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“Cuban Migrants Get Unfair Advantage Over Other Latinos”: The Benevolence Of The Law Made Sense In Decades Past

The Cold War is over, but it still deeply distorts U.S. immigration policy.

Consider the bizarre situation at our southern border. A wave of migrants is expected to appear there, hoping for safe passage into the U.S. and an expedited path to legal status and eventually full citizenship. They will get it.

These lucky migrants won’t be Mexicans fleeing drug cartels. They won’t be Hondurans, who must endure the world’s highest murder rate. And they won’t be citizens of El Salvador, where the Peace Corps just suspended operations due to the increasing violence.

No, we deport those people.

They will be Cubans. In recent months, increasing numbers of Cubans have been leaving their island country, flying to Ecuador first and then traveling northward through Central America. They wish to migrate to the U.S., fearful that thawing diplomatic relations will end the special treatment that Cubans who leave the island have long received.

That special treatment needs to end.

The hypocrisy that is embedded in U.S. immigration law will be on full display as the Cubans begin arriving, which could happen within the next few weeks.

Since 1966, the Cuban Adjustment Act has given Cuban people an extraordinary advantage over other migrants wishing to enter the U.S. The law was originally intended as a political and humanitarian reply to communism and the oppression of Fidel Castro. No proof that a person has suffered persecution. Where he or she arrives from is enough.

When people attempt to arrive through the Florida Straits, the policy that developed was dubbed “wet foot, dry foot.” If a Cuban can get one foot on dry U.S. soil, they can stay and are offered permanent legal status in a year and many other benefits of welfare and help to restart their lives.

The benevolence of the law made sense in decades past. But a good argument can be made that many of the migrating Cubans are fleeing not persecution but economic turmoil. And in doing so, they are not any more desperate, perhaps even less so, than those fleeing the violence and poverty of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Thousands of Central Americans arrived and asked for asylum in the summer of 2014. But those people are the wrong type of Latino for our policies. Many of them are indigenous, poor and have little formal schooling. So they were held for months in detention camps at the border. Many were eventually released, free to stay in the U.S. at least until their pleas for asylum status or legal residency can be assessed by an immigration judge. Raids and deportations of undocumented immigrants continue.

Meanwhile, as many as 8,000 Cubans who have been stranded in Costa Rica will soon be making their way northward through Mexico, after agreements were worked out by several Latin American governments. The Obama administration plans to open refugee screening centers in Central America, an attempt to stem the flow of non-Cuban migrants.

In this election year, especially in light of the GOP’s appeals to anti-immigrant sentiment, the migrant Cubans will present a political test.

GOP presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio, whose parents left Cuba before Castro took over, has introduced legislation to curb abuses of the American generosity toward Cubans. The Sun Sentinel of South Florida in 2015 documented cases in which Cubans claiming to be exiles were taking U.S. government benefits or committing other types of fraud, even after returning to Cuba.

How far Rubio’s legislation and the companion bill in the House will advance remains to be seen. And there is virtually no appetite in an election year to overhaul immigration for the benefit of more than just Cubans.

Amnesty is still a curse word in most GOP circles. In decades past, that didn’t matter in the case of Cubans, who could be counted on to become Republicans.

If the GOP is to have any hope of salvaging the Latino vote this presidential cycle it will have to traverse this sticky thicket, also acknowledging the needs of other Latino migrants. They have to beat back the anti-immigrant bleating of Donald Trump, as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley did in her response to the State of the Union speech.

They must vow to be just. They must promise to rewrite immigration law to weigh all humans’ needs equally and fairly, with no favor based on country of origin or likely partisan affinity. And they must not bow to nativist screeds.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; Featured Post, The National Memo, January 15, 2016

January 17, 2016 Posted by | Central America, Cuban Adjustment Act, Cubans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fox ‘News’ Proof Of Old P.T. Barnum Adage”: Fox Is A Belief System, Not A News Network

Every once in a while the universe arranges itself to make you look smarter than you are. Lucky me, I am having such a moment now.

Last month, when NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ career imploded as he was caught in a high-profile, self-aggrandizing lie, I suggested in this space that there would be much less angst or fallout if someone from Fox “News” were caught lying.

