Saturday, October 6, 2012

Disagree with Gabriela Saucedo Mercer and She Will Censor You

Disagree with Gabriela Saucedo Mercer and She Will Censor You

On October 2, 2012, a tragic event occurred near the U.S./Mexico border.  U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie lost his life and another agent was badly wounded.  From what I have read and heard, Ivie was an exceptional CBP agent who once carried a severely wounded pregnant woman 1 1/2 miles to safety through the treacherous Arizona desert.  Agent Ivie was survived by his wife and two daughters.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and colleagues.

Rather than honoring a life lost and just offering condolences, some politicians attempted to capitalize on Nick's death for political gain.  Arizona Governor Jan Brewer immediately released a statement, "Arizonans and Americans will grieve, and they should, but this ought not only be a day of tears. There should be anger, too. Righteous anger -- at the kind of evil that causes sorrow this deep, and at the federal failure and political stalemate that has left our border unsecured and our Border Patrol in harm’s way. Four fallen agents in less than two years is the result."

Gabriela Saucedo Mercer, who has for two years made immigration one of the primary focuses of her campaign for U.S. congress in Arizona's Third District, went beyond Brewer's comments.  The day of this tragedy, Mercer recklessly posted on Facebook: "And yet another one of our finest Border Patrol Agent is murdered by illegals and one seriously wounded. And some people don't want me to talk about the wide open borders in Arizona? My heart and prayers go out to the families of the Border Patrol Agents involved in this tragedy." 

Yes, Saucedo Mercer somehow knew that Agent Ivie was “murdered by illegals” without any concrete evidence to back up her claim.  Even more tragically, on October 5, the FBI confirmed that Agent Ivie was killed by friendly fire.  The FBI came to this conclusion through investigative, forensic and analytical tests.   It is interesting to note how Saucedo Mercer gets her political agenda stated first and then sends her thoughts and prayers to the family.  That's all class!

Once this information was released by the FBI, numerous individuals, including myself, went to Saucedo Mercer’s Facebook page and demanded that she retract her reckless and ill-advised earlier comments and publicly apologize.  Saucedo Mercer, who holds herself out to be a defender of the Constitution and individual liberties, reacted in appropriate fashion: She erased the comments from any person who criticized her post and blocked us all.  I guess Saucedo Mercer forgot about the 1st Amendment. 

Ivie’s legacy will live on through his family and other hard-working and well meaning Border Patrol agents.  It was a life lost way too young.  Sadly, however, as of the writing of this blog, Saucedo Mercer continues to leave this misinformation on her Facebook page.  For that reason alone, she should continue to get questioned about her commitment to running an honest campaign. 

We live in an era where anyone can pretty much say anything without any truth, and some uninformed person will believe it.  If that’s the sort of political game Saucedo Mercer wants to play, good luck with that.  However, by censoring detractors and fact checkers, her actions demonstrate that she is undeniably unprepared to be a congresswoman and deal with individuals who disagree with her or protect our constitutional right to free speech.

A DACA Pep Talk

A DACA Pep Talk

The past few months have been both exciting and terrifying for undocumented youth.  Exciting for the opportunity to apply for an employment authorization document and contribute to this country.  Terrifying to not know what is going to happen after the November 6 election.  However, yesterday was another sobering reminder that while we have made some good strides, we have a long way to go.  It was a reminder that while we can rejoice over the Deferred Action policy we must continue to push our elected officials beyond just a DREAM Act.  We need a DREAM Act Plus, also known as Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

So, what happened yesterday?  One of the most prominent faces in the current immigrant rights movement, Jose Antonio Vargas, was arrested and charged with driving without a valid driver’s license. No, this did not happen in Arizona.  It happened in Minneapolis-St. Paul which continues to operate in Secure Communities.

According to the MinnPost, Jose was released approximately 2 ½ hours later.  But, what if the person wasn’t a Pulitzer prize winning journalist?  What if Jose was not released and an ICE hold was placed on him?  Jose is 31 years old and because of his age he does not qualify for the current program called Deferred Action (DACA).  He is a low priority according to the ICE guidelines, but you never know what can happen when an ICE officer has all the discretionary power.

The election is a perfect time to hold all political figures accountable for their past and future decisions. 

Since Jim Lehrer neglected to address immigration as a domestic policy in the first debate, I suppose we’ll hear about it in one of the upcoming debates.  Both presidential candidates should provide their plans for reform and define their differences and similarities.

