Friday, July 30, 2010

Charlotte student crosses borders for immigrants

Saul Flores, 20, is walking, hitchhiking, and photographing a 4,000 mile journey that many immigrants take to reach the United States every day.

The Harding High graduate hopes to raise awareness about immigration and money for an impoverished school in his family's hometown in Mexico. The rising N.C. State senior took a moment along his journey to talk with me about his goals.

What possessed you to do such a thing?
It is a perilous, dangerous, and sometimes mortal walk that many people, including my family, have been making for years. It is overlooked and disregarded when immigration issues are brought up in our media.

When did you start and how long will the trip take?
My trip began on May 17th, 2010, in Quito, Ecuador, and will continue through early August. I plan, and hope, to make it back into the United States by the start of the new semester at my university.

Where are you now?
I arrived in Atencingo, Mexico last night and have scheduled to stay here until Friday morning. I´m then heading to Juarez, Mexico to finish my series of photographs on the Latino cultures.

What’s your plan for today and the next few days?
Here in Atencingo, my plan is to study, evaluate,and understand the education system of Atencingo. I will be assessing the school the money raised is to benefit. At night, I will be contacting local and national newspapers, radio and television stations in Mexico and in the United States. It is a hard time for the Latino culture, it is my goal to shed light on the realities of our countries.

How far are you from your final destination?
My walk will finish in Arizona as a protest towards the new Senate Bill 1070 that will soon go into effect. I have been traveling for the past two months and anticipate reaching Arizona within the next 10 days.

How are you getting around?
Opportunity and faith have been my guide. I have crossed countries by canoe, hitched along the Pan-American Highway, and hopped behind buses to reach all of my destinations.

Where are you sleeping?
Anywhere that is dark and I can close my eyes. So far I have stayed in huts with indigenous groups, camped outside Mayan pyramids, slept on hammocks, and found floor space along the Carribean Sea. There´s nothing better than to sleep to the sounds of the ocean.

What are you eating?
Exhaustion and nerves made me loose my appetite about a month ago. But here in Atencingo, with my grandmother, I have eaten more than on my whole trip.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve seen or heard?
Living with the KUNA, an indigenous group in Panama, has taught me to see an environmental lifestyle untouched by foreign influence or commercial products.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
Mental exhaustion is worse than anything, I am my biggest challenge. However, I did manage to make contact with a blue poison dart frog while crossing the Darien gap. It numbed my right leg and upper lip for a couple of days.

What's next for you?
Once arrived in the United States, I am looking for locations to display series of photographs and exhibit my journey of ¨The Walk of the Immigrants.¨ As well as sell prints to local businesses and companies. I hope to hear from local galleries in North Carolina, Arizona and in New York.

To learn more about Saul’s trip, and his photography, visit

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Video: Where are your papers?

Local actors stage a street performance to poke fun and raise questions about Arizona’s controversial new immigration law.

If you’re walking past Trade and Tryon Streets today between noon and 1 p.m., you may be asked for your "papers" by a small group of actors. The local troupe, led by screenwriter Glenn Hutchinson, plans to use some subtle guerrilla tactics to get the lunch crowd's attention.

“We don’t want to be to confrontational,” Hutchinson said. “But hopefully that will stop someone to say what are you talking about.”

Hutchinson says the play dramatizes how Arizona’s SB 1070 could lead to racial profiling and violate the Bill of Rights. Local actors include Cecilia Becerra, Javier Gonzalez, Nuri Antomarchy, Patrick Mawn, Sarah Provencal, Cindy Kistenberg, and Holly Howell.

A federal judge took a large swipe at the law yesterday when she blocked two of the most controversial sections. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton's injunction affects a requirement that police determine the immigration status of people they stop and think are in the country illegally. She also forbade the state from charging anyone with failure to possess immigration documents, a crime under the new law.

Hutchinson said yesterday afternoon that he was “happy to be under the stress to rewrite the play,” but added that the struggle for immigrant rights is far from over. The Arizona governor and supporters of the law expressed confidence that the law would be upheld under appeal.

An uptown rally opposing the Arizona law is still scheduled for tonight at 6:30 in Marshall Park.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Charlotte relief worker: Haiti continues to need help

It’s been six months since the earthquake and relief efforts continue. Results have been mixed as millions remain homeless. Most are living in tents during the summer hurricane season. Sabine Guerrier, president of Charlotte’s Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti, recently returned from her group's third stint of relief work. I asked her about what she’s seeing on the ground.

How do you feel things are progressing?

Not as well as I would have expected. Six months after, its still baffling to me that we’re not done with the cleanup. How are we going to start the rebuilding effort? People are still buried under the rubble. People are still living on the streets. We’re past due to start the rebuilding. Why is it taking so long? They should have the equipment. They have raised the money. Why are we not doing it?

What are the greatest needs at this point?

You have a long list of needs, but it's still medical and housing. You still have people in the hospitals. You still have people needing care. People also need a lot of the mental and psychological care. People are scared. Also, housing is an issue. We’ve talked a lot about the tent cities around Port-au-Prince. But many people have left the city and moved to other parts of the country where housing was already inadequate. Especially right now with hurricane season, how are the tents going to help those people?

