of his skin- the racial and ethnic lines that subtly divide this country will surely affect the way Barack Obama governs after January 20th.

Even before taking office, the president-elect has had to confront –again- the thorny issue of his relationship with Latinos and Latino leadership. It was an issue that plagued his campaign, particularly during the primaries.

His appointments to the cabinet and to the ranks of White House “West Wing” advisors have been closely watched –and criticized- by Latino leaders. From the onset they were pushing a broad agenda, including Bill Richardson’s appointment as secretary of state.

The fact that Obama chose Hillary Clinton instead of Richardson – who supported him during the primary and had to withstand being called “Judas” by the Clinton campaign for doing it – set many tongues wagging about how the governor of New Mexico got the lesser appointment. The word “treason” was uttered by some political observers in private conversations.

The criticism began with the initial absence of Latinos among Obama’s first appointments: the economic team, the “kitchen cabinet” of close advisers that will surround him every day. There were several Latinos named to the transition team, but that was not seen as enough by some Hispanic leaders and commentators.


Sheriff Arpaio Gets His Own TV Show And An Online Revolt Ensues

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

Sheriff Joe Arpaio in his new reality show.

Arpaio, coming soon, on the Fox Reality Channel.

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has become famous for his made-for-TV antics, like forcing inmates to use pink underwear, and his immigration enforcement fervor, which has drawn heavy criticism from civil rights advocates. Now, he’s getting his own FOX reality show and pro-immigrant organizations are not happy.

In response to the FOX Reality Channel’s announced launch of Smile, You’re Under Arrest!, America’s Voice is gathering support for a petition which asks the Department of Justice to investigate Arpaio “for gross civil rights violations in the name of immigration enforcement.”

Arpaio is a controversial figure in his home of Maricopa County (which encompasses Phoenix) and way beyond.


In Minnesota and Elsewhere, Catholic Leaders Push For Legalization For Undocumented Immigrants

Virgin of Guadalupe, by Rick/Flickr

Virgin of Guadalupe (Photo: Rick/Flickr)

Catholic leaders around the country continue to take the lead on legalization for undocumented immigrants.

We recently reported on the Bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas, Anthony B. Taylor asking Arkansas Catholics to welcome immigrants rather than reject them. Now, Minnesota’s Catholic leaders have declared Jan. 4 “Immigration Sunday,” and will use the occasion to transmit the same message to the state’s faithful.

“We, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Minnesota, want to share our hope for: newcomers journeying in search of greater opportunities for themselves and their families; communities enriched by the many contributions of newcomers; and advocates working for justice and reform,” the six bishops in the Minnesota Catholic Conference said in a statement released on Dec. 12, the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron, and the second anniversary of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid on a meatpacking plant in Worthington, Minn.