Will Our Next President Be Another White Male?

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The relentless focus on the Benghazi attack makes me think about 2016. This is about Hillary Clinton after all, isn’t it? If she runs, then let this be her Achilles heel. But what if she doesn’t run? Or runs and loses? After our first president of color, will we put another white male in the White House? Or will we elect a person who represents either half the population or our growing communities of color?

While the current Republican prospects include Latino Senator Marco Rubio and Asian American Governor Bobby Jindal, they are all men nonetheless. Paul Ryan, Chis Christie, Rand Paul and Jeb Bush round out the list.

The Democratic field is far more diverse and inclusive. Aside from Hillary Clinton, names being tossed around include Joe Biden; Governors Andrew Cuomo, Martin O’Malley and Deval Patrick; Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren; and Mayors Cory Booker, Antonio Villaraigosa and Julian Castro.

Of course Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin may try again and perhaps Susana Martinez and Nikki Haley will join the fray.

Twenty-sixteen should be interesting. At the end of the day, however, we need to elect the person best qualified to lead and unify our country as it continues to be more diverse and polarized.

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Landmark Gathering of Filipino-American Leaders in D.C.

Filipino-American leaders from across the country convened for a series of meetings in Washington, D.C. Friday.

The landmark gathering began with the first-ever White House briefing for the Filipino-American community. Participants heard from goverment officials about what the Obama administration has accomplished on issues of importance to the Filipino American community. Representatives from various federal agencies, including the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Homeland Security, and the Small Business Administration spoke at the event.

The briefing was followed by panel discussions on the state and future of the Filipino community, and culminated with the celebration of Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) a solid ally who retires after 36 years of service in Congress.

The series of events was organized by a group of Filipinos in government, advocacy, and research in tandem with Kaya DC. The organizers sought to mobilize participants and raise the visibility and influence of the second largest Asian group in the United States.

Filipinos have been in the U.S. since the 18th century but have remained mostly invisible at the highest levels of government, commerce, the military, and civil society. This gathering marks a new beginning for the next generation of Filipino-Americans who aspire to make a difference and be known not only as world-class singers or boxers but as national leaders.

Originally posted on the Huffington Post, June 26, 2012.

Obama Administration Signals DREAMer Reprieve

dream act activistOn Thursday Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sent a letter to 22 Senators and White House Intergovernmental Affairs Director Cecila Muñoz issued a statement, both in essence saying that undocumented children and youth as well as others not deemed to be serious criminal threats will not be deported.

Napolitano’s letter announced that the Obama Administration has established a new process for handling deportation cases of DREAM Act-eligible students and other individuals.

The process calls for a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) working group to develop specific criteria to identify low-priority removal cases that should be considered for prosecutorial discretion. These criteria will be based on the “Morton Memo” which explains how ICE personnel should use their time, energy and resources in deporting undocumented immigrants and lists the “positive factors” that should be taken into consideration when deciding who should be deported.

These factors favor individuals who have lived in the U.S. since childhood, minors, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, victims of serious crimes, veterans and members of the armed services, and individuals with serious disabilities or health problems. The working group will also develop a process for reviewing the 300,000 cases pending before immigration and federal courts that meet these specific criteria.

Cases scheduled for a hearing within the next couple of months and all 300,000 pending cases will be reviewed individually by ICE attorneys. These cases will be closed except in extraordinary circumstances, where the reviewing attorney must get the approval of a supervisor to move forward. Individuals whose cases are closed will be able to apply for certain immigration benefits, including work authorization. All applications for benefits will also be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Muñoz’s statement explained that this new strategy was developed

“to make sure we use those resources [that Congress gives the Executive Branch] in a way that puts public safety and national security first. If you were running a law enforcement agency anywhere in the world, you would target those who pose the greatest harm before those who do not. Our immigration enforcement work is focused the same way.”

This is welcome news. If the new process is fully and properly implemented, then DREAMers and other individuals whose cases meet the criteria outlined in the Morton Memo will no longer fear separation from their loved ones and adopted country.

Many questions remain however. Aside from work authorization, what other immigration benefits will be afforded to those whose cases have been dismissed? Will undocumented students be eligible for federal student loans?  What about the the millions of others who are not in deportation proceedings?

Comprehensive immigration reform would once and for all solve the many problems that beset our immigration system. But this is nonetheless a step in the right direction.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, August 19, 2011. Reposted on WNYC, It’s a Free Country.