I was under the impression that I was aware of all types of visas offered by the United States government. But I’ve only recently discovered an option offered to those that are victims of crime: U visa.

The U-visa provision was created in the federal Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. To qualify for the visa, authorities must verify that a victim of a crime such as domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking participated in the investigation and⁄or prosecution of a suspect. (Gazette)

No more do undocumented immigrants need to suffer in silence, and afraid to speak up due to fears of deportation.

A Montgomery Village woman, a victim of domestic violence, is one of the nine U-visa candidates who have worked with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office this year.

Manuel Donis Davilla, who was the woman’s live-in boyfriend, was found guilty of attempted murder and related charges during a four-day trial in Circuit Court in January. He will be sentenced Thursday and faces life in prison.

In her opening statement during the trial, Assistant State’s Attorney Deborah Feinstein said Davilla planned to beat the woman unconscious. ‘‘He then planned to tie her up. After that he planned to pour paint thinner all over her body and to set her on fire,” she said. (Gazette)

Finally, a human side to this immigration debate. But apparently I’m not the only one who learned of the U visa so late, since it was created almost 8 years ago.

Edma Castañeda endured repeated beatings, cigarette burns and other abuse through three years of marriage because she was afraid that if she called police, she would be deported.

The Riverside woman did not know that some undocumented immigrants can gain legal residency if they prove they were victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes. The immigration laws sheltering them were enacted to help overcome the fear that prevents many undocumented abuse victims from reporting crimes. (PressEnterprise)

As you read the stories of these victims’ ordeal, you begin to appreciate the dire need for this type of visa. The victims are primarily female put in an uncmpromising situations by male in power — be it husband, boss, trafficking agent or as in the following scenario: immigration agent.

The calls from the agent started three days later. He hinted, she said, at his power to derail her life and deport her relatives, alluding to a brush she had with the law before her marriage. He summoned her to a private meeting. And at noon on Dec. 21, in a parked car on Queens Boulevard, he named his price — not realizing that she was recording everything on the cellphone in her purse.

“I want sex,” he said on the recording. “One or two times. That’s all. You get your green card. You won’t have to see me anymore.”

She reluctantly agreed to a future meeting. But when she tried to leave his car, he demanded oral sex “now,” to “know that you’re serious.” And despite her protests, she said, he got his way. (NYT)

Isaac R. Baichu, 46, an adjudicator for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, was arrested after he met with a green card applicant at the Flagship Restaurant, a diner in Queens. He is charged with coercing oral sex from her.

The above stories continues to tell the agonizing tale of many other victim and perpetrators. But what’s even more unfortunate is that despite enduring such torment these injured parties have a very tough time obtaing the U visa.

For more information on the U visa please click here.

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A U.S. commander said Tuesday he is “deeply ashamed” by the Marine killings of Afghan civilians in March and reported that the American military has made condolence payments to their families.

“Today we met with the families of those victims: 19 dead and 50 injured,” said Col. John Nicholson, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, deployed in eastern Afghanistan. “We made official apologies on the part of the U.S. government” and payments of about $2,000 for each death. (AP via USA Today)

Old news, but I only came to learn of it during my commute back from work on NPR two days ago. Turns out the U.S. military makes condolences payments — officially called “solatia” payments (unofficially also “martyr” payments) — to the families of those accidentally killed during combat fire.

The Pentagon has set $2,500 as the highest individual sum that can be paid. Most death payments remain at that level, with a rough sliding scale of $1,000 for serious injury and $500 for property damage. Beginning in April of last year, payments of up to $10,000 were possible for “extraordinary cases” but only with a division commander’s authorization.

The report, titled The Department of Defense’s Use of Solatia and Condolence Payments in Iraq and Afghanistan (pdf),” offers a particularly coldblooded example of how payments are estimated, drawn from CERP‘s operating procedures: “Two members of the same family are killed in a car hit by U.S. forces. The family could receive a maximum of $7,500 in CERP condolence payments ($2,500 for each death and up to $2,500 for vehicle damage).”(WaPo, 06/18/07)

Some pics of these condolences payments being made from this article that makes it sound okay:

I’m frankly at loss for words. Can’t figure out what aspect to begin commenting on first. I don’t believe monetary apology to be valid after any wrongdoing. But let’s suppose that your life situation is desperate, and you make the trip to the official place to get ‘reimbursed,’ how far does $2,500 really go? Take any of the following scenario for instance, what do you suppose the money given to the victim’s family could most effectively be used for?

Approximately $8,000 was paid by the Pentagon to two children who lost their mother when the taxi in which she was traveling came under fire. The vehicle was said to have run a checkpoint. The children were alongside their mother when she died and were also injured. A measly “condolence” payment of $500 was paid to the family of a deaf man shot outside a museum in Samarra and a larger condolence payment of $2,500 was granted to the parents of a 4-year-old girl who died when a bullet fired from a Humvee struck her.

In what the U.S. military said “negligent fire,” an Iraqi ambulance driver was shot dead on his way to a bomb scene by a coalition soldier. The dead man’s family was paid $2,500. (AmericanFreePres)

Iraq Body Count, a Web site that reputedly maintains most accurate account of casualties of the war, reveals more instances where American military has put a supposedly justified price on lives or limbs lost. Please also read these two articles on the NYT, and listen to a report on NPR to learn more.

Lastly, I don’t mean to compare but, I would like to point out the amount given to the families of victims who lost their lives on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003: $26 million. This is far too sad for me to disrespectfully end the post with the usual clever comment. Because even these families likely are not satisfied, and would much rather have their loved ones returned, instead.

It’s amazing how this absurd anti-dark skinned mentality is so prevalent across the globe. Whitening creams are huge in China and India, among both girls and guys. It’s an abhorrent practice from the cosmetic company’s part. They take as much advantage possible of these insecurities created by the media, sometime in the most detestable manner. Look at this ridiculous commercial from South Asia where the girl is self conscious of her tan hand!

There are many resources on the Internet that explain this screwy phenomenon. But I’m not in the mood to preach, solve problems or raise concerns. But perhaps inspire? Actually, I just want an excuse to play this song that actually sounds real good. I heard it play on the radio today when I was running to veggie-friendly Baja Fresh during lunch. It’s India Arie featuring Akon, “I am not my hair.” I know you’ll enjoy it.

A Dominican nun, a freelance writer and a principal of a prestigious school founded the International Community School in DeKalb County, Georgia to address the cultural and language barrier that many children of the refugee immigrants faced after arriving there in the late 1990’s.

In the last ten years, thousands of refugee children have come to DeKalb County, bringing not only gifts and talents but also the deep physical and spiritual wounds of war. Today the county is home to the highest percentage of refugees in the southeastern United States. (ICS)

Student population here represents over 40 nation and over 50 languages are spoken in the hallways. But children of refugees only compose half of all pupils. The other half is diverse in a socio-economic manner.

Parents from low-income families tend to choose the school over other nearby public schools because it is safe and has small classes. More affluent parents seek it for the potential benefits of exposure to so many cultures. Most of the middle- and upper-middle-class parents are social progressives from Decatur, a liberal enclave. (NYT)

Understandably, the community school faces expected challenges specific to each refugee student’s experience from the emigrated country.

Two sisters from Afghanistan seemed terrified as they arrived each day. As refugees in Pakistan, the children had worked making carpets. Exhausted, they regularly dozed at school, which drew beatings. The sisters had assumed such beatings were standard at every school.

A Sudanese girl was so traumatized from war and relocation that she insisted on sitting on the floor beneath her desk each day.

Fortunately, the school staff is as diversely represented as the student body. Which helps faculty understand or, in some cases, relate to their students.

Naza Orlovic, a teacher’s assistant from Bosnia, said her experience as a refugee allowed her to recognize and to soothe hurt feelings that frequently arose out of cultural misunderstandings.

“I constantly remind them how lucky we are,” said Hodan Osman, 27, a tutor separated from her parents at age 10 during the civil war in Somalia.

“We could have been killed,” she said, “and not only are we here, but we’re in a place where we’re celebrated. I tell them they can take everything away from you, but your knowledge is in your head, and it makes you brave.”

Presently, there are strong plans to add a middle school to the institution. And a founder desires to open a health clinic for the refugees there.

Maybe not apparent at first glance, but the location of the school is a bit ironic.  The region used to be a Ku Klux Klan haven.

I swear that ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, must be the most unconstitutional federal agency ever created in the United States. They keep getting away with violating basic human rights everyone agrees we’re born with.

What’s worse is that local police assist them in doing so. When was border patrol added to their job description?

The latest of these unlawful violations in today’s Times. I was left with a knot in my stomach after reading the first paragraph.

It was still dark the morning of Sept. 27 when armed federal immigration agents, guided by local police officers, swept into this village on the East End of Long Island. Within hours, as the team rousted sleeping families, 11 men were added to a running government tally of arrests made in Operation Community Shield. (NYT)

The details of this ordeal is most horrifying. The agents arrested

Omar Lopez, 25, a Shelter Island landscaper, who had been asleep with his fiancée and infant son. Valentin Rudy Escobar Montenegro, a Guatemalan carpenter, also was with his wife and baby.

But first a little back ground on this “Operation Community Shields” from the official Web Site.

In February 2005, ICE began Operation Community Shield, a national law enforcement initiative that targets violent transnational street gangs through the use of ICE’s broad law enforcement powers, including the unique and powerful authority to remove (deport) criminal aliens, including illegal aliens and legal permanent resident aliens. (ICE)

“Broad law enforcement power?” Damn. ICE seems to me to be the most connected gang. I mean isn’t their tactics illegal? and the organization itself, too? Where do I go to report them? Then deport them?

“We’re not here stomping all over anybody’s rights,” said Peter J. Smith, the special agent in charge of the Long Island operation. “We’ve got immigration powers.”

Maybe I’m a bit harsh with my criticism. I know they are just doing their job. But wait…

Only one of the 11 men taken away that morning was suspected of a gang affiliation, according to the Southold Town police. The 10 others, while accused of immigration violations, were not gang associates and had no criminal records.

