Saturday, March 28, 2015
From the Bookshelves: Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia
When Beatles star John Lennon faced deportation from the U.S. in the 1970s, his lawyer Leon Wildes made a groundbreaking argument. He argued that Lennon should be granted “nonpriority” status pursuant to INS’s (now DHS’s) policy of prosecutorial discretion. In U.S. immigration law, the agency exercises prosecutorial discretion favorably when it refrains from enforcing the full scope of immigration law. A prosecutorial discretion grant is important to an agency seeking to focus its priorities on the “truly dangerous” in order to conserve resources and to bring compassion into immigration enforcement. The Lennon case marked the first moment that the immigration agency’s prosecutorial discretion policy became public knowledge. Today, the concept of prosecutorial discretion is more widely known in light of the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program, a record number of deportations and a stalemate in Congress to move immigration reform.
Beyond Deportation is the first book to comprehensively describe the history, theory, and application of prosecutorial discretion in immigration law. It provides a rich history of the role of prosecutorial discretion in the immigration system and unveils the powerful role it plays in protecting individuals from deportation and saving the government resources. Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia draws on her years of experience as an immigration attorney, policy leader, and law professor to advocate for a bolder standard on prosecutorial discretion, greater mechanisms for accountability when such standards are ignored, improved transparency about the cases involving prosecutorial discretion, and recognition of “deferred action” in the law as a formal benefit.
Monday, March 23, 2015
From the Bookshelves: 2nd Edition of the Handbook on Protection Gaps in the Protection of Palestinian Refugees
Handbook on the Protection of Palestinian Refugees, co-edited by Susan Akram and Nidal Al-Azza
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights has published a new edition of the Handbook on the Protection of Palestinian Refugees in State Signatories to the 1951 Convention. Building on the 2005 edition and the 2011 update, this year’s Handbook provides a comprehensive, up-to-date analysis of international legal protection standards applicable to Palestinian refugees – most notably, Article 1D of the 1951 Refugee Convention. As the result of a monumental gathering of evidence, the Handbook examines new developments in international guidelines regarding the application of Article 1D as well as it presents an extensive survey on the protection afforded to Palestinian refugees in 30 countries in Europe, Oceania, the Americas and Africa, with a special focus on legislation and case law related to Article 1D. In the last chapter, BADIL presents its alternative approach to Article 1D, providing a wider ground to grant protection not only to Palestinian refugees, but also to all refugees in secondary movement who seek asylum in a new host country.
This publication constitutes a primary text for lawyers providing legal assistance to asylum seekers in any of the countries surveyed. The Handbook could also be of interest to national and international organizations concerned with refugees and asylum seekers, providing support to advocacy efforts to change national practices vis-à-vis refugees in secondary movement. Furthermore, the Handbook is also of scholarly interest inasmuch as it presents a historical analysis of the circumstances that gave rise to the Palestinian diaspora and the international mechanisms and bodies devised to cope with its challenges, as well as it explains the protection gaps that emerged in the protection regime of Palestinian refugees.
Law and Migration: Many Constants, Few Changes by David Abraham, University of Miami - School of Law October 23, 2014 in Caroline Bretell and James Hollifield, Eds., Migration Theory: Talking Across Disciplines (New York and London: Routledge 2015), pp. 289-317 University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-8
Abstract: Addressing an interdisciplinary readership, the essay takes on a host of current and nettlesome issues in regard to “Immigration and Sovereignty,” core “Westphalian and Post-Westphalian Problems and Reforms,” recent developments that might be characterized as a simultaneous “Post-Westphalian and Neo-Westphalian Backlash,” and ongoing debates over “Post-Multiculturalism and the Neo-Liberal Welfare State.”
