What it’s like to register to vote in Oregon and Texas

Rekha Koirala is a first-time voter. She was born in Bhutan and grew up in a refugee camp in Nepal. She came the the US in 2008 and became a citizen as soon as she was eligible in 2013.

“I grew up not belonging to anywhere,” she says on the phone from Portland. “I was kicked out of my own country.”

For her, the process of becoming a citizen and registering to vote was relatively simple. She remembers the volunteers who helped her fill out a registration card after she took her oath of citizenship — and that was that. Come November, like everyone else in Oregon, she will mail in her ballot.

Studies show that naturalized citizens vote at lower rates than native-born citizens. A 2012 University of Southern California study (PDF), however, points out that this discrepancy is rooted at the registration level. That is to say, when you compare naturalized and native-born citizens who are registered to vote, participation levels are roughly equal.

So for advocates and those who want to empower new Americans in the political system, registering new Americans like Koirala is particularly important.

What’s up in Texas, though? Read on at PRI.

Hollywood is a white boy’s club, says one report. Here’s an antidote.

Meena Ramamurthy is a filmmaker and storyteller. A colleague, another writer of color, once told her: “Don’t write a pilot with two people of color.”

“It doesn’t come from a bad place,” Ramamurthy says. “It just comes from experience.”

If you’ve watched “Master of None” (the “Indians on Television” episode), this probably sounds familiar. Studios, investors, networks — they have not caught up to the changing demographics of their audience. And in the meantime, they’re having a hard time bridging the gap between a new generation of storytellers and their old formulas for what works.

So stories with two lead characters who are Indian? They get left behind.

An annual report from USC, Ramamurthy’s alma mater, quantifies the issue. The study, by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative, drilled down into the content of 10 major media companies. The results may not be wholly surprising. This year, they found that, “The film industry still functions as a straight, White, boy’s club.”

More at PRI.

Detained after being released by a judge

Here’s my latest, about the powers of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local law enforcement.

Gonzalez and the two other protesters were in the booking area together, where they were processed, fingerprinted and patted down. That’s when, she says, two agents called her by name to come up to the counter. Gonzalez says she was the only one in the booking area who was called up. They began asking questions including, “What’s your immigration status?”

Gonzalez replied, “I want an attorney present to answer your questions.”

“Oh, so you’re illegal,” one of the agents replied, she recalls. They asked if she is a citizen. She refused to answer. She had provided her Louisiana drivers license, name and date of birth — enough to check databases and verify her status.

The agents then told her that they were issuing an immigration detainer, which is a request by ICE for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to hold a suspect and turn him or her over to immigration officials once they complete their investigation.

The whole story is at PRI.

You for Me for You: Discuss

Radio host Julia Nekessa Opoti and I will be in discussion with the cast and director of “You for Me for You” after the Feb. 27, 7pm performance at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. More information and a link to tickets here.

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This one’s got some great hosts: The Guthrie, Mu Performing Arts and Gazillion Strong. We’ll talk about movement and migration and, of course, Mia Chung’s play, which OregonLive called “essential viewing” during its Portland run. Here’s the synopsis:

As they attempt to flee the Best Nation in the World, North Korean sisters Minhee (Sun Mee Chomet) and Junhee (Audrey Park) are torn apart at the border. Each must race across time and space to be together again – navigating the perilous Land of the Free and the treacherous terrain of personal belief. Under the direction of Randy Reyes, this fantastical, humor-filled play runs for just two weeks in the Dowling Studio – don’t miss it!

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Trump v. The Pope

It’s an unlikely pair to be having a war of words, but GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and Roman Catholic Pope Francis traded sharp statements about immigration and the Mexican border.

After hosting a mass in Ciudad Juárez, on the US-Mexico border, the pope responded to a question about Trump’s position on immigration: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the gospel,” the pope said. Still, he declined to offer advice to Catholics who are voting in this year’s election.

Last week, Trump told Fox Business News that the pope is a “very political person” who doesn’t understand US-Mexico relations. But this week’s papal comment inspired Trump to respond even more forcefully.

Read more at PRI.org.

Scalia: His legacy on immigration not all what you might think

The Supreme Court this term will hear cases on unions, abortion and legislative districts. And they’ll also hear a challenge to Obama’s executive action on immigration, which would affect some 5 million people.

How the Supreme Court will decide those cases may have shifted dramatically with the death over the weekend of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The immigration program the Supreme Court will take up would shield some undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, and their parents, from deportation for three years at a time, and give them authorization to work legally. Arguments in the case, United States v. Texas, are scheduled to begin in April.

So what does Scalia’s death mean for undocumented immigrants?

Read on at PRI.org.

A survey of who works in the book industry gives us a clue about why it’s not diverse

Progress is often incremental, says publisher Jason Low, and the book publishing industry moves slowly. The week’s news bears out the thesis.

Last week, author Matt de la Peña became the first Latino author in almost 100 years of the award to win the Newbery Medal in children’s literature for “Last Stop On Market Street.”

It’s good news for those who are looking for more diversity in the media. But one award does not a trend make. Less than 10 percent of books for children in the US are by people of color and about the same percentage are about people of color, according to statistics from the library collection at the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.

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So who works in the book industry? Learn more about a new survey at PRI.org.

A network of churches are among those trying to reach undocumented immigrants with water in Flint

“You know what? This is terrible. I’m going to do something about it.”

It’s not an uncommon feeling for people learning about what’s happening in Flint, Michigan, these days. It was Aida Cuadrado’s reaction last week. She’s the director of Action of Greater Lansing, a network of churches that do faith-based community organizing.

Over the weekend, they took a large truck plus three SUVs full of bottled water to a member church in Flint, specifically to reach some 1,000 undocumented immigrants who have been affected by the high levels of lead in the city’s water.

Read more about her organization’s efforts at PRI.org.

Fighting a terror attack with photographs of joy

It’s not uncommon for images of carnage to dominate international news coverage of Mogadishu, Somalia. But Hana Abukar wants to show that it is so much more.

Read more about Lido Beach and what makes it so special for people in Mogadishu, on PRI.org.

Pressure points and identity in America

Last week, I reported on the protest and shootings in Minneapolis. I focused on the ways that Somali immigrants have coped and joined the protest. It’s really made me think about this moment in America: Being an immigrant, Muslim and black—what does it do to someone’s psyche to see so much bad news?

Mohamed Samatar, 23, speaks to a police officer at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis. He wrote on his Instagram account: “What am I supposed to do when you rage war against the lives you’re supposed to protect and serve?” Credit: Thaiphy Phan-Quang

Mohamed Samatar, a 23-year-old artist and activist in Minneapolis, has decided it’s time to take a break. Last week, a group of white men shot into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters, wounding five people. Protesters are calling it a hate crime; police and prosecutors not yet said whether they agree.

Read more about Samatar at PRI.org.

I also joined Jon Wiener on KPFK in Los Angeles to explain what’s happening in Minneapolis.

I spent time trailing Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Minnesota. The day after shootings at the protest, he was calling for an end to discrimination on two fronts; he joined Black Lives Matter protests and spoke at a university about the pressures faced by Muslims in the state.

Read more about Hussein at PRI.org.