Tag Archives: immigration reform

No jokes at First Presidential Press Conference since WHCD, but lots on sequester, immigration, and Jason Collins

I know the presser is a 100-day marker. But the WHCD was such a stark contrast. It’s definitely back to the somber stuff today.  Brief mention of the WHCD at the start, but Syria is the lead. Obama still unclear on what the U.S. should do. And even support efforts announced today seem to be a token gesture. A delicate fluid situation.

President was more clear on the sequester and defining the dysfunctional government and putting blame on Congress and its failure to do its job.

“It’s not my job to get them to behave,” said the president. 


(from televison coverage of press conference)



Obama’s example of the FAA instance exposed the short-sighted nature of the GOP. All it’s done is borrow money from airport improvements in the future, which hurts the U.S. long term. Obama said the best strategy is to address issues through a broader deal.

 Obama mentioned a “permission structure,” that may allow  those scared of their political base to reach compromise on budget issues.

 It was as blunt and detailed an answer, of the conseqeunces of sequester and how it  has hurt the country. No pussyfooting here.

“We are using our seed corn, short term.And the only reason we’re doing it is because right now we have some folks unwilling to make some simple changes to our tax code, for example to close loopholes that aren’t adding to our competitiveness and aren’t helping middle-class families,” said the president. “There are common sense solutions to our problems right now. I cannot force Republicans  to embrace those common sense solutions. I can urge them to, I can put pressure on them, I can rally the American people around those common sense solutions. But ultimately they themselves are going to have to say we want to do the right thing.”

The president indicated he understood Congress’ political dilemma. “It’s tough,” he said. “Their base thinks that compromise with me is somehow a betrayal. They’re worried about primaries. And I understand all that, and we’re going to do everything we can to create a permission structure for them to do what’s best for the country. But it’s going to take some time.”

Permission structure? Does he mean political cover so that conservatives can hide behind a tough vote?

The president also weighed in on what is could be the signature accomplishment of this term: Immigration.

The president praised the Gang of Eight’s efforts, saying it may not have been what he would have done, but it did meet the criteria: Border safety, strong employer provisions, improvements to the current bureaucracy, and that pathway to citizenship.

Obama praised the pathway as one where people can earn the right to legalize their status over time.

But that’s one of the contentious issues in the plan.

Obama said he’s open-minded. He’ll need to be. Already some House members have said they don’t want a big package but would rather take up the issue piece meal. 

Sound precarious?  It is. And this is the President’s best issue going forward.

Obama was almost out the door when he came back to the podium to discuss Jason Collins’ coming out statement.

Said the President:

“Yeah, I’ll say something about Jason Collins. I had a chance to talk to him yesterday. He seems like a terrific young man, and, you know, I told him I couldn’t be prouder of him. You know, one of the extraordinary measures of progress that we’ve seen in this country has been the recognition that the LGBT community deserves full equality, not just partial equality, not just tolerance but a recognition that they’re fully a part of the American family.

And, you know, given the importance of sports in our society, for an individual who’s excelled at the highest levels in one of major sports go ahead and say, this is who I am, I’m proud of it, I’m still a great competitor, I’m still seven feet tall and can bang with Shaq and, you know, deliver a hard foul — and for, you know, a lot of young people out there who, you know, are — are — are, you know, gay or lesbian, who are struggling with these issues, to see a role model like that who’s unafraid, I think it’s a great thing. And I think America should be proud that this is just one more step in this ongoing recognition that we treat everybody fairly. And everybody’s part of a — part of a family, and we judge people on the basis of their character and their performance, and not their sexual orientation.”

That was a question the president was glad to answer.

See my latest at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog.


Sen.Russ Feingold on Immigration, Boston, Terror, Citizens United

The senator is now teaching at Stanford Law for the semester, but still watching the big stories like the Gang of Eight’s immigration proposal,the Boston bombings, terrorism, and his pet concerns,  Citizens United, and campaign finance reform.

