Tag Archives: immigration

Emil Guillermo: Trump’s Revised #TravelBan is still a Muslim Ban.

The White House occupant I call Trump 45 is all thumbs up about the new executive order he just signed.

But those who found the previous travel ban held up by the courts offensive will still be all thumbs down.

Travel Ban 2.0 may be written better with cosmetic changes to take away particularly embarrassing situations. But a Muslim ban is still a Muslim ban and no less odious.

Some changes: Iraq, our ally in fighting ISIS, is now off the list, reducing the number of countries from seven to six.

Existing green card and visa holders are also now exempt, as are a list of situations like the foreign national who “seeks to visit or reside with a close family member who is a U.S. citizen.”

Or an infant or child needing urgent medical care.

But, at it’s core, the travel ban is still essentially a “Muslim Ban” worthy of a challenge on constitutional grounds.

Asian Americans, as targets of immigration bans in the past, know how harmful these bans have been.

History tells us these kind of bans have no place in our democracy.

Read the White House’s Travel Ban 2.0

Emil Guillermo: Trump Calls for Bi-Partisan Immigration Reform But Words Don’t Add Up to Pre-Speech hype.

 

It wasn’t exactly a State of the Union, more like a Trump state of mind.

But that means the best thing you could say about Trump45’s address before Congress is this: At least the TelePrompTer didn’t break.

If it did, who knows what we would have seen on speech night.

“Campaign Trump”?

Or “Twitter Trump”?

That’s the Trump who has been the real enemy of the people.

But this speech was slightly more tempered. Milder. And he didn’t veer off wildly.

The president showed us all— he could read!

Sad.

And just for doing that, 78 percent of viewers in a CNN/ORC poll gave Trump positive marks.

Now that’s something Trump understands. Ratings.

Governing, however, has been a mystery. But now Trump will learn from experience that if you give a political speech that’s long on promises on things like jobs, education, infrastructure, and Obamacare, without a stitch of detail on how to keep those promises, let alone pay for them, ratings can go up.

And maybe he’ll start acting normal?

That’s something both to welcome and to fear.

Welcome because he’s not 100 percent in your face.

Fear, because he’s figured out how the game works.

And that of course, makes Trump more dangerous than ever.

There were two things specifically I was looking for in the speech,  that  left  me pretty disappointed.

Though Trump began the speech talking about Black History Month and civil rights, he really could have condemned the threats to the Jewish Community Centers and the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries much stronger than he did.

And he could have dwelled on the shootings of Indian Americans in Olathe, near Kansas City. One man, Srinivas Kuchibhotla died. Another Indian American was wounded.

A Caucasian man, Ian Grillot,24, was wounded trying to disarm the shooter, another Caucasian male, Adam Purinton, 51, who  started it all by hurling racial slurs at the Indians.

These are the kind of things Trump45 has brought out in America since the start of his presidency.

We should have seen a passionate denunciation of these acts. Instead,  rump simply read the prompter then bathed in the shower of self-congratulatory applause.

It was as if just by being gracious makes him a hero.

But what did Trump do since he’s taken over?

With his anti-immigrant, build-a-wall, nationalistic rhetoric, he has given a segment of America a signal that hate is OK in America.

The O-KKK.

Trump’s victory unleashed all that on America.

But the president acknowledged it with just a single line:  “While we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

It didn’t seem sincere. Not after the first 40 days. It seemed hollow.

He didn’t even mention the Asian Americans by nationality or name.

It was just a shooting in Kansas City.

Not good enough.

Of course, later in his speech, Trump milked another sentimental moment to honor Navy Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens, who died in Yemen during a raid last January.

The military is always a safe bet. So honor a Gold Star family, and deplete the domestic budget in favor billions for the military.

But for the Jews, or for the murdered Indian immigrant?

Trump gave them short-shrift.

It’s the reason Trump’s big pre-speech “leak” that he would be calling for a bi-partisan immigration reform seemed just like an insincere  tease.

After the travel ban fiasco, and the new ICE policies that have resulted in round ups of undocumented immigrants around the country, a real push for a compromise on immigration would have been a great headline.

But there was “no there, there.”