Enter Bill O’Reilly.

Shortly after I wrote that, the liberal Mother Jones magazine ran a story questioning his claim to have been in the combat zone in the Falkland Islands while covering that war for CBS. From his Fox podium, O’Reilly dismissed Mother Jones as the “bottom rung of journalism in America,” which was gushing praise next to his takedown of reporter David Corn, a “liar,” an “irresponsible guttersnipe,” a “far-left zealot” and “dumb.”

Since then, however, other news organizations have reported other instances of questionable assertions on O’Reilly’s part.

For instance, he has long said he was outside the home of a figure in the John F. Kennedy assassination and heard the shot when the man killed himself. That suicide happened in Palm Beach. Former colleagues say O’Reilly was in Dallas that day.

He has claimed he was “attacked by protesters” while covering the 1992 Los Angeles riots for Inside Edition. Former colleagues say he is exaggerating an incident where an angry man took a piece of rubble to a camera.

O’Reilly has said he witnessed the execution of a group of American nuns in El Salvador. That happened in 1980. O’Reilly apparently did not reach El Salvador until 1981.

For the one falsehood, Williams received a six-month suspension without pay. For a handful of apparent falsehoods, O’Reilly has received unstinting support from his bosses at Fox.

This rather neatly makes the point I sought to make a month ago. Namely, that Fox — the window-dressing presence of a few bona fide reporters notwithstanding — is not a real news-gathering organization but, rather, the propaganda arm of an extreme right wing that grows ever more cult-like and detached from reality as time goes by. Fox is a belief system, not a news network. Exhibit A is the fact that O’Reilly is not now fighting for his professional life.

To anticipate what his believers will say in his defense: Yes, he is a pundit and yes, pundits are entitled to their opinions. But that does not release them from the obligation to be factual.

It is telling that Fox recently responded to sharp questions about all this from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow by sending her a statement noting that O’Reilly’s ratings are up despite the controversy. To act as if ratings answer, or even address, questions of credibility is to express contempt for the very notion of credibility. It suggests Fox’s full-body embrace of the old saying, often attributed to Barnum, about the birth rate of suckers.

But why shouldn’t Fox be sanguine? People who mistake it for a news outlet will never hold it accountable for failing to be one, because in the final analysis, news is not really what it promises them, nor what they seek. Rather, what it promises and what they seek is an alternate reality wherein birthers make sensible arguments, death panels are real, Trayvon was the thug, Sarah Palin is a misunderstood genius, and all your inchoate fears of the looming Other are given intellectual cover so they no longer look like the scaredy-cat bigotry they are.

It gives its viewers what they need. It tells them what they want to hear.

Because it does and because that’s all they ask, O’Reilly’s troubles will soon very likely blow away. Yes, he is apparently a serial fabulist. And yes, that would disqualify you from most newsrooms.

But this is Fox.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 11, 2015

March 14, 2015 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Fox News, Journalism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Roots Of Bain Capital In El Salvador’s Civil War

A significant portion of the seed money that created Mitt Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, was provided by wealthy oligarchs from El Salvador, including members of a family with a relative who allegedly financed rightist groups that used death squads during the country’s bloody civil war in the 1980s

Bain, the source of Romney’s fabulous personal wealth, has been the subject of recent attacks in the Republican primary over allegations that Romney and the firm behaved like, in Rick Perry’s words, “vulture capitalists.”One TV spot denounced Romney for relying on “foreign seed money from Latin America” but did not say where the money came from. In fact, Romney recruited as investors wealthy Central Americans who were seeking a safe haven for their capital during a tumultuous and violent period in the region.

Like so much about Bain, which is known for secrecy and has been dubbed a “black box,” all the names of the investors who put up the money for the initial fund in 1984 are not known. Much of what we do know was first reported by the Boston Globe in 1994 when Romney ran for U.S. Senate against Ted Kennedy.

In 1984, Romney had been tapped by his boss at Bain & Co, a consulting firm, to create a spin-off venture capital fund, Bain Capital.

