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Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

‘Operation Wetback’ in 2015? (VIDEO)

Earlier today on MSNBC Live with José Díaz-Balart, our digital media director Julio Ricardo Varela shared his insights about Donald Trump’s GOP debate comments praising President Eisenhower’s “Operation Wetback” removal program of the 1950s, a topic Trump first discussed in September during the digital portion of an interview with 60 Minutes.

Latino USA Talks Trump and Obama on MSNBC

Earlier today Latino USA digital media director Julio Ricardo Varela appeared on “Changing America” with host Maria Teresa Kumar to talk about Donald Trump’s “Saturday Night Live” appearance and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

From MSNBC: Donald Trump SNL episode fails to reach out to Latinos

From MSNBC: What’s in store for President Obama’s immigration reform plans?

The 136-Page Obama Immigration Action Decision

The following 136-page document is yesterday’s complete decision by the 5th District Court of Appeals to uphold a block on President Obama’s immigration action that would have deferred deportation for an estimated 5 million immigrants.

Decision from the 5th District Court of Appeals by Latino USA

The administration’s decision was widely expected, and sets up a potential high-stakes court battle over Obama’s immigration policies in the midst of an election year.

Immigrant-rights advocates and the White House see a favorable high court decision as the last hope for the programs to begin before President Obama leaves office.

By making a swift decision to appeal, the administration increased the likelihood the Supreme Court will be able to take up the case during its current term, which ends next June.

Once the Justice Department files a petition for the high court to hear the case, Texas and 25 other states suing over the programs will have 30 days to file an opposition brief. 

It’s unclear whether the justices will decide to hear the case; they must vote by mid-January to ensure a decision is made in the current term.

Do US Latino Voters Still Care About Immigration?

In anticipation of Latino USA’s upcoming show about the U.S. Latino vote (premiering this Friday November 6), I plan to share daily historical examples of American politics and Latinos. My first post was about Jackie Kennedy campaigning in Spanish. The second post highlighted the country’s first Latino senator. The third post focused on U.S. Latino voters and the presidency. Last Friday, I focused on Hispandering. Earlier this week, I wrote on the three little-known facts about the Latino vote. I also gave the US Cabinet a Latino report card. Today, I ask the question: Do U.S. Latino voters still care about immigration?

Of all the comments I hear in newsrooms, the one about Latino voters no longer caring about immigration as a top voting issue continues to come up. I do want to dive a bit deeper and try to answer the question. From a purely statistical perspective, it is accurate to say that U.S. Latino voters don’t think immigration is the top voting issue. A 2014 Pew study said this:

“Among Latino registered voters, two issues rate highest in importance. Fully 92% say education is an extremely (49%) or very (42%) important issue to them personally, and 91% say jobs and the economy is an extremely (46%) or very (45%) important issue. Following these two issues is health care, which 86% of Latino voters rate as extremely important (40%) or very important (46%). These three issues have consistently rated as the top three among Latino voters in Pew Research Center surveys (Krogstad, 2014), and the ranking is similar to that seen prior to the 2012 presidential election (Lopez and Gonzalez-Barrera, 2012).”


But then Gallup released its own 2014 poll, which showed that immigration was the second most important issue for Latinos after the economy:

“Over the summer, the percentage of U.S. Hispanics naming immigration as the most important issue facing the U.S. nearly doubled from the first half of the year, as the issue received heavy media attention related to the surge of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America. Concern among the general public about the issue intensified as well, rising over threefold, but Hispanics remained more likely to name this issue as one the country’s top problems.”


A 2014 election eve poll by Latino Decisions, hired this year by the Hillary Clinton campaign, concluded that immigration was the top issue for Latino voters:


Earlier this summer, Univision commissioned a poll about the 2016 election and the Latino vote. It did asked voters about important issues. Here was the breakdown for the top four issues:






Still, there is no denying that even if immigration might not be the top issue, U.S. Latino voters still think it is important that some form of comprehensive immigration reform get passed soon. This is what Pew reported in 2014:

“A solid majority (66%) of Hispanic voters believe passing new immigration legislation soon is extremely important or very important according to the new survey. This is up six percentage points from 2013, when 60% of Latino registered voters said it was extremely important or very important to pass significant new immigration legislation in 2013.”


