Monday, August 29, 2011

Federal judge blocks Ala. illegal immigration law

A federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of Alabama's new law cracking down on illegal immigration, ruling Monday that she needed more time to decide whether the law opposed by the Obama administration, church leaders and immigrant-rights groups is constitutional.
 Here is the full story from AP:
Federal judge blocks Ala. illegal immigration law
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of Alabama's new law cracking down on illegal immigration, ruling Monday that she needed more time to decide whether the law opposed by the Obama administration, church leaders and immigrant-rights groups is constitutional.
The brief order by U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Blackburn means the law — which opponents and supporters alike have called the toughest in the nation — won't take effect as scheduled on Thursday. The ruling was cheered both by Republican leaders who were pleased the judge didn't gut the law and by opponents who compare it to old Jim Crow-era statutes against racial integration.
Blackburn didn't address whether the law is constitutional, and she could still let all or parts of the law take effect later. Instead, she said she needed more time to consider lawsuits filed by the Justice Department, private groups and individuals that claim the state is overstepping its bounds.
The judge said she will issue a longer ruling by Sept. 28, and her temporary order will remain in effect until the day after. She heard arguments from the Justice Department and others during a daylong hearing last week.
Similar laws have been passed in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia. Federal judges already have blocked all or parts of the laws in those states.
Among other things, the law would require schools to verify the citizenship status of students, but it wouldn't prevent illegal immigrants from attending public schools.
The law also would make it a crime to knowingly assist an illegal immigrant by providing them a ride, a job, a place to live or most anything else — a section that church leaders fear would hamper public assistance ministries. It also would allow police to jail suspected illegal immigrants during traffic stops.
Finding a way to curtail public spending that benefits illegal immigrants has been a pet project of Alabama conservatives for years. Census figures released earlier this year show the state's Hispanic population more than doubled over a decade to 185,602 last year, and supporters of the law contend many of them are in the country illegally.
Isabel Rubio, executive director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, which is among the groups that sued over the law, hopes Blackburn will block it entirely but was happy with the temporary reprieve.
"We are pleased that Judge Blackburn is taking more time to study the case," she said.
Republican Gov. Robert Bentley said he would continue to defend the law, and GOP leaders in the House and Senate praised Blackburn — a Republican appointee — for taking time to fully consider the law.
"We must remember that today's ruling is simply the first round in what promises to be a long judicial fight over Alabama's right to protect its borders," said House Majority Leader Micky Hammon of Decatur. "To put it in sports terms, it is the first half-inning of the first game of a seven-game World Series."
While the Obama administration contends the state law conflicts with federal immigration law, state Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, contends the federal government isn't doing its job enforcing immigration laws. Beason said that he spent years researching immigration law to help write the 70-plus page law, and that it's unrealistic to expect a judge to go through it all in a few days.
"You just can't do that," he said.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Colombian officials to visit Charlotte

By Naty Rive
Colombian officials will visit Charlotte next week as part of the South American country's efforts to boost tourism and change the perception of Colombia and promote the city of Medellin.

Safety concerns are dropping and tourism is on the rise in Colombia. Visitors are being lured to the country by its pleasant year-round weather, picturesque coastal towns, and big-city museums that feature the work of locally bred artists like Fernando Botero.

Medellin is the country's second largest city. About 2 million people live in the city tucked in the northern Andes of South America. Once home to the most dangerous Colombian cartels, Medellin has undergone quite the evolution. It's now one of the country's safest and most modern big cities.

Representatives from Medellin's urban renaissance program, Sos Pais, will give a two-hour free public demonstration starting at 5:30 p.m., Tues., Aug. 23, at the Mint Museum. A second presentation will be given at 6 p.m., Wed. Aug. 24 in Sykes Auditorium at Queens University.

By zeafra
“In addition to discussing the culture of Medellin, we are excited to share with the people of Charlotte how our city has transformed and is now a destination spot for education, financial and urban renewal projects,” says Maria Teresa Betancur, Program Coordinator, Sos Paisa.

 For more information on Sos Paisa, visit

U.S. eases stance on deporting immigrants

As administration amends deportation policy, critics call it back-door amnesty for those here illegally.


By Franco Ordoñez
Posted: Friday, Aug. 19, 2011

Protesters say thousands
deported each year. GETTY

The Obama administration announced Thursday it plans to focus its deportation efforts on more dangerous illegal immigrants, a move that gives undocumented Charlotte students like Elver Barrios hope.

As part of the policy change, the Department of Homeland Security intends to review the cases of approximately 300,000 illegal immigrants facing deportation orders.

Those without criminal records who are found to be a low priority because they are students, were brought here as children, or have long family ties to the country could be released and granted a work permit.

If Barrios were ever to be arrested, he believes this policy change could allow him to stay in the country he's lived in since he was 14.

"This could be my chance to stay here," said Barrios, 20, who graduated from West Mecklenburg High School and is originally from Guatemala. "Every day I go out, even when I go buy the groceries, I risk getting arrested."

The policy change comes at a time when President Barack Obama has come under fire from some of his greatest allies.

Latino advocates have grown increasingly frustrated with the president. Obama has promised to reform the nation's immigration laws, yet advocates say his administration has continued to allow thousands to be deported annually after being arrested for minor offenses.

The Department of Homeland Security must focus its resources on removing those who have been convicted of major crimes and are threats to national security or public safety, said Secretary Janet Napolitano.

"Doing otherwise hinders our public safety mission - clogging immigration court dockets and diverting DHS enforcement resources away from the individuals who pose a threat to public safety," she wrote in a letter to a group of senators supporting new immigration legislation.

Critics charged the Obama administration with implementing a back-door amnesty policy.

Under the guise of setting priorities for immigration enforcement, the White House is overhauling the nation's immigration policy without congressional approval, said Dan Stein, president of FAIR, which advocates for greater immigration enforcement.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said having a backlog and prioritizing deportations is nothing new.

"This policy goes a step further granting illegal immigrants a fast track to gaining a work permit where they will now unfairly compete with more than nine percent of Americans who are still looking for jobs," he said in a statement.

In June, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it was encouraging agents to use "prosecutorial discretion" for undocumented immigrants who are seeking college degrees.

The authorities are now instructed to give "particular care and consideration" to individuals "present in the United States since childhood" and whether that person has a criminal record.

Erick Velazquillo

Erick Velazquillo, a 22-year-old Central Piedmont Community College student, was brought to the country illegally when he was 2 years old. He was placed into deportation proceedings last fall after he was arrested for driving without a valid driver's license.

