Thursday, April 29, 2010

Census concerns local Somali leaders

Saturday, March 27, 2010 2:51 AM

Several local Somali leaders worry that too many of their community members won't be counted in this year's census - resulting in less political clout and federal money for social services.

"We need to know the real numbers of Somalis in Columbus because our population is growing and has a powerful impact on the community," said Hawa Siad, executive director of the Somali Women & Children's Alliance.

Siad, along with representatives of more than a half-dozen other Columbus Somali organizations, held a news conference yesterday at the Global Mall on the North Side to discuss their concerns about the census.

They complained that the U.S. Census Bureau hasn't done enough to educate the Somali community, especially recent immigrants, about why it is important to fill out the census forms.

"We're very enthusiastic to have our community counted, but what the government has to understand is that it is taboo in our culture to ask these kinds of questions," said Mohamed Ahmed, vice president of the African Refugee & Educational Community Services.

Census officials said they have spent more than a year presenting workshops to Columbus' Somali community, explaining why the census is done and how it should be filled out.

"In the last 11 days, I've done 48 presentations," said Mussa Farah, a Columbus Somali leader who the Census Bureau hired in December 2008 to make sure people in his community fill out the forms.

Farah said he thinks the bureau is doing its best to reach various immigrant and ethnic groups.

"Yes, I am a census worker, but I'm also a Somali and the last thing I want is for the Somali community to be undercounted," he said.

Estimates of the Somali population in Franklin County have ranged from as low as 15,000 to as high as 80,000.

An accurate count helps government agencies funnel funds for social services - such as English classes, job programs and work training - to specific groups.

The Somali groups also complained that the census form isn't in their language.

Nationally, the 2010 census is available in five languages other than English: Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Russian and Vietnamese. Assistance guides also are available in 59 languages, including a Somali dialect, said Carol Hector-Harris, a local census spokeswoman.

She said those guides have been distributed to several local Somali organizations, including the Women & Children's Alliance, which is one of more than a dozen questionnaire-assistance centers.

Census workers have been stationed at each of the assistance centers to answer people's questions, Hector-Harris said.

The Somali groups also said the Census Bureau hasn't hired any local Somalis to talk to individuals who haven't returned their forms. Hector-Harris said that's because the agency just this week starting hiring local individuals to go door to door in various communities.

"Most of the forms were mailed out March 15 and should be returned by April 1, what we call 'census day.' We won't know where to send people until after that date," she said.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Portland man hopes to be the first Somali immigrant in the Maine Legislature

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A Portland man is hoping to be the first Somali immigrant to join the Maine legislature.

Mohammed Dini announced his candidacy as a Democrat for District 119 Friday. That's the district that includes Portland's Parkside, Bayside and Kennedy Park neighborhoods. He's running to replace Herb Adams, who is leaving his seat because of term limits.

Dini, who moved to Maine from Somalia in 1997, says low income neighborhoods are not well represented in the legislature. He'd like to see a bigger focus on helping disadvantaged youth with education, and on bringing jobs to the city proper.

Dini is running against Jill Barkley in the District 119 Democratic primary on June 8. She has been an activist on domestic violence and gay rights issues. She says that experience has prepared her to work with people of diverse backgrounds as well and as a lawmaker, she wants to focus on job growth.

Both candidates are expected to attend the League of Young Voters' Candidate Mixer at the North Star Cafe on Monday at 5 p.m.

Immigrants gear up as debate heats up

By Nelson King
Published: Monday, April 26, 2010 10:05 PM EDT
Square, near City Hall in Manhattan.

Brooklyn Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke told Caribbean Life that the law is a “step backwards,” while New York State Senate ConferenceLeader John Sampson described it as “scary.”

“The new law in Arizona is a step backwards in addressing our broken immigration system,” Clarke said. “It is the unfortunate response to federal government’s lack of action on comprehensive immigration reform.”

Sampson said his first impression of the law is that “it’s scary.”

“I’m taken aback by the enactment of such a law,” said the son of a Guyanese immigrant, who represents the 19th Senatorial District in Brooklyn. “This law, if challenged in court, will be unconstitutional.It will legalize the profiling of immigrants.”

Over the weekend, Caribbean activists joined their Hispanic counterparts and other immigration advocates in protesting a new Arizona law that targets illegal immigrants.

“As Americans, we must stand up against this law,” Maria Elena Letona, associate director of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Alliance of Latin American & Caribbean Communities, told a rally in Boston on Saturday. “It’s a travesty, and it’s a moral outrage.”

The law, widely viewed as the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in the United States, requires law enforcement officers to question people about their immigration status – and arrest them without a warrant – if they have a “reasonable suspicion” they are in the country illegally. It also requires immigrants to carry proof of their legal status at all times.

The measure, signed into law by Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, has evoked fears among Caribbean and other immigrants, claiming that police will single out them out, including those who are in the country legally, and engage in systematic racial profiling.

Meanwhile, New York immigrant community leaders urged U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer at a news conference and rally outside his Manhattan office on April 21, to introduce legislation for fair and bipartisan immigration reform.

At the rally, organized by the New York Immigration Coalition, they also announced a 10-day countdown to the May 1 deadline that advocates around the nation have set for a bill introduction.

“Over the next 10 days, the attention of immigrant communities across the nation will be focused on Sen. Schumer and President Obama and the May 1 deadline,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.“Every day, we’ll be taking action to remind Sen.Schumer that he must follow through on his commitment to deliver a strong, bipartisan immigration reform bill.”

Although Sen. Schumer has been discussing a bipartisan immigration bill with Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) for the last several months, they have yet to produce a draft bill.“Too much effort has gone into immigration reform, including the significant effort made by Sen. Schumer; too many lives have been lost; and too many families have been ripped apart, for it all to lead to nothing.We need to deliver change.Now!” Ms.Hong said.

“Senator Schumer promised that we would have bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation by Labor Day 2009.It’s almost seven months later, and we still haven’t seen the introduction of a bipartisan bill in the Senate,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum and chairman of the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign, the leading national coalition representing hundreds of organizations and campaigns in 42 states.

Brewer said the law was necessary to combat a crisis of illegal immigrants who have poured into Arizona from Mexico.

“We, in Arizona, have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act,” she said after signing the bill into law.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Obama Should Rethink U.S. Military Expansion (in Africa)

Sun, 04 Apr 2010
By Daniel Volman

*Daniel Volman ( is the Director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC ( and a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars. He is a specialist on U.S. military policy in Africa and African security issues and has been conducting research and writing on these issues for more than thirty years.

When Barack Obama took office as president of the United States in January 2009, it was widely expected that he would dramatically change, or even reverse, the militarized and unilateral national security policy toward Africa that had been pursued by the Bush administration. But, after a little more than one year in office, it is clear that the Obama administration is essentially following the same policy that has guided U.S. military involvement in Africa for more than a decade. Indeed, it appears that President Obama is determined to expand and intensify U.S. military engagement throughout Africa.

Thus, in its budget request for the State Department for FY 2010, the Obama administration proposed significant increases in funding for U.S. arms sales and military training programs for African countries, as well as for regional programs on the continent, and is expected to propose further increases in its budget request for FY 2011.

The FY 2010 budget proposed to increase Foreign Military Funding spending for Africa more than 300 percent, from just over $8.2 million to more than $25.5 million, with additional increases in funding for North African countries. Major recipients included Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa.

The FY 2010 budget request for the International Military Education and Training program proposed to increase funding for African countries from just under $14 million to more than $16 million, with additional increases for North African countries. Major recipients slated for increases include Algeria, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda.

The FY 2010 State Department budget request also proposed increased funding for several other security assistance programs in Africa, including the African Contingency Operations and Training Assistance program (which is slated to receive $96.8 million), the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement programs in Algeria, Cape Verde, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Sierre Leone, Sudan, and Uganda, and Anti-Terrorism Assistance programs in Kenya, South Africa, and the Africa Regional program.

