Archive | June, 2013

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Senate Bill Quietly Curtails African Immigration


By Jason Margolis, PRI’s The World

Each year, 50,000 people are selected at random to immigrate to the United States. They don’t need specialized job skills or even a relative in the US. What they need most is a little luck, some basic educational or work training qualifications, and to be from a country with few recent immigrants living in the US.

The Diversity Visa, better known as the “Green Card Lottery,” is a little-known program inside the US, but is played by millions of people worldwide each year. It was established in 1990 to diversify the immigration population in the US, designed, in part, to help more Irish settle in the United States.

Over the past two decades though, the complexion of lottery winners has become noticeably darker. Today, about half of visa winners come from Africa.

The immigration bill [that came out of]  the Senate would put an end it.

That’s sparked some anger among Africans living in the US, as well as the Congressional Black Caucus. They say if Africans aren’t fairly represented in the immigration overhaul, they’ll torpedo the bill.

Without the Diversity Visa, Africans like Dominic Tamin would’ve likely never made it to the US. Tamin’s father won the Green Card Lottery in the 1990’s, and Tamin came to New York from Cameroon on January 18, 1997.

“That’s when I arrived here. I remember because it was so cold outside. I’d never experienced that cold weather before.”

Tamin is now a high school math teacher and entrepreneur in Newark, New Jersey. He talks about the high number of African immigrants who work in the healthcare fields, in nursing and in-home caregiving. He’s active in the movement to save the Green Card Lottery.

“It’s something that is dear to my heart. I don’t know how to put this, because I’m so passionate about it.”

So, he decided to express his passion through music. He recently produced this song, “DV Lottery” sung by the artist MayJa Money.

This argument, though, isn’t convincing most leaders in Congress. Many Democrats have quietly turned their backs on the Diversity Visa, giving it up as a bargaining chip.

Republicans, like Congressman Bob Goodlatte from Virginia, have been more outspoken against it. Goodlatte’s office turned down an interview request, but here he is speaking against the Diversity Visa on the House floor last year.

In his floor speech, Goodlatte describes the Diversity Visa as “unfair to people from more than a dozen countries around the world that stand in long lines, on waiting lists, and then watch somebody have their name drawn out of a computer at random with no particular job skills, no ties to this country, and they get to go right past them into a Green Card into the United States.”

Mark Krikorian, the executive the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, a think tank that advocates for less immigration to the US, agrees with that. He said the Green Card Lottery is ripe for fraud, and that terrorists could steal a winning lottery number and enter the US illegally.

Plus, he said, immigration policy should not be based on national origin.

“And so what the (Congressional) Black Caucus seems to be saying is somehow that (ending the Diversity Visa) is unjust because they want more people who look like them in the immigration flow,” Krikorian said. “And what I’d like to know is how is that different from someone saying, ‘Well, I want more white people immigrating to the United States.’ It’s exactly the same thing.”

“C’mon now, let’s look at the population of the nation,” said Democratic Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, when I posed this to her. Clarke represents Brooklyn in the House of Representatives and is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Clarke said any new immigration law must include a dedicated flow for African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants. Currently, Africans come to the US in three primary ways: asylum seekers, family visas, and the Diversity Visa program.

“We want to be sure that this nation is not one that doesn’t continue to welcome people of African descent and that it is comparable to what we do for others coming from around the world,” Clarke said.

GYI0051137911.jpgIt’s not comparable right now, argues Sylvie Bello, the founder and CEO of the Cameroon American Council in Washington. Bello said the immigration bill includes programs designed to benefit Asians, Latinos and European immigration, such as 10,500 visas annually set aside for Irish immigrants. But there’s nothing specifically for Africans.

“They’re taking us back to the Jim Crow era when we could only come to this country through special programs,” Bello said. “Yes, some of us will qualify for the STEM visa, but it was not created with us in mind. Yes, some of will qualify for the DREAM Act, but it was not made with us in mind. Yes, some of us may qualify for the agriculture visa, but it wasn’t made with us in mind. The only visa type that has a high proportion of Africans that come through is the Diversity Visa.”

