Supreme Court hears immigration case — and starts with tough questions for lawyers

The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Permanent Residents program, commonly known as DAPA, was scheduled to start in May 2015 and would have granted certain undocumented parents, like Bilbao, temporary relief from deportation and employment authorization. But the program was put on hold by a federal court.

The case was argued April 18 in the Supreme Court. The New York Times reported that lawyers were facing tough questions about their cases from the justices.

“It’s as if the president is defining the policy and the Congress is executing it. That’s just upside down,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said to Obama’s top lawyer.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February has added an extra layer of uncertainty for those awaiting a ruling. A tie, which is now more possible, would let stand an appeals court ruling that blocks the expanded DACA and DAPA program from taking effect.

More at PRI.org.

At The Bunker, deported veterans recover from war — and look for a way back home

Not far from the southern limits of the US, and the very busy San Ysidro border crossing into Mexico, a small group of men, ages 30 to 70, have made a home. They have family in the US. They fought in the US military. Some were injured in battle. Some have PTSD.

They have all been deported to Mexico and want to return to their homes in the US.

For now, though, home is a place called The Bunker, a Tijuana support house for US military veterans who have nowhere else to go when they land back in Mexico. It was founded by Hector Barajas, who himself served in the US Army and was deported in 2004.

Hector Barajas runs The Bunker in Tijuana. It's a shelter and service center for US military veterans who have been deported. Barajas himself was deported in 2004. “We’ve got to take care of our people, our family while we’re here," he says. Credit: Marco Werman
Hector Barajas runs The Bunker in Tijuana. It’s a shelter and service center for US military veterans who have been deported. Barajas himself was deported in 2004. “We’ve got to take care of our people, our family while we’re here,” he says. Credit: Marco Werman

Read on at PRI.org.

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.

On Google’s new CEO

Sundar Pichai will become the CEO of Google, as a parent company, Alphabet Inc., is created by Google’s founders.

“I think the fact that we have Indians now at the helm of Google and Microsoft is a statement of how Indians have become part of the fabric of tech in the US,” AnnaLee Saxenian says. Through the 80s and 90s, Indians would be involved in startups but would not get promotions or, worse, would be replaced at the point of new companies receiving major funding. In 1999, less than 10 percent of Silicon Valley startups were created by foreign-born entrepreneurs. Ten years later, more than a quarter have foreign-born founders, she says.

But it would be a mistake to focus on this narrative as proof that immigrants in America have “made it,” says sociologist Pawan Dhingra of Tufts University.

“We should find a way as a community, as a nation, to celebrate the achievements of a group in a complicated way. Not a simplistic way,” Dhingra says. “Celebrate when someone does really well, but recognize that it’s the systems and the histories that enable these things.”

Read more at PRI.org.

Imaging a War on Terror

Two days after Osama bin Laden was killed by American forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, President Barack Obama announced that he would not to release photos of the Al Qaeda leader’s body. He said the releasing gruesome images could incite anger against American troops abroad and create unnecessary risks to national security. He also said that displaying bin Laden’s dead body runs counter to American ideals:  “That’s not who we are,” Obama told 60 Minutes. “You know, we don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.”

But America’s use of images has not always been so high-minded. W. J. T. Mitchell’s Cloning Terror takes on the issue of how images have been used in the so-called “war on terror,” which he describes as a “metaphor run amuck.”  Footage of the Twin Towers falling on 9/11, the televised “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad, a statue of Saddam Hussein being destroyed, and the much-criticized 2003 photo of Bush on an aircraft carrier in front of a banner that read “Mission Accomplished”– these images resonated during the Iraq War and, for many Americans, solidified the misguided notion that terror could be an actual enemy in a war.  Launching a conventional war against a concept was a fool’s errand, Mitchell writes, “a misbegotten fantasy from the first.”

Fred Korematsu Day, Two Ways

Yesterday was Fred Korematsu Day in California.

Korematsu, a Japanese-American who resisted placement in a World War II-era internment camp, and later fought in courts to have a Supreme Court conviction of “defiance” overturned, was remembered on January 30 in the state of California. In September, California declared this day, Korematsu’s birthday, to be the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.

I wrote about the day and what it means for Asian American civil rights advocates for Mother Jones online and about bloggers’ initial reactions for GlobalVoices.

Not a reader? Here’s the trailer for 2007 documentary Of Civil Wrongs and Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story.

Of Civil Wrongs and Rights – trailer from Asian Law Caucus on Vimeo.

What Obama Missed in Indonesia

President Barack Obama’s visit to Indonesia was cut short because of volcanic ash, but what he missed was an annual tradition that says a lot about a country relatively unfamiliar to most Americans. Indonesia marks Heroes’ Day every Nov. 10 to commemorate extraordinary service to the nation.

Among those considered this year for addition to a list of national heroes was the late Abdurrahman Wahid, affectionately known by Indonesians as Gus Dur. If Obama’s trip to Indonesia was an opportunity to introduce Indonesia to Americans, getting to know Wahid would have been a good place to start.

Read on and comment at the Huffington Post.

Things that aren’t about Pastor Jones

It’s 9/11 in America. I feel like every year for the past nine years, we’ve been questioning our identity, our values in this country. I wanted to remind myself that this is not a country of people like Terry Jones. Rather, this is a country where people like Terry Jones might end up all over the news, but also where Lee Ielpi, Henry Rollins, Amman Ali and Bassam Tariq can carve out their say. So here are a collection of things I saw and heard that gave me a broader view.