Not when Trump’s speech contained more talk of a border wall, references to “illegal immigrants,” and borders as “lawless chaos.” And then, as he is likes to do, Trump mixes border security with national security and all that entails, and creates for us all one big fear: “Radical Islamic Terrorism.”

And he used that exact counter-productive term, once again, despite advice to refrain.

By the time he got around to his pitch for a bi-partisan immigration  “compromise,” Trump had no credibility with minority communities and those close to the immigrants who are living in fear.

Immigration has always been humanitarian based for political or economic reasons for the immigrant. The benefit to the U.S. has always been the extra.

Trump’s idea is for a merit-based immigration. He wants to cherry-pick the best, because the best will make money for Trump, the U.S., and that’s all he really cares about.

Once again, he could have made a better case had he mentioned the Indian man who died in Olathe, that suburb of Kansas City.

His name was Srinivas Kuchibhotla. He was a tech worker at Garmin, the gps company.

He was one of the immigrants Trump likes.

But not enough to mention in a major speech.

There were other glaring things Trump said. Like calling education the “civil rights issue of our time.”

Really? So is that why Betsy DeVos–the voucher queen hell bent on destroying public education–the new secretary of education?

And what about that travel ban? After the  speech, Trump cancelled again the announcement for the new executive order that was to supercede the one held up by the court in Washington state.

Reports had it that Iraq would come off. Would other countries be added?

I worry for the  Philippines.

This is the week the militant group Abu Sayyaf, home based in the Philippines, revealed a video showing the beheading of a 70-year-old German hostage.

Trump didn’t mention it at all.

But it was in the subtext when Trump said, “We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America—we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.”

Stated or unstated, you knew that the beheading in the Philippines,  reported in the New York Times on speech day, could potentially be more fuel for Trump’s xenophobic fire.

And this was a toned down speech.

So if you hear people praise Trump about this speech and the polls giving him good marks for his performance,  don’t be fooled.

All he did was stick to the TelePrompTer.

And act presidential. Remember, he’s all showbiz.

It’s still the same old Trump.

 

Emil Amok’s Takeout—Trump’s soft new tone hardly masks hardline on immigration. How his policies are worse than even the nadir of immigration policy, the Chinese Exclusion Act.

This was recorded before Trump’s speech before the joint session of the Congress.  But instead of overpraise for striking a civil tone, even a presidential tone, overall his words don’t match the harsh anti-immigrant actions he’s displayed in his first 40 days.

Read more at on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog.

 

Emil Guillermo: “Immigration Interruptus” kept Asian American numbers artificially low for 50 years–and then the racist quotas ended and we all came in.

emilasakid
I often wondered why I was one of the few Asian Americans in my elementary school pre-1965.
There weren’t that many of us due to racist immigration quotas.
The flow of immigration was stopped cold.
The few of us Asian Americans in  school were really the lucky ones.  Our parents got through the political-socio-biological constraints and were able to start families.
But when that dammed up process finally changed, we now have places like my alma mater, Lowell High in San Francisco.
Whole lots of Asian Americans.
And Daly City.
Whole lot of Filipinos.
Asian Americans will be the No. 1 immigrant group by 2065, and we have  the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act to thank for that.
It was signed into law Oct. 3, 1965.
No more  “Immigration Interruptus.”
Happy 50th Anniversary. Let’s party like it isn’t 1964.

Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration? My sources say it’s about time; Updates with reaction from different Asian American groups; AALDEF statement,American Immigration Lawyers Association, and New York Immigration group’s practical view on how the action applies to real people. President still cracks down, but prioritizes hardline on “felons not families.”

This is from AALDEF 11/20/14, 5:20 pdt:

Tonight, President Obama announced his plan to provide administrative relief to certain groups of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. The following is a statement by Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund:
“We welcome President Obama’s use of executive authority to provide relief from deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants and their families. The Asian American population nationwide is 19 million, and close to 1.5 million Asian immigrants are undocumented. Current deportation and detention policies have separated Asian American families, harmed low-wage workers, and created fear and mistrust of local law enforcement. With the continued failure of Congress to enact comprehensive legislation, President Obama’s action to delay the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants is long overdue. 
In our exit poll of 4,100 Asian American voters in the 2014 midterm elections, 65% expressed their support for executive action on immigration. The measures announced tonight are an important step in the right direction, in order to ensure that the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws adheres to human rights principles and reflects American values of fairness and family unity.
The omission of large numbers of undocumented immigrants with strong ties to the U.S., such as the parents of immigrants who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), is disappointing. AALDEF will continue to support organizing and advocacy efforts that seek long-term solutions to our unworkable immigration policies. Such actions will pave the way for Asian immigrants and their families to gain a pathway to citizenship, contribute more fully to their communities and to our country as a whole, and protect the rights of all Americans, both native-born and immigrants.”

