Republicans do the immigration limbo

30 Nov

Published at 17h35


Here they go again! After having their hats handed to them on Election Day, the GOP has clustered behind closed doors for some serious navel staring. After much discussion, they appear to have discovered what everyone knew all along: It wasn’t just the economy, stupid!

Women didn’t like being talked down to and treated like objects with men deciding what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Gays and lesbians didn’t like paranoid conservatives deciding the nature and legality of their relationships. Hispanics didn’t like being treated like second-class invaders rushing in to steal all the jobs all the Anglos apparently wanted picking tomatoes, plucking chickens in squalid poultry factories, topping onions, or, working the vineyards by hand under the hot sun.

In short, the Republicans discovered that when you craft your policies and your rhetoric to favor rich, old and xenophobic non-Hispanic whites, you become the party of rich, old and xenophobic non-Hispanic whites, which just happens to be a rapidly dwindling demographic.

Everybody knows how the Republicans ran off Latinos. They insisted throughout the entire campaign that the number one issue was the economy and job creation. It was. But it wasn’t the only issue. That’s where they went wrong.

So, throughout the primaries, the Republican candidates tried to out-right each other. With the exceptions of Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, the field of candidates seem to revel in promoting a “boot-’em-out” immigration philosophy. They took turns supporting Arizona’s anti-immigrant crackdown, in all of its disgustingly obvious racial profiling glory. Mitt Romney came up with his now infamous “self-deportation” theory of making life so miserable for undocumented immigrants in the country that you want to, or be forced to if they want to eat, go back to where they came from.

And, just in case anyone was unclear on where the Party stood, the architect of the Arizona law, Kris Kobach, got much of the same harsh anti-immigrant policies codified in the party’s platform.


Apparently treating people like dirt, doesn’t make them want to vote for you. And — shocker! — there’s enough Hispanics now that you can’t win without them.

Worse, the Pew Research Center just came out with a study that shows that Latinos making babies. Babies grow up. And some of them vote. Enough, in fact, that the Hispanic voting population will double by 2030.

If they can’t win without them now, what will the Republicans do then — if the party even exists by then?

Well, survival is an important instinct, even for political parties. As much as they stuck their head in the sand, and try to work their way through this election in denial of the demographics, the turnout and the vote on November 6 was proof that none of them can deny anymore. So now, the Republicans want to change their tune on immigration.

“Just kidding! We didn’t really mean we want to kick you out. We want you to stay. But…”

The “but” is the challenge. The Republicans want to seem like they’re really trying to change their thinking and their philosophy about immigration, i.e. Hispanics, but what they’re offering up is, at best, a joke. At worst, it’s an insult. Most likely, it’s somewhere in between — either an unintentional racist faux pas, or a sloppily and thinly veiled political sleight of hand.

The Republicans have brought forward two proposals. One is called the ACHIEVE Act, which is their variation of the DREAM Act. The other is the STEM Jobs Act of 2012.

Naturally, the GOP is trotting out some of its prominent players to tell everybody what a wonderful bill it is. Including, of course, Hispanic House Republicans like Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart from Florida.

“I applaud Majority Leader Cantor for the effort he is making to keep families together through H.R. 6429, STEM Jobs Act of 2012,” Diaz-Balart said in an email statement. “The bill will make up to 55,000 visas available to qualified immigrants who have a doctorate degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). Current law provides a visa only for the qualified individual. This version of the bill expedites the visa authorization process for their spouses and children, and facilitates the reunification of these families.

“By extending visas to the family members, we can ensure that these families stay together, simply because it is the right thing to do. This bill not only keeps these families together, but promotes innovation, investment, and research in the United States. STEM graduates create the new businesses that promote economic growth and job creation.”

Sounds great.

It’s not.

What the act really offers is a legal limbo for what amounts to less than a handful of highly qualified and educated immigrants in fields vital to the nation’s strength and growth.

What it offers is:

– legal residency, but no way of becoming a citizen.

– 55,000 visas, which is barely a drop in the bucket of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country. It’s barely a drop in the bucket for the estimated 800,000 young undocumented immigrants whose deportations were halted by President Barack Obama in June.

