July 22, 2006
Cardinal Urges Focus on Economic Development
A Latin-American cardinal says the United States could do more to ease undocumented immigration if it focused on economic development rather than border crackdowns.
"Instead of trying to build walls or putting the National Guard on the border, we should see how development can be enhanced and labor services created," said Roman Catholic Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras. Click here.
Latino Musicians and Immigration
As the immigration debate grips Congress, the issue is inspiring new songs by Latin artists.
The latest high-profile example is "Se Que Triunfare" ("I Will Triumph"), a song recorded June 28 by a group of prominent regional Mexican artists.
Envisioned as a sort of brotherhood hymn, the track boasts straight-ahead lyrics ("I'm the one who fixes your car, without having a driver's license/It's me who night after night asks the heavens for an opportunity") intended to stir an emotional response.
Audiences will probably take it seriously because the people behind the song have all witnessed firsthand the trials and tribulations of immigrant life. Among the singers are Jenni Rivera, Conjunto Primavera lead singer Tony Melendez, Tucanes de Tijuana lead singer Mario Quintero, Los Horoscopos de Durango singers Vicky and Marisol Terrazas and El Chapo. Click here.
July 21, 2006
Attorney General Speaks in Silicon Valley
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales used his appearance at the Commonwealth Club in Santa Clara, Calif., to talk up the Bush administration's reform proposals, which have been divisive even inside the Republican Party and have drawn bitter criticism from social conservatives who would prefer to focus on border security.
Kicking an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants out of the country is not something that can be "realistically" done, Gonzales said. Instead, he described what amounts to a version of limited amnesty: fines, payment of back taxes and Social Security taxes, with eventual citizenship as the reward. Click here.
Immigration Rally Planned for Phoenix
Organizers of an April march for immigration reform that attracted 100,000 people are planning a rally at the state Capitol in September because of what they say has been government inaction.
“We're going to return not to the streets, but to the symbol of our state government,” said Roberto Reveles, president of Somos America, or We Are America, one of the groups that organized the pro-immigrant April march, which coincided with other large demonstrations throughout the country. Click here.
Churches Reach Out to Immigrants
With the concert lights casting dramatic shadows behind him, Pastor Silair Almeida stops center stage and digs deeper into a topic he considers spiritually important: personal finance.
Murmured ''amens'' flutter through the 1,000-plus audience at the First Brazilian Baptist Church of South Florida as he describes one of his ''Ten Commandments'' for managing money God's way. Click Pampano Beach for this story.
The Mexican flag, along with the St. Joseph and American flags, waves expectantly in the breeze in front of South Park Assembly of God.
The Revs. Sharon Spiegel and Oscar Gris hope the banners are a welcome sign to immigrants. Inside, the flags of various Spanish-speaking nations circle the church sanctuary.
Though the influx of immigrants hasn't exploded quite as expected, churches such as South Park Assembly are continuing their outreach efforts to a population that is slowly trickling into the community. Click St. Joseph, Missouri for this story.
Immigration News Radio
Immigration News Radio is an online immigration news radio program for the latest Immigration news with your hosts, US Immigration Lawyers Peter J. Loughlin and Thomas W. Goldman. The mission of IMMIGRATION NEWS RADIO is to provide you with information and inspiration necessary to plan ahead and find real-life solutions to your immigration problems. A new program is placed on the site sproradically. Click here to listen to some past broadcasts.
Happy 14th Amendment Day!
Thanks to the visionary constitutional reformers of 1868, America enjoys equal rights for all. Today's anti-immigration zealots want to destroy their legacy. Read Garrett Epps' thoughtful article by clicking here.
July 20, 2006
Criminal Prosecutions of Humanitarian Workers
Top Border Patrol officials in Tucson, Arizona have pledged to arrest anyone who transports undocumented immigrants regardless of the mission or the victim's medical condition. On July 9, 2005, two No More Deaths volunteers were arrested after giving three undocumented immigrants, who they said were in serious need of medical help, a ride from the camp to a clinic in a Tucson church. The volunteers, Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss, both 24, are awaiting trial on federal charges of transporting illegal immigrants. Click here for a story from the Arizona Republic.
