Friday, November 20, 2015

Déjà vu all over again: Donald Trump’s National Muslim Database


Somehow, I feel like the debates over immigration regularly feel as if, to quote the late Yogi Berra, déjà vu all over again all over again. Donald Trump has returned to the headlines with the proposal that, in the name of protecting national security, the government create a national database that includes all Muslims, citizens and noncitizens alike, in the United States.  (After attacked for the proposal, he later retreated a bit from it.).  I am not sure how such a database would come in handy. Would we question all Muslims in the event of a terrorist act? As the famous movie Casablanca ended, we could “round up the usual suspects.” Besides its patent unconstitutionality, such a dragnet does not sound like it would be particularly effective from a law enforcement and national security standpoint.  


Unfortunately, this kind of extreme measure directed at a discrete and insular minority would not be unprecedented in American history.  Most recently, as part of the “war on terror,” the U.S government in the wake of September 11, 2001 invoked its plenary power over immigration and created the “special registration” program, requiring noncitizens from certain countries, mostly the Middle East and other predominantly Muslim nations.  Well before that program, the U.S. government had subjected Muslim noncitizens to surveillance and related activities.

The truth of the matter is that racial discrimination historically has not had boundaries based on the technicalities of immigration status.  During World War II, the Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States upheld the internment of persons of Japanese ancestry, including U.S. citizens as well as immigrants.  During an earlier national economic calamity known as the Great Depression, state and local governments, with federal assistance and encouragement, sought to reduce the welfare rolls by “repatriating,” voluntarily and otherwise, persons of Mexican ancestry, including U.S. citizens and immigrants.  During the Cold War, President Eisenhower directed “Operation Wetback,” the equivalent of a military operation to remove persons of Mexican ancestry, including U.S. citizens as well as immigrants.  Although thoroughly discredited as an infamous widespread civil rights violation, Donald Trump has called for an encore.

Obviously, the unconstitutionality of a national Muslim database is crystal clear. Nor is there any need to, as a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would do, adopt special refugee admissions procedures in an effort to effectively eliminate the admission of refugees from Syria and Iraq.  The current security checks for refugee admissions are rigorous and thorough.  The State Department can be expected to thoroughly vet any potential terrorists in these times.

It is time for the nation to take a collective deep breath.  The tragic events in Paris were just that – tragic.  We should take necessary measures but not overreact.  Many observers look back on the excesses of the measures taken after September 11, including mass arrests and detentions, racial and religious profiling, and much more.  We should learn from our history and not repeat its worst moments.


November 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

At the Movies: The Uncondemned

In 1997, an underdog group of lawyers and activists prosecuted rape as a crime against humanity. The Uncondemned is the against-the-odds story of their fight for the first conviction—and of the women who braved witness assassinations to testify.

In 1994, Pierre Prosper had 22 triple-murder cases on his desk at the Los Angeles District Attorney's hard-core gang unit. Sara Darehshori was about to start her first job at a law firm. Former Philadelphia public defender Patricia Sellers had just moved to Brussels to be with her new husband. Human rights activist Binaifer Nowrojee was working on her thesis. Lisa Pruitt was finishing her PhD. And then, two simultaneous genocides shocked the world.

Bosnia and Rwanda were resounding failures of UN doctrine. But the perpetrators had every reason to think they had gotten away with war crimes--none had been prosecuted since 1946. However, they hadn’t counted on the overwhelming power of Western guilt. 

Two tribunals were set—sort of. When Sara Darehshori landed in Kigali, Rwanda in September 1995 to begin her job as an investigator, there was no one at the airport to greet her—she didn’t even know where she was staying, let alone working. She hitched a ride with a NGO to the nearest hotel.    

In Brussels, Patricia Sellers thought she’d work as a “normal trial attorney” with the tribunals. But the chief prosecutor had another idea. He handed her the dossier on sexual assault. Although rape had been declared a war crime since 1919, it had never been prosecuted. That was going to be her job.

Binaifer Nowrojee was a researcher at Human Rights Watch, working in the women’s rights division. There were a lot of rumors about sexual violence during the genocide, but no firm numbers. Binaifer pushed HRW to send her to Rwanda, where she would end up writing the report-heard-around-the-world.

Pierre Prosper showed up just in time to build the case. And then suddenly the 31-year-old found himself in charge.

 And Lisa Pruitt, age 32, was sent to do a special report for the tribunal about the possibility of pursing charges of rape as a war crime. She was devastated when the report was buried.

