Fiji Indian Wins Asylum Claim On Dubious Grounds

Posted on by Prerna in Fiji Coup Coverage, Immigration | Leave a comment

“Jannif Ali came to the Bay Area on a visa with his family in 1989 and applied for political asylum, saying soldiers in his native Fiji had beaten him and dynamited his house. Immigration officials took 14 years to schedule an interview with Ali and then ordered him deported, saying State Department reports showed that conditions in Fiji had improved. But a federal appeals court said Friday that immigration judges hadn’t considered evidence of Fiji’s treatment of minorities since the latest military coup, in 2006, and had looked only at general conditions in the island nation – not the situation of someone like Ali who had been persecuted under a previous military regime.”

- S.F. Chronicle, Mar. 18, 2011.

The case is Ali v. Holder and decided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Any lawyer who can win an asylum claim for a random Indo-Fijian deserves an award. There’s a drastic world of difference between the Rabuka-led  military coup of 1987 and the Bainimarama-led military coup of 2006. I doubt anyone can even make a claim that Indians in Fiji were collectively better off under Sitiveni Rabuka than they are under Commodore Bainimarama. My Dad was thrown in jail in 1987 just because he was Indian. Today, I could probably hold down a cabinet portfolio in the military government. But the Ninth Circuit does not seem to care about general trends and conditions in the country, which is a sign of progress.

Honestly, Ali should have been granted asylum in the early 90s. It is deplorable that USCIS chose to wait fourteen years before denying his claim. But he certainly does not have much grounds for a well-founded fear of the 2006 regime.

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When is the Last Time Bombing A Country Freed People?

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights, Politics | Leave a comment

(en) Libya Location (he) ????? ???

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I have a question. When is the last time bombing a country with Tomahawk missiles freed a people? Was it in Vietnam, Korea, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq?

Frankly, I have no idea what is going on in Libya. Qaddhafi claims the uprising is Al-Qaeda forces. The “rebels” — who are religious but claim not to be extremists — say they want “freedom” for Libya from the despot. The UN Security Council passed a resolution to intervene and now the United States, along with France and the UK, are bombing the country.

I can’t help but see a pattern here and coincidences with prior bombing campaigns.

Coincidence #1. Many say that Libyans asked for help and military intervention and that this is not an invasion like Iraq. Rather, that this is an “internationally sanctioned” intervention. The focus is on the tyranny of the Qaddafi regime, much like the 2003 war against Iraq focused on the actions of Saddam Hussein and his mythical weapons of mass destruction.

Coincidence #2: Supporters of the war against Libya also decry the irony that the bombing campaign on the country began on March 19, 2011 — the 8th anniversary of the war against Iraq. Obama could not have picked a better date to commemorate the anniversary.

Coincidence #3. There is an oil factor here as well. The United States was chummy with Saddam till he decided to nationalize his oil industry in the early 90s. That’s when the country started having problems with Hussein gassing the Kurds, with weapons supplied by the United States. Similarly, Libya used to be categorized as a “rogue” country for quite a while. That was until it moved to dismantle its weapons of mass destructed program and liberalize its economy and signed the near-billion dollar oil contract with BP oil, following Tony Blair’s visit in May 2007. Due to the uprising, BP had to suspend operations scheduled to start this year. The company has a lot to lose if it does not resume operations and there is some evidence that it has a lot of power with the British government. (Read up on the Lockerbie bomber).

Coincidence #4. The interests of our allied powers are not so pure so saying that the war is internationally sanctioned is not any excuse. As the country with the largest oil reserves in Africa, Libya supplies 10% of Italy’s gas needs and in return Italy is the second biggest arms seller to the Qadaffi regime. It supplies 10% of France’s oil and petrochemicals and in return France is the biggest seller of arms to the Qadaffi regime. Finally, the BP (a UK-based oil company) investment in Libyan oil $2 billion and in return the UK was the third largest seller of weapons to the Qadaffi regime. Knowing that, I’m supposed to believe that when the UK and French used Italian airbases to implement a no-fly zone over Libya, they did so with the purest and most humanitarian of motives, much like the no-fly zones imposed over Iraq.

I’m not saying that this is a war for oil. Professor Ismael Hossein-Zadeh forewarns that there is strong evidence that the powerful interests vested in war and militarism actually use oil as a pretext to justify military adventures in order to derive higher dividends from the business of war such as defense contracting.