Last month, just weeks before he was expecting to be deported, immigration officials dropped their deportation case.

But they didn't alter his status. With this policy change, Velazquillo is hopeful he can rest a little easier - and be able to get a work permit.

"It gives me a status that I've never had before," he said. "It will give me a work permit. It will help me to contribute more to the country than just being here. It would make things so much easier."

Lacey Williams, the youth civic engagement organizer at the Latin American Coalition, questioned how the policy will be implemented.

"At first blush it's great news, it certainly has great potential," she said. "What we're anxiously awaiting is how this announcement will trickle down. How will it affect people in deportation proceedings now? What will happen to them tomorrow, next week?"

Others said the administration is trying to dress up a problem rather than fix it.

Velazquillo and other undocumented students still will be living in the country illegally, said Domenic Powell, a spokesman for the Raleigh-based NC Dream Team, a group of students who advocate for undocumented youth.

"It's not a solution," he said. "There seems to be a benefit to it, but it's fleeting. They can work, but for how long? They need to find a permanent solution."

The Associated Press contributed.

Read more:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Matthews doctor heads to Haiti to open medical clinic.

Will Conner is returning to Haiti.

The Matthews doctors is traveling with 10 students and doctors to northern Haiti with more than 3,000 lbs of medicine and medical supplies. They left this morning aboard a Hendrick Motorsports Plane. They will be traveling to Camp Louise, a small community near Cap-Haitien on the northern coast, where they will be opening a medical clinic.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Diversity training on court's agenda Tuesday


Diversity training on court's agenda Tuesday
By Franco Ordoñez
Posted: Wednesday, Aug. 03, 2011

Mecklenburg County court officials, including Chief District Judge Lisa Bell and members of the District Attorney's office, took part in diversity training Tuesday led by the Mexican Consulate of Raleigh.

Consul General Carlos Flores Vizcarra spoke to some 50 judges, lawyers, interpreters and clerks about issues affecting the local Mexican community.

He highlighted the rapid growth of the Latino population in the Carolinas. North Carolina had the second-fastest growing Latino population between 1990 and 2008, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. South Carolina had the eighth-fastest growth rate.

Flores Vizcarra lobbied for greater acceptance of the "matricula consular" - IDs that are issued to Mexicans living in the U.S. by the Mexican consulate. He also sought to clarify confusion over Latino names and surnames.

"My plea is that we go about understanding the presence of Mexicans in a more civilized manner," Vizcarra said. "Not to buy into the prejudices and stereotypes some people have. I can tell you most Mexican immigrants are hard-working people."

The group also sampled authentic Mexican dishes such as tamales and tacos provided by a local restaurant, Fonda las Cazuelas.

Language issues are only one challenge for the courts, Bell said. There are cultural differences. And Latinos, including illegal immigrants, are often more vulnerable to crimes, she said. The courts also must face the impacts on children when parents are deported.

"The population we're dealing with now is not the same as it was 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, or even two years ago," she said. "So as a court system we need to learn how to adjust to meet the needs of a changing population."

The event was part of a series of discussions organized by the Trial Court Administrator's office via a $3,000 grant from Charlotte-based Justice Initiatives.

Titled Strengthening Community Relationships, the goal is to build social capital by bridging gaps between diverse communities and the court system.

Said Trial Court Administrator Todd Nuccio: "We're trying to build public trust and confidence."
Franco Ordoñez: 704-358-6180. Follow him on Twitter @FrancoOrdonez.

Read more:

Saturday, July 30, 2011

CPCC student's deportation dropped


CPCC student's deportation dropped: ICE officials end efforts to send undocumented CPCC student Erick Velazquillo back to Mexico, for now.

By Franco Ordoñez
Posted: Saturday, Jul. 30, 2011

Erick Velazquillo, a 22-year-old Central Piedmont Community College student living in the country illegally, was working on translating all his school transcripts. He thought he was going to be deported back to Mexico.

Now immigration officials have dropped deportation efforts, his attorney confirmed Friday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreed to administratively close his case, but it's not terminated. It could be reopened at any time.

"He's safe for right now," said attorney Janeen Hicks Pierre. "We're definitely out of the line of fire. ... No one is going to come to his house and arrest him. But where we go from here, we're not sure."

Hicks Pierre thanked ICE for offering to close the case, but noted Velazquillo's status is unchanged. He still has no documents and is unable to work legally.

The South Mecklenburg High School graduate moved to the United States with his parents when he was 2. He's never been back, he says.

Last October, Velazquillo was arrested for driving with an expired license and taken to Mecklenburg County jail. He was identified as an illegal immigrant and placed into deportation proceedings.

For help, he turned to a statewide group of young activists, many in the country illegally themselves. The Raleigh-based N.C. Dream Team launched a national campaign on his behalf. More than 1,000 calls and emails were made to federal officials on his behalf. Nearly 3,000 people signed a petition calling for his case to be deferred.

"We're happy. It's a victory," said 24-year-old member Domenic Powell, who grew up in Charlotte and graduated from Hopewell High. "It means more undocumented youth need to come out and fight their deportation. If you fight it, you can win."

The Obama administration has deported almost 800,000 people in the last two years.

ICE officials did not immediately respond to questions about Velazquillo's case. But this month, ICE Director John Morton announced the agency was encouraging agents to use "prosecutorial discretion" for illegal immigrants who are seeking college degrees.

Authorities are now instructed to give "particular care and consideration" to individuals "present in the United States since childhood."

The N.C. Dream Team cited the so-called Morton memo at rallies and had supporters call the director as well as their elected officials.

"Erick took his situation into his own hands," said member Viridiana Martinez, 25, of Sanford. "He took this public. There is power in that. All of a sudden it's something you can't ignore."

Hicks Pierre said she would continue to work with immigration officials to see if Velazquillo's status could be changed so that he could work and study without concern of reprisals.

Velazquillo and his family said they still fear he could be arrested and deported at anytime.

"It's not enough," said his sister, Angelica. "He still can't work. He was arrested and put in jail. We're going to pretend nothing happened? It doesn't seem realistic. It shows the problem with the policy. This is not good enough. This is not a solution."

Franco Ordoñez: 704-358-6180. Follow him on Twitter @FrancoOrdonez.

Read more:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Asian-American photographer hosts first photo exhibit.

Asian-American photographer Andy Chen will host his first Charlotte photo exhibit tonight at the Evergreen Studio in Uptown.

