Global Voices

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Choosing ‘Exile’ Over Break-up, US Citizens Follow ‘Banned’ Spouses Abroad

This post is part of our series on Latin America: Migrant Journeys in collaboration with The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). Stay tuned for more articles and podcasts.

Happily ever after isn't always so simple for foreigners in the United States with complicated immigration histories who marry US citizens.

Details such as how they arrived in the US or how long they've been there can mean the difference between starting a life with their new family and immigration laws not allowing them to stay.

Take Leo and Corin, for example. Leo is from Brazil and Corin is a US citizen. They met, fell in love and got married in the United States, but Leo had entered the country “‘without inspection’ – in other words, through Mexico – less than 10 years ago and accrued almost 6 years of ‘unlawful presence,’” as Corin writes in her blog Corin in Exile.

Corin further explains that “the Immigration and Nationality Act says that any immigrant ‘unlawfully present’ in the United States for more than a year is inadmissible for 10 years — even married to an American.”

Corin and Leo had three choices. First, they could apply for “the Hardship Waiver”, where “the American spouse has to prove that their partner’s absence causes them ‘extreme hardship’” –something that they couldn’t prove. Second, they could stay in the United States and wait for immigration reform. Or third, they could leave the country and start their life abroad.

With the waiver option out of the table, the couple decided to leave the country and return to Brazil because, as Corin writes, neither “could stand the stress of living in the US without Leo having documents.”

Corin and Leo are just one of many families in this situation.

Photo shared on Facebook by Action Family Unity

Photo shared on Facebook by Action Family Unity

Like them, many who are currently living outside of the United States due to current immigration laws have started blogging about their cases and their life “in exile.”

Perhaps the blog that has gotten the most media coverage, helping to draw attention to these cases, is The Real Housewife of Ciudad Juarez.

Emily Bonderer Cruz started her blog back in 2010, when she moved to Mexico because her husband “is ineligible to apply for legal status in the United States until 2020,” as she explains in her profile.

Emily goes into detail about their story in a recent post titled “Mi Casa” (My home):

In 2007 my husband was given a voluntary departure by ICE [US Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. Given. Now that's a funny concept, isn't it? As if it were a gift or something.

Emily says that she went into a state of depression while she didn’t know where her husband was, or if he was even alive, as he was “stuck somewhere in the system and without any documentation, without a Social [Security number], he was just a ghost, just another immigrant lost in the in-between.” She continues:

When he finally called me from a pay phone in Nogales [Mexico], it was as if a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. He was alive. He was back on the map. He was going to be okay. I scrounged up just enough money for a bus ticket back to Parral, and for a brief moment, all was right in the world. I knew he was safe. It was in that moment that I also knew I had done the right thing and that this man was the love of my life. This is when my life was forever changed, because I knew that sooner or later, a change was gonna come.

I would be moving to Mexico.

Emily’s blog roll features several blogs by families who have moved out of the US due to immigration laws. One of these blogs is Destination Paradise, where Amy writes about her life with her husband Carlos and their two children in South Korea.

In a post titled “Why?” Amy explains that Carlos was forced by a parent to move to the US from Mexico as a teenager. Carlos attended high school and went to college in the US, and after four and a half years of dating he married Amy, a US citizen.

Amy explains that Carlos was “tired of living in the shadows in the US” and they decided to move to northern Mexico.

In October 2008, they received notice from the US Consulate in Ciudad Juarez explaining that Carlos was not eligible for a visa to live in the US as Amy’s spouse.

What’s worse, Carlos wasn’t eligible for the hardship waiver either, because after arriving to the US for the first time, he had been taken back to Mexico and then forced by a parent to re-enter the US “using a relative's US birth certificate instead of the visitor's visa he already possessed” Amy explains. “Under immigration law — INA 212 A 6 C ii to be specific — a false claim of US citizenship carries a lifetime ban with no waiver.”

With the help of their lawyer, Amy and Carlos tried to find a solution for three and a half years, all the while living apart. Finally, in 2011 Amy and Carlos moved out of their respective countries and headed to South Korea.

Amy says that with recent proposed reforms, “it seems that they will now start looking deeper at the specifics in cases where the immigrant was a minor at the time, and it looks promising for our family.”