Update: 11/20/14  5pm pdt

This from a Memo from the American Immigration Lawyers Association:

Based on a briefing on 11/20/14 by the White House, the following is a summary of the elements expected to be part of the Administration’s announcement of executive actions on immigration. Our understanding is that details (and memos) are still being worked on at this time. Many items are still unclear, and the merits of many may not be known until the details are known. Some will require regulations, but others can be done by memo.

Here are the principal components as we currently understand them:

1. Enforcement Priorities. Many of the existing memos on enforcement priorities and prosecutorial discretion will be replaced by a new memo that will name three enforcement priorities, which will be operational immediately:

1. Suspected terrorists, convicted felons (including aggravated felonies), convicted gang members, and people apprehended on the border;

2. People convicted of serious or multiple misdemeanors, and very recent entrants (i.e., those who entered after 1/1/14);

3. Those who, after 1/1/14, failed to leave under a removal order or returned after removal.

 

The memo will contain “strong language” on using prosecutorial discretion appropriately. While most other memos on the subject will be rescinded, the victims of crime memo and the USCIS memo on issuance of NTAs will stand.

2. Border Security. The Secretary of DHS will announce a South Border “command and control” campaign to coordinate and better use resources at the border.

 

3. State and Local. Secure Communities will be discontinued and replaced by a Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). What it means that Secure Communities will be discontinued is unclear. Unclear if they will stop fingerprinting people and unplug the technology and interoperability of the federal and local databases. Detainers will be discontinued for all except national security cases. Instead of detainers, there will be a request for notification when a law enforcement entity is about to release a convicted criminal.

 

4. Nothing on family detention will be included in this package.

 

5. No changes to Operation Streamline which targets immigration entry and reentry for federal prosecution.

 

6. Two deferred action initiatives that combined are estimated to benefit 4.4 million:

 

a. Deferred Action for Parents (DAP). Parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (of any age) who have been continuously present since 1/1/10, and who pass background checks and pay taxes, will be eligible to apply for deferred action, which will

 

 

be granted for a 3-year period. The plan is to stand this up within 180 days (for applications to be accepted). Note that parents of DACA recipients are not eligible.

 

b. Expansion of DACA. DACA will be revised to get rid of the age cap, and to change the date that continuous presence must have started to 1/1/10. It also will be granted for 3 years (including those with pending renewal applications). Ready in 90 days.

 

7. Pending Proceedings. There will be a review of cases currently under proceedings to see who is prima facie eligible for the relief stated in this program, and those cases will be closed.

 

8. Immigration Court Reforms. There will be a package of immigration court reforms that will include qualification of accredited representatives and ineffective assistance of counsel issues.

 

9. U/T Visas. Three more types of offenses will be added to the list of offenses for which DOL can certify for U status. No specifics were available regarding which offenses will be added. T visa eligibility may also come into play with respect to DOL.

 

10. Worksite Enforcement. DOL will coordinate with other agencies regarding worksite enforcement activities.

 

11. Foreign Entrepreneurs. Certain investors will be able to be paroled into the U.S., or be granted parole in place if already in the United States, for job creation (no further details at this time). This will be done by regulation. Also, entrepreneurs, researchers, inventors, and founders will be eligible for national interest waivers. This will be implemented through policy guidance.

 

12. Timing of Filing for Adjustment of Status. The ability of individuals with an approved employment-based immigrant petition who are caught in the quota backlogs to file for adjustment of status will be advanced to permit them to obtain the benefits of a pending adjustment. This is expected to impact about 410,000 people. This will be done by regulation.