Chen will display 27 of his photos taken over three summer between 1985 and 1988. Chen, who co-owns a commercial photo studio, said the photos taken of lifeguards on the New Jersey shore represent “beauty and nostalgia.” “These pictures are from an eternal time,” he says. “A time when we were all young and we were going to live forever.” The one-night free exhibition, called Avalon, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Brevard Court studio.

For more information on Chen visit his website at More info on Evergreen can be found at or by calling 704-807-7819.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

CPCC student facing deportation will be honored at vigil

Latino advocates will be hosting a vigil at St. Peter's Catholic Church Friday night for young illegal immigrants like Erick Velazquillo, a 22-year-old Central  Piedmont  Community College student facing deportation.

Velazquillo, who graduated from South Mecklenburg High, was featured in a recent Observer story on young people like himself who are part of a national push by young people to the front of immigration reform.

Velazquillo was arrested in October. The charges: failing to dim his headlights and driving without a valid license. The group is asking for the public’s help to petition lawmakers to have Velazquillo’s case deferred. He says his last court hearing is on July 19, when an immigration judge will decided whether he should be deported. The group will also be calling for passage of "the Dream Act," a legal change that would make it easier for young people to become U.S. citizens if they attend college or join the military.

Opponents of the Dream Act say students like Velazquillo should be confronting their parents instead of making demands on the American people.

"Every illegal immigrant who gets into college here is going to displace a U.S. citizen because there are not enough seats," said Ron Woodard, head of NC Listen, which advocates for greater immigration enforcement. "The right thing to do is not disenfranchise an American citizen."

The vigil will begin at 6 p.m. at St. Peter's Church on South Tryon Street. For more information on the vigil, call 704-281-9911.

Photo: Angelica Velazquillo and her brother, Erick. In the U.S. since he was 2, he faces deportation for a traffic violation. Kevin Ziechmann -

Friday, July 1, 2011

Immigrant hangs hopes on 'Dream Team' to stay


Immigrant hangs hopes on 'Dream Team' to stay Young activists back CPCC student's deportation appeal.

By Franco Ordoñez
Posted: Friday, Jul. 01, 2011

A 22-year-old Central Piedmont Community College student facing deportation has placed his future in the hands of a group of his peers - also young, also here illegally.

Erick Velazquillo says they're his last hope to stay in the country that's been his home since he was 2.

Velazquillo, who graduated from South Mecklenburg High, was arrested in October. The charges: failing to dim his headlights and driving without a valid license. He is now in the process of being deported.

On July 19, he'll ask an immigration judge and federal prosecutors to not send him back to Mexico.

He said two Latino organizations and several lawyers advised him not to fight for fear he would receive greater immigration penalties.

Instead, he turned to a statewide group of young activists, known as the "N.C. Dream Team."

The Raleigh-based group, whose slogan is "Undocumented and Unafraid," thinks it can help. Velazquillo's case is their first Charlotte initiative.

Inspired by the Civil Rights movement, the Dream Team is part of a national push by young people to the front of immigration reform.

They've confronted legislators, launched hunger strikes, and even announced their illegal status to draw attention to their demands.

They are calling for passage of "the Dream Act," a legal change that would make it easier for young people to become U.S. citizens if they attend college or join the military.

And they say they are fed up with established Latino advocates whom they accuse of botching earlier bipartisan support for the act.

"We've had enough," said N.C. Dream Team co-founder Viridiana Martinez of Sanford. "We know we're taking risks, facing arrest every time we come out. But we have to speak out for ourselves. Because if we don't do it, someone else is going to do it. And that has gotten us nowhere."

The group formed last summer during a 13-day hunger strike in Raleigh to draw attention to the Dream Act. The name stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.

Velazquillo learned of the group through his sister, Angelica. She attended the Dream Team's "coming out" rally in March, and shared her brother's story with the members.

The Dream Team plans to broadcast Velazquillo's appeal to their 1,100 N.C. supporters. But as many as 10,000 people are likely to learn about Velazquillo through the group's affiliated networks nationwide.

Erick Velazquillo, who is studying to be a nutritionist, said he's never been back to Mexico.

"It is scary," he said. "The only people I know over there are my grandmother who is 72 and my grandfather who is 74. ... What am I going to do?"

Discretion over deportation

The Obama administration has deported almost 800,000 people in the last two years. While the Dream Act failed last fall, the administration has made it clear that they don't want to deport college-age students who have not committed major crimes.

Some 800,000 established immigrants - including about 51,000 in North Carolina - would be covered by the act. But the bill has languished in Congress for 10 years.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it was encouraging agents to use "prosecutorial discretion" for young illegal immigrants who are seeking college degrees.

The authorities are now instructed to give "particular care and consideration" to individuals "present in the United States since childhood."

Team has allies, sees 'bully'

The Dream Team includes some U.S.-born allies.

Domenic Powell grew up in Charlotte and graduated from Hopewell High.

The 24-year-old, whose mother is Mexican-American, helps run the group's blog and media relations.

Powell, a UNC Chapel Hill graduate, said his reasons for becoming involved are simple: "I don't see how you can remain silent when this is happening to your friends."

In January, member Loida Ginocchio-Silva, 23, confronted U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan during a visit with constituents.

"Your vote against the Dream Act was a denial to our existence," she said in the exchange caught on video. "It was a denial to my future."

Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, told Ginocchio-Silva that she supported the Dream Act, but as part of a comprehensive reform package.

Hagan did not answer specific Observer questions about the Dream Team. She was one of five Democrats who voted to block the Dream Act in December. But comments from her staff indicate a possible softening of her position.

"Her mind is open to any sensible, bipartisan initiative that moves the country and North Carolina forward," spokeswoman Stephanie Allen said. When state Rep. Dale Folwell, a Winston-Salem Republican, sought to collect immigration data on K-12 students, the Dream Team dubbed him "North Carolina's biggest school bully."

Folwell said the goal of the measure, which was dropped, was to show the costs of educating illegal immigrants.

"People get tired of the simplicity of this, but $1 spent on an illegal is $1 taken away from a law-abiding citizen."

Ron Woodard, head of NC Listen, which advocates for greater immigration enforcement, said the students should be confronting their parents instead of making demands on the American people.

"Every illegal immigrant who gets into college here is going to displace a U.S. citizen because there are not enough seats," he said. "The right thing to do is not disenfranchise an American citizen."

Team's success and arrests

The Dream Team has been inspired by recent successes.