The same is true for funding in the Defense Department budget for the operations of the new Africa Command (Africom) which became fully operational in October 2008 and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) forces which have been stationed at the U.S. military base in Djibouti since 2002. The Obama administration requested $278 million to cover the cost of Africom operations and Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership operations at the Africom headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. The administration also requested $60 million to fund CJTF-HOA operations in FY 2010 and $249 million to pay for the operation of the 500-acre base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, along with $41.8 for major base improvement construction projects. And the administration is now considering the creation of a 1,000-man Marine intervention force based in Europe to provide Africom with the capability to intervene in Africa.

The continuity with Bush administration policy is especially evident in several key regions. In Somalia, for example, the Obama administration has provided some $20 million worth of arms to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and initiated a major effort to provide training to TFG troops at the CJTF-HOA base in Djibouti and in Europe. Furthermore, President Obama has continued the program initiated by the Bush administration to assassinate alleged al-Qaeda leaders in Somalia and, in August 2009, he authorized an attack by U.S. Special Forces units that killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was accused to being involved in the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by al-Qaeda in August 1998.

In the Sahel, the Obama administration has also sought increased funding for the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Program ($20 million in FY 2010) to and created begun a special security assistance program for Mali to provide that country with some $5 million of all-terrain vehicles and communications equipment. Administration officials have justified this escalating military involvement in the Trans-Saharan region by arguing that the increasing involvement of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in criminal activity (including kidnapping for ransom and drug trafficking) constitutes a growing threat to U.S. interests in this resource-rich area.

In Nigeria, which supplies approximately ten percent of U.S. oil imports, the Obama administration has decided to expand U.S. military support to Nigerian military forces, despite concerns about security in the Niger Delta, Islamic extremism in northern Nigeria, and the country's fragile democratic institutions. Thus, during her visit to Nigeria in August 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that the administration would consider any request by the Nigerian government for military support to enhance its capacity to repress armed militants in the Niger Delta region. The failure of the Nigerian government to implement major elements of its amnesty program in this vital oil-producing area has recently led to a resumption of violent incidents and attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta.

In Central Africa and the Horn of Africa, the Obama administration is increasing security assistance to Uganda, Rwanda, the Kenya, Ethiopia, and other countries in the region, and has conducted major training exercises both in Uganda and in Djibouti for the new East African Standby Force (EASF). The EASF is a battalion-sized force authorized by the African Union for independent African peacekeeping operations and other missions, but it remains dependent upon external support—especially from the United States—and is not expected to be able to operate on its own for many years to come. And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Obama administration has just authorized the deployment of U.S. Special Forces troops to train an infantry battalion at a base at Kisangani that was recently rehabilitated by the United States. The Obama administration has chosen to engage in this training program despite the continuing involvement of Congolese troops in gross human rights violations (including the rape and murder of civilians) and in the illegal exploitation of the country's mineral resources.

This growing U.S. military engagement in Africa reflects the Obama administration's genuine concerns about the threat posed by Islamic extremism and by instability in key resource-producing regions, and by its desire to help resolve conflicts throughout the continent. However, all these measures increase the militarization of Africa and tie the United States even more closely to unstable, repressive, and undemocratic regimes. Furthermore, despite President Obama's rhetorical commitment to an approach that combines military and non-military activities, the administration lacks a comprehensive and effective plan to address the underlying issues—the lack of democracy and economic development—that lead to extremism, instability, and conflict in Africa.

This is chiefly because the Obama administration lacks the diplomatic and economic means to address these issues. The State Department and the Agency for International Development have been systematically starved of funding and other resources for years and simply lack the capacity to engage in Africa in the manner that would make such an effort possible. It will take many years and substantial increases in funding to build this capacity. And the Obama administration's food security program—its one major new initiative for Africa—is highly problematic since it relies on the use of expensive petroleum-based fertilizers, the mechanization of agricultural production, and the use of genetically-modified seeds.

In the meantime, President Obama has decided that he has no choice except to rely primarily on military instruments and to hope that this can protect U.S. interests in Africa, at least in the short term, despite the risk that this military engagement will exacerbate existing threats. The Obama administration would be well advised to curtail its military engagement in Africa and devote its attention to developing the capacity for diplomatic and economic efforts to address Africa's underlying problems (as Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen argued in a recent speech) and to working with the European Union, China, and other stakeholders on a cooperative engagement with Africa that will not further undermine African security and jeopardize America's long-term interests.

Refugees from Africa piece together American culture as they quilt

Wednesday, April 14, 2010
By Bette McDevitt

An extraordinary quilting bee takes place Saturday mornings at the Young Men and Women's African Heritage Association on the North Side. In a sunlit room, women from Burundi who came here as refugees seeking asylum are learning the craft of African-American quilt-making.

The women from the East African nation came to quilting through a local nonprofit organization called AJAPO, for Acculturation, Justice, Access and Peace Outreach. Its purpose is to help refugees from Africa and the Caribbean make their way through a new culture.

With local quilters, the Burundi women intend to create a cottage industry making quilts to sell. As they quilt and talk, they will get to what Janice Parks, director of the heritage association, calls the heart of the issue.

"We, as African-Americans, are the end of a long line," Ms. Parks said.

"Irish people, for example, were met by people from their homeland, and when African people come here, they are met by systems, not by people who reflect them," she said.

On a recent morning, the women held strips of brightly colored cloth that they had sewn together. Ms. Parks talked about the next step: "A quilt is like a peanut butter sandwich. It has a top, middle and a bottom."

She paused while Dismas Dizimana of AJAPO translated her words into Rundi, the language of Burundi. Agnes Sloan and Anna Redman, members of the Nia Quilters Guild, circulated among the Burundi women, scrutinizing the stitching of the beginners.

"We call this 'mama stitching,' " Ms. Redman said. "That means you have to tear it out if it isn't good enough."

The Nia Quilters Guild formed seven years ago when the center received a donation of 100 disaster blankets for the foster children who receive services there. Ruth Ward, a master quilter, taught some volunteers how to quilt duvets to cover the blankets; they have been quilting together and teaching others ever since. In Swahili, nia means "reason for being," and for many, quilting in the community has become that.

Ms. Parks unfolded a large quilt pieced by her great-grandmother more than 100 years ago. She explained its Log Cabin pattern -- a block in the middle with longer strips surrounding it -- and showed them photos of cabins in the South, where the slaves had lived. The Burundi women related to the cabin as a "house where cows lived."

"That works," Ms. Parks said, "because we weren't treated as well as cows."

Ms. Parks explained how quilts helped people escape slavery. "The Underground Railroad had no trains but was a series of hiding places for slaves running away to freedom. One way they would know the next safe house was through a series of signs, sometimes a lamp in the window or the way rocks were stacked on the road, and sometimes a quilt hanging on the clothesline."

She later acknowledged that there is no consensus on the markers that signified safe houses.

"We argue about it all the time in the quilting community," she said. "Remember, there was not a lot of literacy here, no signs saying 'Eat at Joe's.' There had to be other signs, bent twigs, stones on the path, and why couldn't quilts hanging on a line have been a part of it?"

A few years ago, Ms. Parks packed up the Log Cabin quilt, made from shirt, skirt and flour sack scraps, and carried it with her to Gee's Bend, Ala., where she and others from the local group spend a month each summer.

Gee's Bend quilters have a distinctive quilting style based on traditional American and African-American quilts, with a geometric simplicity reminiscent of Amish quilts and modern art. Pittsburghers have a special bond with the quilters of Gee's Bend, who come here, as they will in October, to conduct workshops.

The connection with Gee's Bend came about through a Pittsburgh woman, Annie Pettway, whose relatives live there. When Ms. Parks went to Gee's Bend with Ms. Pettway five years ago, Ms. Parks made a bold request.