Law is not a research discipline or tool of social analysis. Law is, in the first instance, a tool of regulation; as such it constructs legality and illegality, the permissible and the impermissible. Law is also an expression of norms of justice as construed by a particular sovereign legislating community, one whose own composition is dynamic and changed by the very things, including migration, it seeks to regulate. Law, like the state in general, may be construed as a society’s résumé, indicating where the society has been and where it stands at any particular time, what is there and then being contested and what is not, who is in charge and who is not. Since it may evolve, law is also a terrain of struggle over where and how to steer society, one of many fields in which class and interest politics, constructed in myriad ways, play out in simple and complicated venues. Finally, since law, notwithstanding the existence of bi- and multilateral agreements, is overwhelmingly produced on a national basis, methodological nationalism is reflected in most thinking about law and what it does. Westphalian conceptions of sovereignty still prevail, and perhaps more in the arena of migration and citizenship than in most others.
Monday, March 9, 2015
From the Bookshelves: Forgotten Citizens Deportation, Children, and the Making of American Exiles and Orphans by Luis Zayas
Forgotten Citizens: Deportation, Children, and the Making of American Exiles and Orphans by Luis Zayas (Oxford University Press, 2015)
A topic of immigration that has never been dealt with directly
Walks the reader through the immigration, arrest, detention, and deportation process using real-life cases
Well-researched and describes the impact of deportation in human terms
Suggests new policies and practices that can be implemented to protect the children's and our nation's future
Monday, March 2, 2015
Today is the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Kids around the country will be reading The Cat in the Hat and other fabulous rhyming books. They will dress up for Wacky Wednesday and count all the places they might go.
But you may not know that in the 1940s, Dr. Seuss drew overtly racist cartoons in support of US war bonds. UC San Diego has an online collection of the cartoons.
At least one biographer has said that Dr. Seuss regretted his anti-Japanese stance during the war. His famous tale Horton Hears a Who was dedicated to “My Great Friend, Mitsugi Nakamura of Kyoto, Japan." The book is, apparently, about the post-war occupation of Japan by the US.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
From the Bookshelves: Daniel Kunstler, Passaic: The True Story of One Man’s Journey through American Immigration, Detention and Deportation
The plight of Hemnauth Mohabir, a Guyanese immigrant caught in the clutches of the U.S. deportation system, is an exemplary instance of the hardship inflicted upon many thousands by our laws and misuse of our prison apparatus. The chronicle of Hemnauth’s immigrant experience dominates Passaic: The True Story of One Man’s Journey through American Immigration, Detention and Deportation. We follow him from his roots as the descendant of Indians indentured to the international sugar trade through emigration to the U.S., a felony trial and a rare acquittal tainted only by a petty misdemeanor conviction. Years later, he is arrested upon re-entering the U.S. and fed into the grinding machinery of immigration enforcement. Hemnauth’s old misdemeanor has tagged him an illegal immigrant. He endures gulag conditions at the Passaic County (N.J.) Jail, which is contracted to house immigrants under deportation order. The prison fosters a climate of violence toward and among the men in its custody. It breeds utter hopelessness.
Throughout, Hemnauth wages a quixotic struggle against exile and separation from his American child, and another to preserve his humanity in the face of a deliberate campaign to strip him of it. He fails at the first struggle, but succeeds at the second through his valor and spiritual vitality. Entwined with the narrative is the account of how the darker side of our national ambivalence toward immigrants has created a pattern of social control cloaked in the rule of law.
The author, Daniel Kunstler, first heard of Hemnauth’s ordeal from a news item on National Public Radio. He extended the story to encompass its full biographical, judicial and historical context. His resonance with issues of immigration dates from personal experience resettling refugees expelled from South America in the late 1970s. In addition, his years as a research professional equipped him to undertake a project of independent scholarship.
Passaic is thoroughly documented, using published and primary sources, including many exchanges with national experts in immigration law and policy. Writing Passaic led Kunstler up a steep path of discovery, which he can now share with a public immersed in the immigration debate with renewed interest since the most recent general election and its impact on political calculus. Passaic’s originality resides in its focused view of U.S. immigration practices captured through the lens of a single case, a complement to the survey work of others. It arrives at a time when the general impetus for comprehensive immigration reform has begun to yield to a discussion of its particulars.