 

13. AC21. “Same or similar” will be clarified.

 

14. L-1B. The guidance will be released.

 

15. H-4 EADs. The regulation will be finalized, probably in December or January.

 

16. OPT. The length of time in OPT for STEM graduates will be expanded and the relationship between the student and the school will be strengthened for this period. Other changes, such as allowing STEM OPT post-master’s degree where only the first degree is in a STEM field is under consideration. This will be done by regulation.

 

17. PERM. A full rulemaking will be undertaken to modernize the PERM program.

 

18. I-601a Waivers. The provisional waiver will be expanded to include spouses and children of LPRs. The definition of extreme hardship will be expanded and clarified.

 

19. Advance Parole. There will be a new advance parole memo that will address the issues raised in Matter of Arrabally-Yerrabelly and make clear that CBP should honor the advance paroles issued by USCIS.

 

20. Parole in Place. PIP will be expanded to include families of individuals trying to enlist in the armed forces.

 

21. Visa Modernization. There will be a Presidential Memorandum directing the agencies to look at modernizing the visa system, with a view to making optimal use of the numbers of visa available under law. Issues such as whether derivatives should be counted and whether past unused visa numbers can be recaptured will be included in this effort.

 

22. Integration. A second Presidential Memorandum will set up a Task Force on New Americans.

 

Updated:

11/20/14

Here are some details on the President’s Plan to be released tonight from the New York State Immigration Action Fund:

5 Things to know about how President Obama’s Actions Impacts Undocumented Immigrants

The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions are an important step to fix our broken immigration system. Millions of undocumented immigrants who live in the shadows but want to play by the rules and pay taxes have no way to correct their immigration status under the law. That’s why the President is taking
immediate action to fix as much of the problem as he can while continuing to work with Congress to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform bill.

The President has been clear that he can’t fix the immigration system entirely on his own; whatever action he takes will not be a substitute for long lasting solutions that only comprehensive immigration legislation can provide. Here are the 5 things that you should know about the President’s initiatives impacting
undocumented immigrants in the US:

1. You must meet strict requirements to qualify for relief from deportation

Eligible immigrants will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization if they come forward and pass criminal and national security background checks, pay their taxes, pay a fee, and show that they are:

· A parent of US citizens or lawful permanent residents on the date of the announcement, are not enforcement priorities and have been in the US since January 1, 2010, or

· An individual who arrived in the US before turning 16 years old and before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today

Additionally, we are reducing the time that families are separated while obtaining their green cards.

Undocumented immigrants who are immediate relatives of lawful permanent residents or sons or daughters of US citizens can apply to get a waiver if a visa is available. Learn more here

2. You Cannot Apply for Several Months

The U.S. government  and specifically USCIS – will not begin accepting applications until early 2015. While the government is not accepting applications now, if you believe you are eligible for one or more of the initiatives, you can prepare by gathering documents that establish your identity, relationship to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident and show that you have continuously lived in the US for 5 years or more.
3. Recent Border Crossers will be a Priority for Deportation

You must have been in the US for at least 5 years to qualify for these programs. These executive actions will not benefit immigrants who recently crossed the border (defined as those who entered the country after January 1, 2014), who may cross the border in the future, or who help those who cross in the future, but rather immigrants who have been living in the United States for years.

The President’s actions increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally today will be caught and then sent back

4. If you commit fraud you will not qualify

USCIS will review each case very carefully. As with other immigration requests, knowingly misrepresenting or failing to disclose facts will subject applicants to criminal prosecution and possible removal from the United States.

5. Beware of Immigration Scams

Many people offer help with immigration services. Unfortunately, not all are authorized to do so. While many of these unauthorized practitioners mean well, all too many of them are out to rip you off.

Make sure you remain informed and know when the application process starts. www.uscis.gov will be the authoritative source of information about eligibility and applications going forward.

 

Eligible immigrants will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization if they come forward and pass criminal and national security background checks, pay their taxes, pay a fee, and show that they are:

· A parent of US citizens or lawful permanent residents on the date of the announcement, are not enforcement priorities and have been in the US since January 1, 2010, or

· An individual who arrived in the US before turning 16 years old and before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today

Additionally, we are reducing the time that families are separated while obtaining their green cards.