– and Democrats insist it takes away 50,000 visas from people who don’t have PhD’s and master’s degrees.

So, cutting through Diaz-Balart’s biased partisan self-promotion, what it offers is little more than a feel-good snow job to make it look like the Republicans are embracing immigration reform.

The ACHIEVE Act is no better. Some of called it the DREAM Act Lite. But it’s really more of a DREAM Act Snipe.

Where the DREAM Act offers those young immigrants brought here as children a path to citizenship if they go to college or serve in the military, the ACHIEVE Act repeats the STEM Act’s limbo dance. they can have residency, but not become citizens.

Small wonder, then, that the Democrats are up in arms, and that the Hispanic Caucus on Capitol Hill has repudiated the bill.

“The problem with the ACHIEVE Act is it does not achieve the dream,” Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) said during a news conference Wednesday morning.

Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s reaction to the STEM Act was even more vitriolic. He accused the Republicans of “loading up the measure with provisions that are a slap in the face to the core values of the United States.

“If you support this bill, you are saying that one group of immigrants is better than another and one type of educated, degree-holding person and their work is more important than another’s.”

If this is really the best that our political leaders can do, then they’re not very good at leading or in knowing what their constituents really want. It’s time to end the political games, and accept the political reality. It’s time to listen to the nation’s Hispanics and to understand that we believe in the American dream. And we want to make this country great, too, if you let us.

The opinions expressed here are those of the bloggers and celebrity guest writers and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Terra, Terra’s affiliates, subsidiaries, parent companies, clients and partners. They should not be attributed thereto.

Mitt and Barry do lunch: BFF’s? Or frenemies with forks?

29 Nov

Published at 17h22


Oh, so now they’re best buds. Yeah, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, that’s who.

Less than a month after the election, less than a month after one of the meanest, bitterest, and most divisive campaigns in presidential history, Mitt and Barry are doing lunch.

Maybe it’s supposed to be a sign that democracy works. No matter how ugly things get in the heat of the campaign, no matter what kind of name-calling, innuendo, and outright lies they tell about each other in the name of “the greater good,” that’s all just political posturing. We’re really all one nation.

The sad thing is, it’s not going to get any better.

The genie’s out of the bottle. Pandora’s political box is open. Insert your own cliché here. The millions upon millions of dollars poured into the fight by anonymous donors — unchecked, unlimited, and unfettered — has changed the face and the nature of political campaigns in a seriously damaging way. It’s the modern-day incarnation of hired guns. The only real difference is that now the weapons are commercials and billboards send mailings, bogus and biased polls. And, instead of actually killing someone, the goal nowadays is character assassination.

The money comes from people like Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who was so determined to defeat Obama, he poured millions into support for Newt Gingrich’s campaign and funded brutally negative anti-Romney ads. Then, when his pick went down in flames, he poured even more millions into support for Romney’s campaign.

Now, of course, all of that nastiness is behind them. So Barack can act magnanimous and show Mitt around the White House and, just to be nice, never once say what’s really on his mind: “thought you’re going to live here, didn’t you Mitt? Well, enjoy the tour. This is the last time you’ll see the inside of this place.”

And Mitt, of course. will have to keep on that same glued on stiff smile we saw all through the campaign and not fall on the floor sobbing and throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the Oval Office.

The lunch itself was set to be served in the White House’s private dining room. It was a promise Obama made in his election night victory speech when he said, “Oh yeah, I’m gonna rub it in his face!”

He didn’t use those exact words, of course.

But everybody knew what he really meant.

Ostensibly, it was just two guys breaking bread together. As the Associated Press described it, “White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama had no specific agenda for the meeting, but he said the president would like to discuss Romney’s ideas for making government more efficient.”

“The president noted that Gov. Romney did a terrific job running the Olympics and that that skills set lends itself to ideas that could make the federal government work better, which is a passion of the president’s,” Carney told the AP.

Carney apparently refrained from voicing all of the things he might have been thinking, such as: “Gov. Romney did a terrific job running the Olympics (and losing the election) and that that skills set lends itself to ideas that could make the federal government work better, (by keeping Republicans out of the White House), which is a passion of the president’s. (Na-ny, Na-ny, boo-boo!)”

