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Archive for the ‘Ballot Voices: Latinos and the 2012 Elections’ Category

Fi2W Commentary: The Choice is Clear for Immigrants

American voters are faced with a stark choice, not only about who will lead the nation in the next four years, but about what our shared future will be like. At the deepest and most profound, it is a decision about what America stands for. About what we stand for.

The conventions in Tampa and Charlotte – the crowds, the platforms, and the speeches – provided the contrast. Immigrants, their families and their communities now have to decide with whom they will cast their lot. Which party and ticket will assure them of their proper place as Americans and help them secure their American dream?

I’d like to think that the answer is obvious, and the numbers show that a majority of immigrants do know who has their interests in mind. But there are some who for whatever reason refuse to see the truth.

A woman immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, worked hard, and sacrificed in order to help her family back in the Philippines and those who came with her. She has accomplished a lot: rising up the ranks in the company where she has worked for decades, and supporting her family here and abroad.

In so many ways she has accomplished her American dream. But as a middle-class woman of color, she has also been held back. She has been denied promotions in spite of her credentials and hard work. Countless times has she complained of less qualified men surpassing her for jobs she can do with her eyes closed. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this was because of her gender. I wonder how much of it had to do with her ethnicity and accent.

She was supposed to retire a couple of years ago but the Great Recession happened. Her investments and the value of her home went under. She has little choice but to keep waking up at the crack of dawn, getting on a commuter train, and putting in her eight hours. She is tired but she does what needs to be done.

And she blames Barack Obama. She faults the man who signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act and who fought hard to keep our country from falling into a financial abyss. The man who wants to safeguard Social Security and Medicare for older Americans like her.

She listens to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. She is a hardcore Republican. She believes that Democrats promote dependency on government and that so many abuse system. She refuses to see and admit who is really responsible for her setbacks.

I doubt she watched the Democratic convention. I wish she had. She would have seen so many other Americans of color like her. Not as tokens but as valued members whose voices are heard. She would have learned of policies that safeguard and promote her and her family’s well-being. She would recognize her own family’s story in the struggles and successes of Michelle’s and Barack’s families. She would have heard the man she despises tell her that he thinks of her and her family when making hard decisions. She would have been assured that no one gets a free ride but that together we can create a better future. She would have heard the President’s passionate argument that “no American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and the dignity they have earned.”

Like many other immigrant Americans, she will go to the polls on November 6 and cast her vote. How I wish she realizes who really sees her, hears her, and embraces her as an immigrant and as a woman. It should be crystal clear to her who has her and her family’s future in his heart and mind. Sadly, it isn’t.

You can follow Erwin de Leon on Twitter or read his blog.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr

Erwin de Leon is a Policy Researcher and writer based in Washington, DC. He writes on immigration, LGBT, and nonprofit issues. You can follow him on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.

Noticiando: DNC Roundup

Charlotte welcomed the Democratic National Convention this week with up-and-coming San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro delivering the keynote speech. For more on what happened at the convention, we catch up with News Taco editor Victor Landa who reported from the ground.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Victor Landa is the founder and editor of NewsTaco, a website that provides news, analysis and critique from a Latino perspective. He worked as a writer and editor for 30 years, mostly with Telemundo and Univisión. Landa also contributed to the San Antonio Express-News, and he is an adviser on media strategy, message crafting, storytelling and public speaking.

Undocumented Immigrants Plan Protests at the Democratic National Convention

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina - Maricruz Ramirez never thought she would cross the country telling the world that she is undocumented, but when she was invited to join the UndocuBus with 30 others, she didn’t blink.

“I wanted to do this for my children,” she said. “I want a better future for them”.

Ramirez arrived in Charlotte a few days before the National Democratic Convention (DNC) where her group, the self-identified “undocumented delegation,” will engage in protests calling for immigration reform.

Their journey was intended to highlight the situation faced by undocumented immigrants across the country as they get behind the wheel to drive and risk being pulled over by the police, asked for documents and turned over to U.S. immigration agents.

The group has denounced the Obama administration for the record number of deportations in recent years, often targeting undocumented workers without criminal records.