These were the leads who intersected on the way to making judicial history. They were between 27 and 34, making up international criminal law as they went along. They probably had absolutely no business being the leads on the first genocide trial in history, but there was no one else to do it. And as for tying sexual violence into the charges—no one was sure they could make it stick. The case at hand was a small-potatoes mayor who hadn’t raped anyone himself. 

But then, three women came forward…and the world of criminal justice changed forever.


Q&A on "The Uncondemned" at the Cameo Cinema from Film@11 on Vimeo.

My colleague Professor Lisa Pruitt played an important role in the first successful prosecution for rape as a war crime in Rwanda and appears in the film. 


November 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Human trafficking survivor: I was raped 43,200 times

CNN reportys on a horrendous case of a human trafficking victim from Mexico.  Karla Jacinto told the reporter that, by her own estimate, 43,200 is the number of times she was raped after falling into the hands of human traffickers. She says up to 30 men a day, seven days a week, for the best part of four years.  Her story highlights the brutal realities of human trafficking in Mexico and the United States, an underworld that has destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of Mexican girls like Karla.

Human trafficking has become a trade so lucrative and prevalent, that it knows no borders and links towns in central Mexico with cities like Atlanta and New York.


November 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

At the Movies: East of Salinas (PBS)


Airing on PBS on December 28, East of Salinas takes us to the heart of California’s “Steinbeck Country,” the Salinas Valley, to meet a bright boy and his dedicated teacher — both sons of migrant farm workers.

With parents who are busy working long hours in the fields, third grader Jose Ansaldo often turns to his teacher, Oscar Ramos, for guidance. But Jose is undocumented; he was born in Mexico,. Like many other migrant children, he is beginning to understand the situation— and the opportunities that may be lost to him through no fault of his own.

East of Salinas follows Jose and Oscar over three years: the boy is full of energy, smarts, and potential, while his teacher is determined to give back to a new generation of migrant children. Many of the students that enter Oscar's third grade class at Sherwood Elementary School in Salinas have never been to the beach, even though it’s only twenty miles away. Their parents work from sunup to sundown. They live in cramped apartments in neighborhoods plagued by gang violence. The kids take on the day- to-day stresses of their parents: making ends meet, dealing with acute health issues, fearing deportation. In the face of these challenges, Oscar gives his student’s access to a world that often seems beyond their reach.

Jose is one of Oscar’s most gifted students. Despite having moved between seven different schools in three years he still excels in math. But Oscar can only do so much. For Jose, a student with such promise, East of Salinas demonstrates the cruelty of circumstance — a cruelty that touches on the futures of millions of undocumented kids in America.


November 11, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

America hasn’t always lived the values celebrated in ‘Bridge of Spies’

Tom Hanks' latest movie Bridge of Spies is good entertainment.  I saw it yesterday.  The film also has an interesting immigration angle with the immigration removal process used as a tool in the criminal justice system. 

Professor Jeffrey Kahn in the Washington Post explains some lessons from the case of Rudolf Abel

The movie is based on the sensational arrest of Abel, a KGB colonel and the Soviet Union’s top spy in North America. FBI agents pushed their way into his hotel room in Manhattan on June 21, 1957. Because the FBI wanted Abel to turn double-agent against the Soviet Union, publicity about his capture was not desired. The problem was that a public appearance before a judge is required shortly after any arrest and the courtroom is open to the public. To keep things quiet, the FBI turned to Immigration and Naturalization Service officials to pick up Abel on a pretextual violation while federal agents waited to search his vacated room. Instead of pursuing a deportation hearing, able was taken far away;  "There was no public appearance before a magistrate. No charge. No lawyer. In the words of Justice William Brennan, dissenting from the Supreme Court opinion that ultimately resolved the case, `As far as the world knew, he had vanished.'”

After Abel's capture, he was flown 13 hours and 2,000 miles away to McAllen, Texas. For almost seven weeks, the FBI interrogated Abel and sought to turn Abel or break him.  It failed and Abel was charged and Jim Donovan, played by Hanks.  

Professor Kahn nicely ties the movie and its plot into the modern "war on terror," with the attendant pressures to forego the protections of persons accused of being enemies of the United States and the American people.