This would be in line with a 2014 post-election poll that shows that a majority of Americans want Congress to pass some type of immigration reform legislation.

When it comes to a pathway to citizenship, Gallup shared this a few months ago:

“Hispanics (77%) are more likely than non-Hispanic whites (62%) or non-Hispanic blacks (70%) to favor a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. One in five whites, compared with 14% of blacks and 8% of Hispanics, prefer deporting undocumented immigrants back to their home countries.”


In addition, another Pew poll from earlier this year included these findings:

“Hispanics, younger Americans and Democrats are among the most supportive of both allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S., and having the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Fully 86% of Hispanics say there should be a way for undocumented immigrants who are living in the U.S. to remain legally, if certain requirements are met: 54% say they should be able to apply for citizenship while 30% say they should be able to apply only for permanent residency.”


And don’t forget the 2011 Gallup poll, which shared this:

“One-in-four (24%) Hispanics say they personally know someone who has been detained or deported by the federal government in the past year.

Familiarity with detainment and deportation is highest among foreign-born Hispanics who are not U.S. citizens and not legal residents. Among this group, more than a third (36%) say they know someone who has been deported or detained in the past year.

However, familiarity with detainment and deportation is not limited to the foreign born. One-in-five (22%) native-born Hispanics say they personally know someone who has been detained or deported by the federal government in the past 12 months. And among Hispanic registered voters, one-in-five (20%) say they know someone who has been deported or detained.”


So what do you think? Tweet me at @julito77.

O’Malley Camp Criticizes Clinton on Immigration

Echoing an immigartion position that has been consistent ever since Democratic presidential Martin O’Malley unveiled a comprehensive plan in July, a O’Malley campaign spokesperson said last night that Hillary Clinton should focus on releasing her own plan to inform voters instead of just criticizing Republicans.

“While Republicans may have elected a new Speaker who shares their party’s age-old political problems, our party needs decisive, progressive leadership like Governor O’Malley’s to ensure that we fix our inhumane immigration system once and for all,” O’Malley for President spokeswoman Gabi Domenzain said in a statement. “It’s easy to slam Republicans, but harder to put forward proactive ideas. And Secretary Clinton still has not put forward any immigration plan whatsoever.”

Domenzain’s statement was in response to a Clinton campaign statement about how new House Speaker Paul Ryan has no intention in working on a comprehensive immigration reform bill while President Obama is still in office.

“We cannot allow the fate of millions of families to fall prey to political football or to whims of states’ rights. Secretary Clinton should join Governor O’Malley by proposing a concrete plan to ensure that New Americans will, in fact, be safe in her Administration,” Domenzain added.

For months, the O’Malley campaign has been proactive in focusing on Latino voter issues, usually the first Democratic candidate taking the lead on matters such as immigration, with the Clinton campaign reacting to what the O’Malley presents. It is a point the former Maryland governor made in a recent interview with Latino USA at a stop in Boston. O’Malley said that Clinton is always “following” him on issues that pertain to Latinos.

“Once again we lead, and she follows,” O’Malley said. “I intend to lead with ideas. I believe that leadership is often times saying things first and being ahead of the pack. Any nitwit can follow a poll, but leadership means forging a new consensus and very often speaking out on issues that others are ignoring.”

O’Malley also said that it was “morally reprehensible” for the country to detain immigrant families and called the immigration rhetoric from Donald Trump “racist hate speech.”

Nonetheless, O’Malley’s standing in national and state polls is still a distant third from both Clinton and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.