Passaic does more than expose a human rights failure. It awakens the reader to the reality of a system that has exempted the government from its duty to uphold the rights of all who reside on our soil. It thrusts us before a mirror, and shows us that we might not be quite who we think we are.
Monday, February 16, 2015
From the Bookshelves: Routledge International Handbook of Children’s Rights Studies Edited by Wouter Vandenhole, Ellen Desmet, Didier Reynaert, Sara Lembrechts
Routledge International Handbook of Children’s Rights Studies Edited by Wouter Vandenhole, Ellen Desmet, Didier Reynaert, Sara Lembrechts Routledge – 2015 – 576 pages
Since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) children’s rights have assumed a central position in a wide variety of disciplines and policies.
This handbook offers an engaging overview of the contemporary research landscape for those people in the theory and practice of children’s rights. The volume offers a multidisciplinary approach to children’s rights, as well as key thematic issues in children’s rights at the intersection of global and local concerns. The main approaches and topics within the volume are:
• Law, social work, and the sociology of childhood and anthropology
• Geography, childhood studies, gender studies and citizenship studies
• Participation, education and health
• Juvenile justice and alternative care
• Violence against children and female genital mutilation
• Child labour, working children and child poverty
• Migration, indigenous children and resource exploitation
The specially commissioned chapters have been written by renowned scholars and researchers and come together to provide a critical and invaluable guide to the challenges and dilemmas currently facing children’s rights.
Wouter Vandenhole holds the UNICEF Chair in Children’s Rights – a joint venture of the University of Antwerp and UNICEF Belgium – at the Faculty of Law of the University of Antwerp (Belgium). He is the spokesperson of the Law and Development Research Group and chairs the European Research Networking Programme GLOTHRO. He has published widely on economic, social and cultural rights, children’s rights and transnational human rights obligations and is a founding member of the Flemish Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre and co-convener of the international interdisciplinary course on children’s rights.
Ellen Desmet is a post-doctoral fellow at the Law and Development Research Group of the University of Antwerp and the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University (Belgium). Before, she was a research and policy staff member at the Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre, and taught anthropology of law at the University of Leuven.
Didier Reynaert is a lecturer in social work at the Faculty of Education Health and Social work of the University College Ghent, he is involved in several research projects in the field of child and youth policy and children’s rights. He is member of the board of the Flemish Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre. Previously, he worked for the Flemish Children’s Rights Coalition, the Child Legal Centre and as a civil servant at the Ministry of the Flemish Community on youth protection.
Sara Lembrechts is fulltime staff member at the Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre (KeKi), where she is responsible for the collection and dissemination of children’s rights research, as well as for policy advice to the Flemish government.
The SNL 40th anniversary is getting lots of play.
One skit on the SNL 40 website is "Immigrant Tale." Upon arriving in America in 1883, Cornelius Timberlake (Justin Timberlake) and Moishe Samberg (Andy Samberg) look to a bright future and talk about the opportunities this new country will provide their great, great grandsons. [Season 34, 2009]
Sunday, February 15, 2015
From the Bookshelves: Because of Our Success The Changing Racial and Ethnic Ancestry of Blacks on Affirmative Action by Kevin Brown
When selective colleges, universities, and graduate programs instituted affirmative action policies in the 1960s, 99.4 percent of Americans were either black or white. Not only were interracial marriages between blacks and whites illegal in over twenty states, but very few blacks were involved in interracial sexual relationships. A person’s race was determined by the application of the one-drop rule. Thus, mixed-race blacks were not allowed to self-identify their race. Rather, they were socially ascribed as black and, therefore, the concept of Black Multiracials did not exist. Also, less than one percent of blacks were foreign-born.