"In the adult Sunday school class, I stood up and asked if some of us from Pittsburgh could come back. I told them what we wanted to do, just be there and live among them. Some folks were not happy about this. They were tired of giving themselves away, with their art not being valued.

"I told them the truth, that we didn't have any money, and we didn't want anything, other than to be there among them. So now we go every summer, rent a farmhouse and quilt with them."

The story of Ms. Parks' old family quilt raised questions among the women from Burundi. Why was it not made of "tree skins or animal skins," the materials that their ancestors used? Ms. Parks told them about the use of cotton and wool in the 19th century in this country.

"Our ancestors made clothes for their masters and kept scraps for themselves. Our people owned no clothes, no food and didn't even own themselves.

"Other people owned us," she said. Here, she came to the heart of the issue.

"Yet, 350 years later, I stand here, based on the strength that came from you all."

She named every woman at the table. "And, because of 350 years in the country, I come from people [with a variety of heritages]. I would look very different if I only came from you. We have to tell the whole story, not only half the story. African-Americans are no longer all African."

When Beulline Ndikumana, one of the Burundi women, asked, "Who owns this country?" Ms. Parks was ready.

"We do, and when you take your citizenship test, the country will belong to you, too."

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Monday, April 19, 2010

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Study: Most Africans are now Muslim or Christian

APRIL 15, 2010

Most Africans are now Muslim or Christian, but many of them retain their traditional religions, according to a major new survey released today.

More than 90% of people who live in sub-Saharan countries in Africa are either Muslim or Christian – a big change from 100 years ago when less than a quarter practiced the two religions. In 1900, most practiced traditional African religions, the report said.

The survey was done on behalf of the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life in more than 60 languages in 19 African nations, representing about 75% of the total population in sub-Saharan Africa.

In metro Detroit, the African immigrant community is also generally Muslim or Christian. Nigerian-Americans in metro Detroit, for example, are usually either Muslim or Catholic, say local leaders.

The survey showed the sweeping religious changes in Africa over the past 100 years as more increasingly became Christian or Muslim due to the influence of Arabs and Europeans. But many keep their ancient traditions. About 27 percent, for example, maintain traditions related to the revering of ancestors and spirits.

The survey also showed that Africans tend to be highly religious. About 90% say religion is very important in their lives.

The Pew Survey was based on more than 25,000 interviews. It comes at a time of renewed interest in the ancient religions of sub-Saharan Africa.

V.S. Naipaul, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is to have a book published in October entitled "The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief,” which is about the old religions of Africa that are fading away.

To read the full Pew report, visit

Police reports perpetuate racism

Racially infused police reports are not worth the marginal safety benefit.


I am writing to support the April 6 letter to the editor “‘East African accent’ is offensive” and to stand in solidarity with the minority communities negatively impacted through the engendering of racist messages by our University of Minnesota police reports. The author explains that “The use of the phrase ‘East African’ is distasteful, offensive, unnecessary and … stereotyping” and “burdens the Somali minority with [its] implications.”

When I categorize the “East African accent” description of racism I do not mean that University police Chief Greg Hestness consciously holds attitudes of superiority or disdain over people of color. I hope and expect that he does not, but that doesn’t mean the unconscious messages he distributes through police reports do not embed damaging assumptions within minds throughout our student body.

This is especially important for those of us with white skin who often fail to realize that assumptions we make on a daily basis and seemingly innocuous institutional practices carried out all around us have a real impact on a society that creates unequal opportunities for people of color, especially the East African immigrant populations residing throughout these cities.

When we white students personally know not a single member of our East African community, which describes many of us, what will be the first thing that comes to mind when walking alone at night and crossing paths with a dark-skinned stranger?

When the only time we learn about these people is through crime descriptions, it may very well be a negative, unjustified and racist assumption, since we don’t know that statistically we are all most likely to fall victim to the crimes of our own racial group.

We may not always be cognizant of this oppressive behavior, but as members of a diverse urban society we have an obligation to attempt an honest, critical reflection upon our subtle motivations, assumptions and actions that, if left without reflection, will continue to marginalize people of color without our awareness.

I understand that the police need information in order to better conduct investigations, but does that make this necessary? When considering the greater social good, should we be more concerned with catching (mostly) petty thieves and throwing them in jail or spreading racism throughout our campus via mass emails? The answer is clearly the latter.

While I can perhaps understand the need for mass awareness of serious violent crimes such as the recent stabbing, which has a white suspect, it is gratuitous to alarm the community and engender fear of a people when little good will come of apprehending these suspects in the first place.

Racially infused police reports engender statistically unjustified, racist assumptions throughout the University community at the negligible benefit of occasionally leading to the temporary incarceration of criminals. They must end.

Nicholas Orth. University undergraduate student



Every person and every household counts in the U.S. Census, the federal government’s effort to get an accurate measure of the country’s population.

In addition to getting a true reflection of the nation’s populace, the Census also establishes demographic changes such as growth in neighborhoods and immigration trends.

These figures determine how programs are funded by the federal government, so an accurate count is critical.

This is the issue that worries Maxine Tulloch, president of the Caribbean American Journalists and Media Association (CAJMA), a recently formed non-profit national association with members from radio, TV and print media, as well as marketing and public relations agencies.

Tulloch and others have long maintained that the Caribbean community was largely undercounted in the 2000 census, and there are concerns of a repeat performance in 2010.

Her concerns are based on the lack of Census advertising in Caribbean media outlets, despite claims from the Census Bureau that such ads have been purchased.

Census officials acknowledge the concerns raised by CAJMA and say they are making improvements.

“The money doesn’t seem to have trickled down quite the way we wanted,” said Pam Page-Bellis, regional senior media specialist with the Census Bureau. “We have heard the voices of our partners. There is more advertising dollars coming to these outlets.”

The fallout forced a meeting last week with Census officials and state representatives, including Hazelle Rogers, Perry Thurston and state Sen. Chris Smith.

Tulloch said the meeting was productive, and that she believes Census officials will execute advertising campaigns soon.

“We got some action based on what we did. We’ll sit and wait for another week,’’ she said.

The Census database shows advertising purchases for over 23 local African-American and Caribbean media outlets, including South Florida Caribbean News, Caribbean Today and

But Tulloch says no ads have appeared in any of those outlets.

“They have made promises to the Caribbean media, not actual buys, ’’ Tulloch said. “We were quite perturbed, angry because we always get empty promises.’’

Census advertising has, however, appeared in some media that target the Caribbean community, including the South Florida Times.

An accurate count of the Caribbean community is critical, Tulloch said, because funding from the federal government for social services, lunch programs, family and children services is determined by the Census count.

“If you don’t show that you have the demographics of people, you won’t get that money, so it’s very important that people fill out the Census forms,” she said.

The Caribbean media uproar is not the only fallout facing the Census Bureau this year. It has also faced criticism for including the word “Negro” on Census forms. For many African Americans, the word is a derogatory reminder of the Jim Crow era of segregation, when black people were forced to live in separate neighborhoods, eat in separate restaurants, and learn in separate and unequal schools from whites.

Despite the criticism, the word will remain, Page-Bellis said.

The word was included on forms because some 56,000 people wrote in the word “Negro” on their forms in 2000, she said.

“It told us that it is still a term that is used and some people prefer it,’’ she said. “It is something that we looked at very carefully and used it because we prefer to be as inclusive as we can.’’

She added: “The term is not a throw-back nor was it meant to alienate anyone at all. If you don’t see a word there that describes you, then by all means write it in. We want people to write what they are comfortable with.”

The 10-question Census forms will arrive in mailboxes between March 15 and 17.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wade calls for United States of Africa

2010-04-04 07:10

Dakar - Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade on Saturday called for the creation of a United States of Africa during the unveiling of a controversial statue which he said marked the moment for the continent to "take off".

"The time has arrived for Africa to take off," he said in a speech at the foot of the bronze statue, built by North Korea and higher than the Statue of Liberty.