A Costa Rica-born Bain official named Harry Strachan invited friends and former clients in Central America to a presentation about the fund with Romney in Miami. The group was impressed and “signed up for 20% of the fund,” according to Strachan’s memoir. That was about $6.5 million, according to the Globe. Bain partners themselves were putting up half the money, according to Strachan. Thus the Central American investors had contributed 40 percent of the outside capital.

Back in 1984, wealthy Salvadoran families were looking for safe investments as violence and upheaval engulfed the country. The war, which pitted leftist guerrillas against a right-wing government backed by the Reagan administration, ultimately left over 70,000 people dead in the tiny nation before a peace deal was brokered by the United Nations in 1992. The vast majority of violence, a UN truth commission later found, was committed by rightist death squads and the military, which received U.S. training and $6 billion in military and economic aid. The Reagan administration feared that El Salvador could become a foothold for Communists in Central America.

The notorious death squads were financed by members of the Salvadoran oligarchy and had close links to the country’s military. The death squads kidnapped, tortured, and killed suspected leftists in urban areas fueling an insurgency that retreated to rural areas and waged war on the government from the countryside. The war, which lasted 12 years, triggered an exodus that brought more than 1 million Salvadorans to the United States.

There is no evidence that any of Bain Capital’s original investors were involved in these sorts of activities. But the identities of some of the investors remain secret, and there are family names that raise questions.

Four members of the de Sola family were among the original Bain investors, or “limited partners” in the company, the Globe reported. Their relative and “one-time business partner,” Orlando de Sola, was an important figure in El Salvador. A well-known right-wing coffee grower with an (in his words) “authoritarian” vision for the country, de Sola spent time living in Miami but was also a founding member of the right-wing Arena party, lead by a U.S.-trained former intelligence officer named Roberto D’Aubuisson.

Craig Pyes, an investigative reporter then with the Albuquerque Journal, wrote a series on the rightist death squads based on extensive on-the-ground reporting in El Salvador in the early 1980s with Laurie Becklund of the Los Angeles Times, while the death squads were still active.

Pyes, who has since won two Pulitzer Prizes and is now a private investigator in California, says that no one has produced any proof that de Sola directly funded death squads.

“However,” Pyes says, “he was in the inner circle of the group around D’Aubuisson at the time that D’Aubuisson was well known to be involved in the death squads. De Sola’s name appears in a December 1983 FBI cable as one of 29 people suspected by State Department officials of furnishing funds and weapons to Salvadoran death squads.”

De Sola’s name also turned up in a notebook, seized from an aide to D’Aubuisson named Saravia, that detailed the finances of D’Aubuisson’s terrorist network, according to Pyes.

The Saravia notebook, reviewed by U.S. officials, listed weapons purchases, payments, and what appear to be descriptions of violent plots by rightists, including the assassination of El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero in 1980. Asked about the notebook by the New York Times in the late 1980s, de Sola denied that he had ever helped finance political violence. De Sola could not be reached for comment for this story.

Romney, for his part, who was much more accessible to the press in 1994, told the Globe that year that “we investigated the individuals’ integrity and looked for any obvious signs of illegal activity and problems in their background, and found none. We did not investigate in-laws and relatives.” He also said that Bain had checked the names of the Bain investors with the U.S. government. Given the policy of the Reagan administration at the time, though, it’s not clear going to the government would have been the most effective vetting mechanism.

It’s impossible to fully explore the backgrounds of the original Bain investors because we don’t know all their identities, including the names of the four members of the de Sola family mentioned by the Globe. Neither the Romney camp, Bain Capital, nor Strachan — the Bain executive who recruited the Central Americans — responded to requests for comment.

During his first presidential bid in 2007, Romney more than once touted the Central American investors in Bain while trying to woo Hispanic voters. In a speech in March of that year to the Miami-Dade Lincoln Day Dinner, Romney actually specified five of the original “partners” in Bain Capital — but the de Sola family was not among those he named.

And that August he told the Miami Herald, “The investments for the company that I started, Bain Capital, came largely from Latin America. My largest single investors came from El Salvador, Ecuador, Colombia and Guatemala. And so I feel a deep kinship to people in Latin America.”

 

By: Justin Elliott, Salon, January 20, 2012

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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