They are especially critical of the administration’s push for agreements known as 287(g), used to deputize local police to perform the duties of immigration agents during patrols, and of Secure Communities, a related program that allows local police to check a person’s immigration status on a federal database.

“We want these programs to stop,” said Miguel Guerra, another one of the riders who began the trip in Phoenix, Arizona. Guerra, the father of three children was arrested in an act of civil disobedience in Phoenix before the journey began, but was later released.

The UndocuBus left Arizona on July 29th to mark the 2-year-anniversary of the state’s SB 1070. In it’s June 25th ruling the U.S. Supreme Court struck down three parts of SB 1070, allowing one portion to stand.  That section makes it mandatory for police in Arizona to inquire about a person’s immigration status when the police have reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally. SB 1070 has inspired similar laws in other states including Georgia and Alabama, where the bus made stops en route to Charlotte.

It’s been a “liberating” experience for Ramirez, after a journey that took her through 10 different states and 16 cities where she heard stories and saw the tears of other women enduring her same struggle.

“We’ve helped many others to stand up and not be afraid,” said Ramirez.

She believes the first step to bringing about change for undocumented immigrants is for immigrants to step out of the shadows and tell their stories.

“We don’t come here to live for free. We contribute. We pay taxes,” she said.

Upon arriving in Charlotte on Saturday the UndocuBus delegation went to Central Siloe Church where they heard the story of Isaide Serrano. The young mother awaits an immigration judge’s decision on whether she’ll be allowed to stay in the country.

Serrano is now seven months pregnant and has five other children who were born in the U.S. She was pulled over by a police officer while driving back from the grocery store two years ago, for having her high beams on. When the officer realized that she didn’t have a valid driver’s license he took her into custody.

That encounter led her to a county jail that had a 287(g) program in place where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) put a hold on her and began deportation proceedings.

“I’m pleading not to be separated from my children,” said Serrano. “They have all their lives here”.

José Malgandi, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador also rode in the bus. He doesn’t trust what Republicans or Democrats would do to address the issue of immigration.

At Republican National Convention the party released its platform that calls for the creation of,  ”humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily, while enforcing the law against those who overstay their visas.”  The GOP platform also expresses support for states that pass their own immigration laws like Arizona.

Malgandi said Republicans have used undocumented immigrants as a scapegoat, while the Obama administration hasn’t kept the promise of approving some form of immigration reform, focusing instead on deportations.

“We are going to demand to him (Obama) to not put immigration in an irrelevant place on the agenda,” he said.

For immigrants like Ramirez, the administration’s recent deferred action policy that would benefit children like hers who were brought into the country illegally, is not enough.

“What Obama offered is not a solution,” she said.  She added she hopes that if re-elected, the president will support legislation like the DREAM Act, that would allow undocumented children that were raised in the United States to legalize their status.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr

Valeria Fernández is an independent journalist in Phoenix, Arizona. She worked for La Voz newspaper for the last six years covering the immigration beat and she is a guest contributor on Race Wire. Valeria was born and raised in Montevideo, Uruguay, and moved to the United States in 1999.

Charlotteando

The site for this year’s Democratic National Convention, Charlotte, North Carolina, is home to biotech, Nascar’s Hall of Fame and a growing diverse community of Latinos and other immigrants. Check out this tour of the Nuevo South by Leda Hartman.


Click here to download this week’s show. Image courtesy of Mural Locator (creative commons).

Leda Hartman is a nationally award-winning reporter and editor. Her radio stories have aired on programs including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace and The World. Her articles have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Congressional Quarterly and the New York Times. Leda was the assignment editor at the World Vision Report radio program, and is a story editor at Latitudes, a nationally broadcast public radio series about global affairs from WAMU-FM.

Wonder Twin Julián

At 37, San Antonio mayor Julian Castro already has a decade of political office under his belt. And now he is getting the Democratic Party’s national spotlight as the keynote speaker at the convention in Charlotte. Meanwhile, his twin brother Joaquin is running for Congress. Hernán Rozemberg of the Fronteras desk brings us this profile.


Click here to download this week’s show. Image courtesy of Texarkana Gazette. 