Bello said she hopes President Barack Obama will speak about immigration on his visit to Africa this week. And that he remembers a time not long ago when very few Africans made it to America, Africans like Obama’s own father. He came here on a student visa.

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Hartford Police Arrest Suspects for May Shooting


 

 HARTFORD – Hartford Police on Friday arrested two suspects in connection with a May 5 shooting incident on Madison Street.

The first suspect, Christian Gotay, 29, of Broad Street in Hartford, was arrested for criminal possession of a firearm, first degree criminal attempted assault, conspiracy to commit first degree assault, carrying a pistol without a permit, unlawful discharge of a firearm, first degree reckless endangerment and carrying weapons in a motor vehicle.

Gotay is still in custody on a $1 million bond.

The second suspect, Angel Carrasquillo, 31, of Capitol Avenue in Hartford, was arrested for first degree assault, His bond was set at $1 million.

Carrasquillo, who is currently incarcerated, will be habeas for arraignment in Hartford Superior Court, police said.

According to police, the May 5 incident between two groups happened at 71-73 Madison Street.

Hartford officers responded to multiple 911 calls from the area, all reporting gun fire confirmed by ShotSpotter technology, police said.

On arrival and investigation, officers located seven shell casings in the vicinity of 71-73 Madison Street and projectile damage to an unoccupied parked vehicle and the front of 71-73 Madison Street.

Police said the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact Hartford Shooting Task Force Supervising Sergeant Sean Spell at 860-757-4112, or email spels001@hartford.gov.

Anonymous, confidential tips may be made by contact Hartford Crime Stoppers at 860-722-TIPS (8477) or on-line at www.hartfordcrimestoppers.com.

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Dr. Kishimoto to Exit HPS in 2014, Now What?


By Nyesha McCauley, Op-Ed Contributor

The Hartford Public School District is on course for more changes and challenges in the coming months. Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto’s current contract to run the school district will not be extended past next year, and she will be gone on or before June 30, 2014.  She had requested a two-year extension, but that was rejected by a 7-0-1 vote at last Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

Mayor Pedro Segarra and Board Chair Matt Poland have released statements explaining how the Board has come to this decision.  It is good to publicly hear the Board Members’ thoughts on this to better understand the values they hold as they shape the educational destiny for Hartford children.  Forums and community meetings will present further opportunities to ask questions and explore this decision.

As a parent of a child in the school district – or as a resident – you have seen major changes in the school system in the last six years.  These have included smaller learning academies and magnet, community and charter schools designed  to turn around low performance.  All of these changes are evidence that leadership at the top really, really matters.

The decisions made by the Board of Education to start a search for a new superintendent will most certainly impact parents, students and teachers where it matters most – in the classroom.  Just think: a kindergartener starting in the 2006-2007 school year, at the beginning of the reform, will enter seventh grade this fall.    Have her or his educational experiences been enhanced by the reform? What are the opportunities that exist for this student? Is s/he a high achieving student in a high performing school?

hartford-public-schoolsThe city now faces a tall order: finding our next great superintendent. This process – which residents of Hartford must be a part of – will determine whether or not  every student in Hartford graduates ready for the world, through college or career, because that is the job of any school superintendent.  Holding the next superintendent accountable to this great task is on the parents and community, but first we have to hold the Board accountable for finding that person. Process matters, and the city of Hartford is ready to be involved and do its part to sustain this reform.

Nyesha McCauley is the communication director for Achieve HartfordFeatured Photo: WTNH.

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HIV Test Day Falls on June 27, Adults Urged to Get Tests


HARTFORD — In recognition of National HIV Testing Day on June 27, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England is encouraging women, men and young people to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

That’s because there are nearly 50,000 new HIV infections each year and advocates believe that  testing for STDs is an important step in stopping the spread of HIV while promoting the value of self-care and healthy living.

Last year, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England provided more than 37,000 HIV and STD/STI screenings for women, men, and young people. PPSNE has 18 health centers in Connecticut and Rhode Island that offer many preventive services including HIV and STD/STI testing. In 2011, Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide provided over 680,000 HIV tests for women and men.

Officials said that under the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, more women, men, and young people have access to HIV testing at no cost. People who already have insurance have begun to see this benefit. Eligible, uninsured people can begin enrolling in health coverage plans under the Affordable Care Act starting October 1 for coverage that begins January 1, 2014. More information is available at www.plannedparenthood.org.

