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September 2013


Associated Press


NEW YORK (AP) — He has won a Pulitzer, teaches Americans how to write at MIT and his Spanish-sprinkled stories have been acclaimed in the United States. But Junot Diaz, who arrived from the Dominican Republic at the age of 6, says he has never stopped feeling like an immigrant.

And he thinks the idea of immigration reform is as romantic as the coming of Jesus.

“Well, I am not a believer so I don’t know!” he said with skepticism in a recent interview.

“I hope he comes for whoever believes in him. And it’s the same thing (with immigration reform),” he added. “I haven’t seen much either from our political leadership or from our president. … I don’t know, to me, when I see it, I’ll believe it. I can simply say that what I’ve seen most concretely is an immense hostility toward immigrants and an immense disrespect for everything that we do for this country.”

Diaz, who received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2008 for his debut novel “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and who teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is promoting the Spanish and paperback editions of his most recent book, “This Is How You Lose Her,” a collection of short stories about love, sex and estrangement that, like his previous work, gives the reader a look inside the immigrant experience.

View gallery.”

This Sept. 3, 2013 photo shows Pulitzer Prize winning …

This Sept. 3, 2013 photo shows Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz during an interview in New Y …

“I’m not certain that anyone stops being an immigrant. With that said, I certainly never stopped being one,” Diaz said. “I think most people have very little experience about the internal lives of immigrants and the reality of immigration. We have a lot of myths about it, and boy do we love our myths. We assume that immigration is a deficiency that can be overcome, that there’s some strange advance that one makes where one sheds this inadequacy to attain some sort of national purity.”

The author, 44, also said that the rush to “overcome the immigrant” is a reflection of how immigrants and the process of immigration make people uncomfortable, something that is also reflected in a term he finds “sloppy”: Spanglish.

Asked what he thought about what some Spanish scholars fear is the deformation of the language in the United States, he said he’s more interested in the fact that today the U.S. has a massive bilingual community that is constantly replenished with the arrival of new immigrants in a way not seen in recent history.

“And the ability of the community to actively borrow from their vocabulary! You have Colombians being influenced by Venezuelans, in the United States. You have Salvadorans being influenced by Puerto Ricans, you have Mexicans,” he noted with fascination. “We have multiple Spanishes and I think people are becoming multiply fluent.”


View gallery.”

This Sept. 3, 2013 photo shows Pulitzer Prize winning …

This Sept. 3, 2013 photo shows Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz during an interview in New Y …





Scholarships for Latino/as in WA state

Immigration Reform Is Alive and Well

Posted: 09/16/2013 9:28 am

By Laura Vazquez, Senior Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR

A colleague recently came back to NCLR from maternity leave and asked me what is happening with immigration reform. “When I left there was momentum, and now the news reports say it’s dead,” she told me. I smiled warily. I’m used to explaining to people that the effort to pass immigration reform legislation is not dead. I have had to do it often, asreporters seem to love writing the obituary on immigration reform.

The accurate story is that advocates and leaders of immigration reform are building on the momentum created over the August recess and continuing to pressure leadership in the House of Representatives to have a vote on immigration reform this fall. This week there was a clear message sent by Latinos in Congress from both sides of the aisle that the time is now for a vote on immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

On the first day that House members were back in session following the August recess, Representative Cardenas (D-Calf.) circulated a letter to his colleagues explaining why immigration reform is important to our economic recovery. He stated in the letter, “As we begin to debate budgetary matters, it is important to remember the positive economic impacts our nation can expect with the modernization of our immigration system.” That letter was followed by another circulated by Representative Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) explainingwhy immigration reform is good for the country’s tourism industry.

While the press seems intent on reporting that the debate has been pushed aside, Representative Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) told a reporter for Roll Call that the House could address deficit reduction by passing immigration reform legislation. As he explained, according to the Congressional Budget Office the Senate immigration bill would reduce the deficit by $158 billion over ten years. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) alsocirculated a letter to her colleagues explaining why immigration reform is important to women and families, including that becoming citizens boosts women’s wages by an average of 17 percent. Representatives Hinojosa and Gutierrez circulated a letter urging the House to pass a real solution to fix our broken immigration system and opposing the “SAFE Act.”

The week also included a press conference organized by the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute on a statement urging Congress to pass immigration reform. At a time when it is rare to see members from both parties working together, it was remarkable that the participants included Representatives Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) Cuellar (D-Texas), Sires (D-N.J.), and Valadao (R-Calif.). The bipartisan group of representatives stated that immigration reform is necessary, and despite the other issues that Congress must address, it cannot be pushed aside. The Latino lawmakers issued a statement urging Congress to act without further delay on immigration reform.