The group led a campaign on behalf of Fredd Reyes, a Guilford Technical Community College student who was awaiting deportation in Georgia.

Reyes was released in November after federal officials received more than 3,500 emails in his behalf.

Some traditional Latino groups say they applaud the young people's drive but question their methods.

Maudia Melendez of Jesus Ministry in Charlotte said the students take too many risks.

"I don't want to see their future broken because of what they're doing," she said. "Once you announce you're undocumented ... they can come and get you."

In April, two members of the Dream Team were arrested in an Atlanta demonstration. Martinez and Jose Rico, a student at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, joined five other undocumented peers who sat down in the middle of a street and announced they were in the country illegally.

"We're not ashamed anymore," Rico, 21, told the Observer. "We need to tell everyone that we exist, that we're undocumented, and put a face to the issue." News researcher Maria David contributed.

Read more:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Students plan rally at Obama's Charlotte campaign headquarters

A Charlotte youth group affiliated with the Latin American Coalition is calling on President Obama to sign an executive order that would halt deportation of many college–aged illegal immigrants.

The United 4 The Dream youth group will be rallying Friday at 5 p.m. in front of Obama’s re-election headquarters on Elizabeth Avenue.

The Obama administration has said that congress should pass the Dream Act, which would allow some young illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship if they attend college or the join the military.

Advocates now want the president to use his authority to stop the deportations of certain groups, including students who would be eligible for the Dream Act.

For more information on the rally, call 704-941-2542 or visit

Friday, June 10, 2011

Could N.C. be the toughest immigration state?

Five immigration enforcement bills gaining momentum in the N.C. General Assembly could, if passed, make the state one of the toughest places for illegal immigrants to reside.

One bill prevents foreign-born residents from using their home country’s IDs as legal identification. And another requires all businesses to check the legal status of new employees using a federal system called E-Verify.

The proposed measures would bring North Carolina in line with Arizona and Alabama, considered the states with the strongest immigration laws. 

Each of the N.C. bills have passed at least one house. If approved, they’d be sent to the governor’s desk for her signature.

Check the status of each bill:

House Bill 33 – Consular Documents Not Acceptable as ID
H36 – Employers/Gov. Contractors Must Use E-Verify
HB744 Safe Students Act

Senate Bill 205 – No Benefits For Illegal Aliens
S303 – Real ID Compliance/ Limited Duration Licenses

The apparent progress of the N.C. bills reflects similar efforts sweeping across the nation as some states seek to take more active roles in enforcing immigration restrictions. But immigration advocates, as well as President Obama, say the issue should be handled at the federal level. 

On Thursday, Alabama legislators appeared to take the title of toughest immigration enforcers from Arizona when the governor signed a new law, that among other things, makes it a crime to give an illegal immigrant a ride.

Most of the new immigration laws, whether those proposed in Alabama, North Carolina, or Georgia, are modeled after laws passed in Arizona last year.

More states could follow suit depending on the outcome of a Supreme Court decision on the most controversial aspects of the Arizona bill. The country’s highest court is expected to look closer at the Arizona law after a federal judge ruled some parts unconstitutional, including requiring police to check the immigration status of people detained if there is reason to believe he or she is in the country illegally.

Last month, the Supreme Court voted 5-3 to back another Arizona law that requires companies to check employee status that is similar to the E-Verify bill proposed in North Carolina.

File photo: Demonstrators supporting and opposing Arizona's Immigration policy (Annie Tritt/The New York Times)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Latino arts festival kicks off tonight

The Latino cultural festival "Con A de Arte" is returning to Charlotte this weekend.

Latino artists will be featured at a series of events, including tonight's South End gallery crawl and at the Gil Gallery/Coffey and Thompson Gallery on Morehead Street.

On Saturday, the work of more than a dozen painters, visual artists, and photographers, will be featured from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the main Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in Uptown. 

These events are free and open to the public.

For more information visit,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Immigration game changer?

The Supreme Court backs Arizona on law that punishes businesses hiring illegal immigrants.

The 5-3 ruling is a victory for groups who support greater immigration enforcement at the state level. And it’s a blow to immigration advocates who say immigration enforcement should only be handled
by federal authorities.

Read the decision here.

Arizona passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act in 2007. It requires companies use free federal databases, such as E-Verify, to check the documentation of employees. It also gives the state the right to suspend the licenses of business that “intentionally or knowingly” violate those verification requirements.

"Arizona has taken the route least likely to cause tension with federal law," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, who authored the decision. "In exercising that authority, Arizona has taken the route least likely to cause tension with federal relies solely on the Federal Government’s own determination of who is an unauthorized alien, and it requires Arizona employers to use the Federal Government’s own system for checking employee status."

No doubt legislators across the country are going to now take a closer look at this bill. Many legislators, including those in North Carolina, have discussed or introduced bill that would give states greater authority in enforcing immigration laws.

Roberts was supported by his four conservative colleagues.

In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said permitting states to make E-Verify a mandatory program improperly puts states in a position of making decisions that directly affect expenditure and depletion of federal resources.

"Because state laws requiring use of E-Verify frustrate the significant policy objectives underlying this decision, thereby imposing explicitly unwanted burdens on the Federal Government," she wrote, "I would hold that federal law impliedly  preempts the Arizona requirement."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Are Latinos turning on Obama?

Are President Obama's public pledges and desire to pass immigration reform and/or the Dream Act enough for Latinos to vote for him in 2012?

It was interesting watching Obama ride the wave of support after a successful Bin Laden mission to El Paso, Texas this month to push again for immigration reform – a measure even some of the most staunchest advocates feel is not going to happen before the election.

Several pundits and editorials accused Obama of pandering to Latinos as he starts his campaign on what is expected to be a very highly contested election

The Latinos who count immigration reform as their most important issue are not likely going to switch over and vote for a Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney or any other Republican candidate. However, those Latinos could certainly stay home on election day, which could prove costly.

The Latino vote was critical in the 2008 presidential election, Hispanics voted for Obama over Republican John McCain by a margin of more than two-to-one, 67 percent versus 31 percent, according to an analysis of exit polls by the Pew Hispanic Center. The Center’s analysis also found that 9 percent of the electorate was Latino, as indicated by the national exit poll.

And think about the prized 29 electoral votes in Florida, which many see as a potential game changer.

In 2008, Obama won 57 percent of the Latino vote in Florida, a state where Latinos have historically supported Republican presidential candidates. President Bush carried 56 percent of the Latino vote in Florida in 2004.

