Tag Archive | "White House"

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Obama Unveils Quicker Family Reunification for Filipino WWII Vets


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House responded to years of pressure from immigrant rights groups on Wednesday with an announcement of a new policy that will expedite the process of bringing certain family members of Filipino veterans of World War II to the United States.

The policy, announced along with a number of other efforts that are a part of President Obama’s executive actions to improve the U.S. immigration system, would skip the long wait times— sometimes more than 25 years — for family members of these Filipino veterans, who are now American citizens or legal permanent residents, to immigrate legally to the U.S.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of State, according to the White House, “will work together to provide clear guidance to the public on the application process, and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.”

Advocates for the policy directive immediately hailed the announcement, hoping that it will be implemented soon.

Day to celebrate

“This is the day to celebrate,” said Mee Moua, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC).

In 1941, more than 260,000 Filipinos responded to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call to fight side-by-side with American soldiers during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. After the war, in 1945, Roosevelt promised these Filipino veterans U.S. citizenship and veterans’ benefits.

But it took nearly 50 years for the U.S. government to grant citizenship to Filipino veterans, in 1990, and since then they have been waiting for their children to join them in the U.S.

And because the U.S. government puts limits on visas so that each country can only receive 7 percent of the 226,000 family-sponsored available visas every year, the wait for Filipino American families can exceed many years or even decades.

Of the 4.2 million people waiting for family-sponsored visas, nearly one-third are from Asian countries, including the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and Vietnam.

Inhumanely long backlog

“Until now, the inhumanely long visa backlog has separated them [Filipino veterans] from their children and denied them the opportunity to live together in the United States,” Moua added. “It’s long past time the U.S. made good on its promise and we hope [the] USCIS will implement this as quickly as possible.”

“We are extremely pleased to hear the good news coming from the White House, that Filipino World War II Veterans will soon be reunited with their families,” said JT Mallonga, national chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations.

Mallonga added, “They have endured so much pain waiting for many years for this to happen. But with this latest executive action by the Obama administration, our ailing and aging heroes will no longer be separated from their loved ones.”

Estimates indicate that there are about 6,000 Filipino veterans of World War II who are still alive in the United States today. Now in their 80s and 90s, most of them need the care and assistance of their families, and they long to reunite with their family members during their golden years.

Parole as an avenue

“Parole is an avenue provided under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that allows individuals to come to the United States for a temporary period of time,” according to the White House announcement, “based upon urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”

However, the Obama administration has not provided any specific details on the eligibility requirements of the policy, or when will it be implemented. Considering it is part of Obama’s executive actions, many are concerned that the policy may no longer be enforced once his presidential term ends in 2016.

Recognizing the challenges ahead, Erin Oshiro, AAJC’s immigration and immigrant rights program director, says that advocacy groups are now reaching out to the administration and putting more pressure to move forward with the implementation of the new family reunification policy for Filipino veterans.

“It never moved quickly in D.C. Time is really of the essence here,” Oshiro added. “But this is an opportunity for us and the community to weigh in and ask the White House to make this program possible.”

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari Meets With President Obama


Updated Friday, July 31, 2015 at 6:28 p.m.

By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — In an effort to shore up U.S. relations with Nigeria and to help fight Islamic extremists, President Barack Obama met with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday at the White House.

 
Buhari’s visit to the U.S. comes within several weeks of taking office after the ouster of former Nigerian President Johnathan Goodluck. It was a contentious and historic election after he promised to to expel Boko Haram and root out endemic corruption in the Nigerian government. It was the first time a peaceful transfer of power occurred after the end of military rule in 1999.

 
Buhari’s visit on Monday is “a sign of the importance the U.S. places on relations with Nigeria,” White House officials said. Besides being a “Power Africa” focus country, Nigeria has a strong Nigeria diaspora community in the United States.

 

 

Many Nigerian-Americans were pleased with the White House’s invite to Buhari, who will hold the United Nations’ Security Council’s presidency in August.

 

“President Obama made the right decision in inviting President Muhammadu Buhari to the White House,” said Sabella Abidde, a Political Science Professor at the University of Alabama. ” It gave both leaders the chance to get to know one another and, in the process, exhanged “wish list.” It was also an affirmation of Nigerian’s nascent democracy.”

 

Others agreed, expressing hope for less corruption in Nigeria.
“President Buhari ushers in hope for Nigerians worldwide. We are tired of years of corruption and inept leadership. Nigeria needs a no-nonsense honest leader. We hope Pres. Buhari can start us on that path,” said Johnathan Adewumi, a Brooklyn, NY businessman.
Obama invited Buhari immediately after the 72-year-old former dictator was declared the winner of the March election. Buhari praised Obama for demanding that the Nigerian election be transparent and fair.