November 8, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 2, 2015

What migrants left behind


Photo courtesy of CNN

CNN's website posted some photos of items left by refugees that will make you think.  One of the pictures is above.  The story by Kyle Almond explains that, after arriving in Lesbos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, Anna Pantelia lined up with other photographers as they waited for another boat wave of migrants. "I was looking down (at the beach) and I started noticing many objects -- baby clothes, passports," Pantelia said.  Strewn across the sand were all items that had been left behind: teddy bears, pacifiers, shoes, flotation devices, cell phones, photos, cigarettes. They belonged to migrants in search of a better life in Europe.


November 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Immigrant of the Day: Maureen O'Hara (1920-2015) RIP




Born in Ireland, famous actress Maureen O'Hara has died of natural causes at age 95 in Boise, Idaho.

O'Hara was known for playing passionate but sensible heroines, and often worked with director John Ford and longtime friend John Wayne. She was one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

O'Hara co-starred with him in the Hollywood production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She made a number of films with John Wayne and director John Ford.  One of those films was The Quiet Man (1952), which was set in Ireland.  O'Hara also starred in the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947).

O'Hara was a naturalized U.S. citizen.




October 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bernie Sanders Can’t Escape Questions About 2007 Vote on Immigration Overhaul



New York Times First Draft looks at how immigration continues to be a sticking point for Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders.  Sanders has sought to build his base of support beyond the overwhelmingly white supporters he has in his home state of Vermont. But he could face continuing questions about his vote against a comprehensive immigration overhaul bill in 2007, as he did during the first Democratic presidential debate last week. His language at the time was starkly economic about guest-worker visas, which were viewed skeptically by organized labor.

“Why should Latino voters trust you now when you left them at the altar at the moment when reform was very close?” Juan Carlos López, a panelist and an anchor on CNN en Español asked in the debate last week about the senator’s vote against that bill. “I didn’t leave anybody at the altar,” Mr. Sanders replied. “I voted against that piece of legislation because it had guest-worker provisions in it, which the Southern Poverty Law Center talked about being semi-slavery. Guest workers are coming in, they’re working under terrible conditions, but if they stand up for their rights, they’re thrown out of the country. I was not the only progressive to vote against that legislation for that reason. Tom Harkin, a very good friend of Hillary Clinton’s and mine, one of the leading labor advocates, also voted against that.” He added, “Progressives did vote against that for that reason. My view right now — and always has been — is that when you have 11 million undocumented people in this country, we need comprehensive immigration reform, we need a path toward citizenship, we need to take people out of the shadows.”

But Mr. Sanders was part of an effort by liberal Democrats to kill the bill that year. His language at the time often related not to the concerns of the workers receiving the visas, but to the bill’s impact on American wage-earners. And those words are at odds with how much of the Democratic Party currently discusses immigration overhaul, all but guaranteeing he will continue to be asked to clarify his views.


October 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 19, 2015

'Larrymania' reality star is now in real trouble


Larry Hernandez is a Mexican-American singer, songwriter, and television star who was born in Los Angeles. He lived in Los Angeles until he was four when his family moved to Mexico. He spent most of his adolescence there before starting his musical career.

In 2012, Larrymania, an original reality TV series, premiered.  Larrymania captures the world of entertainer Larry Hernandez as he navigates his musical career and juggles family life. 

While Larry Hernandez became famous performing narcocorridos and for his reality show, "Larrymania," he now is making news for something very different.  Hernandez is accused of kidnapping and assault in South Carolina in a case that has shocked fans and riveted the Latino media since his arrest last month on a warrant. Clips of the singer appearing in San Bernardino County Superior Court for an extradition hearing, shackled and in green prison scrubs, have aired again and again on Spanish-language media along with daily updates on the case.


October 19, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Immigration Law Professor Michael A. Olivas "Law of Rock and Roll" Now on Twitter!


Prof. Michael A. "Law of Rock and Roll" Olivas Now on Twitter!


You know him as a prominent immigration law and education law professor.

But did you know he "also has a regular radio show on the Albuquerque, NM, National Public Radio station KANW, "The Law of Rock and Roll," where he reviews legal developments in music and entertainment law, appearing as "The Rock and Roll Law Professor." (SM pending) "?

And now, he joins the Twittersphere!

- See more at:

prominent immigration law and education law professor.

But did you know he "also has a regular radio show on the Albuquerque, NM, National Public Radio station KANW, "The Law of Rock and Roll," where he reviews legal developments in music and entertainment law, appearing as "The Rock and Roll Law Professor." (SM pending) "?

- See more at:

Immigration Law Professor Michael A. Olivas "Law of Rock and Roll" is now on Twitter!

