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Archive for December, 2008

Democratic Congresswoman Hilda Solis of California will be Barack Obama‘s pick for labor secretary as the president-elect fills the last open positions in his Cabinet, a labor official told The Associated Press on Thursday. Hilda Solis is the first Latina that has been selected to serve on Barack Obama’s cabinet.

Solis, is the daughter of Mexican and Nicaraguan immigrants. She has been the only member of Congress of Central American descent. She just won a fifth term representing heavily Hispanic portions of eastern Los Angeles County and east LA.

Huffington Post

Associated Press

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President-elect Barack Obama has named Colorado Senator Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior.

The appointment rounds out Obama’s environment and energy team.

Salazar is a first-term Colorado Senator who has established a name for himself on public lands and energy resources issues. He headed the Colorado Natural Resources Department from 1990 through 1994. The Interior Department has broad oversight over the nation’s energy resources and environment. It oversees oil and gas drilling on public lands and manages the nation’s parks and wildlife refuges.

Senator Salazar, 53, is in his first term in the Senate after serving as his state’s attorney general and executive director of its department of natural resources. He is one of two Latino Senators currently serving in Congress. His brother, John Salazar has been mentioned as his possible successor.

Washington Post

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latino-immigrantsWhile unemployment affects all segments of the population, legal and undocumented Latino workers have been particularly hard hit. The Hispanic unemployment rate hit 8.8 percent in October, outpacing the national figure of 6.5 percent.

The rising joblessness coincides with slowing remittance rates, delivering another blow to Latin American economies. These economies both depend heavily on money from immigrants. Remittances decreased worldwide from a 16 percent annual increase in 2007 down to only seven percent in 2008. In October, the Inter-American Development Bank forecasted that this year, for the first time since 2000, remittances to Latin America would decrease in value when adjusted for inflation.

The Americas Society, an organization dedicated to education, debate, and dialogue in the Americas, reports that Latin American migrants to the United States find themselves contemplating the idea of returning home. They are facing difficulties holding down jobs in hard-hit sectors such as construction as well as stiffer immigration enforcement that include random workplace raids. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Latin American immigrants are moving back home and notes that even circular migration across the border may drop as Mexicans return home permanently.

The Foreign Minister of Mexico, Patricia Espinosa, recently stated,” We have to face the possibility of a very large number of Mexicans coming home.” She added, “Currently, the government is trying to prepare schools and social agencies for an influx of poor migrants.”

The America’s Quarterly, a publication of the Americas Society, recently released their post-election edition which features a series of essays titled, Memos to the President Elect. In that edition, the leaders of Latin American countries encourage the President- Elect to build stronger ties with the region as well as how the U.S economic turmoil has affected Latin America.

The Arizona Republic

Americas Society

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A new study finds that Latinos face financial challenges when attending college, organizations like The Hispanic College Fund are providing much needed assistance. …

A new report by the College Board, titled “Coming to Our Senses: Education and the American Future,” provided a sobering assessment of the country’s educational attainment. Specifically, the report revealed some alarming statistics about the college completion rates of Latinos.

“Faced with potentially high expenses, while in the dark about aid amounts, many first-generation, college-going students are discouraged from applying,” the study concluded.

Many Latino youths are the first generation in their families to attend college and face greater disadvantages than their Asian and white counterparts. College graduation rates were significantly lower among minority groups; just 26 percent of African-Americans and 18 percent of Latinos and Hispanics have at least an associate degree.

During these troubled economic times, Latino students face greater challenges with increases in tuition and decreases in enrollment numbers at many state schools. According to Forbes Magazine, Florida institutions may hike tuition by as much as 15%. The California State University network is one of the largest public university systems in the nation and is poised to cut enrollment by 10,000 students.

One of the most alarming facts is that the study also found that the odds of getting a college education depend more on geography, income, race and ethnicity than on ability and effort. For example, in Arizona, white young adults are twice as likely to be enrolled in college as their Latino peers. If trends such as these continue, we are likely to see large income gaps along racial lines as Latinos will continue to find themselves at a disadvantage in comparison to their white counterparts.