In February of this year, Amy also wrote a moving post about their status and how it relates to the current Comprehensive Immigration Reform. In the post, titled “Let no man divide what God has put together”, Amy links to a petition on which asks President Barack Obama to “bring home American families in exile”:

American citizen spouses of immigrants with immigration bars have three choices: break up their families, move abroad with no safety net and attempt to ‘get in line,’ or live unlawfully with their spouses in the US. We should not be forced to make these choices.

The petition was started by Action for Family Unity (Act4Fams), a volunteer-run group that tries to raise awareness about this issue. The group’s Facebook page, which has more stories like these, posts updates on current changes to immigration law that could affect families like Corin’s, Amy’s and Emily’s.

In the blogosphere, there are also stories of families who have been able to return to the United States after years of struggling with harsh immigration laws. For Giselle Stern Hernández and her Mexican husband, “justice was restored” -as she writes- in June 2013, after 12 years since her husband’s second deportation.

Giselle, a Mexican-American writer and performer, keeps the blog The Deportee’s Wife “to explore themes in the life of a deported man’s wife through a multimedia and intersectional lens.” Giselle also performs a one-woman show with the same title in the United States and Mexico. You can see the trailer for her show here:

But if immigration reform is passed, many families might not have to wait as long as Giselle and her husband to solve their immigration status and live together in the United States.

Earlier this year, The Center for Public Integrity reported that the Senate immigration bill,

calls for giving immigration judges and other officials more discretion to consider the pain and suffering that a loved one’s separation causes U.S. citizens and legal immigrants [...] The proposal says judges who review cases can decline to order an immigrant, with some criminal exceptions, to be ‘removed, deported or excluded’ if it would be ‘against the public interest or would result in hardship to the alien’s United States citizen or permanent resident’ spouse or children.

Families affected by current immigration laws have created a supportive online community through blogs and social networks, where they also raise awareness about their situation and pressure US legislators to include their families in the much anticipated immigration reform.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

‘Million People March’ Against Corruption in the Philippines

Massive protests, the biggest since President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III took office three years ago, rocked the Philippines on National Heroes Day as hundreds of thousands expressed indignation against government corruption and called for the full abolition of the pork barrel.

Police estimated that around 80,000 to 100,000 gathered in Rizal Park in Manila, the national capital, while thousands more held mass actions in other cities nationwide.

Public outrage against the corruption-tainted pork barrel came in the wake of exposés on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which is allotted for legislators in Congress and Senate for use in pet projects.

The PDAF has long been the target of critics as a site of official corruption. But public uproar swelled after a whistleblower identified businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles who is alleged to have conspired with lawmakers to pocket P10 billion through the fund.

Aerial shot of Rizal Park rally. Photo courtesy of Architect Paulo Alcazaren.

Aerial shot of Rizal Park rally. Photo courtesy of Architect Paulo Alcazaren. From @muntingprinsipe

Dubbed the “Million People March,” the idea behind Monday's predominantly middle-class gathering in Rizal Park originated from social media interactions between concerned netizens on Facebook and Twitter.

The concept for a million people march against the pork barrel began with a random Facebook post by music producer Ito Rapadas.

What we need is a MILLION PEOPLE MARCH by struggling Filipino taxpayers- a day of protest by the silent majority that would demand all politicians and govt. officials (whatever the political stripes, color they may carry) to stop pocketing our taxes borne out from our hard work by means of these pork barrel scams and other creative criminal acts.

This was shared by various netizens including his friend Peachy Bretaña who suggested that the mass action be held on August 26 in time for the National Heroes Day.

Protest actions were also held in various cities nationwide, notably in Bacolod City, Baguio City, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu City, Dagupan City, Davao City, Digos City, Dumaguete City, Iloilo City, Naga City, and Puerto Princessa in Palawan.

"P1 trillion pork barrel of President Aquino, rechannel to social services"

“P1 trillion pork barrel of President Aquino, rechannel to social services”, photo from @LeanneJazul

Perhaps to deflect public outrage, Aquino promised the abolition of the PDAF and its replacement by a more transparent funding scheme last Friday. The protest action still pushed through.

During the day of the actual protest, President Aquino and his spokespersons announced that the government was on the same side with the protesters. Apparently, many were not convinced. Here were some reactions on Twitter:

Meanwhile, Pixel Offensive said that if the President is truly on the people's side against pork barrel it should manifest on the following:

1) Abolition of all pork, no exemption. Kulangot lang ito kumpara sa PORK nya. [This is minor compared to his own pork.]