Addressing a large crowd and 19 African heads of state, Wade called for "the exploration of new horizons" and the formation of a "United States of Africa" modelled on "large unions" such as the US and European Union.

Faced with new challenges of globalisation "only a political integration of the United States of Africa will shelter us from potentially fatal marginalisation" of the world's poorest continent, which holds the richest economic potential, he added.

After "five centuries of ordeals, slavery, Africa is still there, folding sometimes, but never breaking. She is upright and resolute to take her future in hand", Wade said.

"The slave traders have left, the last colonialist has left. We have no more excuses. We must seize this opportunity so that history does not repeat itself."

Symbol of unity

Despite local resistance against the cost and style of the monument, African leaders seized it as a symbol of unity, praising Wade and urging the continent to throw off the shackles of its past.

Former Nigerian president and African strongman Olusegun Obasanjo who cut a ribbon in the colours of the Senegalese flag, said the statue was "a monument for black people all over the world".

"We have a symbol to remind us, to inspire us" of and against years of slavery and abuse. "A united union of Africa can make it not happen again."

African Union chief and Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika praised Wade, saying he would go down in history as "a man with vision, a man with courage, a man with great resolve".

He also urged a new African unity: "We have more things that unite us, than those that divide us... Let us return to our countries with a new hope of a new Africa."

United States activist Jesse Jackson, praising the symbolism of the monument said: "I wish so much Martin Luther King could be here tonight."

Long on the table, a United States of Africa has been planned by the African Union by 2025, but doubts have been raised about the ability of the continent to unite amid widespread poverty and conflict.


Canada fails to speed up visas for Haitian family members: critics

Fri Apr 02 2010
Andrew Chung
Quebec Bureau

MONTREAL – While more than a million Haitians remain homeless, many still without protection from the driving rains, Canada has not fulfilled its promise to accelerate the reunification of family members here in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake.

In fact, examining numbers provided by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the government has given virtually the same number of permanent resident visas as last year by this time, and appears to be well under its own immigration targets for Haiti.

The number of permanent resident visas issued between Jan. 13 and Mar. 27 – the latest statistics available – was 311. Last year 302 were issued up to Mar. 19.

The government has also given out 104 temporary resident permits, usually meant for those who don’t meet normal immigration requirements, but which could turn into permanent residency if extensions are granted.

“There doesn’t seem to be anything to indicate expedited processing,” said Montreal immigration lawyer David Cohen. The number of visas given so far, he added, “really isn’t impressive.”

The internal department target for Port-au-Prince for 2010 is between 2,358 to 2,435 people.

The current rate of visa issuance would yield about 1,500 for the year.

Given the epic scale of the disaster, the situation has Haitian families, most of whom live or have settled in Quebec, worried and frustrated.

“They promised to accelerate the process, but we don’t see any sign of that and it’s been three months,” said Marjorie Villefranche, program director for La Maison d’Haiti, a community centre in Montreal.

The Canadian government points to the fact that Canada’s embassy was severely damaged in the earthquake, limiting access to paper files.

It also says it has increased staff working on Haiti applications from four in Port-au-Prince before the quake, to 30 now, in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Ottawa.

On Thursday the department issued a notice saying it hopes to make final decisions on applications completed before the earthquake by June, and on those after, by the end of July.

If it succeeds at the latter commitment, the normal processing time of 23 months would be dramatically cut down.

Ottawa also points to another figure to show its humanitarian commitment. Accompanying the thousands of Canadians airlifted out of the country were more than 1,700 Haitians. The airlifts have since ended.

They were issued temporary resident visas – usually given to those going on vacation or to work or study in Canada. Some already held work or study permits.

By contrast, Canada gave out 562 temporary visas by this time last year.

“All these people we’ve helped leave Haiti and are now safe with their families here in Canada,” Immigration department spokesperson Mélanie Carkner said.

But these people have little to do with the promise of the government to give “priority” to new and existing sponsorship applications of family members in Haiti.

Instead, experts say, they were “lucky” enough to make it out as thousands clamoured at the gates of the embassy seeking evacuation.

They are, in some cases, family members of Canadians given passage at the discretion of an embassy officer. Or, Haitian parents might have had a Canadian child and were therefore able to go with the child, explained Villefranche.

“They were lucky,” she declared. “Normally they wouldn’t have been able to come so quickly.”

“My guess is that ordinarily they would not have gotten the (temporary resident visa),” Cohen added. “In that sense Canada extended a hand, and in that sense they were lucky because there are way more people who would have wanted the TRV.”

Cohen said these people might be able apply to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds, something that is usually done from abroad.

Eline Occessite, a Haitian refugee, wanted to bring to Canada her 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son.

They’re currently living in Haiti, under a tent, with an adult friend. They have active immigration files to reunite with their mother.

But when Villefranche, while in Haiti recently, tried act on Occessite’s behalf to persuade the embassy to grant them temporary resident visas to expedite the process, they were refused on grounds that they did not meet that visa’s criteria.

“I was asking for humanitarian reasons,” Villefranche explained. “They are in danger; let them come.”

“I was shocked they did not accept them,” Occessite, 45, said. “There are bandits, and my children are not protected.”

There has been “zero change, zero progress” in the case of Canadian retiree Marie-Gerta Fanor, 66, who has been trying to bring her husband Roland Noel to Canada since they married in 2004, a family member said Friday. Noel now lives in his car in Port-au-Prince and Fanor had hoped his circumstances might favour his case.

There is also criticism about Quebec’s contribution to helping Haitians come to Canada.

In February, Quebec began allowing families to sponsor not only spouses, parents and children under 18, but also brothers, sisters and adult children.

But as of Mar. 19, only 19 cases had been approved, for a total of 40 people.

Even if more had been approved earlier, “it would not have changed anything,” said Claude Fradette, spokesperson for Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities.

The reason? Quebec’s role is to select immigrants; Canada issues the visas. There is already a backlog of 1,500 files approved by Quebec awaiting visas in Port-au-Prince.

Social worker Nicole Tremblay said families are also having trouble meeting the financial criteria to sponsor the relatives, even with a co-guarantor. To sponsor a family of four, for instance, would require an income of almost $70,000.

“I’m a single mother,” said Manoucheka Masson, a cook in Montreal, who wants to sponsor her sister. “Where am I going to find the kind of money they require?”

And yet, she says, her sister is living under a tarp with a baby and 9-year-old child and complains to Masson they are hungry. “I can barely talk to her on the phone, it hurts my heart so much.”

Tremblay has begun telling Haitian families to contact their members of parliament to press their cases. “We have sent letters, we have called; I don’t know what is causing the delays,” said Tremblay, of the Volunteer Action Centre of Montreal-North.

“If they wanted to really do something, they could,” Masson ventures. “They can’t bring everyone here from my country, of course, but they could do their best to help some.”

Ethiopian Children Imprisoned in Their Yemeni Homes

April 6 2010 Heather Murdock

In almost every corner of Yemen, you can find suffering children. But in the darkest corners of city slums, children from Ethiopia, refugees with no official Yemeni legal status, are hard to locate. Parents say they lock up their children while they are at work to keep them safe from accidents, and force them to stay inside to keep them safe from racially charged violence.

In this household, on most days, the girls, Husnia, who is 5, and Dunia, who is 3, are tied to the bedposts while their parents go to work. The door is locked from the outside. Their big brother, 9-year-old Akram, is not tied up. He is allowed to wander the two concrete window-less rooms and the dank hallway.

Their mother, Asha, says Akram is now old enough to avoid household accidents that commonly kill refugee children in Yemen's urban slums. But, she says, when Akram was little, she chained and padlocked him to the bed to keep him safe.

Not long ago, Asha's neighbor went to work, and didn't tie up her toddler. The baby crawled into the clothes-washing water, and was dead before she got home.