And many Latinos are disappointed in the president for failing to follow through with campaign promises on immigration reform.

“What I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support and that I’m promoting,” Obama said in an interview with the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision in 2008.

No doubt Obama’s handlers are thinking of these statistics as they scheduled speaking engagements advocating for immigration reform. But will they resonate with Latino voters?

Many advocates, including U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, have been urging Obama to use his authority to act independently and stop deportations of some groups of illegal immigrants, including undocumented students and the parents of children who are U.S. citizens.

"When the president of the United States decided there was possibly going to be an act of genocide in Libya, he bombed Gadhafi's forces," Gutierrez told the Observer on a visit to Charlotte earlier this month. "He didn't call anyone in Charlotte or Chicago. He didn't call the Congress of the United States. ... He used his discretion."

So Obama caught the ire of some Latino advocates when he launched a new campaign ad pushing the Dream Act. The ad asks his supporters to give their email address and zip code. When they click on the button “I’m in” it takes them to Obama’s campaign website.

“Obama, END Our Pain before you start your campaign!,” the headline read on United We Dream.

The authors go on to write:

"We are tired of politicians either bashing us or praising us without ending our pain. After the president's speech we knew he was on campaign mode, but these ads just brought insult to our ever-growing pain of achieving the American Dream. Until Congress passes the DREAM Act, the President has the full authority to enable us to temporarily come out of the shadows, work and contribute to our country."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Haitians given another 18 months to remain in Charlotte

Haitian nationals, including those who arrived illegally, residing in the United States prior to the 7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010 can remain in the country through Jan. 22, 2013.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced the extension of Temporary Protected Status for Haitian nationals living in Charlotte and across the United States.

Currently, approximately 48,000 Haitian nationals with TPS reside in the United States. According to the Census, 370 Haitians live in Mecklenburg County, but members of the community say the numbers are really in the thousands.

Temporary protected status is granted by the Homeland Security agency in cases of emergencies to allow people from a nation torn by war or disaster to receive temporary safe haven in the United States until the US government deems that it is safe for them to return.

“In the extended aftermath of the devastating earthquakes in Haiti, the United States has remained fully committed to upholding our responsibility to assist individuals affected by this tragedy by using tools available under the law,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Providing a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this administration’s continuing efforts to support Haiti’s recovery.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Killed neo-Nazi leader conducted armed 'border patrols'

The story of an up-and-coming leader of the National Socialist Movement illustrates how some in the white supremacy movement use immigration as "potent neo-Nazi talking point."

Jeff Hall, a California man who was killed earlier this month, used the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment to attract new members, including skinheads and Klu Klux Klan members, according to a story in today's The New York Times.

Hall, 32, apparently spent much of his time on armed "border patrols." A photo in the article shows him teaching a member to pull a knife from his belt before a patrol. He bought night vision goggles and a ham radio license. According to the Times, he also bragged that he was teaching his 10-year-old son to use night vision equipment and shoot a gun.

His son has been accused of shooting his father after the boy was found with a handgun near his father dead on the living room couch. Details on the shooting are slim. Police say the killing was intentional, but motives are not clear, according to the Times.

You can read The New York Times story here. And don't miss their multimedia slideshow on their photography blog, Lens. They gained incredible access into the lives of the movement.

The photo above is of Virgil Griffin, the former Imperial Wizard of the Mount Holly-based chapter of the Klu Klux Klan in Gaston County.

We wrote in 2007 how the The Ku Klux Klan's once-diminishing numbers are increasing as the group exploits fears over illegal immigration, according to organizations that track hate groups.

Griffin, who died two years ago, said then that he had not seen membership grow so fast since the 1960s, when he joined. He said immigration was the No. 1 issue among the younger members.

Edward Fincher, 21, who is standing behind Griffin in the above photo, agree. A colonel in the Griffin Knights, he said he's concerned about illegal immigrants taking over. He's worried about his two kids being forced to learn Spanish in school and it's getting more difficult to find work.

According to the Times, a group of Hall's supporters will spread his ashes on the border during a patrol.

Top Photo: 2/8/2007 - Virgil Griffin, Imperial Wizard of the Cleveland Knights of the Ku Klux Klan poses for a portrait with two members of his "security detail", Donnie Fincher, 54 (right) and his son, Edward Fincher, 21. GARY O'BRIEN -

Obama's immigration speech from El Paso

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

Immigration and Border Security

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

El Paso, Texas

Hello, El Paso! It’s great to be back here with all of you, and to be back in the Lone Star State. I love coming to Texas. Even the welcomes are bigger down here. So, to show my appreciation, I wanted to give a big policy speech… outdoors… right in the middle of a hot, sunny day.

I hope everyone is wearing sunscreen.

Now, about a week ago, I delivered the commencement address at Miami Dade Community College, one of the most diverse schools in the nation. The graduates were proud that their class could claim heritage from 181 countries around the world. Many of the students were immigrants themselves, coming to America with little more than the dreams of their parents and the clothes on their backs. A handful had discovered only in adolescence or adulthood that they were undocumented. But they worked hard and gave it their all, and they earned those diplomas.

At the ceremony, 181 flags – one for every nation represented – was marched across the stage. Each was applauded by the graduates and relatives with ties to those countries. But then, the last flag – the American flag – came into view. And the room erupted. Every person in the auditorium cheered. Yes, their parents or grandparents – or the graduates themselves – had come from every corner of the globe. But it was here that they had found opportunity, and had a chance to contribute to the nation that is their home.

It was a reminder of a simple idea, as old as America itself. E pluribus, unum. Out of many, one. We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants – a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America’s precepts. That’s why millions of people, ancestors to most of us, braved hardship and great risk to come here – so they could be free to work and worship and live their lives in peace. The Asian immigrants who made their way to California’s Angel Island. The Germans and Scandinavians who settled across the Midwest. The waves of the Irish, Italian, Polish, Russian, and Jewish immigrants who leaned against the railing to catch that first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.

This flow of immigrants has helped make this country stronger and more prosperous. We can point to the genius of Einstein and the designs of I. M. Pei, the stories of Isaac Asimov and whole industries forged by Andrew Carnegie.

And I think of the naturalization ceremonies we’ve held at the White House for members of the military, which have been so inspiring. Even though they were not yet citizens, these men and women had signed up to serve. One was a young man named Granger Michael from Papua New Guinea, a Marine who deployed to Iraq three times. Here’s what he said about becoming an American citizen. “I might as well. I love this country already.” Marines aren’t big on speeches. Another was a woman named Perla Ramos. She was born and raised in Mexico, came to the United States shortly after 9/11, and joined the Navy. She said, “I take pride in our flag … and the history we write day by day.”