We need to know whether Governor Mitt Romney will deport a person like Jose?  If elected president, will he deport Jose’s parents?  Will he deport someone who is not as decorated as Jose?  Will he continue to support state-based immigration laws like SB-1070?  Will he continue to flip back-and-forth on immigration or show some backbone and stick with a position?  These questions should be directly asked of him and he should give us straight answers. 

We need to know what are President Obama’s exact plans for passing comprehensive immigration reform.  Does he really believe that he can get reform passed if re-elected?   Does he truly believe that congress will work with him and why?  Why is ICE still detaining low priority individuals and deporting them when there is a policy that they are not supposed to be doing this?  We need a plan, not lip service.

Moral of the story: this is not a time to let your guard down.  If you have applied for DACA and you already have your biometrics appointment or your work permit this is a time to celebrate, but don’t forget the others who are currently left out in the cold.  If you have not been involved with local advocacy, get involved.  If you are involved, keep it up!  Hold your local elected officials and candidates accountable.  Volunteer for candidates that support immigrant-friendly policies. Share your stories. Blog. Write Op-eds.  Make sure that like-minded U.S. citizens register to vote.  Get your brothers, sisters, parents and friends involved in the movement.

Advocates that have pushed for DACA should be proud of the results of their hard work.  But, we must continue to push for a broader reform that can benefit the entire undocumented community and make for a more rational path to this country for future flows of immigrants. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Most Intriguing Story You'll Ever Read About...Handball?

What does the sport of handball mean to you?   Probably not much. 

It meant something to President Abraham Lincoln, who played handball as he awaited the results of the presidential nominating convention in Chicago in May 1860.

Over the past couple years I found out what handball means to Luis Moreno.  It is a gateway to fulfilling his dreams in the United States. 

Envision this timeline of events:

·         Luis last entered the United States in 1997, when he was only nine years old, but had lived in the U.S. since he was two.

·         A graduate of Tucson's Sunnyside High School, Luis lived much of 22 years in the United States without documentation.

·         Last week Luis became a lawful permanent resident based on his extraordinary abilities as a handball player.

·         Next week Luis will represent the United States, the only country he has ever known, in the World Handball Championships in Ireland.  He is a favorite to win it all.

Luis is yet another example of how complicated it is to navigate through the draconian U.S. immigration system. Luis was 20 years old when he was arrested by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Tucson airport, while attempting to travel to a handball tournament.  He was not married, had no children and had little hope in fighting his removal case.  Fortunately, there was a long forgotten document that Luis did not realize would ultimately save him.

In 2000, Luis was introduced to the Yes-2-Kids organization which provides mentoring to children in at-risk neighborhoods in Tucson.  He was introduced to the sport of handball and quickly became enamored with it.  By 2003 he began to compete in major tournaments and rapidly shot up the national junior rankings.  Eventually he reached number one on the World Pro Handball Tour.  

Gloria Goldman met with Luis and immediately realized that he was an individual who embodied extraordinary ability in athletics.  He was undoubtedly at the top of his field.  After discussing his family’s immigration history, she also realized that if she filed an I-140 petition as an individual with extraordinary ability and got an approval, Luis would benefit from that aforementioned document: An I-130 petition filed by his grandmother on behalf of his father on September 7, 1994.  Luis would be the beneficiary of INA §245(i) as a minor derivative of a “grandfathered alien” from that petition.  Without 245(i) he would have no other options to straighten out his immigration status and remain in the U.S. permanently.

            To be considered “extraordinary” under the immigration law, the applicant must be “one of that small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.”  Luis was number one in the world.  You would probably guess that number one is rising to the top of the field.  Not according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which denied his petition on September 16, 2011.

            Not to be deterred, Gloria and Luis regrouped and re-filed the petition on June 1, 2012.  Fortunately, this time around, the USCIS officer granted the petition.  Luis was one step closer to becoming a resident.  One final step remained: With only a few months until the World Championships Luis was able to get his removal case terminated and September 27, 2012, adjust his status to lawful permanent residency.

            In the matter of a month, Luis Moreno has gone from being undocumented and facing some grim uncertainty about his future to now representing a country that he loves in the highest level of competition.  Whatever the results from his competition in Ireland, he knows that he will be welcomed back to the United States.  He’s another example of what individual perseverance and wise immigration policy can lead to.