Featured image: Martin O’Malley talking with Latino USA in Boston, MA (CREDIT/Julio Ricardo Varela)

Shattered Dreams: Immigrants in Lock Up (VIDEO)

This week Al Jazeera’s The Stream covered the topic of immigration detention in the United States. Since it is a topic our show has been exploring for years (see our latest story about the rise of ankle monitors), we wanted to share The Stream’s show with our audience.

Why Are Immigrant Mothers Wearing Ankle Monitors?

Over the last 10 years, immigration officials have been the expanding the use of what they call “alternatives to detention” (ATD) for immigrants released from their custody: ankle monitors, telephone check-ins, home visits and so on. The idea is find ways to ensure that immigrants will show up for court hearings, without needing to detain them for the full period that their case makes its way through the system, which can take years. There are currently about 12,000 immigrants wearing ankle monitors. By 2016, the Department of Homeland Security plans to expand to 50,000 immigrants on some form of supervision.

Immigrant advocates say the ankle monitors aren’t a true “alternative to detention,” but rather a way to expand the scope of detention and to further punish immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. They point to evidence that more humane tools —like providing legal help to immigrants— are just as effective at getting people to show up to their hearings. And they question how appropriate is it to strap ankle monitors on mothers seeking asylum with their young children, one of the groups that has been seeing more and more use of the monitors. Latino USA investigates.

Featured image: John Moore/Getty Images

A Social Media Summary of Our ‘Dream 9’ Show

As the team works on completing the newest Latino USA show (premiering this Friday, October 23), I wanted to take a moment and share some of the social media moments about last Friday’s ‘Dream 9’ episode. Here is the Storify slideshow I curated today.

Featured image: Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus Photography,

Meet the Dream 9

Who are the members of the Dream 9? This week, in anticipation of our newest show, Latino USA reached out to the group. Some members also sent recent photos and told us what they are doing now.



Luis León, 22, was brought to the U.S. when he was 5 years old and grew up in North Carolina. He chose to leave in 2011 after graduating high school when he realized he had no avenue to go to college in the U.S. and lived in Veracruz, Mexico, until the Dream 9 action.

Luis is living in North Carolina working on contract jobs “and helping in and around my community when there are families that also have questions on immigration issues.”


Luis (left) with his family.

His immigration case is “slowly moving along.” Luis recently had a court date where he turned in his asylum application and is waiting to hear what is next.

“So far I think that it’s going well and I have hopes that in the future good will come out of all of this,” he said.



Claudia Amaro, 29, lives in Wichita, Kansas, and works with families to get parents more involved at their children’s school. She also works in a dentist’s office. Claudia was 12 years old when her parents brought her to the U.S. She grew up in Colorado and California before moving to Kansas at 19.


Claudia Amaro (left)

Claudia’s husband was deported about eight years ago, so she moved to Coahuila, Mexico, to “keep the family together.” She was studying to become an industrial engineer before she chose to participate in the Dream 9. Her husband later joined the Dream 30, and since then he has been at an immigration detention center. Claudia’s asylum case is pending. She has a court date in 2019.



Ceferino Santiago, 23, was 13 when he first came to the U.S. He grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, and was in Oaxaca, Mexico, before going to the border for the Dream 9.

Ceferino Santiago

Ceferino Santiago

He now lives in the Pacific Northwest and has been in Washington picking apples for work. Ceferino is planning to move back to Kentucky. He is still waiting for his day in immigration court.



Lizbeth Mateo, 31, was 14 years old when she was brought to the United States from Mexico. She lived in Los Angeles for many years. She then spent time in Oaxaca, Mexico, before she chose to leave the U.S. to participate in the Dream 9 action.


Lizbeth Mateo (CREDIT: Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus Photography,

She now lives in California and is a student at Santa Clara University. On October 15, Lizbeth applied for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program).



Lulu Martínez, 25, grew up in Chicago after she was brought to the U.S. as a three-year-old. She was in Mexico City before going to Nogales to become part of the Dream 9.