A Superior Court judge in state court in Southern California (Pomona) who allegedly denied a woman a restraining order against her abuser because she is an illegal immigrant is the focus of an "internal inquiry" by the court, officials said Wednesday. Los Angeles Superior Court officials said the Pomona Superior Court supervising judge is looking into whether Bruce Fink acted inappropriately when he told a San Gabriel Valley woman Friday to leave the courtroom by the time he counted to 20 before he called immigration on her, according to the transcript from the hearing. The court transcript shows that when he counted to six, Fink said: "When I get to 20, she gets arrested and goes to Mexico." Since the woman had to leave the room, Fink denied her request for the order against her husband. Click here for the full story.
A Loss in the War on Drugs?
For a television news story titled "Immigration Case Could Hurt Drug War," click here. It deals with a Colombian immigrant who assited the U.S. government in the drug war who the U.S. government is seeking to deport. The story features Holly Cooper of the UC Davis clinical programs.
100 Migrants Found in Arizona Desert
Authorities searched this isolated desert region Wednesday after they discovered nearly 100 migrants who apparently had been left by smugglers — without drinking water — hiding in the brush.
The undocumented immigrants were discovered Tuesday afternoon by a deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department. They emerged from the brush and pleaded for water, saying they had spent three days in triple-digit heat without any supplies. The immigrants reported that three people had died, but no bodies were found. Click here.
10,000 Rally in Chicago
In March, an immigration rally that drew 100,000 participants to the Loop had the nation talking about Chicago. That first major mobilization, to protest a U.S. House bill that would make undocumented immigration a felony, inspired demonstrations in other cities, including a Chicago march in May that attracted nearly 500,000.
On Wednesday, a third march through the Loop had the country again focused on Chicago. But when only about 10,000 participants showed up, activists nationally worried that the city was a cautionary tale for rally fatigue at a time when symbolism matters in the immigration debate. Click here.
What's the World Coming to?
Illegal immigrant seeks order against husband. The judge tells her to get out or be deported. By Sam Quinones Times Staff Writer July 20 2006 A substitute judge hearing the case of an illegal immigrant seeking a restraining order against her husband threatened to turn her over to immigration officials if she didn't leave his courtroom. The complete article can be viewed by clicking here.
Changing Conceptions of German Identity
For an interesting analysis of changing conceptions of immigrants, diversity, and national identity in Germany, read the thoughtful article by Jan-Werner Muller. Download dissent_summer_2006_muller.pdf Thanks to Professor Diane Amann for the tip!
July 19, 2006
Immigrant Crime Rates are Low
Crimes - Using frightening
images of immigrants as criminals is not a new political tactic. This rhetoric,
however, bears no relationship to the reality of the immigrant experience in
America. To quote a 1997 paper jointly sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace and the Urban Institute, "Few stereotypes of
immigrants are as enduring, or have been proven so categorically false over
literally decades of research, as the notion that immigrants are
disproportionately likely to engage in criminal activity." More recent
work from the Migration Policy Institute has again confirmed that "in
fact, immigrants have the lowest rates of imprisonment for criminal convictions
in American Society."
Read the report from the Migration Policy Institute at:
The Futility of an Enforcement-Only Approach
as a Resource - Benjamin Johnson,
Director of the Immigration Policy Center, discusses the futility of an
enforcement-only approach to immigration reform and the need for a more
comprehensive strategy to deal with the problem of undocumented immigration. In
this new "Perspective," he argues that immigration cannot be treated
simply as a law-enforcement issue. Rather, the United States must begin
managing immigration as a national resource.
Read the entire Perspective at: http://www.ailf.org/ipc/2006_july_perspective.shtml
Money to be made
I've been writing for a few weeks now about the boon that "immigration reform" in its current form is to the private prison industry. Today, the NYTimes reports on the issue. A business story by Meredith Kolodner records that "[a]s the Bush administration gets tougher on illegal immigration and increases its spending on enforcement, some of the biggest beneficiaries may be the companies that have been building and running private prisons around the country." Her full story is here. Among the notable facts:
- By the fall of 2007, the administration expects that about 27,500 immigrants will be in detention each night, an increase of 6,700 over the current number in custody.
-At the average cost these days of $95 a night, that adds up to an estimated total annual cost of nearly $1 billion.
-The number of state and federal inmates rose by just 1.4 percent from June 2004 to June 2005, slower growth than the average 4.3 percent annual increases from 1995 to 2000. By contrast, the number of immigrants in detention is expected to increase by about 20 percent over the next three months alone.