See my interview with Feingold just before his keynote address at the Asian Law Caucus Dinner in San

Francisco on 4/25/2013.


My Super Bowl prediction and an appearance on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California”; Plus, a late final addition about the 49ers’ super failure

Game time is coming up and I have completed all my superstitious rituals that have helped bring me to a vision, of which I will share with you now.

But before that, this could have been a very literary SuperBowl, what with the Ravens named after the masterpiece of famed Baltimore homey Edgar Allen Poe. 

What if the 49ers had been named after the work of a San Francisco literary figure. Kerouac? The Roadies? Jack London? The White Fangs? Danielle Steele? The Romancers?

No, no, no.  Last night, the movie version of the great Dashiell Hammett classic was on. Imagine the Ravens vs. the Maltese Falcons. 


OK, nevermore.

I’m feeling 24-20 for some reason.

Here’s how it goes, 49ers score first with an Akers field goal (hooray!) , then add a TD, a run by Frank Gore, then another by Kaepernick.  That’s 17 in one half.

The Ravens come back after the field goal to go ahead 7-3.

Niners make it 10-7.

Then make it 17-7 at half-time.

In the second half the Ravens come back, scoring to make it 17-14.

Twice more they penetrate 49er territory, but get only field goals to go ahead 20-17.

In the final quarter, the 49er offense wakes up with some long passes to Vernon Davis.

And then sensing man coverage at the line, Kaepernick uses his legs to score a game-winnng touchdown.

49ers go ahead, 24-20.

That’s my copyrighted vision of today’s SuperBowl  that I have licensed the 49ers to use as they wish.

If you’re a better and take the Ravens and the points, or the 49ers giving, the line is 4, and what do you know, it’s a push, a tie.

That should make the Harbaugh’s parents’ happy.

But the 49ers win the game.

BTW, I made a rare appearance on the KQED “This Week in Northern California” program where I joined a panel talking about immigration reform.

If you missed it, here’s a link to the TV show.

LATE ADD: OK, my prediction, the game, nothing worked out quite the way I said. For the most part, Beyonce won the game, as the 49ers were lip-synching through three quarters. But then came that 34 minute delay due to a power failure. You mean a 49er power failure wasn’t enough, now the Superdome had to be less than super?  And though what usually is spawned by a power failure is a baby boom nine months later, this power failure birthed an explosion of energy from the 49ers who nearly made it all the way back from the dead. 28-6 certainly made us all more interested in whatever buffet was before us and not the football game. But then, the 49ers began to play,  outgaining, outscoring the Ravens, topped off with a Kaepernick score to bring the 49ers to a 31-29 deficit.  The Ravens added a field goal making it 34-29. Then, with the ball on the Baltimore 5-yard line, the 49er juggernaut hit a wall–the Ravens defense. Four plays, goal to go, and nothing. No runs, passes. Lots of penalties. Oh, those aren’t penalties? Well then, the pistol was shot. The 49ers empty.

Oh, what could have been? From 34-29, the Niners go 36-34. Flacco and the Ravens still had a lot of time to drive for a game winning FG or a TD. Or maybe the 49er defense finally prevails. We won’t know that ending. We’re stuck with the one we’ve got.

A Super Bowl win you cherish and commemorate.  A Super Bowl loss burns eternally.

You do learn from it, as team and as a fan. And you go on from there, perhaps to achieve or witness greatness again.

But until that happens, you can never quite turn off the lights on such a super loss.


On the “new” immigration debate, Latinos, Asians, and the “documented undocumented”

At the Fred T. Korematsu Day ceremonies in San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre (Korematsu is the man who said no to the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans during WWII), I saw two American Filipino heroes most people should know but usually don’t:  Labor organizers Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz. 