Hernán Rozemberg is award-winning journalist with more than 16 years of experience. He has worked for various newspapers, including The Arizona Republic and the San Antonio Express-News. For more than a decade, he has specialized in coverage of immigration and border issues, including at his current position as Senior Correspondent and Bureau Chief for a Southwest public media project, Fronteras: The Changing America Desk.  He holds at Master’s in International Relations from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

Noticiando: RNC, Recapped

This year’s Republican National Convention was one day shorter and the party’s presidential candidate was officially nominated during the first 24 hours. So what’s the point of all the spectacle and symbols? And what kind of message is the GOP crafting for and about Latinos? Univision News political editor Jordan Fabian tells us his impressions.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Jordan Fabian is the political editor for Univision News’s English-language portal. Prior to joining Univision in 2011, he worked as a staff writer at The Hill newspaper in Washington, DC where he covered Congress and the 2012 presidential campaign. Jordan has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News and C-SPAN, and has contributed to a number of nationally-syndicated radio programs. He also freelanced for Hispanic Business magazine. Jordan hails from Olney, MD and is a lifelong resident of the Washington area. He graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor of arts in history.

Despite Display of Diversity, GOP Actions and Words Send Hostile Message to Immigrants

The Republican Party is trying hard to appear diverse, inclusive, and welcoming. While they can’t do much about the optics of a convention packed with white people, they can control who gets the podium.

Have a look at the list of convention speakers. You have a large number of Latinos, including Ted Cruz, Texas U.S. Senate nominee, Susana Martinez, New Mexico Governor, and of course, GOP darling Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator from Florida. You even have some Asians, with appearances by Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina, and Ishwar Singh, president of the Sikh Society of Central Florida.

GOP leaders recognize that our country is fast becoming a majority minority nation and they need to appeal to people of color, especially growing immigrant communities which will decide the outcome, if not of this year’s elections, certainly of the 2016 race and beyond.

Republicans need to understand that most of us can see through this manufactured and condescending visual. The rabid anti-immigrant rhetoric of the GOP presidential primaries is still steaming fresh in our minds. Rubio himself admitted to George Stephanopoulos that he agreed with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when he said “you can’t just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate.”

“Policies matter and, look, the Republican Party does have a challenge,” Rubio said.

The platform they proudly present at the convention is not exactly endearing to us either. While Rep. Marsha Blackburn, co-chair of the Platform Committee, boasts that the platform “represents the inclusiveness of our party and reaffirms the idea that we are the ‘Big Tent Party,’” many of us see it as the exact opposite, as proof of their propensity to exclude.

The GOP platform pushes for reduction in federal spending, particularly social safety net programs. It advocates for a tax code that shamelessly favors the wealthy. It continues the Republican assault on labor unions. It declares an end to “Obamacare.” It spells out an immigration policy that focuses mainly on law enforcement and opposes any form of reprieve for undocumented immigrants.

The thing is, communities of color which are mostly middle and lower income Americans, rely on safety net programs they pay for with their taxes. These are families and individuals who will not benefit from tax breaks for wealthy Americans who do not need preferential treatment. Labor unions protect the interests of all working Americans. The president’s health care reform law has already benefited millions who would otherwise not have adequate care or any healthcare at all. Are Republicans really so tone deaf to what truly matters to immigrants, their children, and communities?

Shenanigans during the convention are also indicative of the climate that greets people of color when they step into Republican spaces. A couple of attendees threw nuts at an African American camerawoman, explaining “This is how we feed animals.” As Zoraida Fonalledas, chair of the Committee on Permanent Organization, started to speak in her accented English, some in thecrowd started chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” The attendees who assaulted the camerawomen were promptly ejected and RNC chairman Reince Priebus did call for order and respect for Fonalledas, but none of the bigwigs has come forward to challenge fringe elements in their midst.

On the contrary, Mitt Romney pandered to birthers and nativists in the GOP ranks when he declared “no one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate” while campaigning in Michigan last week.