That’s the promise of this country – that anyone can write the next chapter of our story. It doesn’t matter where you come from; what matters is that you believe in the ideals on which we were founded; that you believe all of us are equal and deserve the freedom to pursue happiness. In embracing America, you can become American. And that enriches all of us.

Yet at the same time, we are standing at the border today because we also recognize that being a nation of laws goes hand in hand with being a nation of immigrants. This, too, is our heritage. This, too, is important. And the truth is, we’ve often wrestled with the politics of who is and who isn’t allowed to enter this country. At times, there has been fear and resentment directed toward newcomers, particularly in periods of economic hardship. And because these issues touch on deeply held convictions – about who we are as a people, about what it means to be an American – these debates often elicit strong emotions.

That’s one reason it’s been so difficult to reform our broken immigration system. When an issue is this complex and raises such strong feelings, it’s easier for politicians to defer the problem until after the next election. And there’s always a next election. So we’ve seen a lot blame and politics and ugly rhetoric. We’ve seen good faith efforts – from leaders of both parties – fall prey to the usual Washington games. And all the while, we’ve seen the mounting consequences of decades of inaction.

Today, there are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Some crossed the border illegally. Others avoid immigration laws by overstaying their visas. Regardless of how they came, the overwhelming majority of these folks are just trying to earn a living and provide for their families. But they’ve broken the rules, and have cut in front of the line. And the truth is, the presence of so many illegal immigrants makes a mockery of all those who are trying to immigrate legally.

Also, because undocumented immigrants live in the shadows, they’re vulnerable to unscrupulous businesses that skirt taxes, pay workers less than the minimum wage, or cut corners with health and safety. This puts companies who follow those rules, and Americans who rightly demand the minimum wage or overtime or just a safe place to work, at an unfair disadvantage.

Think about it. Over the past decade, even before the recession, middle class families were struggling to get by as costs went up but incomes didn’t. We’re seeing this again with gas prices. Well, one way to strengthen the middle class is to reform our immigration system, so that there is no longer a massive underground economy that exploits a cheap source of labor while depressing wages for everyone else. I want incomes for middle class families to rise again. I want prosperity in this country to be widely shared. That’s why immigration reform is an economic imperative.

And reform will also help make America more competitive in the global economy. Today, we provide students from around the world with visas to get engineering and computer science degrees at our top universities. But our laws discourage them from using those skills to start a business or power a new industry right here in the United States. So instead of training entrepreneurs to create jobs in America, we train them to create jobs for our competition. That makes no sense. In a global marketplace, we need all the talent we can get – not just to benefit those individuals, but because their contributions will benefit all Americans.

Look at Intel and Google and Yahoo and eBay – these are great American companies that have created countless jobs and helped us lead the world in high-tech industries. Every one was founded by an immigrant. We don’t want the next Intel or Google to be created in China or India. We want those companies and jobs to take root in America. Bill Gates gets this. “The United States will find it far more difficult to maintain its competitive edge,” he’s said, “if it excludes those who are able and willing to help us compete.”

It’s for this reason that businesses all across America are demanding that Washington finally meet its responsibility to solve the immigration problem. Everyone recognizes the system is broken. The question is, will we summon the political will to do something about it? And that’s why we’re here at the border today.

In recent years, among the greatest impediments to reform were questions about border security. These were legitimate concerns; it’s true that a lack of manpower and resources at the border, combined with the pull of jobs and ill-considered enforcement once folks were in the country, contributed to a growing number of undocumented people living in the United States. And these concerns helped unravel a bipartisan coalition we forged back when I was a United States Senator. In the years since, “borders first” has been a common refrain, even among those who previously supported comprehensive immigration reform.

Well, over the past two years we have answered those concerns. Under Secretary Napolitano’s leadership, we have strengthened border security beyond what many believed was possible. They wanted more agents on the border. Well, we now have more boots on the ground on the southwest border than at any time in our history. The Border Patrol has 20,000 agents – more than twice as many as there were in 2004, a build up that began under President Bush and that we have continued.

They wanted a fence. Well, that fence is now basically complete.

And we’ve gone further. We tripled the number of intelligence analysts working the border. I’ve deployed unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the skies from Texas to California. We’ve forged a partnership with Mexico to fight the transnational criminal organizations that have affected both of our countries. And for the first time we are screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments – to seize guns and money going south even as we go after drugs coming north.

So, we have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement. But even though we’ve answered these concerns, I suspect there will be those who will try to move the goal posts one more time. They’ll say we need to triple the border patrol. Or quadruple the border patrol. They’ll say we need a higher fence to support reform.

Maybe they’ll say we need a moat. Or alligators in the moat.

They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics.

But the truth is, the measures we’ve put in place are getting results. Over the past two and a half years, we’ve seized 31 percent more drugs, 75 percent more currency, and 64 percent more weapons than before. Even as we’ve stepped up patrols, apprehensions along the border have been cut by nearly 40 percent from two years ago – that means far fewer people are attempting to cross the border illegally.

Also, despite a lot of breathless reports that have tagged places like El Paso as dangerous, violent crime in southwest border counties has dropped by a third. El Paso and other cities and towns along the border are consistently rated among the safest in the nation. Of course, we shouldn’t accept any violence or crime, and we have more work to do. But this progress is important.

Beyond the border, we’re also going after employers who knowingly exploit people and break the law. And we are deporting those who are here illegally. Now, I know that the increase in deportations has been a source of controversy. But I want to emphasize: we are not doing this haphazardly; we are focusing our limited resources on violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income. As a result, we increased the removal of criminals by 70 percent.

That is not to ignore the real human toll. Even as we recognize that enforcing the law is necessary, we don’t relish the pain it causes in the lives of people just trying to get by. And as long as the current laws are on the books, it’s not just hardened felons who are subject to removal; but also families just trying to earn a living, bright and eager students; decent people with the best of intentions. I know some here wish that I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how a democracy works. What we really need to do is keep up the fight to pass reform. That’s the ultimate solution to this problem.

And I’d point out, the most significant step we can take now to secure the borders is to fix the system as a whole – so that fewer people have incentive to enter illegally in search of work in the first place. This would allow agents to focus on the worst threats on both of our borders – from drug traffickers to those who would come here to commit acts of violence or terror.