As a result, one of the core assumptions upon which affirmative action was based was that the predominant ancestries of the beneficiaries would be children of two American-born black parents (“Ascendant Blacks”). However, Black Multiracials and foreign-born blacks and their children (“Black Immigrants”) now constitute a growing majority of the black students at many selective higher education programs. Further, the percentages of Black Multiracials and Black Immigrants among those blacks approaching college age are rapidly increasing. Thus, in an ironic twist of fate, America is ethnically cleansing from the campuses of its selective higher education institutions Ascendant Blacks. Not only were they the primary group that affirmative action policies were intended to benefit, but their ascendency out of slavery and segregation made possible the increases in mixed-race sexual relationships, Black Multiracials, foreign-born blacks, and Black Immigrants. This book discusses this ethnic cleansing of Ascendant Blacks and its implications for American society, and suggests possible ways to address the problem.
Needless to say, Because of Our Success has sparked controversy.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Héctor is trapped. The water truck, sealed to hide its human cargo, has broken down. The coyotes have taken all the passengers’ money for a mechanic and have not returned. Those left behind have no choice but to wait. Héctor finds a name in his friend César’s phone. AnniMac. A name with an American number. He must reach her, both for rescue and to pass along the message César has come so far to deliver. But are his messages going through?
Over four days, as water and food run low, Héctor tells how he came to this desperate place. His story takes us from Oaxaca — its rich culture, its rapid change — to the dangers of the border. It exposes the tangled ties between Mexico and El Norte — land of promise and opportunity, homewrecker and unreliable friend. And it reminds us of the power of storytelling and the power of hope, as Héctor fights to ensure his message makes it out of the truck and into the world.
Both an outstanding suspense novel and an arresting window into the relationship between two great cultures, The Jaguar’s Children shows how deeply interconnected all of us, always, are.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
From the Bookshelves: Migration, Incorporation, and Change in an Interconnected World By Syed Ali, Doug Hartmann
Migration, Incorporation, and Change in an Interconnected World By Syed Ali, Doug Hartmann
Written in engaging and approachable prose, Migration, Incorporation, and Change in an Interconnected World covers the bulk of material a student needs to get a good sense of the empirical and theoretical trends in the field of migration studies, while being short enough that professors can easily build their courses around it without hesitating to assign additional readings. Taking a unique approach, Ali and Hartmann focus on what they consider the important topics and the potential route the field is going to take, and incorporate a conceptual lens that makes this much more than a simple relaying of facts.
Syed Ali is an associate professor of sociology at Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY. He is currently the co-editor of Contexts Magazine, and is the author of Dubai: Gilded Cage. He is also an Ultimate Frisbee player and a potter.
Douglas Hartmann (Ph.D. University of California, San Diego, 1997) is Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Race, Culture, and the Revolt of the Black Athlete: The 1968 Olympic Protests and Their Aftermath (University of Chicago Press, 2003), and co-author of Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities in a Changing World (Pine Forge Press, 2007 with Stephen Cornell). Hartmann’s work has also appeared in the American Sociological Review, Ethnic and Racial Studies, the Journal of Sport and Social Issues, and Social Problems, and his comments on sport, race, popular culture, religion, and multiculturalism have been featured in magazines and newspapers around the country as well as on television and radio. In addition, Professor Hartmann is President of the Midwest Sociological Society (MSS), and co-editor and publisher (with Chris Uggen) of the award-winning TheSocietyPages.org. Hartmann is currently working on a book entitled "Midnight Basketball, Race, and Neoliberal Social Policy."
Friday, January 30, 2015
From the Bookshelves: The Legitimacy of The European Union through Legal Rationality: Free Movement of Third Country Nationals by Richard Ball
Third country nationals (TCNs) play an important part in the economy of the European Union, reflected in the rights granted to them under European Union Law. Political expediency is however shaped by world, regional and domestic influences that in turn determine policy towards third country nationals and their legal rights to freedom of movement. This book examines the concept of political legitimacy within the European Union through the principles of legal rationality, focusing in particular on the European Union’s policy towards third country nationals. Richard Ball argues that for legal doctrine to be rational it must display the requirements of formal, instrumental and substantive rationality, each mutually exclusive and essential. In taking this position of legal rationality, the book focuses on free movement rights of TCNs within EU treaties and implementing legislation, the Area of Freedom Security and Justice, and Association Agreements. Ball concludes that the stance of European Union Law towards third country nationals lacks legitimacy, and suggests possible new directions that EU policy should take in the future.