Another Perspective on This Difficult Week in the Middle East
Waiting to Exhale
…. Cousin S. gaped at us in stunned silence as if he’d seen a ghost. Standing in the doorway of his office in downtown Damascus, my aunt and I stared back, held speechless by his look, not understanding what was going on. “We were going to convene a family meeting tonight to announce your death,” cousin S. finally said. Now it was our turn to jump and stare; it’s not everyday you hear about your own demise, not when you are standing right there in the flesh and very much alive. It was another hot and humid Beirut summer. After weeks of indecision, my aunt (or more precisely my maternal uncle’s wife) finally announced she was departing to join her husband and kids in Jordan. They had already fled the country a week or so earlier. The war in Lebanon had intensified; bombs were raining in on our area at an alarming rate. There was no reason to stay in Beirut any longer; I’d graduated from college and was just sitting at home, trapped, no job, no prospects. No future there. My aunt wanted to leave the next day. She would spend a night with relatives in Damascus; they had already been notified of her plans. I left with her. But had we waited too long to depart? The road was tortuous, long and dangerous; in some places huge craters blocked the way, the result of recent bombing. Armed militias could be around the next corner waiting to pounce. Each minute was an unknown and could easily be our last. We drove to the sound of shells falling around us, some whizzing by uncomfortably close. It was late afternoon as we approached the Syrian border. We’ll soon be safe! We crossed the Lebanese side of the border without incident. As we neared the Syrian border post we noticed the area looked like a huge parking lot, filled with a long line of cars, all idling and waiting. We got into line. The minutes ticked away, why wasn’t the line moving? Gradually an unnerving and unwelcome announcement trickled down the long line of cars: The border was closed. There’d be no one entering Syria that day. Tomorrow? No one knew. The intense heat of the day gave way to a shivering-cold night. Several cars formed a tight circle -- as though around a campfire. People said this was to protect against the hyenas that roamed the area at night. Sure enough, we could soon hear their eerie laughing sounds. I’m not sure how close they came; we all stayed locked up in our cars that night. The next day Syria opened the border. My aunt drove us to the border point but more bad news was in store. Syria was only allowing Syrian, Lebanese and other Arab nationalities to enter; people with foreign passports – especially Americans, were expressly forbidden from entering the country. I am American. What were we to do? My aunt decided to leave me at the border. She’d try to reach Damascus and find a way to get me an entry permit from the appropriate ministry there. Being the country that it is, all orders have to be issued at the highest echelons of government; border guards would not dare contravene standing orders on their own. My aunt drove away. But what was I to do? What if she was unsuccessful in securing me a permit? She said I was to find a way to return to Beirut. Right. A young Syrian border guard bravely risked his job by letting me wait inside the terminal building for the day. The hours crept by, no sign of my aunt. Evening came, then night fell. Everyone who had arrived at the border had already entered Syria or departed for Lebanon. I was alone at the border terminal, the only civilian in the place, and a young Palestinian American woman to boot. What now? I was worried. The border would soon close for the night and I would not be able to backtrack and return to Beirut that day. A few minutes later a Syrian officer approached me and asked me to accompany him. What did he want? Could I refuse? What choice did I have? I was being taken for interrogation, he informed me. Interrogation? It wasn’t hard to see why. There I was, the only person left trying to cross the border, a young woman alone, and with two suspect identities – Palestinian and American. What would they make of me? The guard offered me a cigarette. I took it. It was the first time in my life I’d ever smoked. We walked across a clearing to another building. I was escorted to a general’s office. He offered me a seat. Then he started questioning me. Why was I there? Where was I going? Where was I coming from? What was my nationality? Why did I have a US passport? Where was I born? Where were my parents? What was their nationality? Where were they born? Why did I leave Beirut? Why did I want to enter Syria? And on and on. I had this weird feeling of being disconnected from myself. I was so exhausted by the events of the last day and a half that I wasn’t even afraid. I was just too tired for that and I answered his questions mechanically, repeating the same answers over and over again. Someone came into the room and interrupted us. My aunt had returned and was frantic at not finding me. The general let me go and I rejoined my aunt. I could hear her high shrill voice reverberate across the clearing. My aunt, like her sisters, is famous for her loud, frenzied tones at moments of excitement or upset, and she was beside herself with worry and fear to find me missing; My aunt recounted what happened to her that day; her story tumbling out in a