I’m saying that our interests are not as clear and convincing. The United States, France and the UK may have several different interests in attacking Libya, some taking precedence over others. The French interest may be the coming presidential election in France where Sarkozy is not a clear favorite to win re-election. There is a looming European economic crisis and an oil/gas crisis in the short term propagated by the internal turmoil in Libya does not sound appealing for any of the European countries involved in the war. The press says the UN Security Council vote was 10-0, but really there were major abstentions from Germany, India, Brazil and China. I guess they don’t have any interest in going to war with Libya.

If this is only for humanitarian purposes, it is unclear to me why intervention in Libyan affairs takes precedence over intervening in other countries with tyrants and despots as leaders. Why is the United States supporting anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya but not popular uprisings in equally undemocratic countries like Yemen, China, Iran, Bahrain and Sudan? Right now, Japan figures as more of a threat to the world and needs our help more than Libya but I do not see the same priority for the country. Maybe there is a simple answer to all this: it is easier to get rid of Qaddafi and almost everyone will be in a better place without any real objection from anyone.

I want to make it clear that there is no way I support Qaddafi but bombing Libya does not take place in a vacuum. There are economic and human costs involved, and as of now, it is unclear precisely what a successful bombing mission is supposed to achieve. No one is asking the people of Libya what they want to achieve from this. After all, their interests are the only thing that should matter in this new shock and awe campaign.

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Petitions Galore

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | Leave a comment

I need to keep a track of my numerous petitions. It is out of control. FYI, I want to take the opportunity to do a shameless plug for It’s a fantastic petition tool for grassroot activists and community organizations who cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars in software. Please check it out and use it for local, targeted campaigns with specific asks. For example, it works wonders to flood the President of your school with emails concerning an issue, not that I’m suggesting that you do that.

Petitions by|Start a Petition »

Some of the petitions I’ve created lately are below:

Now I know why I can’t seem to keep track of everything and have e-petition burnout. You wouldn’t see these many actions from fully-funded and staffed immigrant rights groups because they don’t have capacity. I’m just a full-time law student. And it’s not even advisable to have these many actions at the same time.

If anyone has updates or comments related to these online petitions, please give me a heads-up.

Japan On The Brink of Nuclear Disaster: Is It Time to Deconstruct Nuclear Threats Yet?

Posted on by Prerna in Nationalism, Political Theory | Leave a comment

The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dr...

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The nuclear fallout from Japan has reached my state of California. Reportedly, the level of radiation is not dangerous to the people of the West Coast so they do not need to take those iodine pills.

I’m plagued with a different question. Here’s a possible nuclear threat that no country has placed as part of their national security calculus of risk.

There are general opinion pieces on how the world needs to rethink nuclear weapons after the coming Japan disaster. Some newspapers have picked up on the historical memory of the first use of nuclear weapons, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that led to massive catastrophe. Others are struggling with why Japan chose to use nuclear power after the horrifying specter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Japan’s first nuclear disaster is not just a memory. The fact that the country is once again on the brink of nuclear doom should not be lost to memory.

The United States has never apologized for Hiroshima and Nagasaki and for its hand in the widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons. Most of the discourse ignores that the United States played a vital hand in the nuclear infrastructure of Japan and blames Japan for its use of nuclear power. However, Japan is facing nuclear disaster because the United States and Russia went down the path of mutually assured destruction during the Cold War rather than condemning nuclear power. They formed an exclusive nuclear club that continues to deny membership to the more “pariah states” like North Korea and Iran in the name of international security. While Japan has never been a part of that nuclear club, the fact that it has nuclear infrastructure has never become an international or national security concern until now.

Just imagine if it was North Korea or Iran who were faced with impending doom. The international response would be radically different. The UN Security Council would be up in arms. And yet, international security is not threatened by those “pariah states” right now. Any prospective threat comes from Japan, a country that is considered benevolent and right now, under the United States nuclear umbrella. Maybe we need to redefine the nexus of our security concerns and threat construction.

I’m not saying Japan is an inherent threat to international security. I’m saying that there is something very wrong about how threats are constructed using geo-political calculations, and how this construction actually endangers our security. Maybe a tsunami and earthquake need to figure higher up on our list of threats to human security than a nuclear Iran OR nuclear North Korea. And maybe the creation of nuclear waste and nuclear power should be every bit of a threat as a nuclear explosion.