Itliong and Vera Cruz were the heart and soul of the farm worker movement when Filipinos dominated California’s Central Valley fields. But they were overshadowed in the 60s by Cesar Chavez, who took advantage of the massive wave of Mexican immigrant labor, and became the face of the farmworker movement.

Were Filipinos in the fields? Aren’t the workers all Mexican?

Itliong and VeraCruz have long been ignored and left out of the histories. Chavez gets streets and schools named for him.

A generation later and Latinos seem poised to trump Filipinos  again as our politicians consider comprehensive immigration reform.

One would think it shouldn’t be so hard to find common ground between Filipinos and Latinos. Thanks (or “no thanks”) to imperialism, the broad group of American Filipinos, both born here and immigrants, legal and illegal, usually have Hispanic last names, as well as the Catholic Church in our DNA. 

For these purposes, I like to call us “Aspanics,” Asian Hispanics by way of those wayward explorers. 

But we definitely screw up the political puzzle in the U.S. especially in this new immigration debate where those of Mexican descent dominate the discussion.

And while there are a lot of them in the 11 million estimated undocumented immigrants here in the U.S., there are a lot of Asian Americans too. It’s estimated there’s an undocumented community of around 270,000 Filipinos, and another 200,000 Asian Indian. All told, there’s maybe a million Asians who are undocumented.

One million and we’ll likely not even be seen as significant in the debate.

Instead, we’ll all be lumped together, as if you can apply a single standard to immigration reform.

You want to talk about immigration? Why is anyone linking any reform to beefing up the Border Patrol and border security with more money and resources?

Does that even make sense if you’re talking about Asian immigration?  Latino advocates say it doesn’t even make sense for them.

I know some Asian immigrants do come in through Mexico, but this is the problem about immigrant “lumping” that I see is a big problem in the ongoing debate.

I’d say for Filipinos and other Asians, the biggest problems are overstays and tourism. There’s something about the bureaucracy where people lose track, documents are forged.

How is Border Security relevant to our group?

Another idea President Obama mentioned is a requirement to “learn English.”   Shouldn’t apply to Filipinos or Indians who know English and spawn call centers. But the whole idea of requiring English seems counter to our democracy. Why are we bringing back the legacy of  literacy laws?

Indeed, there’s a lot of ideas being kicked around. The only thing that seems to unify everyone is that magic phrase:“pathway to citizenship.”

But this is hardly a red-carpet or yellow-brick road. What if the pathway takes decades?

 And where would one wait?

If you have to go back to your ancestral home, where is the line? Hey, there really is no line. You just have to put your life on hold. For decades, maybe.

Where’s the fairness there?

And what if you go home and die waiting? Sounds like the virtue of “self-deportation.”

OK, in an attempt at compromise, what if you get to stay here in the U.S.? 

Then congratulations, you’ve voluntarily turned yourself in and have become an official “documented undocumented person.” 

You had jobs and paid taxes before (not all are paid under the table and skip taxes). Some banks even made mortgages to undocumenteds.

Now will you be allowed to collect on the public benefits you contributed to?

Or will you now have the official brand that allows for people to legally discriminate against you?

At least the bureaucracy that failed to keep tabs on your student or tourist visa, now has you in their sights.

One thing people seem to agree on is the Dream Act. Maybe all the talk of comprehensive reform will allow for that to finally happen. In his Las Vegas speech, Obama definite seemed to signal that would be coming as he told the story of a young man who was among the first to be approved in the deferred action amnesty program.

But what about the mature  immigrant? Why discriminate against the older immigrant who works here, pays taxes but doesn’t have papers?

He has to start over in mid-life back in the Philippines?

There’s lots of problems in beginning this debate that the president says we could be ready for. Let’s hope so. But let’s also hope that Aspanics and other Asians don’t get lost in whatever compromise plan, if any, gets adopted.

But I have to admit, just thinking about what happened to Filipinos when Chavez took over the fields, gives me pause.

Let’s hope fairness doesn’t get lost in the compromise.