The College Board report established a goal of ensuring that 55 percent of Americans earn a college degree by 2025. To help achieve this, it called for free preschool for low-income families, improved college counseling, more rigorous high school coursework, stepped up recruitment of low-income students, and increased financial aid. Latino children and youth would benefit immensely from these types of reforms and we should collectively work to ensure programs such as these are enacted at the state and federal levels.

While many marvel in the tremendous population growth that Latinos are expected to have in the next decades, it is difficult to imagine significant progress for our community and the states in which we reside if these trends continue. For example, a study conducted by The Public Policy Institute of California revealed that the Golden State with its large Latino population will face a shortage of college graduates by the year 2025.

Gaston Caperton, President of the College Board explained, “A nation’s success lies largely on the quality of its human resources. Without well-educated citizens, we will struggle economically and socially.”

Some organizations are already working hard to increase the number of Latinos college graduates. The Hispanic College Fund is committed to helping students afford a college education. In 2008, the Hispanic College Fund awarded $2 million in scholarships to more than 600 students from across the nation. Despite the economic downturn, we will continue to help low-income students achieve a college education. Students are encouraged to apply at www.hispanicfund.org/scholarships. The Hispanic College Fund scholarship applications open December 15, 2008. It is critical to get the word out, for our nation’s students and our nation’s economy.

Check out Hispanic College Fund president, Idalia Fernandez’s Comcast interview on how to apply for scholarships in 2009: Watch Video

The Boston Globe

Forbes.com

Los Angeles Times

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Another Victim of Hate

In July of this year, Luis Ramirez was beaten to death by a gang in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. In August, a Staten Island man rammed his vehicle into the storefronts of three Latino merchants. Last month, a gang hunted down and stabbed Marcelo Lucero to death in Patchogue, Long Island.

This list of hate attacks continues to grow with the brutal beating of yet another Latino immigrant.

Jose Sucuzhanay, a Bushwick, New York business owner, was with his brother Romel on Sunday when he was beaten by a group of men using a bat. He was declared brain dead yesterday.

Police reported that witnesses heard the attackers shout anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs at the brothers. Apparently they mistook Jose and Romel for being gay. According to a witness who was parking his car nearby, a maroon SUV pulled up alongside the brothers and a man inside yelled, “Check out those f—-s over there.” The surviving brother told police he didn’t hear that remark, but he heard one of them yell, “F–k you, Spanish people.”

This is only one of incident in a disturbing trend of increased hate crimes against Latinos. FBI reports indicate that the number of hate crimes against Hispanics has increased by a shocking 40 percent since 2003. More than 62 percent of crimes motivated by bias against ethnicity or national origin are committed against Hispanics. However, it is believed that many incidents go unreported, particularly those aimed at undocumented immigrants.

The victim’s family seems to believe that race was a factor in the crime. Speaking outside the hospital, Diego Sucuzhanay said his brother had been singled out for his skin color and sounded a warning to other immigrants. “Today my brother is the victim, but tomorrow it could be your brother, your mother, your father,” Mr. Sucuzhanay said.

Jose Sucuzhanay was 31 years old and the father of two children.

According to The New York Times, the police labeled the incident as a as, “a possible bias attack.” However, based on the testimonies of witnesses who heard the men yelling racial and anti-gay slurs it seems pretty clear that this is a hate crime and authorities should investigate it as such. Latinos need to continue to draw attention to the increase in hate crimes against our community and demand that authorities take the proper action.

El Diario

NY Times

NY Daily News

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The Hill newspaper is reporting that Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-CA) strongly is considering a bid for the Democratic Caucus Vice Chairmanship if the position becomes available with the departure of Congressman Xavier Becerra. The job will open up if he becomes U.S. Trade Representative. As reported in La Plaza, Becerra met with President-elect Obama last week to discuss the position.