2) His staff wouldn't post anti-rally tweets. This just exposes the Presidential inner circle's way of thinking

Let's raise this discussion a bit higher, shall we? Do you expect an haciendero president to serve the people?

Critics alleged that the “presidential pork barrel” consisting of lump-sum allocations the disbursement of which is left to the sole discretion of the president and his executive department is worth more than 1.3 trillion pesos.

Abolish Pork Barrel Reality

Interestingly, despite the Aquino regime's claiming to be on the side of the protesters some of his spokespersons contradicted this by posting tweets criticizing the protest action.

Hours before the anti-corruption rally, presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte tweeted a link of an article that described indignation over the pork barrel as a “nice but misplaced statement.”

The article said that while the pork barrel has been abused it isn't necessarily evil and concluded by calling those joining the protest action as afflicted by a “hypocrisy of indignation”:

Are we thinking the next step after, or like Juan Tamad waiting for someone to solve the problem for us? Anger is the path to the dark side, and this is why the hypocrisy of indignation must stop, and why we must shift gears and solve the problem of how government spends our monies.

Another presidential spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, also tweeted a link of the same article and quipped, “Who says blogging is passé!”

For his part, Communications undersecretary Manuel Quezon III asked the Catholic Church, which encouraged the people to attend the mass action, why it remained quiet during the incumbency of former President Gloria Arroyo.

The said officials have denied tweeting against the rally. But in the end, no amount of public relations magic can suppress public outrage over the massive plunder of people's money by government officials and their cronies while millions of Filipinos suffer from hunger, joblessness, and extreme poverty.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Assad Wages Chemical Warfare on Al Ghouta, a Damascus Suburb

Hundreds of people, mostly children and women, were killed this morning when Bashar Al Assad's forces attacked the Ghouta region, east of Damascus, Syria, reportedly with nerve gas, say activists.

Horrible footage of dying (and dead) children are plastered across social media, calling for the world to break its silence on the atrocities being committed against civilians in Syria.

On Greater Syria, Enas, a Syrian in Amman, Jordan, writes:

At around 3:00 a.m. in the morning, regime’s forces fired rockets with chemical heads on Zamallaka and on Al Zainia area in Ein Turma. Jobar district was slightly affected by as the gases were driven to it by the wind. A big number of civilians were consequently subjected to the gases, leading to the martyrdom of tens of them. Up until now, primary reports from makeshift hospital of Arbeen (where victims were taken) report 41 martyrs fell (22 children, 11 women, 8 men), 5 other martyrs were taken to Douma, 40 martyrs documented by videos in Saqba, and at least 20 martyrs inside Ein Turma itself. Most activists report that death toll amounts to more than a 100 up until now. Many of the martyrs are children, seen in videos below suffocating to death.

Enas's post provides links to photographs and videos [Warning: Graphic] showing the unfolding tragedy.

Enas adds:

Symptoms of the patients include nausea, hallucinations, suffocation, hard coughing, high blood pressure, seizures, during affection and post-death gargle, etc. Still, no clue of the chemical weapon/toxic gas that was used by the regime’s forces to target the innocent civilians.

Families are fleeing the targeted areas to Saqba and several other nearby areas as reported by activists there as they are utterly horrified. Activists also report the lack of Atropine that is usually used to treat civilians during chemical attacks by the regime; oxygen tanks are not available too. Medics are only using vinegar to the mouth and nose and are washing the bodies of the victims by water.

The number of those killed has been on the rise since. Hala Droubi offers another toll:

And others put the toll at over 635 so far:

Mohannad shares a photograph from a field hospital in Daraya, where he says there isn't room to treat more of those injured:

And he challenges the media to break the wall of silence on atrocities being committed in Syria:

Enas shares her pain:

She adds that the bombing followed the victims, taken to nearby Erbin, for treatment:

For more on the tragedy, follow the hashtag #CWMassacre on Twitter.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Egypt: “I Literally Felt a Bullet Pass Over my Shoulder”

Egyptian photojournalist Mosa'ab Elshamy was shot at, had a bullet fly over his shoulder, and had his equipment stolen as he ventured into Rabaa Al Adawiya, where a pro-Morsi sit-in was violently dispersed in Cairo, Egypt, today.

