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New NADBank Bill Expands U.S.-Mexico Collaboration

13 Jul

By Tina Kosikowski at MATT.org

U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, has recently filed a bill titled H.R. 2216: NADBank Enhancement Act of 2011, allowing the North American Development Bank (NADBank) to finance new types projects improving border infrastructure and transportation. The bill would essentially allow the Mexican and U.S. government to negotiate financing on projects with the intent of promoting growth in trade and commerce between the two nations.

Congressman Ruben Hinojosa stated, “We must continue our efforts to improve the economic development and safety in the border areas of both the United States and Mexico.”

Geronimo Gutierrez, Managing Director of the NADBank, “We support this timely legislation in that it would allow the Bank to address a broader array of infrastructure needs in the border region that would help foster economic development and improve the bilateral trade relationship, ultimately for the benefit of all border residents in the United States and Mexico.”

Mexico State Vote May Help PRI

3 Jul

by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org

Today, millions of Mexicans will be voting to elect governors in three states, but the real focus is on Mexico’s presidential race next year.

The  Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) , which ruled Mexico for 70 years, hopes victories will help cement its steady march to retake the presidency. The PRI was toppled from the nation’s top office in 2000 and has been attempting a comeback ever since.

In voting expected to shape the 2012 presidential contest, the largest number of ballots was being cast in the state of Mexico, a region with 15 million people and Mexico’s most populous state. This key ballot is also a popularity test for the outgoing governor, Enrique Pena Nieto, an early favorite to win back the presidency for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.   Eruviel Avila, the PRI candidate for governor, led pre-election opinion polls by a large margin, and he was widely expected to win. “Democracy wins today,” Avila said as he cast his ballot on an overcast morning.

Pictured: Eruviel Ávila Villegas

Despite his advantages, Avila campaigned hard and reportedly spent millions of dollars to woo voters. The PRI clearly hopes that a landslide will enhance the image that the party is unstoppable ahead of 2012.

Avila’s opponents, Alejandro Encinas of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and Luis Felipe Bravo Mena of the conservative National Action Party’s (PAN), have trailed in opinion surveys and been hurt by infighting in their respective political camps. Their negotiations aimed at forming electoral alliances between the PRD and the PAN have collapsed in their efforts to stand up to the PRI.

But the PRI has also had to confront its own legacy. Its decades of rule, when the party controlled governments, unions and media across the nation, were marked by corruption and heavy-handedness. Its opponents warn that PRI’s claims that it has reformed and modernized are bogus.

Coahuila and Nayarit will also be electing governors today. These two states have seen a dramatic rise in drug killings over the past year, a critical liability for Calderon who has staked his legacy on fighting powerful cartels since taking office in late 2006. With drug violence surging over the past four years and more than 40,000 deaths to date, some voters are fed up.

Morgan Freeman and Carlos Santana Oppose Georgia Legislation

15 Jun

by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org

In support of Carlos Santana’s courageous stand against Georgia’s nativism, Morgan Freeman recently said in a CNN interview,

“What would you do with Carlos Santana? Send him back? He’s a national treasure. What would you do with him? The legislature here in Georgia, the legislature there in Arizona, that is absolutely un-American–completely. That’s the kind of discrimination that we now have to–it’s gonna be our next civil rights struggle–is immigration. We are a magnet for people, we want to continue to be that. If you’re not that, then you’re not who you say you are. What does it mean to be an American anymore?”

The comment came following Georgia’s recent passing and signing of HB 87, a draconian measure similar to that of Arizona’s SB 1070 that shreds the Civil Rights of the state’s Latino population. HR 87 authorizes state and local police the federal powers to demand immigration papers from people they suspect to be undocumented. Those without papers on request will find themselves behind bars.

