Tag Archives: California

“That Awkward Moment When You Run Away from Your Home Country Due to Discrimination For Being Queer, To Be Locked Up in the Land of the Free…”

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Full text: “That awkward moment when you run away from your home country due to discrimination for being queer…Only to be locked up in the land of the free with a lot of machista, and sexist, homophobic, transphobic ICE officers.” – Alejandro Aldana

Yesterday, I received this bittersweet postcard from my dear friend, Alex Aldana, who is currently detained at the Otay Detention Facility in San Diego.

Alex lived with his family in California for ten years, where he graduated from high school and worked hard to make his community a better place. He left the U.S. to go back to Mexico five months ago to care for his sick grandmother.

Over these past few months, Alex discovered how crime and corruption made life particularly difficult for the LGBTQ community in Mexico. In Guadalajara alone, 128 gay and lesbian people have been killed, and none were reported as hate crimes. Now, Alex wants to return to California, where his mother and sibling reside so that he can continue to take care of them, and lead a life that does not entail the amount of violence he would face if he remained in Mexico.

Even with the heightened standard for credible fear instituted by the new Lafferty memo in light of the numerous claims for asylum from Mexico and Central America, Alex has already passed his credible fear interview. This means that according to Immigration and Customs officials, Alex has established a clear and convincing chance of winning asylum before an Immigration Judge based on his fear of persecution in Mexico. According to ICE guidelines, Alex should be released from detention to pursue his asylum case as he is neither a threat nor a flight risk. However, he has been detained at Otay for more than a month for no real reason, and subjected to abuse inside the facility. 

Sign the petition to demand that ICE release Alejandro (Alex) Aldana.

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Filed under Immigration, LGBTQ

Asian Americans and Affirmative Action

Race still matters infographic AAAJ - for websiteAffirmative action is now the latest wedge issue in California to keep ethnic minorities from seeing our common interests.

In California, a bill to revive affirmative action is dead. Mainstream media reports convey that opposition from insurgent Asian Americans groups killed the measure at the last minute. If this is true, then there is much work to be done in Asian American communities about the benefits of affirmative action. 

However, it is more likely that the measure was primarily opposed by white voters, and an over-hyped loud minority of Asian American opposition became a convenient scapegoat for lawmakers. After all, more than 75 percent of Asian American support affirmative action programs. Even when Prop 209 was passed by overwhelmingly white voters, Asian Americans were scapegoated for supporting the repeal effort even though 61 percent of Asian Americans voted against the ban. The backlash against Asian-Americans for the latest affirmative action debacle is the same old “divide and conquer” strategy, and we must stop falling for it.

I support affirmative action. I have written at length about the need for affirmative action, as well as why it is constitutional. Contrary to myths, Asian Americans have been hurt by Prop. 209, and projected Asian-American enrollment rates have fallen as a result of Prop 209. Moreover, Asian-Americans do not lead single issue lives. Many Asian-American women and LGBT Asian-Americans directly benefit from affirmative action. 

We need to restore affirmative action in California, and we need to stop allowing the white majority to use the increased Asian American enrollment numbers as a way to defend a ban that only they support overwhelmingly. 

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Filed under Ethnic Studies, Racism

The Betrayal of the California DREAM Act

You’ll hear from major immigration reform groups, mainstream media outlets and from Governor Jerry Brown that he signed the “California DREAM Act” into law yesterday.

They are all telling lies.

Brown signed into law AB-130 yesterday, which gives undocumented students in California access to private funding for college. Here’s a newsflash: undocumented students in California have had access to private funding for a long time. Thousands of students at major universities across the state have gone through the system with private funds from private donors. The students at community colleges and state universities have had little to no access to private funding and are most unlikely to receive any help from AB-130. In other words, the bill does not do anything new and does not compel any institution to do anything different.

It’s disingenuous to call this grandstanding “progress” let alone a victory of any kind. The REAL California DREAM Act — AB-131 — is sitting in committee. AB-131 would provide undocumented AB-540 students in California access to state financial aid. Brown does not want to sign it. The Democrats have weakened it over the years. And California immigration advocacy groups are too meek to take on the structures that are failing us. Instead, they are telling us to be quiet and working actively to silence our voices.

Any Dreamers in California who have taken a stand against such grandstanding are castigated and demarcated as trouble-makers. Some of us have left the state to pursue higher education elsewhere. The lies continue to pile up as the state, which is at the top in prison spending, struggles to provide basic education to everyone while hiking tuition each year. And California Dreamers keep dreaming for a day when they have real leadership and real change.

