Saturday, January 19, 2008

Probe of New Bedford ICE Raid

Homeland Security has agreed to review an immigration raid at a New Bedford leather goods maker that immigrant advocates said caused a humanitarian crisis.

The Standard Times of New Bedford reports that the inspector general of Homeland Security will look into the March 2007 raid at Michael Bianco Inc.

Senator John Kerry requested the probe a few days after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials detained 361 illegal workers at Bianco.

Most of the detained workers were women with young children, and immigrant advocates criticized the agency for tearing families apart.

A spokeswoman for the agency says she’s confident the review — which is expected to take about eight months — will find that the raid was handled appropriately. Click here for the full story.

bh

January 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Secure Borders and Open Doors: The Economic Impacts

For a link to the "Secure Borders and Open Doors: Preserving Our Welcome to the World in an Age of Terrorism, Report of the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee, January 2008," click here.  The Secure Border and Open Doors Advisory Committee, co-chaired by John Chen, CEO and President of Sybase, Inc., and Dr. Jared Cohon, President of Carnegie-Mellom, created by the US Secretaries of Homeland Security and State in December 2006, has 44 policy recommendations on travel and border issues in this report.  Interestingly, the report expresses concern with the perception that the United States was unfriendly to foreign vistors, including tourists and business people, which has decreased the numbers of economic vistors to the United States. Such concerns are likely to increase with the increasing awareness of this nation's economic difficulties.

KJ

January 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rust Never Sleeps: Farmers Branch Wants Back in the Immigration Business

As we previously reported, the Dallas, Texas suburb of Farmers Branch has been Farmers_branchstruggling to pass an ordinace directed at undocumented immigrants only to face resistance in the courts.  Now, the city is considering a new way to stop rentals of housing to undocumented immigrants. The proposed ordinance is intended to address legal concerns raised by opponents of Ordinance 2903, which the city's voters approved overwhelmingly in May 2007 but which has been held up by challenges in federal court.

Next Tuesday, the City Council will consider the new ordinance.  The ordinance would require all adults to apply for a city license before they could lease a house or apartment in the city. To obtain the license, they would have to state whether they are U.S. citizens or noncitizens in the country legally. Anyone submitting the form and paying a $5 fee would immediately receive an occupancy license and be allowed to move in. The information would be checked against a federal database. If federal authorities fail to confirm that a renter was here legally, he or she would have 60 days to prove legal residency. Failure to do so would lead to revocation of the occupancy license. Violations by tenants or landlords could face fines of up to $500 per day.

The ordinance would take effect when the federal district court issues a final judgment in the case challenging Ordinance 2903. That lawsuit, brought by apartment management and tenants, contends that Ordinance 2903 is unconstitutional and that it would force apartment management to make judgments about renters' immigration status. The suit also contends that the ordinance defined who is here legally differently than federal law does. City Manager Gary Greer said the new proposal rectifies some of the concerns.

For a news story about the new ordinace, click here.   For the draft ordinance and related materials, see Download farmers_branch_ordinance.pdf Download farmers_branch_news_release.doc  Download farmers_branch_background_revised_ordinance.doc

Thanks to Rose Villazor (SMU) for the tip!

KJ

January 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Immigration case hinges on degree of Indian (Native American) blood

The Seattle Times reports on a fascinating immigration case from the Pacific Northwest.  Yesterday, a government attorney told an immigration judge that a Canadian citizen claiming indigenous treaty rights to the U.S. lacks sufficient Indian blood to qualify for those rights. Peter Roberts, a 54-year-old dentist from British Columbia, claims he is one-half Campbell River Indian (with a full blooded Indian father and a white mother) and is thus entitled to live and work in the U.S. and pass freely across its borders under the Jay Treaty. An attorney for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the immigration judge that a document Roberts' paternal grandmother submitted to immigration officials decades ago indicates that her own father was 100 percent Irish, meaning Roberts' father could be only 50 percent native (and Roberts only 25% Indian). Roberts' attorney said it was not uncommon for some Indians decades ago to deny their lineage to avoid discrimination (a phenomenon known in other circles as "passing") and that Campbell River band documents issued to Roberts show he is in fact 50 percent native Canadian. A full hearing in the case was set for March 28.