So, the question is whether those in Congress who previously walked away in the name of enforcement are now ready to come back to the table and finish the work we’ve started. We have to put the politics aside. And if we do, I’m confident we can find common ground. Washington is behind the country on this. Already, there is a growing coalition of leaders across America who don’t always see eye-to-eye, but who are coming together on this issue. They see the harmful consequences of this broken system for their businesses and communities. They understand why we need to act.

There are Democrats and Republicans, including former-Republican Senator Mel Martinez and former-Bush administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff; leaders like Mayor Michael Bloomberg; evangelical ministers like Leith Anderson and Bill Hybels; police chiefs from across the nation; educators and advocates; labor unions and chambers of commerce; small business owners and Fortune 500 CEOs. One CEO had this to say about reform. “American ingenuity is a product of the openness and diversity of this society… Immigrants have made America great as the world leader in business, science, higher education and innovation.”

That’s Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News, and an immigrant himself. I don’t know if you’re familiar with his views, but let’s just say he doesn’t have an Obama bumper sticker on his car.

So there is a consensus around fixing what’s broken. Now we need Congress to catch up to a train that’s leaving the station. Now we need to come together around reform that reflects our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants; that demands everyone take responsibility.

So what would comprehensive reform look like?

First, we know that government has a threshold responsibility to secure the borders and enforce the law. Second, businesses have to be held accountable if they exploit undocumented workers. Third, those who are here illegally have a responsibility as well. They have to admit that they broke the law, pay their taxes, pay a fine, and learn English. And they have to undergo background checks and a lengthy process before they can get in line for legalization.

And fourth, stopping illegal immigration also depends on reforming our outdated system of legal immigration. We should make it easier for the best and the brightest to not only study here, but also to start businesses and create jobs here. In recent years, a full 25 percent of high-tech startups in the U.S. were founded by immigrants, leading to more than 200,000 jobs in America. I’m glad those jobs are here. And I want to see more of them created in this country.

We need to provide farms a legal way to hire the workers they rely on, and a path for those workers to earn legal status.

Our laws should respect families following the rules – reuniting them more quickly instead of splitting them apart. Today, the immigration system not only tolerates those who break the rules, it punishes the folks who follow the rules. While applicants wait for approval, for example, they’re often forbidden from visiting the United States. Even husbands and wives may have to spend years apart. Parents can’t see their children. I don’t believe the United States of America should be in the business of separating families. That’s not right. That’s not who we are.

And we should stop punishing innocent young people for the actions of their parents – by denying them the chance to earn an education or serve in the military. That’s why we need to pass the Dream Act. Now, we passed the Dream Act through the House last year. But even though it received a majority of votes in the Senate, it was blocked when several Republicans who had previously supported the Dream Act voted no.

It was a tremendous disappointment to get so close and then see politics get in the way. And as I gave the commencement at Miami Dade, it broke my heart knowing that a number of those promising, bright students – young people who worked so hard and who speak to what’s best about America – are at risk of facing the agony of deportation. These are kids who grew up in this country, love this country, and know no other place as home. The idea that we would punish them is cruel and it makes no sense. We are a better nation than that.

So we’re going to keep up the fight for the Dream Act. We’re going to keep up the fight for reform. And that’s where you come in. I will do my part to lead a constructive and civil debate on these issues. We’ve already held a series of meetings about this at the White House in recent weeks. And we’ve got leaders here and around the country helping to move the debate forward. But this change has to be driven by you – to help us push for comprehensive reform, and to identify what steps we can take right now – like the Dream Act and visa reform – areas where we can find common ground among Democrats and Republicans to begin fixing what’s broken.

I am asking you to add your voices to this debate – and you can sign up to help at We need Washington to know that there is a movement for reform gathering strength from coast to coast. That’s how we’ll get this done. That’s how we can ensure that in the years ahead we are welcoming the talents of all who can contribute to this country; and that we are living up to that basic American idea: you can make it if you try.

That idea is what gave hope to José Hernández, who is here today. José’s parents were migrant farm workers. And so, growing up, he was too. He was born in California, though he could have just as easily been born on the other side of the border, had it been a different time of year, because his family moved with the seasons. Two of his siblings were actually born in Mexico.

They traveled a lot and José joined his parents picking cucumbers and strawberries. He missed part of the school year when they returned to Mexico each winter. He didn’t learn English until he was 12. But José was good at math, and he liked it. The great thing about math was that it’s the same in every school, and it’s the same in Spanish.

So he studied hard. And one day, standing in the fields, collecting sugar beets, he heard on a transistor radio that a man named Franklin Chang-Diaz – a man with a name like his – was going to be an astronaut for NASA.

José decided that he could be an astronaut, too.

So he kept studying, and graduated high school. He kept studying, earning an engineering degree and a graduate degree. He kept working hard, ending up at a national laboratory, helping to develop a new kind of digital medical imaging system.

And a few years later, he found himself more than 100 miles above the surface of the earth, staring out the window of the Shuttle Discovery, remembering the boy in the California fields with a crazy dream and an unshakable belief that everything was possible in America.

That is what we are fighting for. We are fighting for every boy and girl like José with a dream and potential just waiting to be tapped. We are fighting to unlock that promise, and all that it holds not just for their futures, but for the future of this great country.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hispanic man arrested. Deputies mistake tortilla dough for cocaine

A man heading through the NC mountains was charged with possession of 91 pounds of cocaine, but apparently he was only carrying tortilla dough and cooking flour, according to news reports.

Just odd.

Antonio Hernandez Carranza was arrested on May 1, when a Buncombe County deputy pulled up to his stopped car on the side of Interstate 240 with its hazard lights on, according to Fox Carolina. He was allegedly on his way to see family in Johnson City, Tenn.

Carranza allegedly drove away when police approached and led the officers on a three mile chase. After narcotics dog smelled something in Carranza's baggage, officers checked the bags and determined it was cocaine. But, according to Fox Carolina, when a State Bureau of Investigation lab tested the materials, the results were negative for narcotics. It was actually tortilla dough and cooking flour.

Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan said the cocaine charges against Carranza were dropped, but he did plead guilty to failure to stop for officers.

Friday, May 6, 2011

White House hosts English education seminar in Charlotte

White House officials will be in Charlotte next week to discuss how to better teach English to children who have limited English skills and/or learning it as a second language.

Jose Rico, deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and Joanne Urrutia, deputy director the Office of English Language Acquisition, will lead a two-day meeting starting Monday with teachers, parents, administrators, community organizations, and policy makers at the Doubletree Hotel on Yorkmount Road near the airport.