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Filed under Immigration

GW Law Student Prepares For The Trial of Her Life

Feel free to cross-post this on your own blogs. Please contact Adam Luna from America’s Voice at aluna@americasvoiceonline.org for press interviews and CC Jackie Mahendra, jackie@change.org

My name is Prerna Lal. You may know me as one of the founders of DreamActivist or from the Immigrant Rights blog at Change.org where I have worked for the past two years to stop the deportations of several members of our community. I serve as a board member for Immigration Equality and I was the recipient of a Changemaker Award at the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) summit this year.

I am writing this because I am currently sitting for my first-year law school exams at The George Washington University, and already, I’m facing the trial of my life. The United States government has decided to prosecute and deport me away from my family, friends and community. They sent me a notice to appear for removal proceedings last week. And now I am being separated from my American family.

My only grandparent alive is a U.S. citizen. She voted for President Obama in the last elections, who promised immigration reform in the first year of his office, and she is now wondering why he is deporting her grand-daughter. My tax-paying legal resident parents brought me here when I was a minor. Even my older sibling is a U.S. citizen. I grew up in this country. This is my home.

So why am I in removal proceedings? The simple answer is that I aged-out. Due to the number of visas allocated to each category and the slow movement (and retrogression) of family visa categories, I turned 21 before my family could petition for a green card for me. As a result, I am being removed from the country that I call home and I cannot re-enter for any reason for the next 10 years. I cannot see the rest of my family for the next 10 years.

However, I would qualify for a green-card immediately if USCIS did not have a questionable (and much litigated) interpretation of the Child Status Protection Act, a legislation that was passed by Congress to prevent children of U.S. citizens and legal residents from aging-out of family, employer and diversity visa petitions. A nation-wide class action lawsuit is pending on this matter in the Ninth Circuit, but instead of holding petitions in abeyance till the lawsuit is resolved, USCIS cannot wait to deport qualifying, young people away from their homes.

I would have also benefited from the passage of the federal DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would put certain immigrant youth on a pathway to citizenship. Just this week, 22 Senators called on President Obama to use his authority to stop deporting DREAM Act-eligible youth like myself. The letter read, “We would support a grant of deferred action to all young people who meet the rigorous requirements necessary to be eligible for cancellation of removal or a stay of removal under the DREAM Act, as requested on a bipartisan basis by Senators Durbin and Lugar last April.”

Even if one is in favor of the most stringent immigration policies, it makes no sense for the government to spend thousands of dollars and several years in litigation to remove productive and non-criminal immigrant youth like me from our homes. In response to this atrocity, my friends have created a petition to top immigration officials to stop this ridiculous prosecution. You can read more and sign the petition here.

http://www.change.org/petitions/keep-prerna-home-stop-the-deportation-of-dreamactivistorg-founder-prerna-lal

My queer and law school friends are also outraged and are throwing together a fundraiser in support of me (and the DREAM Act) on May 6 in Washington D.C. Check here for more details.

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August 13-22: The 511 mile Bike Ride | Tour de Dreams

This is the first time I am fundraising for myself. I have fundraised for countless organizations as a teenager, we fundraise for DreamACTivist.org and other undocumented youth whenever we can, but this is the FIRST TIME I have put up a widget for myself.

This past year I got into all law schools of my choice. But I couldn’t afford to go.

I couldn’t take out student loans since my house is going through foreclosure and our credit is bad.

I couldn’t get any federal or state financial aid since I am undocumented.

I decided to delay law school for another year, to delay our dreams. This dream has been delayed since I was 16 and decided to be a public interest attorney.

Now, as I find myself suddenly fatherless, this dream seems more elusive than ever.

It’s not empty fundraising. I will be doing a 9-day, 511 mile bike ride in the summer heat from UCLA to UC Berkeley. It’s a distance that I have never covered and given that my body has adverse reaction to prolonged exposure to sunlight, it is certainly going to be a challenge.

Hosted by RISE-UCB, Tam and I will try and cover this event daily on DreamActivist.org, including daily video uploads and write-ups. I will twitter! We will do a kickass job of bringing the event to you, I promise.

I will survive and hopefully we raise something so I can afford to go back to college next August.

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Morons of the Week: California Supreme Court Chickens Out on Gay Marriage

With a 6-1 vote, separate but equal was upheld in California.

Congratulations Californians, the ‘will of the majority’ to take a particular category of people and deny them civil rights is going to stand.