According to AP, “Obama aides said they reached out to Romney’s team shortly before Thanksgiving to start working on a date for the meeting.”

That timing means they may have just missed Romney’s visit to Disneyland, as you recall, where he was apparently talking to Goofy about heading up his next campaign.

There’s no telling what Romney will do after the lunch. It is very likely to return to his self-imposed exile in his Southern California mansion since he’s been resoundingly rejected by almost all the members of his party, who now say he was a terrible candidate and that they lost because of them.

One thing is certain, the lunch meeting, while the president is on a full-court press to get tax breaks extended for the middle class but to let them go up for anyone making more than $250,000 a year. He’s bound to make a pitch to Romney, knowing that his former opponent plans to meet with his former running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who happens to be a key player in the negotiations aimed at avoiding going over the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

Heading into the lunch, the big question was what Romney would do as he was leaving. He could, in the words of Paul Simon, “slip out the back, Jack” and into a waiting car without ever speaking to the words of reporters waiting to thrust microphones in his face and hammer him with questions. Or, he could seize the opportunity to describe his plan for working with Obama and the Democrats, and cast himself as a statesman who truly wants the best for the nation.

Then again, he may just grab some Tums.

The opinions expressed here are those of the bloggers and celebrity guest writers and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Terra, Terra’s affiliates, subsidiaries, parent companies, clients and partners. They should not be attributed thereto.

Look out! Cliff ahead!… Not!

28 Nov

Published at 15h42


Republicans and Democrats in Congress are playing brinksmanship. You know, “I’ll do it! I mean it this time!”

Both are threatening to let us go over the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Neither of them really means it.

It’s like watching two kids in a playground. Neither of them really wants to fight, but everybody’s watching them now. So they’re both as afraid of looking like chickens as they are of actually fighting.

So they’re both standing there, nose to nose, daring each other to cross the line. You’ve seen it:

“Go ahead, hit me!”

“No, you!”

The problem is, the Republicans are caught between their wealthy, raise-no-taxes constituents and reality. The problem for the president and the Democrats is, they can’t get their proposal passed without the Republicans.

The Democrats, led by President Barack Obama, want Congress to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class, but to let them lapse for people who make more than $250,000 a year.

Both sides know the government needs to raise taxes. The nation is more than $16 trillion in debt. And, as much as the Republicans like to say so, it’s not all Obama’s fault. Some of it – a massive stimulus package to bail out the economy — is. Some of the reasons — like a couple of wars, paid for on credit from China — date back to Bush’s administration.

Whatever the reason, the reality is that if the government doesn’t raise taxes and/or cut spending, the nation will go bankrupt. It’s really not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.
Both sides know it. And, perhaps because they just got their socks handed to them on election day, the Republicans seem much more open to compromise this time than they ever have been before. Their fierce, “raise no taxes” war cry has quieted.

And some prominent Republicans are even openly saying they might be open to the idea of raising some taxes.

The big challenge for them is doing that, and saving face.

That’s always the challenge for the kids in the playground. How do they back down and not look like losers? How do they do the right thing and not have their friends mad at them and have others laugh at them?

Part of their conundrum comes because of the man named Grover Norquist.

Norquist, as the Washington Post described him, is “a zealous, self-promoting Washington icon who ¬presides over a weekly meeting of top conservative players, has quietly amassed an extraordinary amount of power in the Republican Party without ever being elected to office. The 56-year-old president of Americans for Tax Reform is a former Reagan-era operative who launched his pledge in 1986, wheedling and cajoling so many GOP lawmakers into signing it over the years that it has become a Republican rite of passage. He keeps the source of his power, the original signed pledges, in a secret fireproof safe.”

If somebody refuses to sign, Norquist reportedly has called up every person in a candidate’s district and told them which guy signed, and which guy didn’t.

This time, though, Norquist’s hold on the party seems to be weakening. Maybe.