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Immigration Reform: Administrative Actions to Improve the System

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration | 1 Comment

Border Wall, Brownsville, Texas, Immigrant, Cr...

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Yesterday, I attended a conference held by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) where they unveiled a report, Executive Action on Immigration: Six Ways to Make the System Work Better, offering six proposals that the Obama administration could implement to improve the functioning and advance the core goals of the nation’s immigration system.

The recommendations are:

  • The administration and DHS define what constitutes effective border control, promoting a more informed and nuanced public debate about the effectiveness of border enforcement, especially along the Southwest land border. As part of this, DHS agencies should provide more border enforcement metrics to the public.
  • DHS, in consultation with DOJ, establish uniform enforcement priorities, based on its existing guidance for exercising prosecutorial discretion, and implement them across its immigration agencies, programs and processes.
  • Creation of a White House Office on Immigrant Integration led by a Special Assistant to the President, convening a Cabinet-level interagency task force and working group of state and local officials. The office would also track integration outcomes to inform immigration policymaking and to analyze the needs associated with future immigration policy proposals.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudicate waivers to grounds of inadmissibility based on “unlawful presence” before visa beneficiaries must leave the country to apply for a family-based immigrant visa. Expanded use of the Section 245(i) process would provide certainty for eligible family immigrants, encouraging fuller use of established legal admissions opportunities and processing.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys screen all Notices to Appear (NTAs) for removal proceedings prior to their filing in immigration court to ensure NTAs adhere to DHS’s prosecutorial discretion guidelines and clogged immigration courts are not further burdened with lower-priority cases.
  • DHS and DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review — which oversees the immigration court system — issue guidance governing the circumstances in which due process requires the government to appoint counsel in removal proceedings. DOJ should establish a pilot program to test the benefits of appointed counsel in such cases.

The first suggestion is critically important since the call for “securing the border” has become an excuse for not advancing any sort of immigration reform package. At the same time, it is quite improbable. The concept of border security has never operated as a definable set of goals and moreover, it cannot. Security is a constructed phenomena devised as a way to define ourselves against the Other. You should just read my thesis on deconstructing the national security state. Put simply, there’s no way to determine the number of unauthorized immigrants that enter through the U.S.-Mexico border, hence there is no way to gauge an acceptable rate of permeability.  How secure should the United States make the South-West border against Mexico? Would erecting a 2000-mile wall with surveillance technologies while degrading the environment and destroying border communities be enough?

After all, guarding arbitrary geo-political lines with guns and technology to keep out people is such a 21st century novel idea. Our border communities are under so much threat that residents cannot even feel it. With surveillance drones and an additional 1000 guards, now migrants trying to cross over the border are more likely to be captured, killed, or die due to harsher terrains. We just need to build moats and put landmines around the Southwest border to make us all safer from those Mexicans trying to leave the country and contain us from the imaginary threats beyond our human-drawn lines.

(Contrary to perceptions of spillover drug violence and lurking dangers on the U.S.-Mexico border, violence along the 2,000 mile stretch has steadily declined. Enforcement is so rampant that undocumented immigrants are detained on their way back home. Tightening border security with more troops and money is a cheap political ploy that endangers more migrant lives as they cross through harsher terrains in order to avoid surveillance. There are more resources dedicated toward border security today than ever before with over 23,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents equipped with best technology money can buy and a $17.2 billion budget for FY 2010).

Moreover, I’m not sure that the creation of another bureaucracy would help with immigrant integration. It probably does not hurt but Juan Osuna from EOIR actually did point out that a real barrier to immigrant integration is legal status. Also Ken Montenegro pointed out to me that one of the prime reasons that people never come forward to naturalize is that the fees keep going up. Another reason is probably because those who do come forward get put into deportations for minor crimes ($15 drug sale, shoplifting) committed in another lifetime.

As always, the most promising idea is prosecutorial discretion for the most sympathetic cases. We know how DREAM Act students have won relief in the past and this looks like the year that we win administrative relief for bi-national same-sex couples. However, prosecutorial discretion often leaves people in limbo status. I would like to advance Attorney Cyrus Mehta’s idea on creative uses of I-130s. It’s probably a little too bold for the Migration Policy Institute to recommend that suggestion.