Undocumented immigrants who are immediate relatives of lawful permanent residents or sons or daughters of US citizens can apply to get a waiver if a visa is available. Learn more here

2. You Cannot Apply for Several Months

The U.S. government  and specifically USCIS – will not begin accepting applications until early 2015. While the government is not accepting applications now, if you believe you are eligible for one or more of the initiatives, you can prepare by gathering documents that establish your identity, relationship to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident and show that you have continuously lived in the US for 5 years or more.
3. Recent Border Crossers will be a Priority for Deportation

You must have been in the US for at least 5 years to qualify for these programs. These executive actions will not benefit immigrants who recently crossed the border (defined as those who entered the country after January 1, 2014), who may cross the border in the future, or who help those who cross in the future, but rather immigrants who have been living in the United States for years.

The President’s actions increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally today will be caught and then sent back

4. If you commit fraud you will not qualify

USCIS will review each case very carefully. As with other immigration requests, knowingly misrepresenting or failing to disclose facts will subject applicants to criminal prosecution and possible removal from the United States.

5. Beware of Immigration Scams

Many people offer help with immigration services. Unfortunately, not all are authorized to do so. While many of these unauthorized practitioners mean well, all too many of them are out to rip you off.

Make sure you remain informed and know when the application process starts. www.uscis.gov will be the authoritative source of information about eligibility and applications going forward. Subscribe to get more updates.

– See more at: http://nysiaf.org/2014/11/20/complete-details-of-obama-executive-order-now-available/#sthash.PmkoKpHN.dpuf

Eligible immigrants will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization if they come forward and pass criminal and national security background checks, pay their taxes, pay a fee, and show that they are:

· A parent of US citizens or lawful permanent residents on the date of the announcement, are not enforcement priorities and have been in the US since January 1, 2010, or

· An individual who arrived in the US before turning 16 years old and before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today

Additionally, we are reducing the time that families are separated while obtaining their green cards.

Undocumented immigrants who are immediate relatives of lawful permanent residents or sons or daughters of US citizens can apply to get a waiver if a visa is available. Learn more here

2. You Cannot Apply for Several Months

The U.S. government  and specifically USCIS – will not begin accepting applications until early 2015. While the government is not accepting applications now, if you believe you are eligible for one or more of the initiatives, you can prepare by gathering documents that establish your identity, relationship to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident and show that you have continuously lived in the US for 5 years or more.
3. Recent Border Crossers will be a Priority for Deportation

You must have been in the US for at least 5 years to qualify for these programs. These executive actions will not benefit immigrants who recently crossed the border (defined as those who entered the country after January 1, 2014), who may cross the border in the future, or who help those who cross in the future, but rather immigrants who have been living in the United States for years.

The President’s actions increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally today will be caught and then sent back

4. If you commit fraud you will not qualify

USCIS will review each case very carefully. As with other immigration requests, knowingly misrepresenting or failing to disclose facts will subject applicants to criminal prosecution and possible removal from the United States.

5. Beware of Immigration Scams

Many people offer help with immigration services. Unfortunately, not all are authorized to do so. While many of these unauthorized practitioners mean well, all too many of them are out to rip you off.

Make sure you remain informed and know when the application process starts. www.uscis.gov will be the authoritative source of information about eligibility and applications going forward. Subscribe to get more updates.

– See more at: http://nysiaf.org/2014/11/20/complete-details-of-obama-executive-order-now-available/#sthash.PmkoKpHN.dpuf

5 Things to know about how President Obama’s Actions Impacts Undocumented Immigrants

The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions are an important step to fix our broken immigration system. Millions of undocumented immigrants who live in the shadows but want to play by the rules and pay taxes have no way to correct their immigration status under the law. That’s why the President is taking
immediate action to fix as much of the problem as he can while continuing to work with Congress to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform bill.

The President has been clear that he can’t fix the immigration system entirely on his own; whatever action he takes will not be a substitute for long lasting solutions that only comprehensive immigration legislation can provide. Here are the 5 things that you should know about the President’s initiatives impacting
undocumented immigrants in the US:

1. You must meet strict requirements to qualify for relief from deportation

Eligible immigrants will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization if they come forward and pass criminal and national security background checks, pay their taxes, pay a fee, and show that they are:

· A parent of US citizens or lawful permanent residents on the date of the announcement, are not enforcement priorities and have been in the US since January 1, 2010, or

· An individual who arrived in the US before turning 16 years old and before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today

Additionally, we are reducing the time that families are separated while obtaining their green cards.