“The party and conservative movement will no longer be held hostage by a Washington, D.C., lobbyist,” John Weaver, a former top adviser to Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr., told the Post. “Obviously the party will always be the one standing for lower tax rates and more efficient government, but to compete for the right to govern nationally, party leaders must — and ultimately will — act responsibly.”

Naturally, that’s easy for Weaver to say. He’s not a politician, so he doesn’t have to face the voters. But the Republicans who do may be hearing a different tune.

Republican Sen. Saxby Chamblis, a member of the bipartisan Gang of Six which has tried to reach a long-term deal to reduce the deficit, told NPR’s Steve Inskeep just this morning that Obama’s re-election forces a different view of the political landscape.

“The realities are different in this respect, you have a president who has campaigned twice now on raising taxes, and he’s gotten elected twice on that being part of his platform.,” Chambliss said. “A deal’s got to be made. … We can’t afford to go off this fiscal cliff so it’s imperative that we do whatever’s necessary to try to make sure that we spend the time to get a deal done over the next couple of weeks. “

The opinions expressed here are those of the bloggers and celebrity guest writers and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Terra, Terra’s affiliates, subsidiaries, parent companies, clients and partners. They should not be attributed thereto.

The Supreme Court, Latinos and same-sex marriage

27 Nov

Published at 20h12


The stakes are phenomenally high for gay and lesbian couples this week.

Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court Justices meet behind closed doors to decide whether to take on the issue of same-sex marriage.

They could pick any or all of seven appeals that are before the court.

At least two of the cases would set the stage for momentous decisions that would have sweeping consequences for the entire nation.

Five of the cases involve the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. It was overwhelmingly approved by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton.

But two developments over the last year have thrown DOMA into doubt. First, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department would no longer defend the 1996 law. Then, in May, Obama became the first sitting president to publicly voice his support for same-sex marriage.

At the time, people wondered if it was political suicide. The Republican primaries were still in full swing and opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion topped the list of conservative social issues. The question was, if the president’s openly stated position would not only close off any possibility of attracting any of the conservative right, but also push
independent, undecided, or politically liberal but religiously conservative voters over to the Republican side.

Obama’s reelection in November proved the doubters wrong. Election Day also made the issue more pressing when three states approved same-sex marriage and voters in Minnesota, struck down a constitutional amendment that would’ve banned it. That followed an October federal appeals court ruling in New York, declaring a portion of DOMA unconstitutional. Gay-rights advocates see those changes as signs of growing momentum in favor of same-sex marriage across the country.

Election Day exit polls by ABC showed that a significant majority of Hispanics support same-sex marriage. In the nationwide survey, 59 percent said their state should give legal recognition to gay marriage; 32 percent were opposed. That compares to 48 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed among all voters.

Despite the multitude of challenges and decisions in courts across the country, there’s no guarantee that the Supreme Court will add the issue to its coming calendar.

As the L.A. Times pointed out, “For justices, the issue is not just what to decide, but when to decide it. In times past, the court has been faulted for waiting too long or moving too quickly to recognize constitutional rights.”


The Supreme Court struck down state bans on interracial marriage in 1967, 13 years after it found segregation unconstitutional.

Six years later, the court got accused of moving too quickly in striking down state abortion restrictions in Roe v. Wade.

One of the cases before the justices now could have an even bigger impact than a DOMA ruling. It’s an appeal of two rulings striking down Proposition 8, the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

If the Supreme Court decides not to hear the case, gay marriage will remain legal in California. If it takes the case, and decides to let the lower court rulings stand, they could effectively make gay marriage legal for all 50 states.

If the justices do take any of the cases, it will be the third time the court has tackled gay rights.

The first time came in 2003, when the justices struck down Texas’ anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional.

Then, two years ago, a narrow majority of the justices upheld a ruling that a California school could deny recognition of a student group that didn’t allow gay members.

It may be hard for the justices to resist the chance to write a ruling some call the Brown v. Board of Education of the gay rights movement.

But that has same-sex marriage supporters nervous.

“We won the case, and if they don’t take it, our clients have won. They will be allowed to marry,” Ted Olson, the lawyer who got Prop 8 overturned, told the Times. “But if they take the case, it could lead to a broader victory. We believe gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to be treated equally. And if it is a constitutional right, you shouldn’t have to try to win at the ballot box in every state.”