Monday, January 26, 2015
From the Bookshelves: William Frey, Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America.
At its optimistic best, America has embraced its identity as the world’s melting pot. Today it is on the cusp of becoming a country with no racial majority, and new minorities are poised to exert a profound impact on U.S. society, economy, and politics.
Through a compelling narrative and eye-catching charts and maps, eminent demographer William H. Frey interprets and expounds on the dramatic growth of minority populations in the United States. He finds that without these expanding groups, America could face a bleak future: this new generation of young minorities, who are having children at a faster rate than whites, is infusing our aging labor force with vitality and innovation.
Diversity Explosion shares the good news about diversity in the coming decades, and the more globalized, multiracial country that U.S. is becoming.
In this podcast about the book, Frey explains what he means by "diversity explosion"; why growing minority populations are so important for America; and what public officials, community leaders, and decision-makers need to understand about the importance of educating and training a new generation of workers.
William H. Frey, senior fellow in the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, is an internationally regarded demographer, known for his research on urban populations, migration, immigration, race, aging, political demographics and his expertise on the U.S. Census. He was the first to predict that 2011 would be the first year in which more minority babies than white were born.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
From the Bookshelves: Revoking Citizenship: Expatriation in America from the Colonial Era to the War on Terror by Ben Herzog
Expatriation, or the stripping away citizenship and all the rights that come with it, is usually associated with despotic and totalitarian regimes. The imagery of mass expulsion of once integral members of the community is associated with civil wars, ethnic cleansing, the Holocaust, or other oppressive historical events. Yet these practices are not just a product of undemocratic events or extreme situations, but are standard clauses within the legal systems of most democratic states, including the United States. Witness, for example, Yaser Esam Hamdi, captured in Afghanistan in November 2001, sent to Guantánamo, transferred to a naval brig in South Carolina when it was revealed that he was a U.S. citizen, and held there without trial until 2004, when the Justice Department released Hamdi to Saudi Arabia without charge on the condition that he renounce his U.S. citizenship.
Hamdi’s story may be the best known expatriation story in recent memory, but in Revoking Citizenship, Ben Herzog reveals America’s long history of making both naturalized immigrants and native-born citizens un-American after their citizenship was stripped away. Tracing this history from the early republic through the Cold War, Herzog locates the sociological, political, legal, and historic meanings of revoking citizenship. Why, when, and with what justification do states take away citizenship from their subjects? Should loyalty be judged according to birthplace or actions? Using the history and policies of revoking citizenship as a lens, Revoking Citizenship examines, describes, and analyzes the complex relationships between citizenship, immigration, and national identity.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Mea Culpa Lessons on Law and Regret from U.S. History (2015 NYU Press) by Steven W. Bender
In Mea Culpa, Steven W. Bender examines how the United States’ collective shame about its past has shaped the evolution of law and behavior. We regret slavery and segregationist Jim Crow laws. We eventually apologize, while ignoring other oppressions, and our legal response to regret often fails to be transformative for the affected groups. By examining policies and practices that have affected the lives of groups that have been historically marginalized and oppressed, Bender is able to draw persuasive connections between shame and its eventual legal manifestations. Analyzing the United States’ historical response to its own atrocities, Bender identifies and develops a definitive moral compass that guides us away from the policies and practices that lead to societal regret.
Mea Culpa challenges its readers. In a different era, might we have been slave owners or proprietors of a racially segregated establishment? It’s easy to judge immorality in the hindsight of history, but what current practices and policies will later generations regret?