Lulu Martínez (CREDIT: Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus Photography,

Lulu lives in Chicago and works at Enlace Chicago as an immigration and legal services coordinator. She hopes to start school at the University of Illinois Chicago in the spring. Lulu’s next hearing date for her asylum case is in April 2018. At that hearing, she will present more evidence supporting her application to be allowed to stay in the U.S.



María Inés Peniche, 24, was 10 years old when she was brought to Revere, Massachusetts. She left the U.S. and moved to Mexico City. That’s where she was when she got the call about the Dream 9.

Maria Ines

María Inés Peniche (CREDIT: Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus Photography,

She is now back in Revere and is working as a community organizer. María is delaying her asylum hearing in hopes that comprehensive immigration reform happens.



Marco Saavedra was 23 years old when he decided to return to Mexico for the Dream 9. He was brought to the U.S. when he was three years old and his family lives in New York City.


Marco Saavedra (CREDIT: Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus Photography,

When we asked Saavedra about what he is doing now, he said: “I only crossed into Nogales for three days for the campaign. I live in the South Bronx and work at La Morada, my parents’ restaurant. My request for asylum is pending before immigration court.”



Adriana Díaz, 24, was four months old when she was brought to the U.S.


Adriana Díaz (CREDIT: Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus Photography,

She grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and voluntarily returned to Mexico about a year before the Dream 9 took place. In an email to Latino USA, she wrote: “I am in Phoenix now and currently I am trying to figure out my life and what adulthood means being far from my mom haha… I was always with her. I am living with my boyfriend. My case is still pending right now but I have my second hearing in March of 2016.”



Mario Félix was 23 at the time of the Dream 9.


This photo was taken in 2013, when the entire Dream 9 was released from detention. (CREDIT: Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus Photography,

He joined what would have been the Dream 8 at the last minute.

#1542 – The Dream 9

In 2013, nine young undocumented activists walked from Mexico up to border officials in the United States and demanded to be let in and granted asylum. They were wearing their graduation caps and gowns—a uniform that had become the unofficial symbol of the Dreamer movement. They walked arm in arm, flanked by reporters and cameras. If their plan failed, they risked never being able to return to the United States, the country where they grew up, ever again.

All nine were Dreamers—meaning they were brought to the U.S. without papers as children, and grew up considering it their home. Many didn’t find out they were undocumented until they were in their later teens, and were applying to college or a job without a social security number. Six of the Dream 9 had previously left the U.S. because their situation became too difficult in the U.S, and now they wanted to get back. The other three were members of an activist group called the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, thought of by some as the most radical of the Dreamer groups. They flew into Mexico just to participate.

The Dream 9 took activism around youth immigration farther than it had ever been taken before. What they were doing was not only risky but difficult. The U.S. Department of Justice –the agency that grants asylum in immigration courts– only approved one percent of nearly 9,000 asylum requests from Mexico last year.

In the wake of their action, the Dream 9 shook up the immigration debate and divided the immigrant rights movement. In our hour long-special, we tell their story.

Featured image: Steve Pavey, Hope in Focus Photography,

The Dream 9 Story Told in 18 Photos

While the Latino USA team was putting the finishing touches on the Dream 9 show that will premiere later today on, I had the pleasure to work with Steve Pavey, the photographer who chronicled the Dream 9’s 2013 border action. When I asked him to share his thoughts about the Dream 9, this is what he told me:

It was an incredible privilege to not only be invited to document the Dream 9 action, but more importantly, invited into friendships and in the mutual struggle for human freedom. TheDream 9 challenge us all to see the humanity and dignity of immigrants that are too often absent in the politics of immigration reform and especially the absurdity of policies like DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] in the context of the great tragedy of the dehumanization of immigrants in the United States.

In between my other digital duties, I went through all of Steve’s Dream 9 photos and created a slideshow of 18 images that try to capture those days in 2013. The two photos at the end of the slideshow include all the nine members of the Dream 9 after they were released from detention—some of the only examples that show the entire group together. All the photos below are by Steve Pavey of Hope in Focus Photography. You can find more of Steve’s work at

Here is Latino USA’s newest show: The Dream 9.