Asha says she locks up the children to keep them alive. She cannot afford day care, and school is out of the question. When a visitor opens the front door, the three bolt towards the white sunlight. "They are like animals," she says- always trying to get out.

Asha is an ethnic Oromo, and one of thousands of Ethiopian refugees in Yemen. Ethiopian officials say there is no ethnic majority among Ethiopian refugees in Yemen. But aid workers and refugees say they are almost all from the Oromo.

This girl, whose name is Oromia, has spent seven of her 10 years inside a cave-like room with a leaky tin roof, and a single window, which is squished up against her neighbor's wall. She went to school for one day, but her classmates beat her and her sister. The school principal did nothing to stop it, so her father took them home.

Oromia says she has no dreams because she has no future. She and her brothers and sisters don't fight, and they don't play. She says she doesn't know any games.

No legal standing

Khader, the father says he never lets his children go outside. He says he is afraid they will be beaten up because they are black, and he has barely any legal standing to complain.

In Yemen, Somalis fleeing war are granted automatic refugee status, which gives them the right to live and work. Non-Somalis from Africa, however, who are mostly from Ethiopia and Eritrea, are sometimes granted legal refugee status from the United Nations refugee agency. The Yemeni government, however, does not recognize this status.

Abdul Karim al-Iryani, a former prime minister, says that Ethiopians are not recognized because they are not really refugees. He says they came to Yemen looking for work, not fleeing political persecution.

"There is no war in Ethiopia, like in Somalia, to justify their classification as refugees, like Somalis, but this has been the case between Yemen, and Eritrea and Ethiopia, particularly during famines, and lack of rains," said al-Iryani.

Ethiopian parents insist they fled human rights abuses, like arbitrary arrests, torture, and killings at home. UNHCR refugee status means protection from deportation, and access to some refugee services. But because the government does not recognize them as refugees, their letters, that are supposed to serve as ID cards, are virtually useless.

No education, no future

And for all African refugee children in Yemen- from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea- abject poverty stunts their education as much as racism or politics. Adventist Development and Relief Agency project manager Soo-Rae Hong says many families simply cannot justify the cost of sending their kids to school.

"In general, I don't think there are a lot of refugee children that attend schools because even though its relatively free of charge, provided by the government, you still need to have a birth certificate and a lot of those children don't have that. You also need to pay for a school uniform and school supplies, and parents can't afford that," said Soo-Rae.

Many children, like Oromia, say they no longer dream of education, because it won't happen. Oromia's 7-year-old sister, Ilily, however, says when she grows up, she wants to be the school principal. When that day comes, she says, refugee children will never get beaten when they try to go to school.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Egypt: Guards Kill 3 Migrants on Border With Israel

31 Mar 2010
Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Other Threats to Refugees: Deportation Risk for Darfuris; Another Has Been 'Disappeared'

(New York, March 31, 2010) – Egyptian border guards have shot dead three migrants attempting to cross from Egypt to Israel over the past four days, bringing the total number of migrants shot dead at the border so far this year to 12, Human Rights Watch said today. The Egyptian authorities have arrested a number of refugees over the past month, one of whom remains missing, and the authorities also appear to be preparing to deport two refugees from Darfur back to Sudan, where they face detention and torture, Human Rights Watch said.

"Egyptian guards have made the Sinai border a death zone for migrants trying to flee the country," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "What's more, the Egyptian government has not investigated even a single case of the 69 killings of migrants by border guards since 2007."

On March 29, 2010, the border guards shot dead an Eritrean migrant and wounded two others as they tried to cross the Sinai border into Israel. In addition, unnamed Egyptian security sources told Reuters that Egyptian police had shot dead two African migrants, wounded five others, and arrested three more on March 27, also at Egypt's border with Israel.

In response to criticism over the fatal shootings, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a news release that "the number of deaths in these incidents did not exceed 2 percent in 2008 and 4 percent in 2009 of the total number of migrants attempting to cross."

"What security interest of Egypt's is served by these border guards killing Africans trying to leave Egypt and enter Israel?" Whitson said. "At most, border guards should stop these migrants and allow the UN to determine whether they're entitled to refugee status."

On March 2, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that she knew "of no other country where so many unarmed migrants and asylum seekers appear to have been deliberately killed in this way by government forces." The Egyptian government responded the following day, saying that her statement was full of inaccuracies and false allegations and "lacked the professionalism and impartiality that Egypt expected from such an important international post." Egypt has provided no details about the alleged inaccuracies.

The Egyptian government contends that refugees and other migrants leaving Egypt for Israel pose a threat to Egypt's national security because transnational organized criminal groups are using Egypt as a route to smuggle people and drugs into Israel. The Egyptian government also said that the border guards use force only when necessary, in self defense, and that 14 of its police officers have been shot dead in an exchange of fire with "smugglers in Sinai."

While the government may have legitimate security concerns in tackling smuggling of goods and human trafficking across its borders, it has failed to justify the killing of these 69 migrants, Human Rights Watch said.

In its 2008 report, "Sinai Perils," Human Rights Watch documented how in the vast majority of cases of migrants killed at the border, smugglers were not present when border guards opened fire. Refugees, asylum seekers, and other migrants who had tried to cross into Israel repeatedly described incidents in which smugglers, in return for payments, led migrants at night to within walking distance of the border, pointed out the way, then withdrew. When the guards open fire, the smugglers are already far away, those interviewed by Human Rights Watch said. Even if the guards were genuinely trying to catch the traffickers, that would not in itself justify lethal force, which should only be used when strictly unavoidable to protect life, Human Rights Watch said.

To justify the use of lethal force, under international law the Egyptian government must ensure that there is an independent and public investigation into the circumstances in each fatal shooting of migrants to demonstrate that it was strictly unavoidable to protect life. Where the taking of life cannot be justified, those responsible, including those who gave the orders, should be prosecuted, Human Rights Watch said. In fact, the government has failed to investigate any of these incidents involving the use of lethal force by border guards.

Among the fatal shootings by border guards was the case of Hadja Abbas Haroun, a 28-year-old Darfuri woman, who was seven months pregnant, killed on July 22, 2007, as she was trying to cross the border near al-Aouja, 62 miles south of Rafah.

Egyptian officials have stressed, and some witness accounts confirm, that Egyptian border police follow a common warning procedure before directly targeting people who are trying to cross the border. However, such a warning procedure is irrelevant to requirements for the lawful use of lethal force by police in instances other than self defense. The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms provide that law enforcement officials "shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force" and may use force "only if other means remain ineffective." When the use of force is unavoidable, law enforcement officials must "exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence."

Egypt is violating international requirements for the treatment of refugees in other ways, Human Rights Watch said. Those granted official recognition as refugees by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) should be protected from deportation to countries where they are at risk of persecution. But refugees in Egypt remain vulnerable to deportation despite the fact that they hold documentation from the UNHCR. On January 25, Egyptian authorities sent a UNHCR-recognized refugee, Mohammed El Hadj Abdallah, back to Sudan. He had been arrested in September 2009 in Ismailia, in northern Egypt, then detained until he was deported.

Egyptian authorities now appear to be preparing to deport at least one recognized Sudanese refugee, Mohammad Adam Abdallah. A second recognized refugee, Ishaq Fadl Ahmad Dafa Allah, is detained in Qanater prison and was told by a Sudanese embassy official that he too would soon be deported back to Sudan. The Sudanese embassy has issued a travel document for Abdallah, and Egyptian security officials have moved him from Qanater to the Khalifa police station, which is used as a deportation center. Egyptian security officials arrested the two refugees in Sinai in August 2009 on suspicion of trying to cross the border into Israel.