Planned Parenthood’s online tool The Check offers guidance and tips about HIV and other STDs/STIs, and helps direct people to a local health center.

You can see the video PSAs Secretary Sebelius recorded for National HIV Testing Day here and here. For more information about NHTD, or to find an HIV testing location near you, please visit AIDS.gov. For resources on HIV prevention, please visit Act Against AIDS. For more information on the ACA, please visit healthcare.gov.

 

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Monday Night Jazz Returns to Bushnell Park


HARTFORD — Monday Night Jazz, the nation’s oldest free, continuously-run jazz concert series, returns to downtown Hartford’s Bushnell Park for its 46th consecutive season.

Presented by the Hartford Jazz Society, the Monday Night Jazz season begins on July 8 and includes six weeks of free open-air performances by locally, nationally and internationally renowned jazz artists.

Performance Schedule:

July 8:          Rahstet / Mario Pavone Orange Double Tenor Sextet
July 15:        Nita Zarif Quintet / Stanley Cowell Quartet
July 22:        Norman Gage-Kenny Reed Quintet / Jay Hoggard Quartet
July 29:        Tropijazz / Manuel Valera & The New Cuban Express
August 5:     Orice Jenkins Septet / Will Calhoun Trio
August 12:   Shenel Johns Quintet / Brandee Younger Jazz Harp Quartet

“The Hartford Jazz Society is excited about the lineup for the series this year,” says Ronald Lyles, President of the Hartford Jazz Society. ”There is a variety of musical styles, as well as a good mix of jazz veterans and emerging artists. Both the hardcore jazz fan and casual listener will hear something that pleases them.”

“The Hartford Jazz Society’s Monday Night Jazz gathers our community together in the historic Bushnell Park to see and hear some of the best jazz musicians performing today,” says Cathy Malloy, Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Hartford Arts Council. “The Arts Council is thrilled to once again assist in bringing this time-honored musical tradition to the Capital City again for its 46th year.”

Concerts will be presented on successive Monday nights with an opening band at 6:00 pm and the headliner performing at 7:30 pm. All concerts will be broadcasted in their entirety on WWUH.org / 91.3 FM. The rain venue for Monday Night Jazz is Asylum Hill Congregational Church at 814 Asylum Ave, Hartford.

For more information about Monday Night Jazz, check out its new website atwww.HartfordMondayNightJazz.com 

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Merrill and Others React to SCOTUS’s Ruling on Voting Rights


HARTFORD — News of the United States Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, striking down section five of the historic federal Voting Rights Act, met a mixture of  shock and disappointment in the Greater Hartford community.

Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill on Monday issued the following statement reacting to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision, which struck down section five of the federal Voting Rights Act that required some states and local jurisdictions to submit election law changes to a review by the federal Department of Justice.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is worse than wrong; it is an injustice to the millions of voters in this country that face potential disenfranchisement at the ballot box due to discriminatory election laws that are still passed in many states throughout this country even today,” she said.

According to some critics of the recent Supreme Court decision, the ruling interprets that Congress “went too far in seeking to prevent racial discrimination in voting when it reauthorized the historic act in 2006, with votes of 98-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House.”

Read more: SCOTUS Voting Rights Act Decision Means We Need ‘Right to Vote’ Amendment | The Nation 

Longtime Civil Rights activist Jimmie Griffith posted this message on his Facebook account:

“The US Supreme Court as much as set us back to the 150 year ago Emancipation Proclamation, when the shackles of slavery were unlocked…. When I woke up and thought of what US Supreme Court ruled on yesterday. I was feeling a little down and then the words of Martin Luther King Jr. popped into my head as he said: ‘I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land! I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.’ So don’t be discouraged and continue to fight for equal justice in America!”

Many civil rights advocate agreed that the ruling “dismantled a centerpiece of the civil rights movement that thousands of Americans fought to enact.”

They called the decision “an affront to the memories of those like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many others who sacrificed everything to allow disenfranchised Americans the simple right to vote.”

Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia), who visited the University of Connecticut earlier this year, was among the Civil Rights Movement activists who reacted to the news: “Today, the Supreme Court stuck a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

And he might be right about that.

As Merrill and others explain, section five of the federal Voting Rights Act stood as “a critical check and balance against states and local jurisdictions that time after time passed laws in reality designed to exclude certain portions of the electorate – mostly poor, the elderly, young, and minority voters – from casting ballots.”

Recently, this federal review of local election law changes has successfully struck down misguided attempts to rig the electoral playing field in the name of preventing so-called “voter fraud” that there is barely any evidence to suggest is a real issue. This ruling suggests to me is that basic principles of nondiscrimination and universal voting rights are now under siege by those who really don’t want every eligible American to vote.

Merill said she was grateful that here in Connecticut we are moving in the opposite direction under the leadership of Governor Dannel P. Malloy – enacting Election Day voter registration, enabling voters to register online, and next year allowing voters to change our constitution to allow early voting.

“Instead of restricting our citizens’ right to vote, we are expanding access to the ballot box and we must stand united with our allies in other states who will fight to prevent discriminatory election laws where they are passed. Congress should act immediately to rewrite section four of the Voting Rights Act, which was struck down today, so that the Justice Department can continue its nearly 50 years of vigilance in protecting the right to vote for all Americans,” Merrill said.

In his response to the ruling, President Barack Obama issued this statement in response to Shelby v. Holder to the press:

“I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today.  For nearly 50 years, the Voting Rights Act – enacted and repeatedly renewed by wide bipartisan majorities in Congress – has helped secure the right to vote for millions of Americans.  Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.

As a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote.  But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists.    And while today’s decision is a setback, it doesn’t represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination.  I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls.  My Administration will continue to do everything in its power to ensure a fair and equal voting process.”

 

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Concerns Over All-Female Jury in Zimmerman Case Are Baseless


By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, New America Media

The speculation has been non-stop over whether an all-female jury is a good or bad thing for accused Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman. There is no consensus on this. But the view of women jurors in major case trials is rife with myths, stereotypes, and preconceptions. Researchers have found that in the decades before and even after the Supreme Court ruling in 1979 that knocked out biased exclusions of jurors based on gender, there’s still the deeply embedded notion that women jurors are different than men in that they are more easily swayed by emotions, more likely to empathize with defendants and less predictable in how they will decide a case, even one that on the surface appears to be a lock for the prosecution.

A series of informal studies and the experiences of defense attorneys in major criminal cases have continued to try to find differences between female and male juries and jurors.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionThey claim that women are more compassionate than men in most criminal cases, but can be ruthless when it comes to sex crimes. Men tend to be harder on defendants. Women are sympathetic to mistreatment. As one seasoned criminal defense attorney noted, “Like black people, they are sensitive to injustice because they have had a lot of it put on them.”

Majority female juries came under much scrutiny and criticism after they voted to acquit O.J. Simpson. The criticism was not just that their decision to acquit Simpson allegedly was a race biased decision but also that as females they were supposedly more sympathetic to the defense. Jurors that spoke on the record following the verdict hotly denied that race, gender or empathy toward celebrity Simpson had anything to do with their decision to acquit him. They were virtually unanimous that the prosecution presented a jumbled, slipshod, and badly tainted case that came nowhere close to meeting the hard legal requirement for conviction of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Most legal experts, when the emotional dust finally settled, agreed that the prosecution badly bungled the case.

Despite the volumes of studies on juror attitudes, none have conclusively found any evidence that women are less capable then men of weighing the evidence, testimony, and arguments of prosecutors and defense attorneys and arriving at an objective decision in a case based on the quality of the evidence for and against a defendant. There is no real evidence that majority female juries have a higher acquittal rate of defendants than majority male jurors.

Zimmerman’s fate, as Simpson’s and countless other defendants that majority women juries have decided, will be determined as always on how vigorous, professional, and pointed the prosecution presents its case against him. And how well prosecutors parry the ploy of defense attorneys to relentlessly try to paint Zimmerman as a victim of Martin while further impugning Martin’s character. If it does its job, Zimmerman will fare no better or worse than he would if he faced an all or majority male jury.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson.