long, loud uninterrupted torrent of words. She had reached Damascus that morning and had gone directly to the Ministry of Interior (I think it was) to get me the permit. There was a huge crowd of people waiting at the booths to secure one permit or another. Time and again she fought her way through the lines and crowds, only to be informed that Americans could not enter, period. Finally, she circled the crowds and snuck into a doorway and into the building itself; she ran down the nearest corridor and burst into the first office she encountered. She didn’t give its occupant time to react. “We escaped the fighting in Beirut and we want to get to Jordan. My husband and my young children are there and they are worried about me. I need to reach them. We spent a cold miserable night last night at the border. Now my niece is stuck at the border and they won’t let her cross. They say it’s because she’s American. What kind of order is that? She’s young and alone there and I can’t leave her. What do you mean she can’t enter Syria if she’s American? Imagine she’s your daughter, how can you treat people like that? She paused for a breath and the man in the office told her to sit down. As luck would have it, she’d barged into the room of a high official at the ministry. He issued the permit for me to enter, and upon my aunt’s insistence – she wouldn’t leave without it – he faxed the permit to the border point and even called them in person about it. But there was more to her story. My aunt told me she’d learned in Damascus that since I’d already crossed the Lebanese side of the border, I’d need a permit and a visa to return to Beirut! I couldn’t simply retrace my steps, and if I didn’t get a permit into Syria, I’d be stuck in this no-man’s land for who knows how long. By the time my aunt arrived back at the border post and found me, it was already too late to enter Syria that evening. The terminal had closed for the day. We were the only civilians there and we had to spend our second night at the Syrian border. The young Syrian guard who’d let me into the terminal building earlier in the day was sorry for us but couldn’t allow us to seek shelter there for the night. He’d lose his job, we knew. The best he could do was allowing us to park adjacent to the terminal building. He gave us some bottled water to drink and said he’d watch over us that night. And he did. The next morning we entered Syria. Finally, we exhaled. We made our way to Damascus where we’d spend the night with relatives and head out to Amman the next day. We drove to our cousin S.’s office in the middle of town……. …………………………………… Is this my sister narrating the tale of her family’s harrowing escape from Lebanon under Israeli siege in July 2006? No, this was August 1976, exactly 30 years earlier, when my aunt and I made our own harrowing escape from the same country in the throes of civil war. Déjà vu all over again. Lebanon in 1976 was in its second year of wrenching civil war – a war that ultimately dragged on for 15 years and left major parts of the country in ruin. The country was divided both physically and politically; Beirut had been fractured into an “eastern” side to which we, Palestinians and Muslims, dared not venture and a “western” side where we lived. Though Israel did not then invade or lay siege to the country, it had long struck – often and as it pleased – at Lebanese villages and Palestinian refugee camps in the south. Direct and prolonged Israeli invasions were to come later, first as an occupation of part of southern Lebanon in 1978 (which extended for 22 years), followed by its ruthless 1982 invasion, and now in the form of another ferocious siege of the country in 2006. We knew, even back then in 1976, that Israel was already supplying arms and support to the Phalange and other militias of the Christian “right” in their fight to crush the “leftist” national forces and the Palestinians in Lebanon. The political divisions of the time are really too convoluted to do them justice here. The more accurate comparison to 2006 is, of course, 1982. I was in Lebanon then too, and I got out. I learned then that war can be transformative in quite unpredictable ways. To tell my story again (for I’ve shared that story before as an email exchange with my friend Lisa, in “Flashback, 1982”), I first need to tell you what I know of my sister’s - and her family’s escape from Beirut. For three nerve-wracking days we waited anxiously for news that my sister and her family had made it safely out of Beirut. They’d gone to spend a month in Lebanon as they do every summer. My sister and her family have an apartment in Doha, close to the Beirut International Airport just south of the city. It is a spacious apartment with its own generator (electricity is iffy in Lebanon in the best of times). Their building has its own swimming pool; my niece and nephew enjoy cooling off there – perfectly understandable to anyone who’s ever experienced the stifling heat and humidity of a Beirut summer. “Israel has bombed Beirut International Airport.” I’d fallen asleep with the TV on and the announcement jolted me awake. It was about 5:30 am in Boston on July 12, 2006. I frantically calculated the time difference. They said the airport had been bombed at around 5 am Beirut time. My sister and her family were to return to Lebanon that morning from a week away on an African safari in Tanzania and I knew their plane