Both men are from the Zaghawa tribe in Darfur, and were granted refugee status by UNHCR because they had faced persecution, detention, and torture in Sudan and would face persecution if returned there. Sudanese authorities continue to target Darfuri activists all across Sudan. The two men are also active members of the Zaghawa Association, a Darfuri community group in Egypt: Dafa Allah is the chairman and Abdallah a member of the executive committee. Dafa Allah is also active in the Union of Darfur Associations in Egypt, and in that role was providing assistance to other refugees and asylum seekers.

"If Egypt suspects these men of a crime it should charge and try them," Whitson said. "But whether it does or not, it has no authority to deport them to Sudan, where they face persecution."

In December 2008 and January 2009, Egypt forcibly returned more than 45 Eritrean asylum seekers to Eritrea, where they face detention and the risk of torture, without first assessing their protection needs and providing them with the opportunity to make asylum claims. Under refugee law and under the Convention Against Torture, Egypt may not return anyone to a country where he or she faces the risk of torture and persecution.

Sudanese community sources say that over the past three months, the Egyptian authorities have arrested at least 25 recognized refugees from Darfur. Among them is Faisal Mohamed Haroun, a recognized refugee from Darfur, arrested by State Security Investigations officers on January 7 and detained ever since at an undisclosed location.

On January 19, Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights lawyers submitted a complaint to the General Prosecutor protesting Haroun's incommunicado detention. They also submitted a request to the prisons authority on February 17 to determine where he was being held, and were told that he was not detained in any Egyptian prison. Incommunicado detention at an undisclosed location amounts to enforced disappearance.

"Incommunicado detention in state security offices is illegal under Egyptian and international law," Whitson said. "The fact that Faisal Haroun is a vulnerable refugee makes it even more urgent to reveal where he is and either charge or immediately release him."

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Black, but not like me: African-Americans and African immigrants often have uneasy bond

March 08, 2010

Girmai Lemma is from Ethiopia. He has lived in Chicago for many years. He does not consider himself to be African-American: He is African.

Lemma is not alone. Constant tensions between African-Americans and non U.S.-born Africans refute the notion that the term African-American is interchangeable with black. In the eyes of many native-born blacks and African immigrants, it isn’t.

“It would have been nice if we had a good relationship with African-Americans, but we don’t,” Lemma said.

How Lemma defines himself may be irrelevant to the larger American society.

But within the black community, less than 2 percent are Africans. Lemma said that in the United States all black people are put in the same group. “When we came from Ethiopia, we never thought we would be discriminated here,” Lemma said.

“[The police] follow you all the way until your house. It is a suburb, not too many blacks living there,” Lemma said. “When they see you, what is black is black, until they hear your accent.”

While that might make police look favorably on African immigrants, it also cuts the other way.

Eugene Peba, originally from Nigeria, believes his accent causes African-Americans look down upon him.

“We don’t sound like they sound,” Peba said. “It is a little bit weird. We think that they would say, ‘This is my brother,’ but there is a little bit of resentment.”

But Garrard McClendon, who hosts a show on CLTV that often focuses on African-American issues, said those feelings of resentment go both ways.

“I think that sometimes African-Americans are disrespected by immigrants because immigrants don’t see us taking advantage of the [opportunities] we already have,” McClendon said.

McClendon also said he blames the media for perpetuating stereotypical images of black people as criminals, underemployed or womanizers.

One academic said African immigrants pick up on those cues.

David O. Stovall, who teaches African-American and education studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago, agrees that Africans have preconceived notions of African-Americans, some positive, some negative. “When people come to the States they already have an image of what black life is,” Stovall said.

Some African immigrants, Stovall said, see black people in the U.S. as a source of community, but others wish to distance themselves from them.

The source of the tension, Stovall said, is that Africans don’t understand the history of oppression that black people in the United States have faced. Additionally, many American black people are unaware of the turmoil that Africans have faced back home. The problem, Stovall said, “is our inability to communicate our history, to engage our histories.”

Though both groups have roots in the same continent, their histories and experiences differ significantly. To some, the American black community and the African immigrant community sometimes segregate themselves.

“Most of the African people seem to group among themselves,” said Alice Ogbarmey-Tetteh, a Ghanaian who has been living in Chicago for more than 30 years. “They have to learn how to socialize outside their community. If you want to survive in America you have to learn the system.”

From a sociological point of view, it is not simply a matter of integration between both groups. Mosi Ifatunji, race and ethnicity professor at UIC explained African immigrants are unable to understand why African-Americans are still upset about racial discrimination: The immigrants arrived at a point when it was formally over. “African immigrants are seeing a different America and therefore have a different set of expectations,” Ifatunji said. “African immigrants are not upset with American whites about slavery.”

For black people in the United States it is still hard to not have resentment against whites. “To simply forget about the past for African-Americans is sort of to throw their ancestors under the bus,” Ifatunji said.

Even the American-raised children of African immigrants may feel distanced from the African-American community.

“When you come from Africa to United States, your identity is formed by the African-American experience,” said Oluwabukola Adeyinka, who arrived from Nigeria when she was 5. “But I’m African. I have been my entire life.”

Adeyinka explained that older generations of Nigerians like her father have stereotypes of African-Americans as lazy and dangerous, despite having lived in the U.S. for years.

The distance between the American black and African immigrant communities is particularly apparent for immigrants during the census. Although they may not identify themselves as being part of the same group as African-Americans, they have only a single choice to select to identify their race on the census: “Black, African-American or Negro.”

Other races and ethnicities have several categories from which to choose.

This category is particularly troubling for Africans who don’t consider themselves black. “Ethiopians are a little lighter-skinned than black,” Lemma said.

Despite the tension and distance between Africans and African-Americans, there are some like United African Organization Director Alie Kabba, who think that both groups should work together to empower themselves as minorities in the United States.

“I think that in terms of electoral processes, Africans and African-Americans can generally work together,” Kabba said. “The same issues that [affect] the African community, also have an impact on the African-American community.”

There are also organizations such as Washington D.C.-based National Coalition on Black Civil Participation, whose objective is to eliminate the barriers among black communities to promote social and economic justice, according to its Web site.

Ifatunji thinks that the discussion shouldn’t be whether black groups could merge culturally, but instead enhancing their common political interest as minorities.

“Your cultural traditions, let it be your cultural traditions. Your history, let it be your history. But political, if nothing else, we have a common interest across all lines of color against white supremacy,” Ifatunji said. “Until we can be clear about that we’ll continue to suffer from white supremacy.”

Senate supports Haiti debt relief

By Nelson A. King
March 8, 2010

The United States Senate on Friday unanimously passed a resolution supporting calls for Haiti debt relief in the wake of the Jan. 12 devastating earthquake.

“The people of Haiti face a long and difficult road ahead,” said Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, lead author of the “Haiti Recovery Act” and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

“But today (Friday), the United States Senate made it clear that they will not have to walk that road alone,” he added.

In February, the world’s richest countries, otherwise known as the Group of Seven, said they will cancel Haiti’s debt. Those countries comprise Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States.

Haiti owes an estimated $1.88 billion dollars to international creditors. The Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank said about $14 billion will be needed to rebuild Haiti in the wake of the earthquake.

The Senate measure would permit United States representatives on the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other international lending agencies to work towards relieving Haiti’s debt obligations.

The measure comes as Haitian President Rene Preval was expected on Monday to make his first official visit to the United States since the earthquake ravaged the impoverished, French-speaking Caribbean country.

The White House said Preval was expected to hold discussions with President Barack Obama, who plans to ask legislators for more than $1 billion in aid for Haiti.

Preval, ahead of his U.S. visit, that he planned to press Obama to help address some of Haiti’s more immediate concerns.

“There is an urgency. The urgency is that we have entered into a rainy season,” he said, stating that the country needs at least $93 million immediately to fix drainage pipes to prevent flooding.

“We need to put jobs in the provinces; and, for that, you need roads, electricity, education, health,” Preval added.

The talks with Obama came weeks before a major donor conference on Haiti, at the United Nations, on March 31.