The biggest drawback in the policy proposal is that it completely glosses over the growing archipelago of immigrant detention policies. From Guantanamo to every state in the country, the Obama Administration seems to have no problem with the idea of indefinite detention, even when it is completely unnecessary to lock up non-violent immigrants and asylum seekers.

(During the Q & A period, Mark Krikorian from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) offered that the core goal of the system according to the report seemed to be to allow more immigrants into the United States. Of course, that is a real problem for the white supremacists at CIS).

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GW Law’s Transgender Spring Problem Turns Real

Posted on by Prerna in LGBTQ | Leave a comment

GW Law

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I haven’t been a happy camper lately. Last week was hellish with regards to hate and the last thing I needed was a heads-up that the school isn’t doing all it could do to fight the transphobia that has come about as a result of the Legal Research and Writing (LRW) spring problem. I’ve been given the impression from some peers that the LRW program has been manipulative when it comes to dealing with LAMBDA holding the recommended sensitivity trainings. I don’t really know all the details. The Dean for the LRW program has denied these claims fervently though, expressed her support for LAMBDA Law and she seems to be looking into the situation. Then again, after working in new media for so long, I know a carefully vetted press statement when I see one.

There seems to be a lot of mis-communication. There are rumors of professors saying and doing inappropriate things that may amount to sexual harassment claims. Calling the transgender plaintiff “it” is high up on the list. In turn, several students did not abide by the student code of conduct. I know students who have complained about their professors or are thinking of complaining once the appellate brief is in. Many more will just sit through it all quietly till grades come out.  When I found out, I was angry and hurt and of course accusations were hurled back and forth, and it certainly did not seem to help the situation. It did not help me focus on finishing my appellate brief as a whole different problem festered in my mind all weekend long. Several sources now tell me that my angry emails may have helped to kick-start some people into gear and I shouldn’t worry about getting into trouble. That’s not it.

Despite the fact that the LRW program was open enough to take on a sensitive issue such as transgender discrimination under Title VII, my opinion of the school and the way it has dealt with resulting transphobia is at rock-bottom right now. I’m not sure what happened in the past, how much planning and sensitivity went into handling the situation and I don’t think I care to know right about now. The results are evident: some people were hurt in the process, scared to go to school and felt ostracized. I know I spent several days upset and seething. I do want to know what everyone on the payroll at GW LRW is doing to rectify the situation and make sure this does not happen again.

I’m sure most of them mean well and they are also dedicated, hard-working people with absolutely no intention to discriminate. That does not excuse what has happened and I find it deplorable that the program cannot address it beyond just offering to fire people. The problems are directly due to the failure of the LRW program to educate people on the issue. Of course, pointing that out leads to “hurt feelings” amongst administrators. If you are hurt as an administrator, imagine how the LGBT students on campus are feeling right now because the LRW program has not met their needs and they have felt ostracized due to all the ignorance.

Amidst all this hue and cry, we had a hate crime on campus last week because some douchebag perceived a straight guy as a gay male and decided to beat him up. Some people are straight-up defending the hate crime over at the GW Hatchet. All in all, I’m sure the entire LGBT community at The George Washington University is feeling really loved and safe right about now. Not.

After hours of discussion, the LRW program feels that it is not important to provide an avenue for education on transgender issues after creating this problem (and they are probably never going to do a topic like this ever again, using this as an experience)
AND the school administration also thinks it is not so important to rectify the problem to give us 10-15 minutes of class time to do trainings.

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The Adjustment Bureau: Review

Posted on by Prerna in Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 14:  (L-R) Luciana Bar...

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“All I have are the choices I make. And I choose her.”

You know that sort of sappy, romantic line is enough to sell me a movie. Throw Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in a romantic tale of two lovers who are not supposed to be together and I’m bound to watch it several times.

The Adjustment Bureau gets a lot of things wrong. It is poorly written with a half-hatched plot. The movie has an abrupt ending that leaves a lot to be desired. But it gets one thing right: Old white men in ridiculous hats run the world. And if we truly want to, we can defy them and change our fate.

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Sending More POC to Netroots Nations

Posted on by Prerna in New Media | Leave a comment

Netroots Nation 2009

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I don’t have exact figures but the overwhelming super-majority of Netroots is white. Some of them were quite amused (and some quite offended) last year when we acted like ICE agents and racially profiled white people. They could afford to be amused about it.

We need to send more POC voices to Netroots Nations: conference of white progressives working in new media this year to create more thought-provoking simulations. The DFA/America’s Voice scholarship is one way to ensure that it happens.