was scheduled to land in Beirut at about 4 am that day. Did they make it in time? Were they on one of the planes that were diverted to Cyprus? Part of me wished they were – I had a bad feeling that this was just the beginning. My brother in law emailed me a bit later to say the bombing started about an hour after they got in. I didn’t feel one bit of relief; Israeli bombardment of “Hezbullah strongholds,” as our media reported it, had intensified. Israel was already bombing southern Lebanon and people were fleeing their villages in the tens of thousands. We heard later that a friend’s cousin’s entire family of 10 people perished in a single Israeli attack on their home. In Beirut, Israel bombed a fuel storage area, bridges, roads, and whole neighborhoods. It imposed a blockade by air and sea and sent its warplanes to strafe the Beirut-Damascus highway, later destroying key sections of the road, and making it more difficult and dangerous for people trying to leave. The vise was tightening. Other countries were beginning to evacuate their nationals, all except the US. Even tiny Cyprus, a friend told us, managed to get its citizens out and to safety the very first day. My brother in law wouldn’t leave immediately. Apparently, some people thought this was going to be a short-lived affair, that Israel would flex its muscles for a day or two and inflict revenge on Hezbullah for the latter’s capture of two Israeli soldiers a couple of days earlier. But the situation had escalated way beyond that; Israel began attacking in the south, Hezbullah forces lobbied a few shells into Northern Israel and Israel responded with an all out bombing campaign. All of Lebanon was to pay, it seemed. Those of us sitting comfortably outside the country could ponder the twisted politics of the situation. We knew better. We knew Israel was itching for an excuse to destroy the last remaining vestiges of any Arab movement that could challenge its dominance and control in the area. If Hezbullah didn’t furnish the excuse to invade, Israel would have found a way to manufacture or precipitate it anyway. And we knew that the US has had its eyes on the prize – destruction of Iran and Syria, to follow its successful destruction of Iraq. How convenient that it should be Israel – to which the US would never say “no” – that starts the ball rolling for both counties to get on with the task. Beirut suffered and burned. I understood my brother in law’s reluctance to proceed too hastily; after all, it wasn’t like 1982 when he was not yet married and didn’t have kids. All of us were free to take different kinds of risks then. Now U. had a family to think about: Would the route to Syria be safe? Should they attempt to get out that way? As US citizens, could they enter Syria and then return to the US with no problem? What about his other relatives who wanted to leave? The phone lines were tied up and he was unable to reach the US Embassy in Beirut for advice. He asked me to contact the State Department and find out if there were any evacuation plans in the works. I called the State Department – predictably, the US had no plans to evacuate Americans from Lebanon. Citizens were advised to register with the embassy – that was the best advice they could offer. People were left to fend for themselves. Just like 1982 – but I’m getting ahead of myself again. Later we heard that Americans were evacuating embassy personnel and their families and had a wild plan to send marines to fly American nationals to Cyrus via helicopter. Later still we heard of another plan to use commercial vessels to evacuate US citizens to Cyprus. But – here we are – almost a week later, and that plan, any plan, has yet to be implemented (the media began whispering about an evacuation underway of some 750 US nationals; impressive, I guess, considering there are an estimated 25,000 US citizens currently in Lebanon). I asked the State Department if the US had any objection in principle to its citizens entering and departing from Syria. No objections, I was told. In a bit of comic relief in the midst of all the worry and horror that morning, I called Senator Kennedy’s office to register my concern about the deteriorating situation in Lebanon and the safety of Americans there. (I was trying to do my civic duty and contact my representatives.) It was about 9:30 am on July 12th. “I hope Senator Kennedy will use his offices to urge a halt to Israel’s campaign in Lebanon,” I told the young man who answered my call. I explained that my sister, brother in law, niece and nephew, all U.S. citizens and residents of Massachusetts, were trapped in Beirut and wanted to leave. “I hope Senator Kennedy can press upon the State Department to come up with an evacuation plan for US citizens in the country,” I added. Confused silence at the other end of the line. “Why, did your sister lose her ticket?” the young man asked. Click, stunned awareness; it dawned on me the guy didn’t have a clue what had happened. My words tumbled out, “Israel attacked Beirut International Airport this morning and destroyed a runway; the airport is closed, Israel is bombing the route to Damascus, it’s imposed a total blockade, didn’t you hear?” “oh GOD,” he moaned. My brother in law had another plan. Instead of traveling east to Syria, they’d enter it from the north and make their way to Turkey, from where they’d arrange a return to the US. Good plan, if only they’d