More than a historical survey, this volume offers a framework for resolving some of the most contentious social problems of our time. Drawing on his background as a legal scholar, Bender tackles immigration, the death penalty, the war on terror, reproductive rights, welfare, wage inequity, homelessness, mass incarceration, and same-sex marriage. Ultimately, he argues, it is the dehumanization of human beings that allows for practices to occur that will later be marked as regrettable. And all of us have a stake in standing on the side of history that resists dehumanization.
Cjapter 3 (Aliens, Illegals, Wetbacks, and Anchor Babies: The Dehumanization of Immigrant Workers and Their Families) offers a capsule summary of how immigrants, especially those from Mexico, have been dehumanized and harshly treated in the name of immigration enforcement throughout U.S. history.
Friday, January 9, 2015
From the Bookshelves: Latino Stats: American Hispanics by the Numbers by Idelisse Malavé and Esti Giordani
Latino Stats: American Hispanics by the Numbersby Idelisse Malavé and Esti Giordani (2015)
At a time when politics is seemingly ruled by ideology and emotion and when immigration is one of the most contentious topics, it is more important than ever to cut through the rhetoric and highlight, in numbers, the reality of the broad spectrum of Latino life in the United States. Latinos are both the largest and fastest-growing racial/ethnic group in the country, even while many continue to fight for their status as Americans. Respected movement builder and former leader of the Tides Foundation Idelisse Malavé and her daughter, Celeste Giordani—a communications strategist for the Social Transformation Project—distills the profusion of data, identifying the most telling and engaging facts to assemble a portrait of contemporary Latino life with glimpses of the past and future.
From politics and the economy to popular culture, the arts, and ideas about race, gender, and family, Latino Stats both catalogs the inequities that plague Latino communities and documents Latinos’ growing power and influence on American life. An essential tool for advocates, educators, and policy makers, Latino Stats will be a go-to guidebook for anyone wanting to raise their awareness and increase their understanding of the complex state of our nation.
As a NPR story described, "[w]hen Michele Serros burst onto the literary scene in the 1990s, she was a new kind of Latina writer: She didn't speak much Spanish, she listened to ABBA and she was a vegan who liked to surf and skateboard. Her success as a writer, poet and comedic commentator made her an inspirational voice for Chicanas of her generation and beyond."
Serros, who Newsweek once hailed as a "Woman to Watch for the New Century," died of cancer Sunday at her home in Berkeley, Calif. She was 48 years old. Serros' book How to be a Latina Role Model offers an incredibly funny tale of a Chicana writer who tries to find a way to embrace two very different cultures--without losing touch with who she is.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
From the Bookshelves: American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone by Senator Marco Rubio
Senator Marco Rubio has a new book that, although it will not be released until next week, is making news. American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone takes on immigration. According to the New York Daily News,
"Looking to connect with the conservative base of his Republican Party, Sen. Marco Rubio says he is sympathetic to Americans who `feel as if we are being taken advantage of'' by immigrants in the United States illegally. The rhetoric in Rubio's new book comes as the Florida lawmaker lays the groundwork for a potential presidential campaign in 2016. Rubio, a first-term lawmaker whose parents came to the United States from Cuba, previously wrote and championed a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration system that passed the Senate. It later imploded in the House and badly hurt his standing among conservative activists who have tremendous sway in picking the party nominee. Rubio now says he favors a one-piece-at-a-time approach supported by some conservatives. Detailing a strategy he first outlined last year, he suggests in the book that Congress begin with securing the border, then move on to workplace enforcement and the visa system before dealing with those already in the country illegally." (emphasis added).
The Amazon.com page for Rubio's new book includes the following:
My parents came to the United States in 1956. The country they found was truly a land of opportunity, where hardworking people with grade school educations could afford a home, a car, and college for their kids. A country where maids and bartenders could raise doctors, lawyers, small-business owners, and maybe even a U.S. senator.
That was the American Dream—our country’s central promise to its people: If you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll find tremendous opportunities and an even better life for your children.