Eric Liu, former speechwriter and deputy domestic policy adviser for President Clinton and a fellow with the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University, writes:

Romney’s implicit pledge of allegiance to the birther movement is as revealing of his character as anything else in his campaign of half-deliberate opacity. He appears to lack a core capacity for empathy. He literally cannot see himself as someone not white, as someone accented or a newcomer … Romney may yet win in November. But he and this whole odious line of attack are on the losing side of history. The tide of demographics is irresistible, and soon enough it’ll sweep up his birth certificate and mine into a new notion of who is truly from this country.

Jeb Bush, who has been admonishing his party to ease up on its hardline immigration stance, told The Hill that inclusive language and policies are important symbols which reflect sensitivity for the concerns of communities of color. He also warned that if immigrant communities do not feel welcome, “we’re going to lose elections.” “That’s not opinion — that’s math,” he said.

Bush’s calculations are spot on. No matter how hard the Republican Party tries, most of us do not feel welcome. Both their words and actions belie their protestations of diversity and inclusivity.

You can follow Erwin de Leon on Twitter or read his blog.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr.

Erwin de Leon is a Policy Researcher and writer based in Washington, DC. He writes on immigration, LGBT, and nonprofit issues. You can follow him on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.

Podcast: Can the GOP Convince Enough Hispanic Voters to Help Elect Mitt Romney?


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Republicans say they are aiming for 38 percent of the Latino vote in the presidential election. Mitt Romney is currently polling below 30 percent among Latinos. What can the GOP do to improve these numbers?

We called up Valeria Fernandez, a freelance journalist and filmmaker based in Phoenix, and Pilar Marrerosenior political writer for La Opinión to give us some analysis from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

Going into the convention there was a lot of buzz about the strong anti-immigration language in the party platform, but according to Marrero, when she arrived in Tampa at the start of this week, the platform was nowhere to be found. What was leaked was so badly received that the full text was not released.

Marrero says the Romney campaign is trying to step back from the message of “self deportation” that it offered in the primaries. Romney is now talking about a proposal to add a temporary workers’ program, visas for families of green card holders and adjustments for undocumented immigrants who have served in the military. Marrero adds that Romney wants to position himself as having a more humane approach to immigration, but these measures aren’t really being advertised to non-Latino voters.

Fernandez has been seeking out Florida Latino Republicans. A major difference she has found between them and Latino Republicans in her home state of Arizona is that the Floridians largely support the DREAM Act and other attempts at reform while their counterparts in Arizona oppose anything they see as “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants and are largely behind anti-immigrant legislation like SB1070. But she says, the Floridians are distrustful of President Obama after he failed to fulfill his promise of comprehensive immigration reform, and believe Romney will be more moderate on immigration after he’s elected.

Polls show that the economy is the top concern for Latino voters. But Marrero says 68 percent of Latinos blame former President George Bush for the poor economy, and have not heard Romney’s economic message. One reason might be that Romney’s outreach to Latino voters is heavily concentrated in the battleground state of Florida with comparatively little activity elsewhere.

With Texas US Senate candidate Ted Cruz, Florida Congressman Marco Rubio and Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño speaking during the convention, many have observed that Republicans are pushing hard to represent the Latino side of their party. But Marrero thinks those three will have a hard time connecting with the majority of American Latinos who are of Mexican origin. The key, she says, is the tone the GOP uses in its outreach to Latinos. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, she says, argued this before the convention: “We can’t tell people to join our cause if they don’t feel welcome,” she quoted Bush as saying.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr

Ted Cruz Brings His Conservative Message to the Republican National Convention

The Republicans kicked off their national convention in Tampa on Tuesday with a program starring a line-up of GOP all-stars. They also carted out many of their Latino headliners. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and First Lady of Puerto Rico Luce Fortuño had their chance to speak before what looked on TV to be a blindingly white audience. But the real Latino standout was Texas U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz.

The Texas delegates, dressed in bar-b-que outfits- Texas flag shirts and cowboy hats – cheered him on. The audience repeatedly jumped to their feet to applaud Cruz during his 12-minute speech. As I watched it I kept thinking, “Why do they keep applauding? He’s not saying anything and what he does say makes no sense!”