As sports writer Dave Zirin reports in The Nation, Santana—who was receiving an award at the Major League Baseball’s annual Civil Rights Game—assailed the people of Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere who support such hateful measures: Santana took the microphone and said that he was representing all immigrants. He added, “The people of Arizona, and the people of Atlanta, Georgia, you should be ashamed of yourselves.” Sadly, the cheers quickly turned to boos–which isn’t surprising, considering the crowd. Yes, Carlos Santana was booed on Civil Rights Day in Atlanta for talking about Civil Rights.

“This law is not correct. It’s a cruel law, actually. This is about fear.”

After being introduced by entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte, Santana accepted the Beacon of Change, which is given to a person who “impacts society through words and actions.”

On top of winning 10 Grammy Awards, selling more than 90 million records and being enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Santana runs The Milagro Foundation, which benefits underserved and vulnerable children around the world.

It’s supremely important, because that’s what I learned in the ’60s,” Santana said about giving back. “I listened to B.B. King and Tito Puente and Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez and Mother Teresa, so it all became just one. The Beatles, ‘All You Need Is Love.’ We’re still here from the ’60s. We’re hippies, man.

That same day, Freeman, who was introduced by the first African-American pitcher to start a World Series game, Don Newcombe, spoke about how he never thought he did enough outside of his success as an actor, until he was reminded in the video montage that played just before he took the stage.

Freeman’s films — “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Million Dollar Baby” and many others — have made him an Academy Award winner and one of the top-grossing actors of all-time.

“‘Hope’ is like a dream,” Freeman said. “No dream, no life. You always have to have hope. You want to have it, you want to give it, you want to offer it.”

Indeed, there is hope that Georgia’s legislation will change. Last week, Georgia was sued for interfering with the federal government in matter of immigration. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a host of Civil Rights groups in the Atlanta’s federal district court.

Civil Rights hero, Atlanta’s John Lewis, has spoken out forcefully against the legislation, saying “This is a recipe for discrimination. We’ve come too far to return to the dark past.”

Calderon Gives Commencement Speech at Stanford

13 Jun

by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org

It has become an increasingly prestigious honor to address the graduating classes of the U.S’s top universities at commencement every June. In the past decade alone, Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, Condoleezza Rice, Sandra Day O’Connor, Steve Jobs, Tom Brokaw, Oprah Winfrey and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Anthony Kennedy have delivered commencement speeches to graduating classes.

Yesterday, President Felipe Calderon joined the ranks of notables who have delivered the Commencement address at Stanford University. “President Calderón assumed office at one of the most challenging times in the history of his nation, and is a respected foreign leader who has been involved in public service and advocacy for his entire life,” said Stanford University President John Hennessy. “He is committed to finding solutions to a number of national and global problems, ranging from combating drug cartels to comprehensive immigration reform and arms control. His views on a life devoted to solving pressing problems and to improving society will be particularly meaningful to our graduates, as will his experience leading a nation so vitally intertwined with the future of California and the United States.”

PCalderón took time after the Commencement ceremony to address and take photos with some of the Mexican students graduating from Stanford

Jeff Wachtel, Senior Assistant to the President of the Board of Trustees, said that the senior class presidents viewed Calderón’s selection as a timely one. “Right now, we believe, is a very significant time in relations between the U.S. and Mexico, particularly California and Mexico,” Wachtel said. “We feel that Calderón, drawing from his experiences in public policy, can give a very powerful speech to us as an outgoing world leader to future world leaders.

The selection, per usual, dis not come without controversy. While many seniors were appreciative of the opportunity to hear words of wisdom from such a prominent political figure, others objected to Calderón’s invitation based on how he has conducted policy in his country, particularly his deployment of troops to drug-trafficking regions in Mexico.“There’s always some negative reaction to every speaker we select,” Wachtel said. “The amount of reaction varies. Even someone as popular as Oprah had some negative reaction.”

Putting aside politics, Calderón related to the graduating class in terms that transcended current affairs, urging students to “do what so many said was impossible.” Stanford President John Hennessy told the crowd that Calderón had listened in class as his peers described their modest ambitions, while Calderón announced that he was one day going to be “president of the republic.” He achieved that goal in 2006, when he was 44 years old, in the party his father helped found.