I’m glad for their sponsorship last year. Las Vegas was an incredible experience. I think my pal Matias does a better job of stating what we did while we were there.

In 2009, I was the only dreamer at the conference. Lets not get into what happened.

In 2010, we had 4 dreamers.

The number better double in 2011. It’s pretty heartening to see that over 10 dreamers (most of whom are not bloggers) are vying for the Netroots scholarship this year. All the best to them if I don’t see them there.

I don’t think I need an introduction, especially not in the blogosphere. You can vote for me here.

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Gheys Thinking About Suing DHS

Posted on by Prerna in Immigration, LGBTQ | Leave a comment

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 10:  Rainbow fla...

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Look who is (finally) suing the Department of Homeland Security over how DOMA discriminates against bi-national same-sex couples:

“There’s no doubt that the administration’s new stance on DOMA has created a new window of opportunity to advocate on behalf of our families within the court system,” said Steve Ralls, spokesman for Immigration Equality. We believe we have a good shot at winning and securing immigration rights for, at the very least, couples who are legally married in states where those marriages are valid.”

(Full story at Towleroad)

I may have said something about suing DHS and overwhelming the living daylights out of the incompetent agency a while ago that was discarded as the “angry woman of color” reaction although it was neither written in anger nor had anything to do with the color of my skin.

I stand by my prior statements. We need to sue DHS in every jurisdiction that we can. We need to get as many officials as possible to speak out publicly against deportations under DOMA. We need to start filing I-130 petitions up the wazoo. They are easy to fill out and take less than an hour. (Trust me, I’ve had about 5 filled out for me from family members). The only caveat is if your partner is undocumented and does not have 245-I status, DO NOT BRING ATTENTION TO YOURSELVES.

Finally, I told Mom about the prospects of the lawsuit and the reasoning behind waiting so long for the political climate to change before filing a lawsuit and she said “you must always fight for justice regardless of whether you win or lose” and that she isn’t paying my tuition for me to be “a coward lawyer.”

I don’t have a reply for her.

I do know that we are more likely to get relief for same-sex binational couples before we get anywhere near comprehensive immigration reform. I think our immigrant rights “advocates” are smart enough by now to not co-opt the idea but lend their support for it.

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Chloe Sullivan: Wrapping Up A Decade

Posted on by Prerna in Entertainment | Leave a comment

Allison Mack - Comic-Con 2009 - Smallville - S...

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I didn’t have role models or heroes while I was growing up. “Stories of Famous People” — our 6th grade textbook in Fiji — was quite erroneously titled. It should have been called “Stories of Famous White People.” I didn’t learn about Bhagat Singh or Jhansi Ki Rani until I was well into my teenage years. All I had were TV stars and even they were white or at least, fair-skinned. Somehow, it didn’t really matter.

My first TV crush was Teri Hatcher, as Lois Lane in Lois and Clark. Then it was Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully in The X-Files. They were both strong, independent, intellectual and incredibly talented women who held their own despite being undervalued and underpaid when compared to the male lead. They also did not take anything at face value and hunted around for answers to questions that most people did not even ask.

Then I was brought to the United States. I was barely 15, grappling with all the changes around me and found myself drawn to this one blonde on this new CW show called Smallville, that was about a young Clark Kent before he became Superman. I started watching religiously and it became the one stable thing in an otherwise tumultuous life.

I would find out much later that the creators of the show had wanted a woman of color to play the part of Chloe Sullivan, but Allison Mack had nailed the role. They gave it to her. And for once, I’m glad they did.

I would also find out that the writers of the show created the character because they could not have a “Lois Lane” on Smallville. Later, they would bring on Erica Durance to play the part but I was already sold on Chloe. And there is a reason that thousands of other Smallville fans wanted “Chloe and Clark” and not “Lois and Clark.” I’ll make a confession — I wanted Lois and Chloe together but they are cousins and the show never gave us a single positive gay character. They gave us plenty of Clark and Lex angst, resulting in a genetic love-child but that is another post.

I don’t need to sing praises for Allison Mack or talk about how great she was on Smallville. I don’t need to know where they will take her character in the DC Comics Universe. I just needed to acknowledge that maybe somewhere along the way, she made an impact on my life, however small and inconsequential.

Thank you for giving 10 years of your life to Chloe Sullivan.

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