Photo courtesy of indianasnewscenter.com

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Health Insurance Marketplace Tools Launched


The Obama administration on Monday kicked off the Health Insurance Marketplace education effort with a new, consumer-focused HealthCare.gov website and the 24-hours-a-day consumer call center to help Americans prepare for open enrollment and ultimately sign up for private health insurance.  Officials said the new tools will help Americans understand their choices and select the coverage that best suits their needs when open enrollment in the new Health Insurance Marketplace begins October 1.

The re-launched Healthcare.gov and new call center will help consumers prepare for the new coverage opportunities coming later this year. In October, HealthCare.gov is expected to be the online destination for consumers to compare and enroll in affordable, qualified health plans.

Americans may now access new educational information and learn what they can do to begin to get ready for open enrollment this fall.  The website will add functionality over the summer so that, by October, consumers will be able to create accounts, complete an online application, and shop for qualified health plans.

For Spanish speaking consumers, CuidadoDeSalud.gov will also be updated to match HealthCare.gov’s new consumer focus.

Between now and the start of open enrollment, the Marketplace call center will provide educational information and, beginning Oct. 1, 2013, will assist consumers with application completion and plan selection.  Customer service representatives are available for assistance via a toll-free number at 1-800-318-2596 and hearing impaired callers using TTY/TDD technology can dial 1-855-889-4325 for assistance.

To view the new look and new focus of the website, visit www. HealthCare.gov.

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Law Firm Honored for Fighting Discrimination


HARTFORD — With recent news of the Supreme Court’s ruling that makes it harder for employees to sue their employer for job discrimination, one local law firm highlights the fact that all kinds of discrimination are practiced in Connecticut.

McCarter & English recently received the “George J. and Patricia K. Ritter Pro Bono Award” created by the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, a small, statewide civil rights law firm based in Hartford. CFHC provides legal representation and assistance for people who are victims of housing discrimination.  Partner Moy Ogilvie and associates Cullen Guilmartin and Jordan Abbott were recognized on June 13 for their work with the CFHC at its 5th Annual Loving Civil Rights Award Dinner which was held at The Bond Ballroom.

Earlier this year, the attorneys, in conjunction with the CFHC, successfully resolved a housing discrimination case that they began litigating in early 2011.  The case involved an elderly gentleman who was discriminated against by a landlord for indicating during the application process that he would be paying for his rent using a Section 8 voucher.  A settlement was reached in which the firm’s client received one of the largest amounts that a victim of source of income discrimination in Connecticut has ever collected.  The client is scheduled to move into his apartment later this fall.

“Housing discrimination deeply impacts individuals, families, neighborhoods and even entire cities,” said Moy Ogilvie, who worked on the matter and is a member of the firm’s Diversity Committee.  “As residents of this community, we have a continued responsibility to help those individuals at risk of being unlawfully denied basic opportunities such as renting or purchasing a home.  McCarter & English appreciates this honor and looks forward to continuing our work with the CFHC.”

McCarter’s Pro Bono Director, Emily Goldberg, added:  “Source of income discrimination against Section 8 voucher recipients is a rampant issue throughout the country.  We are very proud of the work this team did in vindicating our client’s rights.”

The Ritter Pro Bono Award is named for two long-time Hartford residents who were active in local politics and served as community activist, particularly around housing issues for poor and working families.  The award honors the generous pro bono work of the law firms that help CFHC with difficult legal cases.

 

“McCarter & English has been a key supporter of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center,” said CFHC Executive Director Erin Kemple.  “We truly appreciate their continued commitment to the Center, to fair housing, and to the individuals and families who benefit directly from their generous assistance.”

 

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Op-Ed: Dreaming in the White House


 By Carla Lopez, The Advocate

How one queer DREAMer went from living on a couch shared with her parents to the White House.

As I stood in line at the White House, it hit me: I was about to meet the president of the United States.

Just six months ago, I lived my life by a simple rule — never be noticed and absolutely never mention my status as an undocumented immigrant to anyone.

But all that changed in December when I was approved for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, which grants some undocumented immigrants the ability to work legally in the U.S. and the security of knowing they won’t be deported.

Read more at Advocate.com

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