Yet today, I look around and see the American Dream on life support. Seven years of government-centered, tax-and-spend liberalism have failed to lift the poor or sustain the middle class. Fewer Americans are working than at any time since Jimmy Carter was president. New business creation is 30 percent lower than it was in the 1980s. The stock market may be surging by the time you read this, but millions of everyday Americans will still be left behind by an economy that doesn’t value their skills and a government that would rather give a handout than a hand up.
I wrote this book because we stand at a critical juncture. What kind of country are we going to be? Will we surrender to Obamacare and other laws that crush innovation and entrepreneurship? Will we accept a powerful nanny state and the erosion of family values? Will we allow politics to kill the American Dream?
Or will we rise to the challenge—and take back our legacy as the only nation on earth that offers unrestricted opportunity to all?
I believe we can restore the American Dream and expand it to reach more people than ever before. But to do so we must restrain our power-hungry, debt-ridden federal government. We must help businesses create more stable middle-class jobs. And we must help our families stay healthy and secure.
In this book you’ll meet an over-regulated small-businessman, a struggling single mother, an out-of-work and in-debt college graduate, and others who want nothing more than their own shot at the American Dream. Their stories are our stories; their challenges are our challenges.
Of course no book or politician can single-handedly restore the American Dream. But a movement, working to promote the values and can-do spirit that made our country exceptional, can turn everything around.
My goal is to provide a roadmap for that movement and inspire Americans to reclaim their rights: to dream, to work, to build a better life for their children.
I hope you will join me as we build that movement and restore the land of opportunity.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Photo by Jim Block
Michel Thomas was an extraordinary man. Born in Poland in 1914, Thomas left the country as a young man, studying in Germany and France in an effort to escape antisemitism. During WW2, he served in the French Resistance and ended up spending two years in French concentration camps. After the war, Thomas moved to the United States where he spent a lifetime teaching Hollywood stars to master foreign languages.
While Thomas passed away in 2005, his method for language learning lives on in audiotapes.
I was introduced to the Michel Thomas method by my colleague Lindsay Robertson. Lindsay knew that I was trying to brush up on my Spanish before heading to the immigration detention facility in Artesia, NM. In a past life, my Spanish was excellent. I studied through college - taking advanced literature courses and studying abroad. But it had been over a decade since I tried to use my skills.
I did many things to bring my Spanish back up to speed - and will post about them all, eventually. But without a doubt the most surprisingly effective tool was the Total Spanish series by Michel Thomas.
The Thomas CDs are different from anything I've ever listened to before. You listen as he teaches two students how to speak Spanish. In effect, you are the third student in the room. It's extra fun because one of the students isn't very good and so you won't feel like the dunce in the room as you practice.
Thomas emphasizes practical communication skills - pointing out the thousands of words that are largely the same in English and Spanish. As a result, you end up with a much more sophisticated vocabulary that you would if you tried to learn words one at a time.
These langauge CDs are a truly effective tool, whether you are looking to learn Spanish for the first time or looking to brush up on skills you already have. I'd actually recommend that clinics around the country invest in a copy for their students to borrow. (OU has a set available for students in our International Human Rights Clinic.)
Finally, I should also note that Michel Thomas was a polyglot. His language CDs are not just available in Spanish but a multitude of other languages.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
Photo via NPR
But as it's the new year and some readers might not be at the AALS conference in DC (maybe you're home in the company of a virus in Norman, OK for example) - you might just be looking for a good book to read. And one of the best books I read all year was The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. Sure, it's from 2008. But you may have missed it. And it truly is a wonder.
But maybe you don't have time for a novel. A novel is a commitment after all. And once you pick of The Brief Wonderous Life, you won't be able to stop until you've devoured it whole.
So for a taste of the power of Díaz' writing, I offer you something shorter: his essay for Conde Naste Traveller on Fukuoka, Japan's Next Great Food City. Seriously. It's amazing.
And here's the musical accompanyment to that article: