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 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.

43-year-old Jorge Muñoz’s sister, Luz, says his brother has “got no life.” But what Luz really means by that comment is that Jorge’s life is dedicated to serving others, leaving little time to indulge in for himself.

The people he serves are undocumented immigrants — often homeless and always hungry — who seek jobs on the cold streets in Queens every morning. Folks in whom he likely sees himself only a few years ago reflected in.

Muñoz drives to the same location every night in his white pickup truck at 9:30 p.m. to feed these individuals in desperate states with a warm meal.

“Every single night, Jorge is here,” said one worker, his leathery face peering out from a hooded sweatshirt. “Doesn’t matter. Rain, thunderstorm, lightning. He do that from his good will, you know.

“He feeds everybody, make the stomach happy,” the worker added. “He’s an angel.” (NYT)

Ms. Zapata, Muñoz’s mother with whom he prepares the meal everyday in the small apartment they live in, said that his son displayed this altruistic trait since he was very young. She cites a time when Muñoz was only 7 and a stranger requested the family something to eat.

Ms. Zapata told the visitor they had none. “But Jorge gave him his plate,” she recalled. “I said, ‘Jorge, you have to eat for school.’ And he said, ‘No, I’ll just have bread.’”

Although his devotion to the welfare of others might seem selfish at the superficial, Muñoz claims he gets compensated more than appropriately with gratitude.

“I know these people are waiting for me,” he said. “And I worry about them. You have to see their smile, man. That’s the way I get paid.”

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.

The DREAM Act rejected

October 25, 2007

Today the DREAM Act was officially rejected again — it felt short 8 additional votes needed to arrive at the senate floor. If passed, this bill would allow those between the age of 12 and 30, who immigrated with their parents illegally while under the age of 15, the opportunity to obtain permanent status.

During the six years of conditional status, the eligible immigrant would be required to either

(1) graduate from a two-year community college,

(2)complete at least two years towards a 4-year degree, or

(3) serve two years in the U.S. military.

After the six year period, an immigrant who meets at least one of these three conditions would be eligible to apply for legal permanent resident (green card) status. (link)

A cruel outcome, indeed. It’s as if no one is willing to help the most vulnerable. How much say did these children have when they emigrated their country of origin? Now they are expected to leave the land where they grew up and return somewhere they have no recollection of?

“Some of their stories are heartbreaking. Many know no other country, know no other language, and now they are being told to leave by our government.” – Lead sponsor Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill). (link)

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1964-2007

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African reggae star Lucky Dube was shot and killed in front of his son and daughter, SABC radio reported on Friday.

Dube, 43, was killed on Thursday night in an apparent car hijacking attempt and police were searching for three suspects, the radio said. (link)

Dube was more that a ‘South African reggae star.’ And it’s no justice to his life dedication of addressing poverty and promoting brotherhood to only refer to him as such.

Dube sang in English about social issues, racism, justice and poverty. With “Together As One” he was the first black person in South Africa whose songs were aired on a white radio station.

President Thabo Mbeki described him as “a great South African artist”, promoting efforts against crime in a country where, in 2006 alone, as many as 20,000 counts of murder have been recorded.(link)

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Yo no te voy a mentir, y decirte que se la solucion para la comunidades mas en peligro de contrair VIH o sida. Pueda ser que distribuyan condones en la escuelas o que manden a esa gente no tener sexo. Pero pienso que hay por lo menos una cosa con cual todo podemos ponernos en acuerdo: hay que distribuir mas informacion. Todos deben de preguntar preguntas sin averguenzo.

Por ejemplo, sabias que:

Pese a que los hispanos representan el 14 por ciento de la población general de EE.UU., conforman el 18 por ciento de los casos de sida en el país, según los Centros para el Control y Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC)? (enlace)

Segundo a la poblacion afroamericana, los latinos, segun el articulo de El Tiempo Latino, son los grupo etnico minoritario mas afectados por este virus.

Jose Gutierrez, mexicano, ha visto morir a más de 25 amistades a causa de la epidemia.

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