Last month, you were to deliver an ambulance from Charlotte. What is it now?

Right now the ambulance is still in customs. And it's in customs because of paperwork that we need to worked out. There were mistakes done that need to be fixed. We’re hoping if we get the right paperwork and signatures, over the weekend, hopefully by next week, we’ll get the ambulance.

People can see the ambulance in the shipyard when they’re walking on the street. And they can’t understand why we’re donating something free of charge and it's not being used. They’re starting to ask a lot of questions.

What other things are you’re working on?

The first thing is trying to send a crew to Haiti to train the medical workers on how to use the ambulance with the additional supplies we sent. Next, we’re working on a rehab center for handicap earthquake victims and continuing to build housing for the displaced. We’re also trying to find a handicap accessible van. There are a lot of people who are now handicap.

What should people consider when they think about Haiti?

It’s not over. A lot of people think it’s over. That the country has gotten better with all the donations that have been collected. But it's far from over. It's going to take years. A lot of support, both internationally and internally, a lot of collaboration to get Haiti back on its feet. The challenge is that people are tired of giving. They feel they've given enough. And they don’t see enough results. Haiti continues to need help. And those that most need the help are not receiving it.

For more information about the Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti, visit their website at On Thursday, the group will be at the Bank of America's 10th year Diversity Cultural Fair. It will be held from 11:30 to 2 p.m. in Founders Hall at the Bank of America Corporate Center.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Colombians celebrate independence at Plaza Fiesta

The local Colombian community will celebrate its independence from Spain today at Plaza Fiesta Carolinas in Fort Mills, S.C.

The celebration includes traditional Colombian art, music and food.

"Orqueta Mayor" will perform. The five-hour festival begins at noon and is free to the public.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ariz. Governor: State under federal attack

Governor Jan Brewer fired back at the federal government Tuesday saying the Department of Justice is suing the people of Arizona for helping to enforce federal immigration law.

Earlier today, the federal government announced it was filing suit to try and stop Arizona's tough new immigration law.

Brewer called the lawsuit a waste of tax payer funds.

“As a direct result of failed and inconsistent federal enforcement, Arizona is under attack from violent Mexican drug and immigrant smuggling cartels," she said in a statement. " Now, Arizona is under attack in federal court from President Obama and his Department of Justice.”

Brewer said the Arizona law is designed to complement the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The law makes it a crime to be an illegal immigrant in the state and gives law enforcement officers the authority to question the immigration status of people who they stop and suspect might be illegal immigrants.

“The irony is that President Obama’s Administration has chosen to sue Arizona for helping to enforce federal immigration law and not sue local governments that have adopted a patchwork of ‘sanctuary’ policies that directly violate federal law.”

U.S.A. vs. Arizona: Read the Suit

The federal government has filed suit to try and stop Arizona's tough new immigration law.

The suit contends that the Arizona law interferes with the federal authority over immigration. The Arizona law set to go in effect later this month allows polices officers to question suspected illegal immigrants about their immigration status.

Here is a copy of the suit posted by

And for comparison, here is a link to the Arizona law.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Charlotte is still alive in the World Cup.

The USA soccer team may have been knocked out, but Charlotte is still very much in the tournament.

Grab your favorite red, gold, and green outfit. Our next big game is against Uruguay at 2:30 p.m. -- well kind of.

My colleague Rogelio Aranda pointed out to me yesterday that Charlotte has a sister city in Ghana and Germany – two World Cup quarter finalist.

Kumasi, Ghana is one of our most recent Sister Cities. The relationship became official in 1995. Pronounced Koo-MA-si, it is Ghana’s second largest city. It is part of region known for its ancient African royalty, according to the Charlotte International Cabinet, which oversees the sister city relationships.

Krefeld, Germany has been a Sister City since 1985, according to international cabinet. It’s an industrial town on the west bank of the Rhine River near Holland. Krefeld is known as "silk and velvet" capital of Europe.

Charlotte's sister cities relationships are part of the international cabinet’s efforts to continue to encourage citizen diplomacy through educational, cultural and civic exchanges.

It may not sound as good as cheering USA! USA!, but it's fun to know that Charlotte is still very much vested in this great international tournament.

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Does Obama have congressional support needed to pass reform?

That's a big question mark.

When Mexican president Felipe Calderon visited the White House in May, President Obama said he didn't have enough congressional support to pass immigration reform.

"The political challenge is, is that I have confidence that I can get the majority of Democrats, both in the House and the Senate, to support a piece of legislation of the sort that I just described. But I don’t have 60 votes in the Senate. I’ve got to have some support from Republicans."

It will be interesting to hear whether something has changed between then and now.

WATCH LIVE: Obama makes case for immigration reform

At 10:45, President Obama is expected to make his case for providing a path to legal status for some 11 million illegal immigrants. Obama is speaking at American University's School of International Service.

Watch the speech live by clicking here.

You can also watch the speech here.