Professor Olivas is the star of The Law of Rock and Roll, a popular radio show that explores the legal aspects of the stars' careers, cases involving the record companies, and the business of rock and roll.  Topics include noise ordinances, adhesion contracts, copyright law, back up singers, the dangers of downloading, and music by dead performers.  


In addition, for about 7 or 8 years, he has maintained a growing listserv, Michael’s Rock and Roll Posse, where he comments on all things rock and roll.  I am proud to be part of Michael's posse.

Here is a tune that I bet Michael would like:



did you know he "also has a regular radio show on the Albuquerque, NM, National Public Radio station KANW, "The Law of Rock and Roll," where he reviews legal developments in music and entertainment law, appearing as "The Rock and Roll Law Professor." - See more at:

You know him as a prominent immigration law and education law professor.

But did you know he "also has a regular radio show on the Albuquerque, NM, National Public Radio station KANW, "The Law of Rock and Roll," where he reviews legal developments in music and entertainment law, appearing as "The Rock and Roll Law Professor." (SM pending) "?

And now, he joins the Twittersphere!

- See more at:

October 15, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 12, 2015

At the Movies -- Immigration Battle: Untold Story of the Push for Immigration Reform in Washington

Premiering on PBS and online: Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why has it been so hard for Washington to fix our country’s broken immigration system?

In Immigration Battle, a special two-hour feature film presented by FRONTLINE and INDEPENDENT LENS Tuesday, Oct. 20 on PBS (check local listings), acclaimed independent filmmakers Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini take viewers behind closed doors in Washington’s corridors of power to explore the political realities surrounding one of the country’s most pressing and divisive issues.

Robertson and Camerini have been chroniclin­g the debate over America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants for the past 15 years, including in the acclaimed series How Democracy Works Now.

In Immigration Battle, they reveal the untold story of the push for bipartisan immigration reform after President Obama’s reelection, gaining rare access to Democrats and Republicans throughout 2013 and 2014 as they secretly worked across the aisle to try to make a comprehensive bill a reality.

The film is a fly-on-the-wall look at the high-stakes effort to broker a deal in Congress — an effort led by Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a mover and shaker who makes his party nervous because he’s seen by some as being more loyal to immigrants than Democrats. Immigration Battle follows Gutiérrez as he leads the movement on the outside, and secretly negotiates across the aisle on the inside.

His commitment is “always to put the immigrant community and the civil rights movement ahead of partisan politics,” says Gutiérrez, who strategizes with Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL) and others about how to build support across party lines.

In addition to Gutiérrez, Díaz-Balart and their staffs, we meet Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) — a Tea Party member who communicates with his Spanish-speaking constituents in their own language, and who chastises members of his party for taking a political approach that “takes the entire Latino community and writes them off.”

Immigration Battle chronicles this constellation of politicians from January 2013 onward as they work to make the case for immigration reform against looming deadlines and political minefields. The film reveals just how close Congress really came to passing a bipartisan immigration reform bill, before President Obama’s executive action in November of 2014 redrew the battle lines.

Complete with deal-making over secret dinners, walk-and-talk hallway negotiations right out of The West Wing, and dramatic highs and lows, the film is an unforgettable window into modern policymaking.

And with political dialogue around immigration more polarized than ever in the runup to the 2016 presidential election, Immigration Battle is a powerful piece of context for an ongoing national fight.

A festival version of Immigration Battle debuts at the New York Film Festival on Thursday, October 8 at 6 p.m. and Friday, October 9 at 9:15 p.m. For more information, visit


October 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

At the Movies: No Más Bebés

Monday, September 28, 2015

At the Movies: 120 Days


120 Days to Say Goodbye: Immigration Gets Personal

The immigration debate gets personal with the debut feature-length documentary for award-winning filmmaker Ted Roach. Mr. Roach follows family man and undocumented immigrant Miguel Cortes who has been ordered to “voluntarily” leave the country within 120 days by an immigration judge. The film crew joined the Cortes family from the first day in court through Miguel's last official day in the United States, revealing a hidden side of an undocumented society that few Americans ever get to see.

The impassioned filmmaker premiered 120 Days at the Austin Film Festival and was subsequently selected for over 20 festivals, winning 10 awards and garnering 4 nominations and counting.  The film will hold its DC Theatrical Premiere the weekend of October 22-25, with featured screenings in the American University’s Human Rights Film Series, and the Greater Washington Immigration Film Festival. The film will also screen at the Napa Valley Film Festival in November.




September 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Could the Next House Speaker Do More on Immigration Reform?