Solis was recently appointed to serve on the House Steering and Policy Committee but is apparently interested in climbing up the leadership ladder.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Becerra stressed that no formal offer has been made, adding that the lawmaker and President-Elect Obama are “continuing their discussions about the job.”

While Becerra would become the second Hispanic to join the upper ranks of the Obama administration, Becerra is the only Hispanic member of the House Democratic leadership team.

His departure would yield “a complete void there,” said a Democratic aide. “In no form or fashion would Hispanics have direct representation at the leadership table.”

This would give Solis an opportunity to argue for her election as the best way to fill that void. Should Becerra leave Congress, the four-term lawmaker will make the “natural transition” pitch to the Caucus, according to aides familiar with her strategy.

According to The Hill, “given the make-up of the caucus, the growing influence that Hispanic voters have in Democratic politics and the commitment from Obama to put comprehensive immigration reform on his agenda, the argument to elect a Hispanic to replace Becerra could resonate.”

Although she has made no official announcement that she will pursue the Vice Chairmanship, in a statement Congresswoman Solis said, “Should Congressman Xavier Becerra elect to leave Congress for another position, I believe it is critical that the leadership of the Democratic Party in the U.S. House of Representatives continue to reflect our nation’s great diversity.”

The Hill

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For Enrique Bautista, a turning point came last year at a Franklin, Tennessee driver’s license office. A worker took his Tennessee issued ID and U.S. government issued green card and disappeared for twenty minutes. When she came back, she said she’d be keeping the documents on suspicion they were fake. Bautista, a legal permanent resident, was stunned. He’d never been in trouble with the law. He’d raised five children in the United States, working hard here for decades.

Last month, he sued the Tennessee Department of Safety and joined the ranks of Tennessee Latinos filing civil rights lawsuits against state and local governments. They’re claiming policies and actions are directly aimed at making Tennessee a less attractive place to settle, even for legal immigrants.

Recently, the driver’s license office sent a letter acknowledging Bautista’s documents were legal. It asked him to come pick them up.

“Thomas Jefferson said all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain infallible rights,” said immigration attorney Elliott Ozment, who is representing Bautista. “The reality is that all people who are present in this country, either legally or undocumented, have certain fundamental rights.”

There could be more to come. Ozment said measures such as the state’s new Illegal Alien Employment Act and Davidson County’s 287(g) program, which gives local deputies limited authority to enforce federal immigration law, are driving ordinary immigrants to denounce acts of discrimination and racism.

Three major cases have been filed this year alone including Bautista’s, one against the city of Nashville over a proposed English-only amendment, and one against the governor and Davidson County Clerk’s Office over marriage licenses. This last lawsuit was filed by local Attorney, Vanessa Saenz.

For Saenz, a U.S. citizen from Puerto Rico, the turning point was a series of phone calls from people looking for help but unwilling to formally protest their inability to obtain a Tennessee marriage license. When the same thing happened to Saenz, who is engaged to an immigrant, she sued Governor Phil Bredesen and Davidson County Clerk John Arriola. She and her fiancé were denied a marriage license when he couldn’t produce a Social Security card. She hired one of Nashville’s best-known civil rights lawyers, George Barrett, and filed suit, claiming the policy was affecting the ability of Tennessee residents to exercise a constitutionally protected right.

The case came to an end in May after the attorney general essentially agreed with Saenz in court documents. He then instructed every county clerk in the state to stop denying marriage licenses to those who could not provide Social Security cards.

The injustices being reported in Tennessee are indeed not isolated cases. Many Latinos all over the United States have reported increases in discrimination. The lack of federal immigration policy has led many states such to take matters into their own hands, and the result has been laws that many times lead to instances of unfairness and inequity towards all immigrants. The hope remains that the new President , the new Homeland Security Department and the new congress will take action to address the myriad of direct and indirect immigration issues many face. In the meantime, immigrants should continue to stand up against the injustice, as Saenz stated, “This is our civil rights movement, what the blacks did in the ’60s, I guess we are going to do in the 2000s.”

The Tenessean.com

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