The State Department said on Friday that the U.S. and the U.N., in cooperation with the government of Haiti, and with the support of Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, and Spain, will co-host theministerial “International Donors’ Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti.”

“The goal of the conference is to mobilize international support for the development needs of Haiti to begin to lay the foundation for Haiti’s long-term recovery,” the State Department said.

“The government of Haiti faces enormous challenges following the devastating earthquake of Jan. 12. Meeting these challenges will require a sustained and substantial commitment from the international community, in support of the government and people of Haiti,” it added.

“At the donors’ conference, Haiti will present its vision for Haiti’s future and how international support can assist. Donor countries, international organizations, and other partners will have an opportunity to pledge resources, to coordinate in support of Haiti’s long-term recovery, and to commit to a sustained effort to support Haiti,” the State Department continued.

Meantime, Brooklyn Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke has called for continued close collaboration with Haitian authorities and support in addressing the nation’s plight in the wake of the massive earthquake.

“After witnessing firsthand the destruction caused by the Jan. 12 earthquake, it is clear that we must continue to work alongside the Haitian government to rectify social and economic problems facing Haiti,” Clarke, representative for the 11th Congressional District told Caribbean Life.

She was part of a United States Congressional delegation that has just returned from Haiti “in order to assess the impact of the ongoing relief effort and analyze the prospect for future development.”

The nine-member delegation also included Democratic representatives Elliott Engel, of New York, and Donald Payne, of New Jersey.

“I have spent considerable time speaking with Haitian leaders and citizens alike.We must develop a long term strategy in order to foster sustainable development in the devastated nation,” Clarke said.

“As a representative of the second largest Haitian immigrant population in the United States (behind Miami), this devastation has hit close to home for many of my constituents,” she added, disclosing that she is “examining avenues to provide Haiti with more than just humanitarian relief.”

“The U.S. must develop long-term rebuilding efforts, reunite Haitian families, and create sustainable economic opportunities for all Haitians to enjoy,” Clarke continued.

“I look forward to working closely with the Haitian government, the Obama administration, my colleagues in the Congress, and my constituents to create long term solutions for Haiti,” she said.

Helping Haitians to Work

March 21, 2010

One very good thing the United States did to help Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake was to declare that Haitians living here when the quake hit could apply for temporary protected status, a special 18-month amnesty granted to illegal immigrants who cannot safely return home because of natural disasters or other reasons.

This was supposed to help Haitians help one another, swiftly and effectively. Undocumented immigrants live in the shadows, taking jobs at low wages, fearful of deportation. If they were legalized and unafraid, they could look for better work or further their education, and earn more to send to families in shattered Haiti, which acutely depends on remittances by its large diaspora.

The administration has been preparing to receive protected-status applications from as many as 100,000 of the 100,000 to 200,000 Haitians believed to be in the United States illegally as of Jan. 12. But only about 37,000 have applied, and only about 4,200 have been approved. The six-month application window closes in July. The pace must pick up drastically.

Haitian advocacy groups say the main reason for the poor response is money. Application fees total almost $500, a severe obstacle for working-class immigrants.

The head of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Alejandro Mayorkas, says his agency can’t eliminate its fees, but it has the power to waive them for people who can prove they are poor. He has promised that his employees will treat applicants with a “generosity of spirit.” This would be a refreshing change for an agency notorious for bureaucrats expert in finding a way to say no.

The citizenship agency must redouble its efforts to make the application process simple and speedy, recognizing that many of these working poor lack documents showing their need. There is a burden, too, on immigrant advocates and Haitians themselves to make sure applicants are well-prepared for interviews — taking along, if necessary, simple affidavits attesting to financial need — so they can get working papers as quickly as possible.

Ellison Applauds White House Action for Minnesota Liberian Community

Today Representative Keith Ellison thanked President Obama for taking swift action to extend Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians living legally in the United States. Ellison has long been a leader in Congress in fighting for the Liberian community in the United States. He recently met with leaders of Minnesota’s Liberian community to discuss the proposed extension of DED status and its importance to the thousands of Liberians residing in Minnesota.

“Liberian-Americans contribute to our communities in Minnesota. They are part of our society and they should be able to maintain their lives in the United States. The Administration granting Deferred Extended Status is a big win for Liberian-Americans — and for all Minnesotans,” said
Congressman Keith Ellison.

“As thrilled as I am about this decision, we have simply been given an 18-month reprieve,” said Ellison. “I plan to work with President Obama and my colleagues in Congress to find paths to citizenship for those Liberian families who wish to apply.”

Congressman Ellison and Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) introduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act in the House. The bill would allow Liberians who were brought to the United States legally under temporary protection status to apply for permanent residency. Ellison and Kennedy also helped lead the successful fight to grant DED to eligible Liberians in September 2007, authorized by President Bush, and again pushed for the one-year DED extension authorized by President Obama in March 2008. Without the extension, the previous DED protection was set to expire March 31, 2010.

In 1989, a civil war in Liberia displaced over half the country’s population and many Liberians sought refuge in the United States. More than 30,000 Liberians reside in Minnesota and an estimated 1,000 currently are living under DED status. Since 1991, these refugees have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status.

Black Immigrants, An Invisible 'Model Minority'

By Clarence Page
March 19, 2007

WASHINGTON-Do African immigrants make the smartest Americans? The question may sound outlandish, but if you were judging by statistics alone, you could find plenty of evidence to back it up.

In a side-by-side comparison of 2000 census data by sociologist John R. Logan at the Mumford Center, State University of New York at Albany, black immigrants from Africa average the highest educational attainment of any population group in the country, including whites and Asians.

For example, 43.8 percent of African immigrants had achieved a college degree, compared to 42.5 of Asian Americans, 28.9 percent for immigrants from Europe, Russia and Canada, and 23.1 percent of the U.S. population as a whole.

That defies the usual stereotypes of Asian Americans as the only "model minority." Yet the traditional American narrative has rendered the high academic achievements of black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean invisible, as if it were a taboo topic.

Instead, we should take a closer look. That was my reaction in 2004 after black Harvard law professor Lani Guinier and Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of Harvard's African-American studies department, stirred a black Harvard alumni reunion with questions about precisely where the university's new black students were coming from.

About 8 percent, or 530, of Harvard's undergraduates were black, they said, but somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of black undergraduates were "West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples."

If we take a closer look, I said at the time, I bet we'll find that Harvard's not alone. With all of the ink and airwaves that have been devoted to immigration these days, black immigrants remain remarkably invisible. Yet their success has long followed the patterns of other high-achieving immigrants.

As one immigrant Jamaican friend once told me, "I'm too busy working two jobs to worry about the white man's racism."

Now comes a new study that finds a consistent pattern of Ivy League and other elite colleges and universities boosting their black student populations by enrolling large numbers of immigrants from Africa, the West Indies and Latin America.

Immigrants, who make up 13 percent of the nation's college-age black population, account for more than a quarter of black students at Ivy League and other elite universities, according to the study of 28 selective colleges and universities. The authors of the study, published recently in the American Journal of Education, included Douglas S. Massey of Princeton University and Camille Z. Charles of the University of Pennsylvania. The proportion of immigrants was higher at private institutions, 28.8 percent, than at the public ones, where they comprised 23.1 percent of enrollment.

Are elite schools padding their racial diversity numbers with black immigrants who do not have a history of American slavery in their families? This development immediately calls into question whether affirmative action admission policies are fulfilling their original intent.

But as Walter Benn Michaels, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, writes in his book "The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality," the original intent of affirmative action morphed back in the 1970s from reparations for slavery into the promotion of a broader virtue: "diversity." Since then, it no longer seems to matter how many of your college's black students had slavery in their families. It only matters that they are black.

That said, I don't begrudge black immigrants or any other high-achieving immigrants for their impressive achievements. I applaud them. I encourage more native-born American children, particularly my own child, to take similar advantage of this country's hard-won opportunities.