The opinions expressed here are those of the bloggers and celebrity guest writers and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Terra, Terra’s affiliates, subsidiaries, parent companies, clients and partners. They should not be attributed thereto.

Obama’s Mexico meeting: Drug wars and border security

26 Nov

Published at 16h03


Most eyes are on Syria. It’s important. They’re watching Egypt. It’s important. They’re watching Israel and Gaza. It’s important. But while most folks are focused on the Middle East, a meeting at the White House on Tuesday has a much more direct and immediate impact on the people of the United States.

President Barack Obama and the President-elect of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, are scheduled to discuss “broad range of bilateral and regional issues,” according to a statement released by the White House last week.

Translation: They’ll be talking about trade. They’ll be talking about immigration. They’ll be talking about turning the border into something a little more solid than the sieve it is now. And they’ll be talking about drugs.

All are interrelated. And, as pressing and overwhelmingly important as the tensions in the Middle East are, U.S.-Mexico relations and the challenges they face together are a critical national security issue hiding in plain view right now.

Undoubtedly, the Middle East is a tinderbox. And vitally important. The flare-ups there have global implications for a variety of reasons. There’s the oil, of course. There’s the Holy Land. And there’s the ever present danger that fighting there will spread to other nations and fan the flames of war far beyond the region.

But policy changes on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico threaten to upset the delicate and difficult balance that has kept the rampant drug violence in Mexico from exploding in the United States.

Yet, most Americans who don’t live directly along the Rio Grande or who can’t see the lights of Mexican houses from their own backyards think that the problems confronting our neighbor to the south aren’t worth worrying about.

Narcoviolence has killed an estimated 60,000 Mexicans since the country’s soon-to-be former president, Felipe Calderon, sent the military to battle the powerful drug cartels in 2006. But for most Americans, that’s Mexico’s problem.

They ignore the fact that bullets are flying across the border. They ignore the fact that drug smugglers are believed responsible for the murder of Americans on both sides of the dividing line between the two countries. They ignore the fact the bulk of the drugs — marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine — are intended for customers in the United States.They ignore the fact that the narcoviolence is one of the reasons Mexican immigrants sneak across the border with their entire families. To them, a better life means a safer life. One in which they don’t risk losing their children to kidnappings, murder, or accidental deaths from stray bullets or bombs.

And they ignore the fact that Peña Nieto was elected, at least in part, because of his promise to end the violence.

That sounds like a good thing. And it is. For Mexico.

But the means Peña Nieto proposes may pose more of a risk for the United States.

The White House knows it. So the statement Press Secretary Jay Carney issued last week, included tons of diplomatic code:

“President Obama will host President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico at the White House on Tuesday, November 27. The President looks forward to meeting President-elect Peña Nieto and hearing about his vision for leading Mexico over the next six years. They plan to discuss a broad range of bilateral, regional and global issues during their Oval Office meeting. The President welcomes the opportunity to underscore the shared values and strong bonds of friendship between the United States and Mexico. The United States remains committed to work in partnership with Mexico to increase economic competitiveness in both countries, promote regional development, advance bilateral efforts to develop a secure and efficient 21st Century Border, and address our common security challenges.”

Not a single mention of the drug. Not a single mention of narcoviolence or the cartels. And not a single mention of the concerns that Peña Nieto is turning back the clock to a time and a policy in which Mexico bought relative safety for its citizens by giving the drug lords free reign.

Which is why Tuesday’s meeting is so important. Free reign there means more drugs — and, very likely, more violence — here. Obama knows it. The challenge both leaders face is finding a way to stop the traffickers and end the violence, not just one or the other.

The opinions expressed here are those of the bloggers and celebrity guest writers and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Terra, Terra’s affiliates, subsidiaries, parent companies, clients and partners. They should not be attributed thereto.

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Carlos Harrison

Carlos Harrison is an award-winning journalist, editor and writer of 14 books in English and Spanish. Born in Panama, he has covered national and international events for more than 20 years.

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