I’ve written before about the many things that Cruz, a fellow Cuban-Texan from a conservative family, and I have in common. Our backgrounds aside, I can honestly say that Cruz and I agree on almost nothing. Cruz is a tea party favorite for his extreme rhetoric that includes abolishing the IRS and the education, commerce, and energy departments. But he didn’t come right out and say all of that crazy stuff in his speech. That would have alienated the less extreme members of the GOP. Now is a time to watch what you say.

Speakers at the convention kept repeating the same information:  “Obama put us 16 trillion dollars in debt, 23 million people unemployed,” and keywords like “We Built It”, “freedom, liberty, free market, grass roots,” and “We the People”. Cruz hit all of the talking points and quoted famous lines like, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” and Martin Luther King Jr’s line that men should be judged, “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It’s the equivalent of a band that only plays their greatest hits, only Cruz is playing other people’s songs. Of course the delegates cheered: Reagan’s Berlin Wall quote is the Freebird of Republican rhetoric.

Cruz even spoke in Spanish. He told the story of his father’s immigration to the United States after being imprisoned under the Batista regime in Cuba. He said of his father, “No tenia nada, pero tenia Corazon (he had nothing, but he had heart)” in the thickest gringo accent you ever heard to limited applause. This was a calculated move to prove his Latino cred, and what good is a token Latino if he isn’t “Latino enough”?

Through the haze of tired rhetoric and familiar quotes, he said something that caught my attention, “Unfortunately, President Obama’s campaign is trying to divide America. To separate us into groups. Telling seniors that Medicare will be taken away. Telling Hispanics that we’re not welcome here.”

¿Que?

Let’s put aside for a second that the Republican party platform calls for overhauling Medicare so that seniors would have to buy private insurance with some government assistance. But Obama is telling Hispanics that we aren’t welcome?

Wasn’t it vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan who described arresting and deporting undocumented workers with the fishing term “catch and release”? Cruz supports Ryan even though he is in favor of throwing out so-called “anchor babies”? Cruz repeatedly talked about how much he loves the Constitution, but I guess he forgot that the 14th Amendment provides equal protection under the law to all citizens. Since “anchor babies” are born here, they too are citizens, Ted.

Or perhaps it slipped his mind that he opposes any form of amnesty, including the DREAM Act or the president’s immigration reprieve. Cruz also favors the building of a border wall as well as the terrifying phrase “boots on the ground” along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mitt Romney is hoping that during the fall campaign Latinos will forget all of the anti-immigration rhetoric he used during the primaries and concentrate on how badly the economy has hurt Latinos. Cruz touched on this when he said that there were 2.3 million Latino small business owners being hurt because Obama had “declared war on small business”. He didn’t go into how exactly the president was doing this. Latinos count the economy as their top concern, which isn’t to say that immigration isn’t a close second for most of them.

Latinos won’t soon forget that Cruz, a son of immigrants that grew up in a state with a huge Latino population, has sided with a party whose platform opposes their very presence in this country. How can you trust a man who turns his back on his own people? Cruz repeatedly talks about how his father achieved the American dream by coming to the U.S. and going to school in order to make something of himself. Why then does he oppose today’s Latino youth from doing the same?

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr.  

Jack Tomas is a writer, filmmaker, and editor working in New York. He’s originally from Houston, TX where he earned a BA in Theater and Communication from The University of St. Thomas. Later, he received an MA in Media Studies at The New School. Jack has worked several years as a professional filmmaker and his films have appeared in several film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival, The LA Comedy Shorts Festival, and The New York Independent Film Festival. He has also worked as a professional blogger since 2009 writing for Guanabee.com, Tuvez.com, Egotastic.com, and Directorslive.com. He lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with his wife Marybec and two cats.

From Tampa con Amor

As Republicans gather for the GOP convention in Tampa, reporter Yoselis Ramos from member station WUSF talks to some Latinos in the city for whom the GOP message of fiscal responsibility resonates strongly.

CORRECTION: Our report states that E.J. Otero is running for state legislature. He is running to be a Representative in Congress.


Click here to download this week’s show.

Yoselis Ramos has been working with WUSF in Tampa since 2010. She reports on local Tampa Bay area stories on business, education, and politics. She volunteers as a tutor at the local high school, and she is currently working on her Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education.

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