move quickly before that road too was destroyed. It was already the next day, July 13. I felt we were sitting on a ticking time bomb. I anxiously awaited the next communication from my brother in law, hoping he’d reassure me they were out. Friday July 14. My brother in law’s email that day said they’d be leaving the next day, Saturday July 15th. News from the area was getting worse by the minute; Israel was bombing several new areas in and around Beirut, all “Hezbullah-controlled” we were assured again by our enlightened media. Israel destroyed a new batch of bridges and roads that day, electricity infrastructure had also been damaged, and whole families were being killed. What’s keeping them, I wondered? I hoped that Israel would ease its plunder during their Sabbath, but that was not to be. We woke up on July 15th to news that Israel had bombed Palestinian refugee camps, roads and other sites in northern Lebanon around the city of Tripoli. That was their escape route! More frantic time conversion – they were due to leave in an hour Beirut time (around 10 am) and were to make their way first to a safer part of Beirut and depart from there north toward the border. The bombing had taken place a few hours earlier and there had been no other news of renewed Israeli attacks in that area. Maybe they’d make it, if things were on schedule, and if only they’d hurry. . It’d be several hours before we could even hope to hear anything from them. We all held our breath, waiting for news. Several hours later, the news came. My brother in law managed to text message a friend, they’d just crossed the border out of Lebanon. Exhaling, slowly, but still concerned, I phoned my mother in Canada with the news. The relief in her voice was palpable. Next, I called a couple of friends who were also anxiously awaiting news. But I wouldn’t rest until I knew they were safely out of Syria as well and had made it into Turkey. I put nothing past the Israelis, and still expect them to bomb Syria any day now. A few hours later the same friend called to say he’d just heard from my brother in law. They’d arrived to Adana in Turkey where they’d spend the night. I let out my breath. My sister and her family are now safe in Istanbul and are to head home soon. I found out later that it took them 14 hours to traverse the route from their home in Doha, Lebanon, to Adana, Turkey. I exhale with relief to know they are out of that hell. But I am heart-sick thinking about my maternal aunt, first cousin and his young family, friends, friends of friends, and a whole country being obliterated, ostensibly in Israel’s “right to defend itself” for the capture of two soldiers. Later I got a few more snippets of their harrowing tale of departure from Beirut. Israeli warplanes were bombing up and down the Lebanese coastline as they left and their convoy faced more than a few dangerous moments. At one point they almost crashed; apparently they needed to cross a central bridge that they hadn’t realized had been destroyed until they were virtually upon it. They veered sharply away, just in time it seems, and luckily were able to find another route. But Israeli warplanes were bombing Al-Manara (near Ras Beirut and where my maternal aunt, my first cousin and his family live). All along their route the bombing was just ahead or just behind them, even the port of Jounieh was attacked (this port was controlled by Israel’s close allies, the Phalange, during the long years of civil war and during the 1982 invasion).Onward north to Tripoli…. No part of Lebanon was immune to Israel’s campaign of plunder and destruction. Israel was on a genocidal rampage across the country; yet our news media still reported “Hezbullah-strongholds” were being attacked. It’s like saying Boston is mafia or IRA-controlled territory! Do Americans really swallow this stuff? I fear the answer is “yes.” Jounieh, a “Hezbullah stronghold?!” Give me a break. I wonder how this experience has changed them: My sister and brother in law lived through the civil war years and the 1982 Israeli invasion and never forgot the full ferocity of Israel’s power unleashed upon that county. Not so my niece and nephew. Born in the US, and having grown up in relative safety and security, it must’ve been baptism by fire, a total shake up of the world they knew and took for granted. My niece is entering Bentley College this fall. She is a sweet young woman, a little shy in public but with a quirky sense of humor well known to those of us close to her. She regales us with amusing tales of people mistaking her for a male (her name is confusing to Americans), to the point of being assigned a male dorm room during field trips and activities. My nephew just turned 15. He is perhaps the kindest, most caring, thoughtful and considerate young man I’ve ever encountered - a true gentleman. As we exhale, slowly and tentatively, keeping in our hearts all those left behind, I hate that this has happened to them, I hate that they learned about the fragility of life first-hand this way, I hate it that we could have lost them forever, lost my sister and her family in this carnage. I write this story for them, and especially for my niece and nephew who don’t really know their Khalto’s (maternal aunt) stories of escape from war. They probably don’t know that I too was jolted out of a false sense of safety and security during war – in my case, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. …………………………………… I too had a harrowing escape from Lebanon; an experience eerily similar to what my sister and her family just endured. (Here are excerpts about it from “Flashback, 1982”): “June 1982. The inconceivable was happening. ….To say the invasion was a nightmare doesn't begin to capture what it was like, the utter helplessness against Israeli war-planes raining death upon us. Why? Because we were “civilians” who shouldn't be living among "terrorists." The attacks, the terror, the death, the destruction... were unrelenting. For the first time in my life (and I'd lived through much of the Lebanese civil war too) I knew what it was like not to be able to take for granted that AT LEAST at night, I had a safe place to sleep, to tune out, to recover. …The invasion "educated" me. Until then (despite my parents' own eviction from Palestine) I'd somewhat bought into the Western ideology of individualism. I thought individuals COULD challenge their fate, work hard and "make it." I had a rude awakening. There I was, a young woman, never really politicized, trying to get a Ph.D. and teach, and an American to boot! Toz. Did the Israeli planes ever distinguish between me, this somewhat haughty American and some "refugee"? I'd been brainwashed too, that somehow Americans had it made, and were therefore, "deserving." The bombs didn't care. Besides, I was no better or worse than others around me, except they'd long been aware of what I'd denied ... that when you are Palestinian, Lebanese, Arab, Muslim, whatever, and you were in the way of these lofty political goals, your life isn't worth s..t. I learned that my American passport meant nothing. Because I am Palestinian, I would never be safe, personally secure, or be able to have a life in which I can call the shots UNTIL my people were safe and could do the same. I'd been brainwashed by this "individualism." It was a lie, a divide and rule tactic... I learned. ... By then (late June) there were no U.S. embassy representatives to help us in West Beirut. The last boat to evacuate Americans had left some days earlier, and the embassy staff had relocated to East Beirut. If I wanted to leave, it'd have to be from East Beirut; the over-land road to Syria was also closed. I feared entering East Beirut. I am Palestinian, after all! And as I was told, I'd have to get Phalangist clearance to leave the country.... Some people I knew from East Beirut were going back and I got a ride. We almost didn't make it that morning, because the Israelis were shelling up and down the Corniche ... A lull, we drove through, just as the planes were breaking the sound barrier overhead. I got to East Beirut, the embassy people didn't give a damn and didn't lift a finger to help. But the people I stayed with did. They took me to some militia headquarters to get "clearance." I was told to act as though I didn't know Arabic, just a young American caught in the cross-fire and wanting to escape... Never mind the conversations I overheard, that I wasn't supposed to understand. I got the "clearance" too late for the ship leaving that day. I stayed overnight with those kind people, and from their balcony in East Beirut, I witnessed the attacks and the siege of West Beirut, and saw the war-planes that flew en route overheard. People in East Beirut waved and cheered -- yes, there's a twisted precedent -- as the bombs fell on all those "bad-guys" on the "other" side. I saw the smoke, and heard that even a cemetery was attacked. Perhaps the ghosts of "terrorists" could come alive?? …. On the [cargo] boat I boarded the next day, we had to sit on the deck, on the damp gravel and dirt. A couple of hours into the Mediterranean, and an Israeli warship came alongside. They did not board (unlike Lisa's experience) but they took the passenger list and went into Jounieh to check all our names against their files. We waited for several hours... ….Finally, we were allowed to proceed. Night fell, it grew bitterly cold and windy. There was no shelter, someone put up some plastic sheeting to cover us. I had a small towel, and shifted it from shoulder to shoulder to warm myself. I had no food or water, someone offered me some. I didn't sleep – I doubt many did. The trek was so slow, a snail's pace. When morning came and the day progressed, it grew so hot, many of us were on the verge of fainting. …. Larnaca, Cyprus. After 17 hours at sea, we'd finally arrived. But it was Sunday, and the port was closed. Another two hours wait until they called in some personnel to process us. We disembarked, I thought those last few yards to the customs building were the longest I'd ever walked. In the building, women from the Red Cross were already waiting, to offer us, the refugees, juice and cookies. I got through quickly, I was an "American" after all. I sneered at that. All planes to all destinations were booked. I stayed in Cyprus a few days, where I encountered so many Lebanese who'd also fled. We all congregated on the beach in Larnaca, looking longingly over the horizon toward Beirut. We made sure we held on tightly to our most valued possession, the transistor [radio]……..” …………………………. I hope my niece and nephew read this essay and know we share stories of survival that bind us together beyond the words. Both of them are amazing writers. I hope one day they too will share their own stories of war and escape and … breathing in relief again.