“Nigeria is obviously one of the most important countries in the world and one of the most important countries in the African continent. Recently we saw an election in which a peaceful transition to a new government took place and it was an affirmation of Nigeria’s commitment to democracy, a recognition that although Nigeria is a big country and a diverse country with many different parts the people of Nigeria understand that only through a peaceful political process can change take place,” said President Obama who was flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, National security advisor Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry and other White House officials.

 
U.S. relations with Nigeria soured because of government corruption and the human trafficking of more than 200 schoolgirls, who were kidnapped by “an increasingly lethal” Boko Haram in April 2014. The abduction of these girls, most of whom were Christian and from the town of Chibok, led to international condemnation and a campaign to “Bring Back Our Girls.”

 
Boko Haram’s human trafficking and deadly rampages have killed thousands in Nigeria since its formation in 2009. Last Friday, at least 15 people were killed in suicide bombings at open air praying grounds on one of Muslims calendar.

 
Last week, Buhari fired the entire top echelon of the military, which he has accused of corruption that prevents what once was Africa’s mightiest armed force from curbing the Islamist insurgency based in Nigeria’s northeast. The insurgency has killed more than 13,000 people and driven another 1.5 million from their homes, according to reports.

 

 

Dressed in a traditional West African-style caftan of a black long gown and a matching pants and prayer hat, Buhari reaffirmed his allegiance to democracy and promised to address U.S. concerns.

 
Buhari noted the “positive trends” of elections in Nigeria and credited the “pressure from the United States and Europe to make sure elections were free and credible led us to where we are now.”

 
He said he was “extremely happy” about the progress and “very grateful” for the invitation from Obama to the White House.

 
Nigeria boasts Africa’s largest economy and hosts the fourth largest oil reserves. However, Nigeria’s economy has suffered under the decline of oil prices, government corruption and security issues.

 
Additionally, Nigeria plays a critical role in the region in terms of being an economic power, but also a historical contributor to peacekeeping and playing a very important role globally,” said Grant Harris, the senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council.

 
“This feels to us like Nigeria is at an important moment in which there can be real reforms across the board,” said Harris, in a conference call to reporters last week. “We’re looking forward to what we can do with a president who has staked out an agenda that we think is the right agenda at the right time.”

 
Grant said that the U.S. has been providing important security assistance to help professionalize the Nigerian military and to help their approach to Boko Haram.

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White House Honors East Hartford Teacher


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The White House recently honored one of Connecticut’s best teachers.

President Barack Obama honored Cara Quinn, one of 55 teachers from across the nation who gathered in the Rose Garden on a sunny afternoon. a East Hartford resident.

Quinn, who is not teaching now because of her father’s illness, has taught sixth grade at Sunset Ridge School for more than 10 years.

During her career, Quinn has developed programs to prepare students for college, including a college immersion experience. She said she focuses not only on academics, but on character development.

“I think its important to nurture students to be globally aware,” she said.

Last October, Quinn was also named Connecticut’s 2015 Teacher of the Year.

“In her classroom, Mrs. Quinn not only teaches the material, she also teaches her students about their community and about their world,” Former Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said in a press release. “She encourages her students to give back through service and inspires them to make a difference.”

A teacher of 11 years, Quinn was chosen from over 100 district-level Teachers of the Year.

Quinn succeeded the 2014 Connecticut Teacher of the Year,  John Mastroianni. He is a music teacher at William H. Hall High School in West Hartford

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President Obama to Preview State of the Union Address


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will preview new policies in his state of the union speech on Wednesday while in Iowa.

There,  he will introduce plans to help “move the middle class forward” with affordable broadband Internet,  according to a White House spokesperson.

Iowa, once called the dirtiest little city in the nation, was selected to highlight the possibilities of every town welcoming broadband internet into their businesses and home.

The president is aiming to use his executive power to accomplish this goal.

“There are some steps we can take through executive actions that allow us to make sure every community can do  what Cedar Falls is doing,” Obama said.

That’s because the Cedar Rapids has internet speed nearly 100 times faster than the national average. And this high-speed internet is for an affordable price, according to a new report issued today by the National Economic Council and Council of Economic Advisers.

The need for broadband is an economic imperative, officials said. And Obama will stress the need for affordable high-speed broadband for all Americans, and how several small cities and towns setting up themselves to compete with world cities.

“This isn’t about streaming videos and movies,” said a White House official in a conference call. “It’s about strengthening the economy and attracting the next generation of start ups.”

He said this is to aid a “nationwide movement” to help Americans develop new skills and find paying jobs because most jobs require access to the internet.

High-speed, low-cost broadband, he said, is paving the way for economic revitalization not just in Cedar Falls, but in places like Chattanooga, TN, Kansas City, MO, and Lafayette, LA — all of which have Internet speeds nearly 100 times faster than the national average.

Nearly forty percent of American households either cannot purchase a fixed 10 Mbps connection or they must buy it from a single provider, the report states.

Also,  94 percent of Americans in urban areas can purchase a 25 Mbps (megabit per second) connection, but only 51 percent of the rural population has access to Internet at that speed.

Last November, the President outlined his plan to keep the Internet open to new competition and innovation by safeguarding net neutrality — which will help ensure no one company can act as a gatekeeper to digital content.

President Obama speaks on the need for affordable high-speed broadband for all Americans, and how certain small cities and towns are taking steps to lay a foundation for broadband access that rivals the most connected cites in the world.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

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Congress Passes Massive Spending Bill


Updated Monday, December 15, 2014 at 9:39 a.m.

By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON —  After much wrangling between the White House and Congress late Saturday, the Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending package expected to be signed by President Barack Obama by this week.

The Senate approved the measure in a 56-40 vote. Because the bill only funds the Department of Homeland Security until February, Several liberal Congressional leaders called the omnibus spending bill a compromised budget. That’s because conservative lawmakers scaled back Obama’s health and immigration policies.

Also, the Senate nixed all spending on Obama’s signature education initiative, Race to the Top. And there is no funding for Common Core State Standards.  Moreover, Republicans weakened the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which installed policies to protect homeowners and other financial consumers. And Democrats compromised, saying they secured more money for enforcement budgets.

The rollback on key provisions of the Dodd-Frank law would allow big banks to sell off risky financial instruments, while having access to federal aid if banks falter. Some noted that similar measures have helped created the 2008 recession and forced government to bail out banks that were “too big to fail.”

The massive omnibus spending bill will fund the federal government operations through September 2015.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) voted against the measure, saying it’s clear this is not an acceptable budget to many Democrats.

“I was really so heartbroken to see the taint that was placed on this valuable appropriation bill from on high,” she said on the House floor.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) disagreed with that characterization of the spending bill, calling it a “responsible” bill put forth by a bipartisan vote to “keep the government running and address the American people’s priorities.”

Before the measure passed in the House with a 219-206 vote, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough urged House Democrats to vote for the bill. And the White House administration issues a statement, saying the administration was opposed changes to the Dodd-Frank Act, aimed at reducing taxpayer risk.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), speaking about the Dodd-Frank regulations, said that the move on financial reform reflects a conservative agenda rather than a progressive one.

“The alternative to passing this bill would be worse–another short-term continuing resolution or a government shutdown,” Murphy said in a statement released to the press. “Either would inflict real pain on millions of people in Connecticut and across the country.”

The bill also appropriated billions to fight Ebola in the U.S. and overseas, supports Connecticut economy by funding defense programs, which is a life blood of the state’s economy.

“The bill will surge manufacturing with more Blackhawk helicopters, F135 Engines for the Joint Strike Fighter,  development for new submarines and combat rescue helicopters, he said.

Other Congressional leaders opted to avert another shutdown as the one in 2013.

Rep. Jim Himes, (D-Conn.) said he voted for the measure because the “doesn’t want a government shutdown and because everyone” demand that the U.S. government be functional–not dysfunctional.

Other key measures include increased limits on individual contributions to national political parties and a reduced budget for the Internal Revenue Service.

In addition, the spending bill funded core domestic government operations and provided money for military operations abroad.

 

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11-Year Old Nabs Interview With Obama


HARTFORD — After almost a year of trying to get an interview with President Barack Obama,  an elementary school student got his chance.

On Thursday,  the White House granted Damon Weaver’s long-standing request and notified reporters around 7 p.m. that Weaver, who is going into sixth grade, finally landed an interview with Obama.

The news nugget: Obama told Weaver he’ll deliver a back-to-school address on September 8. 

“I’m going to be making a big speech to young people all across the country about the importance of education, the importance of staying in school, how we want to improve our education system, and why it’s so important for the country. And so I hope everybody tunes in,” Obama told Weaver. 

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