Undocumented immigrants who are immediate relatives of lawful permanent residents or sons or daughters of US citizens can apply to get a waiver if a visa is available. Learn more here

2. You Cannot Apply for Several Months

The U.S. government  and specifically USCIS – will not begin accepting applications until early 2015. While the government is not accepting applications now, if you believe you are eligible for one or more of the initiatives, you can prepare by gathering documents that establish your identity, relationship to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident and show that you have continuously lived in the US for 5 years or more.
3. Recent Border Crossers will be a Priority for Deportation

You must have been in the US for at least 5 years to qualify for these programs. These executive actions will not benefit immigrants who recently crossed the border (defined as those who entered the country after January 1, 2014), who may cross the border in the future, or who help those who cross in the future, but rather immigrants who have been living in the United States for years.

The President’s actions increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally today will be caught and then sent back

4. If you commit fraud you will not qualify

USCIS will review each case very carefully. As with other immigration requests, knowingly misrepresenting or failing to disclose facts will subject applicants to criminal prosecution and possible removal from the United States.

5. Beware of Immigration Scams

Many people offer help with immigration services. Unfortunately, not all are authorized to do so. While many of these unauthorized practitioners mean well, all too many of them are out to rip you off.

Make sure you remain informed and know when the application process starts. www.uscis.gov will be the authoritative source of information about eligibility and applications going forward. Subscribe to get more updates.

– See more at: http://nysiaf.org/2014/11/20/complete-details-of-obama-executive-order-now-available/#sthash.PmkoKpHN.dpuf

11/18/14

Here’s the point to remember: Obama’s always been able to do this.  He’s delayed because I think he’s sincere in believing the GOP would give in on “other” things. But after all these years, I think Obama’s realized he can’t afford to not take some action now. Still, whatever he does is temporary. And it’s not amnesty, because that implies permanence and there’s nothing permanent in any executive action taken. It can all be undone by a new administration. But if there’s a hard line by Republicans against Obama’s actions, it’s likely to upset Latino voters, and then there won’t be a new administration that will undo Obama’s orders. Still, there’s a real Jekyll and Hyde attitude in the administration. Whatever details are in the executive action, look at the hardline attitude in the administration that has deported more than two million people. So conservatives who criticize should know that most immigration advocates I’ve talked to say something like, “It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing,” and “Why’d did it take so long?”

Check out my piece on immigration  on NBCNews.com/asianamerica

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#SOTU: Obama uses a wounded Army Ranger to unite the country; It’s not corny if it gets us to some common ground and makes us realize the state of our union is much stronger than any of the petty politics in Washington would have us believe

The state of the union still isn’t so great, but the speech by the president was as good as a State of the Union address can get.

And we have Sgt. Cory Remsburg to thank. But first, let’s address that speech.

President Obama was critical of the gridlock and how it hurt the American people, and said he was ready to act on his own, and take executive action.

It was a ballsy threat of action. Let’s hope in this final term, Obama  actually takes some. Especially on immigration. Maybe Ju Hong, the San Francisco activist was right when he disrupted the president’s speech in November. The president can do more without the Congress, if he can only summon up the political will. Maybe the president has found some. When you’re on your way out, what do you have to lose?

There were a few specifics about some things like the MyRA  retirement accounts, energy policy, equal pay for women, job training, pre-school and minimum wage proposals. But we still don’t know if any of that will amount to all that much in the end.

So for now, this speech will have to be about how it made us feel. And that’s’ where the president struck gold when he introduced us to Sgt. Remsburg, the wounded Army Ranger, who couldn’t walk or hear or see, but never gave up on his own recovery to the point where he could sit in the gallery and watch the State of the Union.

A little bit of drama through a meaningful cameo never hurt a State of the Union. Especially when one needed some rallying emotion. Normally, the president has a paragraph, what I call the “litany of diversity,” where he names every race in the Census. But this year, he talked in general terms about all of us, when he said “we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.”  He was in the military section of the speech, including a cheering portion about the Olympic team, that incited a “USA” chant.

But it was just a lead up when he personified it all by talking about Remsburg.