Many among you will be successful men and women, lawyers and writers,” Calderón said. “But beyond becoming a great doctor or engineer, the key to life is to graduate as a human being.”

 

Divisive Anti-Latino Legislation a Poor Strategy

10 Jun

by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org

To anyone standing on the sidelines of the Texas legislature’s current special session, one thing has become abundantly clear: bill proposals such as the contentious “sanctuary cities” bill will cripple Latino support for the Republican party and limit Perry’s political ambitions.

Perry announced earlier this week that he was expanding the call for a special session to include the abolishment of sanctuary cities–that is, a jurisdiction where law enforcement officials do not apprehend individuals and check their immigration status to determine whether they are in the country illegally– and a requirement that people applying for driver’s licenses verify their immigration status. Fortunately, the bill died in the Texas Senate’s Transportation and Homeland Security Committee.

Perry’s adamance on addressing immigration issues during the session is rumored to be a strategic move towards a presidential run, but his designation of two sideshow issues as “emergency” legislation, when lawmakers should be spending every possible moment on the state’s budget crisis, is a continuation of his campaign tactics, which were to do everything possible to deflect voters’ attention from his mediocre record in Texas.

Abolishing sanctuary cities in Texas, using the federal Secure Communities program and ensuring that only individuals who are here legally can obtain a valid Texas driver’s license sends a clear message that Texas will not turn a blind eye to those breaking our laws.” The so-called sanctuary cities bill prohibits cities, counties and school districts from stopping their law enforcement officers from enforcing federal immigration laws.

There is a broad agreement throughout the state, regardless of geography and political persuasion, that law enforcement should be encouraged to do their jobs to the best of their abilities,” he said. He added that a lot of the criminal activity the bill seeks to address occurs in “urban centers and minority communities,” and pointed out that every Hispanic Republican in the Texas House supports the sanctuary cities legislation. Apparently, he now believes that taking law enforcement officers away from their existing duties does not pose a danger to citizens.

On a brighter note, at least he’s avoided Arizona-style legislation in Texas, which has caused nothing but an economic disaster in Arizona. “If you want to find out if we can actually survive deporting these people, go look at what has happened in Arizona. They are in the biggest economic collapse of history,” Perry said. “Apartments are empty, houses are being repossessed and strip centers are half empty. It’s terrible.”

 There are 9 million Hispanics in Texas, many of whom voted for Perry in the last election. Of these 9 million Hispanics, 500,000 are military veterans and former law enforcement officers. 

If he continues with such ill-adivised tactics, Perry’s approach will incur the wrath of the large proportion of Hispanic voters who view such legislation as discriminatory — and provide Democrats with an issue around which they could possibly mobilize (i.e. increase) Hispanic voter participation in 2012 (both at the state level in Texas’ county, state legislative and congressional elections and nationally in the event of a Perry presidential candidacy).

At the end of the day you should understand that Hispanic voters will not support a party that wants to deport their mother and father,” Norman Adams, the co-founder of Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy and a member of Texas GOP Vote, a conservative website, stated in an e-mail exchange with Ray Sullivan, Perry’s chief of staff.

It seems that we should focus on recruiting Hispanics to the Republican ranks,” he wrote. “It appears this bill might accomplish just the opposite, writes Dr. Steve Hotze, chairman of Conservative Republicans of Texas.

I applaud Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, who said that above all, lawmakers should concentrate their discussions on budgetary allocations for education and healthcare instead of diverting into the hot-button immigration issues. Lucio said the anti-immigration legislation “turns human beings into crime scenes” while ignoring the potential impacts on border families.

Our immigration system is broken,” Lucio said. “However, reform needs to be driven from the federal level and must put families first.”