Possibly, the argument half of you reading this will back is that, “well those arrested were still breaking the law. They were here illegally.” Or something close to it. Am I in the ballpark?

Omar Lopez, his fiancée, Yanci, and their son, Kevin, born in May in Greenport. With Marvin still missing, Omar surfaced eight days after the raid in a call from a jail in New Jersey. “I cry here inside prison, just thinking about Yanci and what she’s doing to survive,” he said. “And then I think about my son, and it’s very painful.”I understand what you’re saying. But tell me something. Had they broken any other law, let’s say, dealing couple of kilos of cocaine, wouldn’t the government still need a warrant to enter their home? These folks’ “illegal activity” isn’t the least bit comparable to dealing hard drugs, but they’re treated worse.

If some of you still remain lost for compassion, I understand. I can’t change your mentality if you’re set on your beliefs. But you couldn’t possibly disagree that something is wrong when someone legally can break into a house in the middle of the night and break up families sleeping together.

“I have never seen such a catastrophe in my 20 years as a government administrator,” said Harisprasad Pal, a local official in the hard-hit southern district of Jhalokati. (ABC)

 

On eve of Thursday, Nov. 15, The tropical Cyclone Sidr has devastated much of southern Bangladesh with its 140 miles per hour wind, claiming over 2000 lives, destroying entire communities, and displacing over 650,000 people from their homes, said Ali Imam Majumder, a senior government official.

In one district, called Shatkhira, according to local journalists, roughly 5,000 mud homes collapsed back into the ground. Local relief workers for Caritas, the Catholic relief agency, reported that an entire island in Barisal district was submerged under at least six feet of water and houses were blown away by winds. (IHT)

Over a million had evacuated their homes for nearby safe shelters. Upon their return, a few have, if at all, have found a place to return to. Realizing so, foreign countries and concerned organization rush to provide aid.

U.S. government has provided an initial $2.1 million in emergency relief aide. (AP)

Direct Relief International Reaching Out to Partners in Bangladesh, Releases $280,000 in Medical Aid. (DR)

Action Aid team is carrying emergency relief items which include 2000kg of beaten rise, molasses, oral re-hydration salts, clothes and water purification tablets. ActionAid intends to reach over 5000 families with these supplies. (AA)

The U.N.’s humanitarian chief on Friday said the world body has made several millions of dollars available for aid to Bangladesh (IHT)

Of course, similar to Hurricane Katrina and the flood in Tabasco, Mexico, all were aware beforehand that this part of Bangladesh was dangerously prone to such devastating storm.

And as is the custom, nothing was done about it.

Gang rape victim sentenced

November 17, 2007

When religious or traditional beliefs overlap with the law of the land, the outcome isn’t always logical.

We witness this to be true when we hear from folks who, in the twenty first century, want children to learn creationism in school. If Christian parents want to teach their kids of Adam and Eve, then no outsider can dictate it to be untrue, and therefore deem it unethical to do so. But Jews, Muslims, Jains and Buddhist children, too, attend the very same school the advocates want to modify the science class curriculum for. Realize that the bible plays as much part in a Hindu child’s life as the Bhagvad-Gita does in a Christian child’s life: zero. That’s where I’ll leave that argument.

Same is true with folks who oppose legalizing marriage between two homosexuals. They claim their religion (and personal beliefs) strictly prohibits so. And of course, all must adhere to their fancy.

In a like twisted government ruling, a 19-year-old woman from Saudi Arabia, who was raped 14 times by seven men, was sentenced to 90 lashes for being in a vehicle with a man who isn’t family.

The rape victim was punished for violating Saudi Arabia’s laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. (BBC)

For the record, the seven men were too punished. Ranging from ten months to up to 5 years.

The story gets better (worse, actually).

A Saudi court has increased the sentence given to (the) gang rape victim to 200 lashes of the whip and six months in prison and ordered disciplinary action against her lawyer. (Reuters)

This happened because she and her lawyer spoke to the media and got sympathy from folks around the world. They shouldn’t have done that. And the government made certain they realize so at the appeals court.

The lawyer, Abdel Rahman al-Lahem, could potentially lose his license. At the moment he is suspended. There are talks to appeal for the third time. But really, would you be surprised if the victim was sentenced to more lashes and time was added to her sentencing?

Lahem’s critics have called him an infidel and “lawyer of homosexuals”. In the past he has been jailed and banned from traveling abroad. He will appear before a disciplinary committee at the ministry of justice on December 5, charged with criticising the judiciary and conducting activist campaigns in the media. (Guardian)

The lawyers is actually a true advocate for those facing injustice in the country. Here’s a link to an article where Lahem took on the case of an outspoken journalist.

Saudi journalist Rabah Al-Quwayi, 24, has been detained by Hail authorities in connection with his writings posted on Internet forums, which they allege place his Islamic faith in doubt.

Lawyer Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem announced yesterday that he would be representing Al-Quwayi.