Latino elected officials are leading the charge in calling for the House of Representatives to come together to pass commonsense immigration reform that will boost our economy, establish a 21st-century immigration system, and allow undocumented immigrants to earn their citizenship by continuing the contributions they make to our country. This is a much more interesting story, and one that reflects what the country wants — Congress working together to solve complex problems.

This was first posted to the NCLR Blog.

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DREAMer Documentary

Immigrant Fights to Become California Lawyer

San Francisco (AP) – A majority of California Supreme Court justices appeared reluctant Wednesday to grant a law license to Sergio Garcia, who graduated law school and passed the state’s bar exam but has been living illegally in the United States for 20 years.

A federal law passed by Congress in 1996 bars immigrants in the country illegally from receiving “professional licenses” from government agencies or with the use of public funds unless state lawmakers specifically vote otherwise.

“Congress wanted political accountability,” Justice Ming Chin said in expressing doubt the court could grant Garcia his license without a specific law enacted by the state Legislature.

Justice Goodwin Liu said it was “commonsensical” that Congress meant to include lawyer licenses in the law.

The five other justices on the court made similar comments, essentially arguing that the law bars them from making Garcia a lawyer unless the state Legislature acts.

The court has 90-days to rule in a case that has garnered national attention, putting the Obama administration against state officials who supported Garcia’s application.

Outside of court, Garcia expressed optimism that the Supreme Court would rule in his favor despite the tough questions asked of the lawyers who spoke on his side during an hour of oral arguments.

If he does lose, Garcia vowed to continue fighting to become a California lawyer either through the state Legislature or in the federal courts.

“This is about trying to live the American Dream and showing other immigrants that hard work and dedication does mean something in this country,” he said.

The state Supreme Court is in charge of licensing lawyers in California and the arguments boiled down to whether public money would be used in its licensing of Garcia. Lawyers for Garcia and the California State bar also argued that Congress meant to exempt attorney licenses from the law because they are issued by courts and not agencies.

A U.S. Department of Justice lawyer argued that Garcia is barred from receiving his law license because the court’s entire budget comes from the public treasury.

“A law license is a professional license,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Tenney said. “Congress meant to prohibit all professional licenses.”

Garcia arrived in the U.S. illegally 20 years ago to pick almonds in the field with his father.

Working the fields and at a grocery store, he attended community college, studying to become a paralegal, and then law school. Garcia passed the California bar on the first try, a boast that Brown, former Gov. Peter Wilson and nearly 50 percent of all first-time test takers can’t make.

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In this Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, photo, Sergio Garcia …

In this Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, photo, Sergio Garcia poses for photographs in San Francisco. Garcia  …

The dispute is the latest high-profile immigration clash between state and federal laws. Usually, it’s the Obama administration opposing state laws in Arizona and elsewhere thought to be anti-immigrant.

The Obama position surprised some, since it had recently adopted a program that shields people who were brought to the U.S. as children, graduated high school and have kept a clean criminal record from deportation and allows them to legally work in the country.

At 36, Garcia is too old to qualify for the Obama program. But he and the immigration groups supporting him argue that Garcia is exactly the type of candidate the Obama administration had in mind when it adopted its program.

The administration’s opposition stunned Garcia, who self-financed his education at Cal Northern School of Law in Chico while working at a grocery store and publishing a self-help book in 2006.

“I was very upset by,” he said. “I worked hard and have never been a burden to the state.”

But legal scholars and others say Garcia faces obstacles if he wins his law license.

Garcia will have to work for himself because no law firm or other employers could legally hire him. And he may be automatically disqualified from representing certain clients and taking on some types of cases because of his citizenship status.

“Garcia is not qualified to practice law because he continually violates federal law by his presence in the United States,” former State Bar prosecutor Larry DeSha said in one of the few “friend of the court” briefs filed opposing Garcia’s licensing.

A similar case is brewing in Florida. That state’s Supreme Court has so far refused to certify a person living illegally in the U.S. as a lawyer, but has not issued a final ruling.

Garcia and his supporters argue that he deserves his law license on legal — and moral — grounds.

State Bar officials and California’s attorney general argue citizenship status is not a requirement to receive a California law license. Garcia said he deserves to practice law for those legal reasons, plus the hard work and dedication he put into passing the bar examination.

Garcia first came to the U.S. with his family from Mexico when he was 17 months old. He returned to Mexico with his mother when he was 9 and came back eight years later and applied for citizenship in 1994, sponsored by his father, who is now an American citizenship.

Garcia estimates that it could take another five years for his application to be approved given the backlog of applications.

He said he doesn’t fear deportation because of the notoriety his case has received — and the fact that he has notified immigration officials of his prolonged presence in the U.S.

In the meantime, he has supported himself as a motivational speaker and paralegal when he can find the work.

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