The California Supreme Court, no matter what it proclaims, overturned itself with these words:

Proposition 8 does not by any means “repeal” or “strip” gay individuals or same-sex couples of the very significant substantive protections afforded by the state equal protection clause either with regard to the fundamental rights of privacy and due process or in any other area, again with the sole exception of access to the designation of “marriage” to describe their relationship. Thus, except with respect to the designation of “marriage,” any measure that treats individuals or couples differently on the basis of their sexual orientation continues to be constitutionally “suspect” under the state equal protection clause and may be upheld only if the measure satisfies the very stringent strict-scrutiny standard of review that also applies to measures that discriminate on the basis of race, gender, or religion. Because Proposition 8 has only this limited effect on the fundamental rights of privacy and due process and the guarantee of equal protection of the laws under the state Constitution as interpreted by the majority opinion in the Marriage Cases, supra, 43 Cal.4th 757, there is no need for us to consider whether a measure that actually deprives a minority group of the entire protection of a fundamental constitutional right or, even more sweepingly, leaves such a group vulnerable to public or private discrimination in all areas without legal recourse (cf. Romer v. Evans (1996) 517 U.S. 620), would constitute a constitutional revision under the provisions of the California Constitution. A narrowly drawn exception to a generally applicable constitutional principle does not amount to a constitutional revision within the meaning of article XVIII of the California Constitution.

Translation:  It’s alright for the voters of the state to carve out exceptions to certain civil rights afforded to minorities that are supposedly protected by the Constitution.

What are you people smoking?

Justice Moreno, in his concurring but dissenting opinion, did state:

I conclude that requiring discrimination against a minority group on the basis of a suspect classification strikes at the core of the promise of equality that underlies our California Constitution and thus “represents such a drastic and far-reaching change in the nature and operation of our governmental structure that it must be considered a ‘revision’ of the state Constitution rather than a mere ‘amendment’ thereof.”

The equal protection clause is therefore, by its nature, inherently
countermajoritarian. As a logical matter, it cannot depend on the will of the majority for its enforcement, for it is the will of the majority against which the equal protection clause is designed to protect. Rather, the enforcement of the equal protection clause is especially dependent on “the power of the courts to test legislative and executive acts by the light of constitutional mandate and in particular to preserve constitutional rights, whether of individual or minority, from obliteration by the majority.”


In my view, the aim of Proposition 8 and all similar initiative
measures that seek to alter the California Constitution to deny a fundamental right to a group that has historically been subject to discrimination on the basis of a suspect classification, violates the essence of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and fundamentally alters its scope and meaning. Such a change cannot be accomplished through the initiative process by a simple amendment to our Constitution enacted by a bare majority of the voters; it must be accomplished, if at all, by a constitutional revision to modify the equal protection clause to protect some, rather than all, similarly situated persons. I would therefore hold that Proposition 8 is not a lawful amendment of the California Constitution.

So the California Supreme Court decision comes down to this: Sexual orientation is a suspect class but the people can write discrimination against this suspect class into the Constitution. What prevents voters from exercising the tyranny of the majority and doing this injustice to other minority groups in the state? The California Supreme Court ignored the possibility of this, saying there was NO NEED to consider this fact.

I personally wish this issue would go away so the ‘gay movement’ can focus on other pertinent matters. Supporting a movement to uphold a regressive institution like marriage gets tiring.

I used to say that I am from California with a lot of pride. That’s certainly been stripped.

But there is hope for marriage equality advocates in California –

Yes on Equality – 2010

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Filed under Moron of the Week

Form Letter from Senator Dianne Feinstein

Dear Ms. Lal:

I received your letter and sincerely appreciate hearing your support for the “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act,” commonly known as the DREAM Act.

I share your concern for foreign-born children who, through no fault of their own, find themselves with no legal immigration status in our country. These young adults were brought to California as children many years ago, attended elementary and high school here, and consider the United States home. I agree that it is in the country’s best interest to give talented youth who have good moral character and are dedicated to serving the United States the opportunity to succeed.

I am a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act (S. 729), which Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced in the 111th Congress on March 26, 2009. This legislation would provide the opportunity for undocumented youth raised in the U.S. to earn legal permanent residence if they attend college or serve in our military. The DREAM Act also makes college financially feasible by allowing students, regardless of their immigration status, to apply for financial aid. I assure you that I will continue to advocate on behalf of this bill in the future.

Once again, thank you for contacting me. Should you have any additional comments or questions on this issue, do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Warm regards.

Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

I am shocked Senator Feinstein didn’t start talking about Agjobs! By the way, is there any logical reason why Senator Feinstein introduced a private bill to keep Shirley Tan in the country but has not co-sponsored the Uniting American Families Act, which would ensure that LGBT American citizens and permanent residents could sponsor their non-citizen partners? Anyway, I deviate.

We are forming a fully-funded and incorporated coalition for undocumented student advocacy and empowerment in the Bay Area. Comment if you would be interested to be a part of this.

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Filed under Immigration