The Day I Met the Dream 9

It was a Sunday afternoon in the summer of 2013 and a colleague and I drove down to the U.S.-Mexico border after hearing that a group of young undocumented immigrants were planning an unusual protest to try to get back into the U.S.

Protests at the border were happening often but this one seemed different.

I was working for Arizona Public Media, Tucson’s NPR station, and when I got to Nogales, Arizona, I met Mohammad Abdollahi, the activist organizing the move. We walked down to the international border fence and there were people on the other side waiting for Mohammad.

Through the international fence I talked with Marco Saavedra and Lizbeth Mateo. They stood on the Mexican side of the border fence with Maria Inez Peniche, also part of the Dream 9, a name for which the group would be known.

They were going over details about what they would attempt the next morning.

The nine “dreamers” were planning on walking up to the Morley pedestrian port-of-entry in Arizona wearing caps and gowns and asking for asylum to re-enter the United States. They would be using the graduation outfits to signify their desire to continue an education in the U.S.

This was one of the boldest moves by undocumented youth yet.

Even bolder for some of the Dream 9 who went to Mexico specifically to come back through this staged protest.

Dreamers —young undocumented activists brought to the U.S. as children— had been present in the immigration debate and although I knew this was a risky and unique move, I didn’t realize at the time that this was the beginning of something bigger.

Marcos told me that not knowing if they would be allowed back in the U.S. was scary. He and Lizbeth seemed worried but also determined. They may not have known all the details about what would happen next but they had a goal and they would do whatever it took to get there.

As the sun began to set they finished asking Mohammad about the plans for Monday morning. Mohammad stuck his arms through the international border fence for hugs and then walked up the street in the U.S. as the undocumented activists walked back into the busy streets in Sonora, Mexico.

Here is Latino USA’s newest show: The Dream 9.

This post’s featured image shows members of the Dream 9 talking with organizers (including Mohammad Abdollahi) before the 2013 border action. (CREDIT: Steve Pavey, Hope In Focus Photography,

The Dream 9: A Timeline

On Friday October 16, Latino USA will premiere a new show about the Dream 9, a group of undocumented youth whose border action in the summer of 2013 is still being talked about within the immigrants rights community. As we prepare for the show, our team plans to share several preshow posts about the group and its place in the current immigration debate. Our first post is a timeline I created to present some key moments of the events surrounding the Dream 9 action. (I was one of the journalists who covered this story in 2013 when I was running the editorial group at Latino Rebels.)

The following timeline does not claim to be the comprehensive story of the last few years of immigrant rights activism. My goal here was to give our listeners some highlights. There are plenty of other groups who worked on other actions and campaigns, while actions like those of the Dream 9 (and the subsequent Dream 30 and Dream 150 actions) were happening. However, I hope that this timeline provides a bit of historical and political context for Friday’s show.

Here is Latino USA’s newest show: The Dream 9.

This post’s featured image shows eight of the nine members of The Dream 9 (CREDIT: Steve Pavey, Hope In Focus Photography,

Premiering October 16: The Dream 9

This Friday October 16, Latino USA premieres its newest show: The Dream 9. Throughout the next few days leading up to the show, we plan to share more about this group and their place in the current national immigration debate. Meanwhile, we wanted to share this brief audio preview of the show:

UPDATE—Here is Latino USA’s newest show: The Dream 9.

The photos in this post show members of The Dream 9 (CREDIT: Steve Pavey, Hope In Focus Photography,

Terrorized by Violence: Mexico’s Refugees

In the United States, there’s a widespread notion that Mexicans fleeing cartel violence head north. In reality, most of these people move somewhere else in Mexico, becoming internal refugees in their own country. But the Mexican government has yet to acknowledge the scope of the problem. Reporter Lynda Lopez traveled to Mexico with the team at Refugees International and examines something unimaginable in the U.S., but very common there.

Photo of Paola and her family


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