Organizers say the meetings, part of the series “National Conversations on English Learner Education,” are part of an effort “to share best practices, challenges and recommendations for educating English language learners.” Previous meetings have been held in Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Input from the meetings will help guide policy development for limited English proficient students.

Each session will be streamed online.

To register or for more information, visit

National Conversations on English Learner Education

Monday, May 9, 2011 1-5 p.m. ET
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET

Doubletree Hotel Charlotte Airport, 2600 Yorkmont Road, Charlotte


Urban League Young Professionals Announce 2011 Leadership Awards

Mayor Anthony Foxx to be honored at Young Professionals’ fourth annual event

The Urban League of Central Carolinas Young Professionals Auxiliary is rolling out the red carpet for the 2011 Leadership Awards. The ULCCYP will host the 4th Annual Leadership Awards event Saturday, May 21st at the Omni Hotel, 132 E. Trade Street.

Organizers say this year’s award recipients have demonstrated a commitment to professional and personal development, philanthropic opportunities, and community activism. They are:

  • Nepherterra Estrada, Partner and Director of Public Relations, Pride Public Relations
  • The Honorable Anthony Foxx, Mayor of Charlotte
  • Mr. Rod Garvin, Consultant, Business Development and Marketing
Several students will also be honored. Alisha Carter, a senior at West Meck High School and Deborah Hugh, a senior at South Meck High School will receive scholarships in the amount of $2500 each from Bi-Lo. Carter has been accepted to High Point University and Hugh will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall.

All proceeds from the 2011 Leadership Awards will benefit the Urban League of Central Carolinas’ Urban Youth Empowerment Program. Current event sponsors include Coca Cola, Enterprise Holdings, Inc, Events/com, Fifth Third Bank and GoodWorks.

Advance tickets are $35, two for $60, and $45 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased online at or at the Urban League of Central Carolinas. For more information, call 704.373 2256 ext 205 or email

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Being Black and Latino

Watch the full episode. See more Black in Latin America.

Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores race in Latin America in a new four-part series beginning tonight on PBS.

Gates notes that the vast majority of the 11.2 million Africans brought to the New World were taken to the Caribbean and Latin American. And they were kept as slaves far longer than the slaves brought to the United States. Only 450,000 came to the United States, he says in a Q&A posted on the PBS website.

“That’s amazing. All the rest went south of Miami as it were. Brazil got almost 5 million Africans. In part, this reflects our ignorance as Americans who don’t know that much about the rest of the world. But also, it is in part the responsibility of the countries in South America themselves — each of which underwent a period of whitening.”

In the series, Gates explores their stories and legacy of colonialism and slavery through Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico and Peru.

Here in North Carolina, we've seen this first hand. A large number of the Mexican population in the Carolinas is of African descent as was documented in a 2008 exhibit by the Afro-American Cultural Center in Charlotte.

The exhibit highlighted African descendants in Mexico and how some have migrated to the South, particularly to Winston Salem.

“I'm a Blaxican," Magdaleno Salinas, a native of Guerrero now living in Winston-Salem, said in an exhibit documentary.

If you're wondering where you recognize Gates. He's the Harvard professor who helped spark a national conversation on race relations and law enforcement after his 2009 arrest at his Massachusetts home by a Cambridge police officer who was responding to a call about a possible break-in. President Obama later intervened and said the police “acted stupidly” in arresting Gates. He later extended an invitation to both Gates and the officer to share a beer with him at the White House.

The PBS series airs tonight at 8 p.m.

Video: PBS

Photo: The photography of Romualdo Garcia was featured in the 2008 exhibit at the Afro-American Cultural Center. PHOTO COURTESY AFRO-AMERICAN CULTURAL CENTER

Monday, April 18, 2011

Helping victims of Japan

Several local international groups, including the Wells Fargo Asian Connection, Carolinas Asian-American Chamber and the International House, are teaming together to host a dinner on Thursday to support earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan.

The March 11 disaster killed more than 12,000 people and officials fear the number could more than double. More than 100,000 people are reportedly still homeless a month later.

Tickets are $75 for the 6 p.m. dinner at Kalu Asian Kitchen. Only the first 100 RSVP’s will be confirmed so get in touch early.

For more information, email

Top Photo: AP -- Waves of tsunami hit residences after a powerful earthquake in Natori, Miyagi prefecture (state), Japan, Friday, March 11, 2011. The largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history slammed the eastern coast Friday. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Center photo: AP -- A stranded elderly woman is carried on the back of a Japanese soldier after being rescued from a residence at Kesennuma, northeastern Japan, on Saturday March 12, 2011, one day after a giant earthquake and tsunami struck the country’s northeastern coast. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Controversial congressman, champion for reform, visits Clt

The U.S. Congress’s leading voice for immigration reform – and therefore a very controversial one – will meet with Latinos in Charlotte next week to draw attention to deportations and the toll they’re taking on immigrant families.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, is on a 20-city tour he is calling the "Campaign for American Children and Families." He's also calling on President Obama to finally deliver immigration reform.

North Carolina's illegal immigrant population remained steady last year at about 325,000 people, after taking a slight dip the year before.

"The fear and dissatisfaction in immigrant and Latino communities is palpable and both parties shoulder some of the blame," said Gutierrez, who last year introduced an unsuccessful immigration reform bill. "Headed into an election year, the issue I am hearing about most is the record-setting pace of deportations, the price families and communities are paying, and the failure to make progress on immigration."

An estimated 11.2 million illegal immigrants live in the United States, including 325,000 in North Carolina, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Charlotte was chosen because of its large and growing immigrant population as well as being the city that will host the 2012 Democratic Convention. The Latin American Coalition will host the visit.

During a stop last week in Boston, Gutierrez urged the president to use his authority to act independently of Congress and establish a policy that would let illegal immigrants remain in the country while immigration policy is overhauled, according to The Boston Globe. And he warned that Obama risks losing the support of the Latino community, which supported him in 2008.

“For too long, our movement has been tied to one party,’’ said Gutierrez. “Listen, this issue is greater than the Democrats, the Republicans, or any one party. This is a human rights issue.’’

The Charlotte event will be held April 20 at 6:30 p.m. at St Paul Baptist Church on Allen Street near Uptown. For more information, call 704-759-6503 or email

Photo: Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., right, surrounded by families who have members facing deportation, in Washington, D.C. last month announces the "Campaign for American Children and Families" tour. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)