But I also think we need to revisit the meaning of "diversity." Unlike our current system of feel-good game-playing, we need to focus on the deeper question of how education can be improved and opportunities opened up to those who were left behind by the civil rights revolution.

We tend to look too often at every aspect of diversity except economic class. Yet, the dream of upward mobility is an essential part of how we Americans like to think of ourselves.

It's also why a lot more people are trying to get into this country than trying to get out.

Page is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist specializing in urban issues. He is based in Washington, D.C. E-mail:

Why So Few Blacks Join Immigration Rallies

At last week's immigration march on Washington, tens of thousands of immigrants and activists rallied around the Capitol Building, calling for legislation that would afford legal status to the millions of illegal immigrants living and working within the United States. While official crowd estimates for such events are notoriously unreliable, the New York Times noted that "the demonstrators filled five lengthy blocks of the Washington Mall."

Many, if not most, of the rally attendees wielded protest signs--both homemade and professionally manufactured--or wore T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Change takes courage" and "Illegals are humans." Still others carried flags--American, Mexican, Brazilian, French, and almost everything in between. And while it seemed as if practically everyone had a unique way of showing their support for reform, they also had one very notable similarity: The crowd was overwhelmingly Latino, with chants of "Libertad ahora!" filling the air as frequently as "Freedom now!"

To be sure, knowing the statistics--76 percent of America's illegal immigrants are Hispanic, according to the Pew Hispanic Center--a majority Latino presence was to be expected. And according to the Population Reference Bureau, in 2005, there were only 2,815,000 foreign-born blacks in America (compared to nearly 18 million foreign-born Hispanics). But in Washington, D.C., estimated to be the home of more than 150,000 Ethiopian immigrants and their descendants, the lack of black protesters was downright odd. Ultimately, it raised an important question to consider in the days leading up to the Obama administration's grapple with America's immigration problems: Why don't black immigrants have an affinity for the reform movement?

One thing we do know is that, despite their relatively small presence, black immigrants are often the most upwardly mobile ethnic group functioning in the United States today, even more than foreign-born white Americans. For instance, as journalist Clarence Page noted in 2007's "Black immigrants: an invisible model minority," in 2000 "43.8 percent of African immigrants had achieved a college degree, compared to 42.5 of Asian Americans, 28.9 percent for immigrants from Europe, Russia and Canada, and 23.1 percent of the U.S. population as a whole." In 2005, a fifth of Caribbean or Latin American-born blacks in America had degrees. And according to a 2006 study by sociologists at Princeton and University of Pennsylvania, of the black students attending Ivy League colleges, 41 percent were either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants.

If the statistics are to be believed, then it would seem that there's some truth to the quip that a Jamaican immigrant offered while Page was researching his article: "I'm too busy working two jobs to worry about the white man's racism."

Obama Expands Military Involvement in Africa

WASHINGTON, Apr 2 (IPS) - When Pres. Barack Obama took office in January 2009, it was widely expected that he would dramatically change, or even reverse, the militarised and unilateral security policy that had been pursued by the George W. Bush administration toward Africa, as well as toward other parts of the world.

After one year in office, however, it is clear that the Obama administration is following essentially the same policy that has guided U.S. military policy toward Africa for more than a decade. Indeed, the Obama administration is seeking to expand U.S. military activities on the continent even further.

In its FY 2011 budget request for security assistance programmes for Africa, the Obama administration is asking for 38 million dollars for the Foreign Military Financing programme to pay for U.S. arms sales to African countries.

The administration is also asking for 21 million dollars for the International Military Education and Training Programme to bring African military officers to the United States, and 24.4 million dollars for Anti-Terrorism Assistance programmes in Africa.

The Obama administration has also taken a number of other steps to expand U.S. military involvement in Africa.

In June 2009, administration officials revealed that Pres. Obama had approved a programme to supply at least 40 tonnes of weaponry and provide training to the forces of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia through several intermediaries, including Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, and France.

In September 2009, Obama authorised a U.S. Special Forces operation in Somalia that killed Saleh Ali Nabhan, an alleged al Qaeda operative who was accused of being involved in the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, as well as other al Qaeda operations in east Africa.

In October 2009, the Obama administration announced a major new security assistance package for Mali - valued at 4.5 to 5.0 million dollars - that included 37 Land Cruiser pickup trucks, communication equipment, replacement parts, clothing and other individual equipment and was intended to enhance Mali's ability to transport and communicate with internal security forces throughout the country and control its borders.

Although ostensibly intended to help Mali deal with potential threats from AQIM (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), it is more likely to be used against Tuareg insurgent forces.

In December 2009, U.S. military officials confirmed that the Pentagon was considering the creation of a 1,000-strong Marine rapid deployment force for the new U.S. Africa Command (Africom) based in Europe, which could be used to intervene in African hot spots.

In February 2010, in his testimony before a hearing by the Africa Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson declared, "We seek to enhance Nigeria's role as a U.S. partner on regional security, but we also seek to bolster its ability to combat violent extremism within its borders."

Also in February 2010, U.S. Special Forces troops began a 30-million-dollar, eight-month-long training programme for a 1,000-man infantry battalion of the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the U.S.-refurbished base in Kisangani.

Speaking before a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing in March 2010 about this training programme, General William Ward, the commander of Africom, stated "should it prove successful, there's potential that it could be expanded to other battalions as well."

During the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Ward also discussed Africom's continuing participation in Ugandan military operations in the DRC against the Lord's Resistance Army. Despite the failure of "Operation Lightning Thunder", launched by Ugandan troops in December 2008 with help of Africom (included planning assistance, equipment, and financial backing), Ward declared, "I think our support to those ongoing efforts is important support."

And in March 2010, U.S. officials revealed that the Obama administration was considering using surveillance drones to provide intelligence to TFG troops in Somalia for their planned offensive against al-Shabaab. According to these officials, the Pentagon may also launch air strikes into Somalia and send U.S. Special Forces troops into the country, as it has done in the past.

This growing U.S. military involvement in Africa reflects the fact that counterinsurgency has once again become one of the main elements of U.S. security strategy.

This is clearly evident in the new Quadrennial Defence Review (QDR) released by the Pentagon in February.

According to the QDR, "U.S. forces will work with the military forces of partner nations to strengthen their capacity for internal security, and will coordinate those activities with those of other U.S. government agencies as they work to strengthen civilian capacities, thus denying terrorists and insurgents safe havens. For reasons of political legitimacy as well as sheer economic necessity, there is no substitute for professional, motivated local security forces protecting populations threatened by insurgents and terrorists in their midst."

As the QDR makes clear, this is intended to avoid the need for direct U.S. military intervention: "Efforts that use smaller numbers of U.S. forces and emphasise host-nation leadership are generally preferable to large-scale counterinsurgency campaigns. By emphasising host-nation leadership and employing modest numbers of U.S. forces, the United States can sometimes obviate the need for larger-scale counterinsurgency campaigns."

Or, as a senior U.S. military officer assigned to Africom was quoted as saying in a recent article in the U.S. Air University's Strategic Studies Quarterly, "We don't want to see our guys going in and getting wacked...We want Africans to go in."

Thus, the QDR goes on to say, "U.S. forces are working in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Colombia, and elsewhere to provide training, equipment, and advice to their host-country counterparts on how to better seek out and dismantle terrorist and insurgent networks while providing security to populations that have been intimidated by violent elements in their midst."

Furthermore, the United States will also continue to expand and improve the network of local military bases that are available to U.S. troops under base access agreements.

The resurgence of Vietnam War-era counterinsurgency doctrine as a principal tenet of U.S. security policy, therefore, has led to a major escalation of U.S. military involvement in Africa by the Obama administration that seems likely to continue in the years ahead.

*Daniel Volman is the Director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC. He is the author of numerous articles and reports and has been studying U.S. security policy toward Africa and African security issues for more than 30 years.