Khalto Souad Souad Dajani
Boston, July 18, 2006
Congrats to the Cornell Clinic and Steve Yale-Loehr!
The Cornell asylum/CAT appeals clinic recently assisted in two unpublished victories at the BIA. One case involved a child soldier from Uganda who pplied for asylum. That case involved issues of the one-year bar to filing for asylum and whether the harm suffered rose to the level of "persecution." The case was handled at the IJ level by Julia Morgan in Minnesota; two students in our clinic drafted the BIA brief for her signature. The other case involved a woman from Liberia who had been raped and suffered female genital mutilation as a child before coming to the US. Because of certain criminal convictions, she was only able to apply for deferral under CAT. The case was handled at the IJ leval by Raha Jorjani of the Florence Project; two students in our clinic drafted the BIA brief for her signature. Following are redacted BIA decisions in both cases. We hope they will assist people with similar claims in the future. Steve Yale-Loehr Download liberia_redated_bia_decis.pdf Download uganda_bia_2006_redacted.pdf
Harold Koh, Sheila Jackson Lee, Bob Borton Receive Immigration Awards
Immigrant Legal Resource Center's Annual Phillip Burton Immigration Awards
SAN FRANCISCO, CA: During a pivotal time for immigration reform, the rights of America’s immigrants, and this country’s future as a nation of immigrants, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is pleased to announce the honorees for the 2006 Phillip Burton Immigration & Civil Rights Awards. This year’s award winners are: Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) for Policy; Harold Hongju Koh, Dean of Yale Law School, for Advocacy; and Robert E. Borton, of Heller Ehrman LLC, for Lawyering.
Presented annually since 1989 to individuals whose work has significantly impacted and advanced the civil rights and well-being of immigrants and refugees, the Phillip Burton Immigration & Civil Rights Awards are named for Phillip Burton (1926-1983). Former Representative Burton was a forceful and effective advocate for labor, farmworkers, coal miners, the elderly and other low-income and marginalized people while serving terms in the California State Assembly and the United States House of Representatives.
“It is a particularly apt moment to be presenting this year’s awards” said Judith Golub, the Executive Director of the ILRC. “With the debate on comprehensive immigration reform intensifying, we are so pleased to be awarding an outstanding legislator, a renowned advocate, and a frontline and committed defender of the rights of immigrants and refugees. Representative Jackson Lee, Dean Koh, and Mr. Borton deserve our applause and gratitude for jobs well done. They are our leaders in the important fight on behalf of the civil rights of immigrants.”
The 2006 Phillip Burton Immigration & Civil Rights Awards will be held on Friday, July 21, 2006 at San Francisco’s Marines Memorial Club. Tickets are available for the reception and dinner and can be purchased by contacting the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. www.ilrc.org
PRESS AVAILABILITY: Representative Jackson Lee, Dean Koh, and
Robert Borton will be available to speak with the press. Please contact Claire Van Zevern at (415) 255-9499 x 826 or cell phone (415) 702-5355.
The ILRC is a national resource
center that provides trainings, materials and advocacy to advance immigrant
rights. As a legal services organization, we train lawyers and paralegals on
ever-changing and complex immigration law. We develop leadership by encouraging
immigrants to play leading roles in confronting and reshaping the laws and
policies that perpetuate racial, economic and social injustice. And we educate
and empower those in the immigrant community so that they may organize and
advocate for the rights and privileges that best define our democratic