Water bill floor speech

Bloomberg reports on the possibilities of immigration reform with a new Speaker of the House of Representatives.  With Speaker John Boehner's imminent retirement, the conventional wisdom is that House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), will take his place. "

McCarthy would seem to have an interest in moving forward with immigration reform. His district, based in Bakersfield, California, is 35 percent Latino and heavily dependent on migrant labor for agriculture. But McCarthy has voted against the DREAM Act, voted to defund President Obama's deferred action programs, and voted to end "sanctuary cities."  However, at one point, McCarthy reportedly expressed support for a path to legalization for eligible undocumented immigrants.

McCarthy's official House website says the following on immigration:

"As a nation founded by immigrants, we should to continue embrace the individuals who wait in line and come to the United States legally to work hard and contribute to our society. However, we should not provide any amnesty that would benefit those who defy our laws and enter the United States illegally. In order to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in our country, we must enforce the laws that already exist. In order to do this, we must secure our border by using both physical as well as electronic barriers. We should also ensure that illegal immigrants are not receiving any of the benefits that are reserved for American Citizens."

The Washington Post looks at McCarthy's record and chances for ascendancy to the Speaker post here.

 One of the more interesting tidbits about McCarthy is unrelated to immigration.  New York Magazine reports that Kevin Spacey studied McCarthy while preparing for his role in House of Cards. When Spacey was preparing for the first season of House of Cards, his character, Frank Underwood, was still just a lowly House majority whip — as was Kevin McCarthy. So to put himself into the head of a career politician, Spacey followed McCarthy around the Capitol for several days.



September 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Only in America: Pope Francis Meets Sophie Cruz


When Pope Francis speaks of being an immigrant, he's referring to his birth in Argentina, to Italian parents. He is the first pope in 1,000 years not born in Europe.  Perhaps that is why immigration has been such a prominent story line in his visit to the United States.  Watch the video above and read this heartwarming story about Sophie Cruz, the child of undocumented immigrants, who traveled from Los Angeles to see the Pope and was greeted by him with open arms.

Cyrus Mehta comments on Sophie's meeting with Pope Francis here.


Photo courtesy of CBS News


September 24, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

American Muslims: Fact versus Fiction

This week one of the leading GOP Presidential candidates, Dr. Ben Carson, announced that all  Muslims should be disqualified from ever becoming President of the United States simply based on their faith. In Texas, a 14-year old student was arrested for inventing a clock that his teacher mistook for a bomb. The student happened to be Muslim. These two unfortunate events are only the most recent examples of a rising tide of suspicion and fear distorting the views of a segment of the general public.

This short film seeks to set the record straight -- American Muslims: Facts vs. Fiction. This eleven-minute film is the result of thousands of conversations with hundreds of different communities over the past several years, in which we have heard our American neighbors ask the same bias-skewed questions about their Muslim neighbors over and over. The assumptions embedded in these questions, assumptions instilled by the mainstream media, don't match up with the facts on the ground‹who American Muslims are, what they represent, and how they live their lives here.



September 23, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015



Photo courtesy of Hispanic Heritage

During National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15), we recognize the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate their heritage and culture.

Hispanics have had a profound and positive influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work, and service. They have enhanced and shaped our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multiethnic and multicultural customs of their community.

Hispanic Heritage Month, whose roots go back to 1968, begins each year on September 15, the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile and Belize also celebrate their independence days during this period and Columbus Day (Día de la Raza) is October 12.

President Obama issued this proclamation yesterday on Hispanic Heritage Month.



September 15, 2015 in Books, Current Affairs, Film & Television, Music, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace Donald Trump as 'Celebrity Apprentice' host

Azealia Banks Agrees With Donald Trump On Immigration?


It seems that everyone, including Inqusitr, watch the social media posts of celebrities.  Rapper Azealia Banks took to Instagram to express apparent support for the hard-line anti-illegal immigration policy advanced by Donald Trump, the current GOP front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination.

Banks posted the following Instagram message.

“Do you think it’s bad that I sort of agree with Trump’s stance on immigration? Not for any reason other than black Americans still not having been paid reparations for slavery and the influx [of] INTERNATIONAL immigrants (not just Mexicans), are sucking up state aid, and government money, space in schools, quality of life etc.?? It’s selfish, but America has been really good at convincing me that everyone else’s problems are more important than my own. I want my f*****g money!!…Me first!!!…Thoughts?"


September 14, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

At the Movies: Meet the Undocumented Immigrant Who Works in a Trump Hotel