The Jay Treaty among other things resulted in the British abandoning forts in the Pacific Northewest and allowed for freer trade between England and the United States.  Article III declared the right of aboriginal peoples (people indigenous to Canada and the United States) to trade and travel between the United States and Canada, which was then a territory of Great Britain. This right was restated in Immigration & Naturalization Act § 289, 8 U.S.C. § 1359:  "Nothing in this title shall be construed to affect the right of American Indians born in Canada to pass the borders of the United States, but such right shall extend only to persons who possess at least 50 per centum of blood of the American Indian race."

Stay tuned!

KJ

January 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Report: The Iraqi Refugee Crisis: The Need for Action

A new Migration Policy Institute report “The Iraqi Refugee Crisis: The Need for Action” breaks down the internally displaced Iraqi population by religion and highlights the key challenges of the Iraqi refugee crisis:

• Sixty-three percent of registered internally displaced persons (IDPs) are Shia Muslim and 32 percent are Sunni Muslim. According to the Iraqi Ministry for Migration and Displacement, almost half the members of Iraq’s non-Muslim minorities have fled abroad.

• By December 2007, fewer than 5,000 Iraqis had departed for various resettlement countries, including the United States, with Sweden accepting the largest number of claims. In fiscal year 2007, only 1,608 Iraqis were admitted as refugees to the United States although the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program had allocated space for 7,000 and UNHCR had made over 10,000 referrals.

• Between September and December 2007, 45,913 Iraqis returned from Syria. Only 14 percent of those surveyed by UNHCR said they returned because of improved security conditions. Almost 70 percent listed inability to afford living in Syria, coupled with stricter visa requirements and the inability to work, as their main motivations for returning.

• Eleven of Iraq’s 18 governorates have restrictions on movement within Iraq, forcing IDPs to return to the violent neighborhoods they were trying to flee. Among the 2.3. million IDPs, religious minorities are particularly at risk, as are former employees of the U.S. and other coalition governments.

• Syria, Jordan and Lebanon are not signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Refugees in those countries have very little legal protection, are banned from working and are subject to changing requirements for entry and stay. Syria introduced visa restrictions October 1, 2007, although some field reports indicate that Iraqis who approach the border can obtain visas there. Jordan closed its borders at the end of 2005, and Saudi Arabia is building a 560-mile fence along the Iraq border.

• As of November 2007, 500 Iraqis were being detained in Lebanon, with UNHCR estimating that 50 to 60 are arrested each month. Detainees are given the option for a “voluntary deportation” where the choice is to stay in jail or return to Iraq.

• Iraqi asylum claims doubled in the first six months of 2007 compared to the first six months of 2006 according to UNHCR. Those who can afford the transnational journey to seek asylum are met with restrictive administrative practices.

KJ

January 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Media Coverage on Immigration Debate

Agenda-Setting: How Media Coverage of the 2006 Debate Over Immigration Reform Shaped U.S. Public Attitudes Toward Immigration

Marisa Abrajano
Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego

Wednesday, January 23, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Eleanor Roosevelt College Administration Building
Conference Room 115, First Floor
Reception to follow

While the importance of agenda setting has been well-documented (Baumgartner and Jones 1995, Iyengar 1991), it is unclear whether its affect holds for issues that may not be salient to  significant portion of the public. We explore this puzzle by examining the issue of illegal immigration, as it is one policy that traditionally impacts those living in states along the U.S.-Mexico border more so than for those residing in non-border states.  Our analyses of newspaper coverage of immigration and Gallup public opinion data over a twelve-month period (January-December 2006) provide considerable support for the agenda-setting theory. The volume of news coverage did increase following the protests and as such, the public perceived immigration as an important problem facing the country. These findings hold for individuals residing in both border and non-border states, suggesting that the power of agenda-setting holds across issues that may not be nationally salient to the entire American public.

Marisa Abrajano joined the UCSD Political Science Department in Fall 2006. Her research focuses on campaigns and elections, political behavior, Latino politics, and race and politics in the United States.

__________________________________

These seminars are open to all members of the UCSD community, as well as faculty and students from other universities and the general public. For further information, please contact Ana Minvielle (E-mail: [email protected], Tel#: 858-822-4447).

Center for Comparative Immigration Studies
9500 Gilman Drive
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA 92093-0548

bh

January 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UNHCR 2006 Statistical Yearbook

Dear Madam/Sir,

This is to inform you that the following report has been published today and is available from the UNHCR statistics webpage (www.unhcr.org/statistics):

- 2006 Statistical Yearbook

Do not hesitate to contact us should you require further information or detail or if we need to make a change to our e-mail distribution list.

Sincerely,

Khassoum Diallo
Senior Statistician
UNHCR Geneva
18 January 2008

bh

January 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Undocumented Immigrants Pushed Further into the Shadows

For a story about undocumented immigrants being forced to the darkest shadows of American social life because of new enforcement measures, raids, etc., click here.

KJ

January 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Novel Pro-Immigration Reform Ad Campaign by American Apparel

In a new series of ads, American Apparel advocates immigration reform; its ads say in part that the status quo “amounts to an apartheid system” and should be overhauled to create a legal path for undocumented workers to gain citizenship in the United States.  For more on this story, click here.

KJ

January 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Article: Days Without Immigrants-Analysis and Implications of the Treatment of Immigration Rallies Under the National Labor Relations Act

Michael Duff (Wyoming) has a facscinating article at the intersection of labor and immigration law --Days Without Immigrants-Analysis and Implications of the Treatment of Immigration Rallies Under the National Labor Relations Act in the Denver University Law Review.  In a nutshell, the article argues that immigration rallies, such as those that gripped the nation in spring 2006, should be considered under the National Labor Relations Act to be labor disputes. For the Workplace Prof blog discussion of the article, click here.

January 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Effort in Colorado to Help Citizen Students With Undocumented Parents

A Colorado state senator is sponsoring legislation that would end the state’s requirement that parents -- including parents of U.S. citizen students -- meet residency requirements. The Denver Post reports, that in addition to creating difficulties for homeless and foster children, the parental residency requirement has rendered students born in the United States (i.e., U.S. citizens) to undocumented parents ineligible for in-state rates.

KJ

January 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Immigrant of the Day: Alice Callaghan (Canada)

Alice Callaghan (born 1947, Calgary, Alberta, Canada) is an Episcopalian priest and a former Roman Catholic nun. She is an advocate of the homeless and poor of downtown Los Angeles and the founder of the SRO Housing Trust and the manager of Las Familias Del Pueblo, a Skid row community center. Some developers view the Skid row area in Los Angeles as an opportunity to convert aging buildings into condominiums and sell them for big profits. Callaghan has insisted that the renovated buildings be used to house the poor.

Callaghan's family moved from Canada to southern California when she was a small child. Like many teens in southern California, she became an avid surfer. After attending college, Alice became a nun but later left the convent to become an Episcopalian priest.

Callaghan is a proponent of immigrants learning English and wrote an op/ed on the subject (and critical of bilingual education) in the N.Y. Times.  For more about Callaghan, click here and here.

KJ

January 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Border Fence Can Take Small Border Town Land

Suzanne Gamboa reports for the Associated Press:

A federal judge has ordered a small border city in Texas to temporarily turn over its land to the federal government so it can begin to build a border fence.

U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludlum ordered the city of Eagle Pass, on the border about 100 miles southwest of San Antonio, to "surrender" 233 acres of city-owned land. The Justice Department sued the city for access to the land.

The Homeland Security Department is trying to build 370 miles of border fence by the end of the year. A law signed by President Bush and supported by both of Texas' U.S. senators mandated a total of 700 miles of fence along the border. The government had warned the city, which opposes the fence, it would sue under eminent domain laws to secure access to the property, declaring it is "taking" the property for 180 days. Click herefor the full story.

bh

January 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Anti-Immigration Myths

51iwqe2l0cl FROM IMMIGRATION DAILY:  An editorial by Andres Oppenheimer, author of Saving the Americas, debunks the following five commonly held assumptions by anti-immigrationists:

++ "We are only against illegal immigration. Undocumented immigrants should get in line for visas."

++ "Anti-immigration advocates are not anti-Hispanic."

++ "We are a nation of laws, and the law says you have to enter the country legally."

++ "Building a border fence will solve the problem."

++ Those of us who criticize anti-immigration groups are "amnesty" and "open borders" supporters.

To read in full, see here. We welcome readers to share their opinion and ideas with us by writing to [email protected].

January 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Report on Human Rights Abuse Against Immigrants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 17, 2008

Contact:
Arnoldo García, cell (510) 928-0685; [email protected]
Lillian Galedo, cell (510) 409-1679; [email protected]
National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights

Report condemns human rights abuses against immigrant communities;
Calls for respect for civil, labor, and human rights

Unprecedented report released to mark start of national conference in Houston, TX
(HOUSTON, TEXAS) The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) released today Over-Raided, Under Siege: U.S. Immigration Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights of Immigrants, a new report detailing over 100 stories of human rights abuses against immigrants during 2006 - 2007, including those arising from 206 immigration raids. (See links below to view and download copies of the report and immigration raids chronology.)

According to Catherine Tactaquin, NNIRR Executive Director, "Over-Raided, Under Siege plainly demonstratez that systematic abuses are being perpetrated against immigrant and refugee families and workers by the U.S. government, including the Department of Homeland Security, as well as by the local and state police." She added, "These abuses and anti-immigrant government policies are a form of 'collective punishment' that undermine our rights and make our communities even more vulnerable to abuse by unscrupulous employers, elected officials and anti-immigrant hate groups."

Over-Raided, Under Siege identifies several troubling trends in rights violations in immigration services and enforcement, including:

    * The exploitation of immigrant workers in violation of labor rights protections by employers who take advantage of anti-immigrant government policies to intimidate immigrant workers;
    * Arbitrary detention of immigrants by local and state police;
    * Denial of services by state, county and local governments and the racial profiling of anyone that "looks or sounds foreign;"
    * High profile raids of communities and workplaces by the DHS in order to intimidate immigrant communities;
    * The deepening humanitarian crisis at the border resulting from the ongoing militarization of U.S. immigration and border control, producing record numbers of immigrant deaths and widespread rights violations.

The 92-page report was launched to mark the beginning of NNIRR's national conference, taking place January 18 - 20, 2008, in Houston, Texas. The conference, "Claiming Our Rights, Envisioning Our Future: Communities Organizing for Justice," will bring together over 500 participants from across the country, including those from immigrant rights, community and faith-based organizations, unions, workers' centers, and many others. They will attend general sessions, over 70 workshops and a cultural program and banquet Friday evening January 18.

Monami Maulik, director of the New York-based Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) and NNIRR Board Member, stated, "Over the next few days, our conference will deliberate over how to rollback the climate of hate and impunity created by official U.S. immigration policies and laws."

Over-Raided, Under Siege calls on the federal government to take immediate steps to cease and prevent human rights violations, such as the arbitrary detention and deportation of individuals, and local and state collaboration with immigration policing. The report also calls for the demilitarization of immigration and border control, the restoration of due process rights for all individuals, and respect for the human rights of immigrants.

Over-Raided, Under Siege makes multiple recommendations to policy makers, including Congressional action to strengthen protections for worker rights and civil rights, and to provide a rational and fair system of immigration that provides options and access to citizenship and permanent residency, clears the backlog of immigration petitions, reunifies families and stops the expansion of guest worker programs.

Ms. Maulik added, "Most recent immigration reform packages would have compromised away key protections for immigrants. We need a new immigration reform effort for positive policy changes, and we should make sure that policy makers and the Administration take steps to integrate immigrant and refugee communities as full, participating members."

To read or download an executive summary of Over-Raided, Under Siege, please click on: http://www.nnirr.org/resources/docs/executivesummary3_.pdf

To view or download NNIRR's immigration raids chronology, click on:
https://nnirr.dabbledb.com/page/nnirrshurricanechronologyofimmigrationraids/MMhuiHXW

The full report, Over-Raided, Under Siege, is available at: http://www.nnirr.org/resources/docs/UnderSiege_web.pdf
The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) is a national organization composed of local coalitions and immigrant, refugee, community, religious, civil rights and labor organizations and activists. The report is the first produced by the new "HURRICANE" initiative organized by NNIRR (HURRICANE: The Human Rights Immigrant Community Action Network), which plans to issue annual reports on the human rights situation of immigrants and refugees in the U.S.

Immigrant community organization members and leaders from across the country are available for media interviews before and during the conference. Please contact NNIRR for more information on the conference and to arrange media interviews.

To obtain a print copy of the full report, Over-Raided, Under Siege: U.S. Immigration Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights of Immigrants, please contact NNIRR or send a check or money order payable to "NNIRR," $20.00 per copy, includes shipping and handling and mail to:

NNIRR-Hurricane * 310 8th Street STE 303 * Oakland, CA 94607
Tel (510) 465-1984 ext 305 Fax (510) 465-1885 www.nnirr.org www.migrantdiaries.blogspot.com

bh

January 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Miguel Tejada in Immigration Trouble? Say it Ain't So, Joe -- I Mean Miguel

300px800pxmiguel_tejada2_2 The Houston Chronicle reports that Miguel Tejada's immigration status could be in jeopardy peril in light of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's decision to ask the Department of Justice to investigate whether the new Astros shortstop lied to federal investigators in 2005. Tejada, a native of the Dominican Republic, is a lawful permanent resident. There are some instances in which he could be denied entry back into the country by admitting he committed a crime.

Tejada UPDATE  For a commentary on the Tejada steroids matter by Marcos Bretón, who wrote a book about Tejada's rise to big league stardom, click here.

KJ

January 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

BREAKING NEWS Pat Buchanan: "Sí, se puede" is "the cause of the illegal immigration movement and the amnesty movement"

FROM MEDIA MATTERS: On the January 15 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, during a discussion of what Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) would need to do to win that evening's Las Vegas Democratic presidential debate, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan asserted that Obama would use "that refrain he used in New Hampshire: 'Yes, we can.' " Buchanan continued: " 'Yes, we can. Sí, se puede.' That's Hispanic. That's the cause of the illegal immigration movement and the amnesty movement." Obama has recently used the refrain "yes, we can" in speeches. Sí, se puede" (Spanish for "yes, we can") is the motto of the United Farm Workers.

Click the link above to see the story and see the video clip.

KJ

January 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

USCIS Director Testifies on Natz Delays

Check out the USCIS website.

Naturalization Delays: Causes, Consequences and Solutions (203KB PDF)

Emilio T. Gonzalez, Director, USCIS, before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and international Law, January 17, 2008

bh

January 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Reports on the Economic Impacts of Immigration, Integration

Check out the Law Librarian blog for a Congressional Budget Office and two studies by the Immigration Policy Center debunking myths about the negative economic impacts of undocumented immigrants. 

in addition, a new Brookings Institution Report, Reforming U.S. Immigration Policy: Open New Pathways to Integration, is available here.

KJ

January 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Bird's Eye View of the Nevada Democratic Presidential Debate

150pxposalifrazier3 160pxhillary_rodham_clinton Photojedwardscanton 160pxobamabarack This blogger attended this past Tuesday night’s Nevada Democratic Presidential Debate at the Cashman Center in Las Vegas. The debate preceded this Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. Both before and after the debate, pundits have called the outcome of the race among the three remaining Democratic candidates as too close to call.

Not coincidentally, the debate was held on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday (Jan. 15). A collection of African American and Latina/o organizations, including 100 Black Men of America, the African American Democratic Leadership Council, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (which provided my ticket), and IMPACTO, as well as the Nevada Democratic Party and the College of Southern Nevada, sponsored the debate.

Like the sponsors, the racially diverse audience reflected the “base” of the Democratic Party. Democratic politicos, union members, liberal corporate contributors, and Nevada Democratic Party leaders (including the Nevada Caucus chair sitting next to me), filled the convention center. Among the high profile Latina/os in attendance were Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers and John Trasviña, President and General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

After a tense week–-especially between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton focusing on issues of race, some observers predicted that we would see fireworks during the debate. They were unquestionably wrong. As my colleague Keith Aoki observed, we expected the “Thrilla in Manila” (the third Muhammad Ali/Joe Frazier super fight) but saw a lovefest or, to continue the fight analogy, a pillow fight.

The preliminaries, including greetings from the mayor of Las Vegas and words from the sponsors, ended abruptly as Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama, all entered the convention center to enthusiastic applause. NBC televised the debate with Brian Williams, Tim Russert, and Natalie Morales asking questions, which, as discussed below, were most disappointing.

One of the pleasing aspects of the debate to me was that the three candidates remaining represent key – and much valued – constituencies of the Democratic Party. The first serious woman and African American Presidential candidates have gained much attention. But John Edwards’ populist message of fighting for the middle class and the poor resonates with the blue collar and pro-union heart of the Democratic Party–-especially when he talks of growing up the son of a mill worker who was the first in his family to attend college (a public university no less).

Because of the sponsors, the debate had been labeled the Black/Brown debate. However, in no small part due to the questions posed by the moderators, little attention was paid to issues of special concern to African Americans and Latina/os.

For example, surprisingly enough, immigration received tremendously little attention. This makes little sense given the importance of immigration to Nevada’s large and growing Latina/o population (unlike the states –- Iowa and New Hampshire –- that had seen the most recent campaigns and debates) and the changing racial demographics of the state's labor unions. In his introduction, the head of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, David Lizarraga, garnered applause from the audience when he emphasized the need to fix our “broken” immigration system. But only an hour-and-a-half into the debate was immigration raised–-albeit in a clumsy fashion.

John Edwards was asked what the problem was with English being declared the official language of the United States, a one-sided way of dividing and splintering the voters along racial lines. Edwards responded that the nation needs comprehensive immigration reform, with a path to citizenship (but not the dreaded “amnesty”) for undocumented immigrants, who would need to pay a fine and learn English (which, he failed to mention, is a current requirement for naturalization). Edwards obliquely suggested that government should help integrate immigrants into society, but did not say how.

Given only 30 seconds to respond, Senator Obama noted that he had demonstrated commitment to addressing the immigration issue by sponsoring comprehensive immigration reform.

And that was it for the night on immigration.

In short, the discussion of immigration in the debate was disappointing to say the least.

More generally, many people in the audience found unsettling the fact that Black/Brown issues such as racial disparities in education, criminal justice, employment etc. -– failed to get more play in the debate. Much attention was paid to issues such as energy (including nuclear power and the Yucca Mountain controversy, important to many Nevadans), the war in Iraq, mortgage crisis, and the economy. These unquestionably are important issues but one would have hoped that specifically Black/Brown issues might have at least been covered in a debate sponsored by African Americans and Latina/os, communities eager to become relevant to – and talked to and not just talked about – this campaign for the Presidency.

Although denying that race was an issue in the campaign, Barack Obama did respond to a question about Black high school dropout rates. He mentioned problems with the educational system but also suggested that African American parents (and absent fathers) bore some of the blame. I will not comment on this last statement but bet that many African Americans have strong views about it. In addition, Hillary Clinton raised issues of race in her responses to a question about the economy by emphasizing the disparate impact of the nation’s economic difficulties on African Americans and Latina/os.

But, generally speaking, the candidates displayed a careful -– and surely calculated –- effort to avoid personal attacks and the potential divisive issues of race. All emphasized the unity within the Democratic Party on issues of civil rights and racial progress.  We are one big happy Democratic family!

Who won the debate?  It is hard to say, but there did not seem to be anything new that came out in the two hour discussion.   The Nevada caucus chair sitting next to me thought that the minds of very few Nevadans would be swayed by the debate.

It does seem clear that controversial issues such as race, civil rights, and immigration are difficult for Presidential candidates to discuss in a meaningful way, prone to create controversy and criticism, and easier to avoid than to discuss and address.

To be fair to the candidates, however, the questions failed to focus on issues of special concern to African American and Latina/o. Indeed, one heckler even briefly disrupted the debate by yelling about the poor questions.

The first questions in the debate focused on the recent brouhaha over race, Martin Luther King Jr. and Lyndon B. Johnson, etc. The last question from an e-mail bordered on the absurd: “When did you decide to run for President?” This sounds more like a feel-good question that, absent some kind of idiot’s mistake, a candidate could not fail to answer (politically) correctly. One could have hoped for some real questions that brought out the issues, especially important to African Americans and Latina/os that the Nevada debate sponsors unquestionably hoped for in sponsoring the debate.

Well on to the Nevada caucuses and SuperTuesday!

KJ

January 17, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)