In Remsburg’s  story, the president found common ground for us all, above the b.s. of politics. It was one of the few times in the speech where  Biden and Boehner could be seen both standing up and applauding behind the president. Indeed, Remsburg, gave the president the night’s biggest applause (about a minute and 45 seconds, and that’s with the president inserting himself to stem the roar).

Again, it played right into the president’s plan. About Remsburg, the president said: “My recovery has not been easy,” he says. “Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.” 

He could have been talking about himself, the country, all of us struggling in our present day America. That’s what we all need to remember, that we’re all in this fight together, and when we start fighting each other (like when the governing class loses its mind and shuts down the government) it’s just not the American way.

The end of that speech was like a call for the best in us all, the good of government, and our country. It’s why we send our children to war, and why we can, with all our differences, in the end, stand together as one.

Forget about specific policies you may or may not have heard. After hearing dozens of these, SOTU addresses are about the “feel good.” And if how you felt about Remsburg is the only thing of substance that you remember tomorrow, or next week,  then the minute or so of applause he got did the trick.

That’s what Obama needed to do with this SOTU address. As our leader he had to remind us that despite it all,  the state of the union is really much stronger than we think.

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S.F. Mayor Ed Lee works overtime for #SOTU: Maximum Asian, minimum wage in the land of inequality; updated 3:42PDT with preview excerpts

Some observers might think San Francisco must be on President Obama’s “Do Not Call” list after that embarrassing incident during his last visit. That’s when one of the handpicked invitees who stood behind Obama spoke out and disrupted the president’s speech.  ( http://aaldef.org/blog/yelling-stop-deportations-an-undocumented-asian-american-stands-up-and-obama-stands-down.html ).

But Obama is merely showing how you can’t let a little thing like that spoil your good attitude. We’re not talking Chris Christie here.

Obama is moving on, because Ed Lee can help him.

So instead of a “shunning,” the president is shining a light on the San Francisco mayor.

Lee fills a number of purposes for President Obama at the #SOTU.  If anyone asks,”Is there an Asian American in the house? ” Well, now there will be.  (They won’t be in the bomb shelter). As Michelle’s guest, Lee is the son of Chinese immigrants, the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco in the nation’s most Asian American state.

But Lee’s real purpose may be to be the bureaucratic face and prime working example of an elevated minimum wage. SeaTac in Washington has a $15 minimum. But SeaTac is not San Francisco, and Obama needs to show a major city example. That’s SF, with the next highest minimum wage at $10.55 an hour.

Obama wants to raise the fed minimum to $10.10, up from $7.25.

At a time when inequality has become Obama’s “here-and-now”  issue, having Lee there is critical to show everyone that $10.10 is do-able. SeaTac is struggling with $15. But new studies show SF’s businesses haven’t been hurt by years of an elevated minimum wage, well above $7. In fact, even conservatives like Bill O’Reilly are coming around to embrace the issue of raising the MW.

Maybe that’s because minimum wages mean conservatives can feel good about finally taxing the poor.

But really, what’s $10.10 an hour?  Multiply that by 30 hours (because then bosses wouldn’t have to pay benefits). Then work for 50 weeks and voila. You’re barely above $15,000 a year.

Shack up with another minimum wage earner, don’t have kids, and live in your parent’s trailer, and you can survive on $30,000 a year combined. Sure, why not. (You want to eat too? And have clothes? Wow, no one told O’Reilly that).

No, of course it’s do-able.

You won’t be among the One-percent though.

Maybe this is Obama’s way to discourage future immigration to the U.S.?  Land of opportunity?

No, America is the “new”  land of inequality.

UPDATE:

Preview excerpts from President Obama’s SOTU  address– (Second to last graph (bolded) is perhaps the most direct in terms of president’s intention to by-pass Congress if he needs to get things done).
“In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together.  Let’s make this a year of action.  That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.  And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.

 

Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows.  Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.

 

Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better.  But average wages have barely budged.  Inequality has deepened.  Upward mobility has stalled.  The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead.  And too many still aren’t working at all.

 

Our job is to reverse these tides.  It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything.  But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.  Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you.  But America does not stand still – and neither will I.  So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” 

….

“Opportunity is who we are.  And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.”

(End of excerpt).

 

 

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