He tweets his experience in a series of tweets, which give us a sneak preview of what it was like at the evacuation of the Muslim Brotherhood sit-in in Nasr City this morning.

Getting to the Rabaa sit-in was the easy part:

There, he first dealt with teargas:

The horror he saw, he captured in a gallery of photographs, he shares on flickr. [Warning: Some pictures, particularly of the corpses in the morgue, are graphic]

ElShamy has a close brush with snipers:

But he remains put, clicking away, as the clashes intensify:

A bullet flies over his shoulder. He tweets:

With that, and the pellets of shotgun in his back, Elshamy decides to call it a day:

But that was not the end of it.

Don't miss out ElShamy's photographs from today's clashes on his flickr account here.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Eid Terror in Yemen With Three US Drone Strikes

Yemen received the first day of Eid (the Muslim holiday celebrating the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan) on August 8 2013, the same way it had received it on Christmas day, with US drone strikes, yet this time it was not with two strikes but three.

The US closed 19 of it's embassies across countries in the Middle East and North Africa over a “terror threat”, which was intercepted by the CIA, between Al- Qaeda’s head Ayman Al-Zawahri and Nasir Al-Wuhayshi, the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) head in Yemen. The US also issued a warning to it's citizens to leave the country and flew its embassy staff to Germany. The UK, France and Germany followed suit, closing their embassies in Yemen and issuing terror warnings to their nationals to leave the country.

A few days before Eid, on August 5, Sanaa residents were awoken to the buzzing sound of what they suspected to be a US drone which was later identified as a surveillance plane hovering over the skies of the capital, terrifying its residents.

Photo of the US surveillance plane mistaken for a US Drone circling over the capital Sana'a. (by Yemeni photographer: Hafez Aljbahi

Photo of the US surveillance plane mistaken for a US Drone circling over the capital Sana'a. (by Yemeni photographer: Hafez Aljbahi

Lawyer Haykel Bafana3 tweeted:

Activist and Sanaa resident Osamah Alfakih also tweeted:

A video of the US plane which was circling the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, for days was uploaded to YouTube via YouthStandYEMEN:

A few days later, on August 8th, the first day of Eid three drone strikes were reported, two in Hadhramout and one in Mareb, killing 12, often referred to by media headlines as “suspected militants” without knowing their identities.

Other Yemenis such as Ahmed Khaled complained of the terror caused by the US drones:

Yemeni/American Journalist Hakim Almasmari, editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post, tweeted:

Independent journalist Rania Khalik tweeted:

She questioned the “terror threat” adding a link to her blog:

Yemeni/American activist Rooj Alwazir tweeted in dismay:

Palestinian/American Journalist Ahmed Shihab-Eldin also tweeted:

He added:

Yemeni journalist Khaled Al-Hammadi tweeted:

Yemeni/British Blogger Omar Mashjari tweeted:

Haykal Bafan3 like many Yemenis, questioned the identities of those killed:

Yemeni Blogger @Afrahnasser posted [graphic] video and stills images of recent US drone strikes in Yemen in her blog post

Yemeni activist and journalist Farea Al-Muslimi summed up the fear experienced by Yemenis in his tweet:

Almuslimi also tweeted a word of advice to journalists:

Haykel Bafana3 also urged reporters to do some investigative journalism before relaying any information:

The debate regarding U.S. drone strikes in Yemen has been wether they are effective or if they were creating more enemies was a topic discussed in this SupportYemen video:

A missing voice is in the discussion about drones has been that of families of drone victims which Haykal Bafan3 tweeted a link to a BBC report addressing this issue:

Researcher Atiaf Alwazir also advised:

Video-journalist Benjamin Wiacek tweeted:

CNN correspondent Mohammed Jamjoum tweeted:

On Sunday August 11th, 18 of the 19 US embassies re-opened except the one in Yemen.

Since July 27th, till today August 13 the day of writing this post, Yemen has been hit by 10 US drone strikes in different parts of the country (Abyan, Mareb, Hadgramout, Lahj, Shabwa) killing 40 unidentified alleged “militants”.