Mexican National Wins Asylum Case in San Antonio

6 Jun

by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org

Even the most virulent protester against immigration can’t have people like Jose Luis Anguiano-Aguirre in mind. Last week, the Mexican National escaping the drug violence in Mexico won Withholding of Removal as a member of a social group that suffered past persecution — making him the first reporter to receive asylum since Mexico’s bloody drug war erupted and cartels began targeting the media to silence coverage.

In an unprecedented decision, the Immigration Judge granted withholding of removal pursuant to Section 241(b)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to a Mexican National targeted by the drug cartels in Mexico for his work against their drug trafficking activities.

As drug violence has worsened in Mexico, businesspeople, law enforcement figures, journalists and other professionals have been seeking refuge in the U.S. But individuals seeking refuge in this country face an uncertain future: If their asylum applications are rejected, they can be deported to Mexico, to face near-certain retaliation from the cartels. To avoid such a fate, they can try to strike a deal with U.S. authorities to provide information about drug trafficking in Mexico. Or they can try to remain in this country illegally.  The U.S. receives nearly 3,000 asylum requests from Mexico each year, but just 252 of those cases were granted between 2005 and 2009, and government sources and immigration attorneys suggest the number of requests is increasing.

Despite the violence gripping Mexico, fear of being hurt isn’t sufficient grounds for asylum. Cases hinge on proving that a person is being persecuted because of race, religion, political views, nationality or membership in a particular social group.

The Immigration Judge found that because the Mexican National participated in and work with the Mexican police to prevent the trafficking of drugs into the United States, but was not a member of the Mexican police or could be associated with the law enforcement authorities, he met the requirements for persecution on account of a particular social group. The Immigration Judge in a twenty page opinion, detailed the evidence that supported the finding that the Mexican National should be granted relief pursuant to Section 241(b)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

In the opinion the Immigration Judge emphasized that the evidence shows that the Mexican National’s life or freedom would be threaten if returned to Mexico. In fact, the Immigration Judge pointed out that “the country conditions documentation in the record indicated that drug violence in Mexico has increased since [Mexican National] fled his country… as the brutality and violence used to silence individuals who are perceived to be against or interfering with the operations of the cartels.” The Immigration Judge stated that even internal relocation would be a problem because ” the country conditions documentation supports the proposition that many Mexican officials in law enforcement are corrupt and assisting the drug cartels.” Finally, the Immigration Judge reiterated that “drug related violence in Mexico is a countrywide phenomenon–since 2009,the Department of State has urged American citizens to use extreme caution when traveling to Mexico.

Because of the sensitive nature of this decision and the specific circumstances under which this decision was granted, further details regarding the decision have not been disclosed.

As the violence escalates in Mexico, Mexican Nationals who are victims of the criminal enterprise and the corrupt government officials should be given the opportunity to seek refuge in the United States. The Anguiano-Aguirre is a victory and precedent for those who are fleeing the violence.

What You’ve Been Missing: Good News on Mexico

4 Jun

I am always on the hunt for good news about Mexico and the Americas. Something to distract me from titles like, “Border Bloodshed” and the “Immigration Problem”. If you dare to focus on Mexico in a positive way, does that make you crazy?

Courtesy of México Today's Facebook page

A friend of mine at ProMéxico, shared a Facebook page with me called, México Today. Thanks to a post on their page, I armchair traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula from the comfort of my desk, drinking my morning coffee.

México Today gives you something hard to come by: good news and an insiders perspective on what you’re missing in Mexico.

Their call to action: “…tell Mexico’s stories as part of a vibrant community of Mexico enthusiasts. Whether you’re an art and travel guru or intrigued by infrastructure and the economy, share your viewpoint here.

I’m hooked. After getting a dose of reality from my Google Alert “Mexico, binational” (try it yourself), I log onto México Today to get in touch (and go a little crazy) with the country’s good side.

Try listening to Gnarles Barkley’s song “Crazy” while checking out the site…

Yeah, I was out of touch.

But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough.

I just knew too much…

Does that make me crazy? Possibly…