Yemenis condemn Al-Qaeda's activities and want Yemen to be safe but are enraged by the surge of US drone strikes in Yemen, as they are with President Hadi for approving them and by the government's silence towards the extra-judicial killing of Yemenis based on a US “Kill List“. Most of the so-called “suspected militants” killed are not identified nor are the numbers of civilians killed acknowledged. Both governments are not accountable for their deaths nor for compensating their families for their loss. In summary what was hyped as an Al-Qaeda “terror threat” on the US turned to be a “terror reality” in Yemen by the US, experienced by many Yemenis over Eid.

via Global Voices » Feature

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Monday, August 05, 2013

Massive Fraud Haunts Cambodian Elections

As expected, Cambodia’s ruling party was declared winner in the National Assembly elections but the opposition has rejected the results and accused the government of committing widespread fraud.

The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) led by Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power in the past 28 years. It won 68 seats while the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) managed to get 55 seats.

Perhaps Andy Brouwer’s Twitter post reflected the overall impact of the elections:

Writing for the Bangkok Post, popular Cambodian blogger and Global Voices author Kounila Keo recognized the active participation of young people in the campaign:

…it cannot be denied that there has been an active participation of Cambodian young people on the internet and social media. And, they are hungry for change in their lives and that of their next generation.

It does not matter who has won this election. Despite election irregularities, younger voters have overcome fear to make their voices heard through the ballots. And they want change.

As a young voter, I was really moved by young people's willingness to actively participate and show their courage for the first time.

During the 30-day electoral campaigns, hundreds of thousands of youth took to the streets in Phnom Penh and used social media to express their thoughts and convictions without fear. I suddenly felt empowered to discuss political issues in depth freely, knowing I would no longer be alone doing that.

Tharum observed that social media became a more reliable source of election updates than mainstream media:

But Tith Chandara lamented the unethical behavior of some Internet users:

The engagement of some social media users in Cambodia in supporting their favorite party is on some ways unethical and violent while harsh words, aggressive responses and fake graphic designs are discovered since the campaign started. Users share pictures, graphics without checking for confirmation on sources, though they know sometimes the information is not (yet) official.

Jinja analyzed the election results and mentioned some voting irregularities

Anecdotally speaking: this is the first time I’ve had Khmer friends come to me and note that their name was not on the voter rolls, or that it had been voted by someone else. International monitoring organizations concur… mostly.

Election Day. Photo from Facebook page of CPP Cambodia

Election Day. Photo from Facebook page of CPP Cambodia

Casey Nelson discussed how the ethnic Vietnamese was vilified during the campaign:

The Vietnamese are the Khmer’s ethnic Other, the first minority group onto which blame falls during times of political and social tension.

The relationship between Vietnam and Cambodia is complicated, and traditional ethnic antagonism is deeply intertwined with historical and political animosities which are not completely unjustified, but when things turn bad in Cambodia, it is often if not always the poor, powerless ethic Vietnamese that take the violent brunt of it.

Writing for the Asia Times Online, Sebastian Strangio reminded the opposition to use its good showing in the polls to wield greater political influence:

As the country enters a brave new political world, the opposition, flushed with success, will have to perform a delicate dance if it is to transform electoral returns into real reforms and practical power.

But Caroline Hughes, who contributed an article for the Asia Sentinel, doubts if the opposition has a real alternative that it can offer:

…it is hard to gauge from opposition party pronouncements how they might produce a development strategy for Cambodia that would significantly differ from that over which the CPP has presided. In terms of development, Cambodia has simply followed its more advanced South East Asian neighbors in pursuing a strategy of asset stripping the countryside and soaking up the dispossessed rural poor into low-wage manufacturing and services employment in the towns.

Brad Adams of the Human Rights Watch mentioned the proliferation of fake election documents that undermined the voting process:

Senior ruling party officials appear to have been involved in issuing fake election documents and fraudulently registering voters in multiple provinces. And people from the party seem to have been turning up in places where they clearly don’t live and insisting on voting – not to mention the many other claims of fraud around the country.

The multiple voting scheme suggests the possibility of systematic election fraud by the CPP and raises serious questions about the credibility of the election.

But other international observers described the recent Cambodian elections as ‘free, fair, and transparent’:

…a triumph of popular will and a victory of the Cambodian people in their quest to build a better future based on the supremacy and sanctity of the ballot.

For Nikitung91, a coalition is needed to improve the situation in the country:

I still think a coalition would be a good solution…but no parties really agree so…

At the end of the day, I really don’t care who will lead the country, all I want is a healthy and strong improving country. No war within the country will happen if we listen to the population, no need to fraud the elections, to manipulate the media.

via Global Voices » Feature

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