November 2012 Archives

Brandy Doyle

Expansion of Community Radio Means More Opportunities for Ethnic Media

By Brandy Doyle, Nov 30, 2012 9:25 AM

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Today the Federal Communications Commission announced that for the first time in more than a decade, community groups will be able to start small, local radio stations. The FCC will take applications for new low power FM radio stations in Fall of 2013.

Mary Giovagnoli

This Week's Immigration Proposals: Old News, Old Ideas

By Mary Giovagnoli, Nov 29, 2012 12:10 PM

Immigration Impact

If you follow immigration, but are returning from a month-long, news-free vacation, there’s only one conclusion you would draw from the legislation Republicans offered up this week in Congress: Mitt Romney must have won the presidential election. After all, the ACHIEVE Act, introduced Tuesday by retiring Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), which offers temporary legal status but no path to citizenship to DREAMers, is surely the bill they were preparing to offer in the event that a Romney Administration was in the wings. And on the House side, a slightly revised version of the STEM Jobs Act—which failed on the suspension calendar before the election—is back on the floor at the end of this week without changing any of the problems that led to its defeat before. Surely, this suggests that the predictions that immigration would play a decisive role in the presidential election didn’t pan out and that self-deportation as an immigration reform strategy worked. Except, none of this is true.

Andrew Lam

'Shh-Thanks-Givin': My First Thanksgiving in America -- A Former Refugee Remembers

By Andrew Lam, Nov 19, 2012 1:54 PM

I wrote this piece a few years back but everyt Thankgiving, it finds meanings and renewals, sort of like that movie "It's a Wonderful Life," starring Jimmy Steward, at Christmas time. So here it is again, and enjoy. Andrew

 "Thanks-giving," said Mr. K., my seventh-grade English teacher. "Repeat after me: Thanksgiving."

"Ssshthanks give in," I said, but the word tumbled and hissed, turning my mouth into a wind tunnel. A funny word, "Ssshthanks give in," hard on my Vietnamese tongue, tough on my refugee's ears.

"That's good," said Mr. K., full of encouragement. "Very good. Thanksgiving."

As I helped him tape students' drawings of turkeys and pilgrims and Indians on the classroom windows, Mr. K. patiently explained to me the origins of the holiday. You know the story: newcomers to America struggling, surviving and finally thriving in the New World, thanks to the kindness of the natives.

I could barely speak a complete sentence in English, having spent less than three months in America, but Mr. K.'s story wasn't all that difficult to grasp. Still, I didn't particularly see what it could have to do with me.

My family and I had arrived in America several months earlier, at the end of the Vietnam War. My father, a high-ranking officer in the South Vietnamese army, was missing, having adamantly refused to join us when we fled in a cargo plane heading out of Saigon two days before communist tanks rolled in. Father -- who had stayed in Vietnam determined to fight to the end in the jungle -- was the center of our lives, and his absence left a horrible void.

We had arrived in America with nothing but rags in our backpacks and a few ounces of gold that my mother had tucked into her money belt. An impoverished aunt took us all in. Soon there were 10 people crowding together in Auntie Lisa's tiny two-bedroom apartment at the end of Mission Street in San Francisco.

Today, in her suburban condo at the edge of California's Silicon Valley, my mother is fond of referring to our first year in America as "a time of living like wandering ghosts." We had, after all, gone from being an elite family in Saigon, with three servants and a villa, to being exiles with little to our name. We did not speak English and had no discernible skills. Without Father, who was educated and spoke English, we were destined for a life of poverty.

In that refugee's broken home, there was an oppressive silence. We ate in silence in the dining room that served as a bedroom at night. We waited silently in line for the bathroom, slept silently side by side, as if saying anything would only bring us all to tears.

Indeed, Mr. K, what was there to be thankful for?

Ah, but there was.

A few days after Mr. K. explained Thanksgiving to me, something marvelous happened: My father called. He had survived, and would soon join us, having changed his mind and escaped aboard a crowded naval ship from Saigon.

When Father arrived he was skinny and haggard, no longer the war hero of my memories, but he nevertheless brought jubilation into our lives. I remember hearing my mother laugh, hearing the adults gossip and argue, and sometimes I would close my eyes, pretending that we were all still living in Saigon. One morning I looked in the mirror and was surprised to see a boy's face smiling back at me.

As the holiday drew near, I had a change of heart about Thanksgiving. If Vietnam's final act of mercy was to release its grip on my father, America was generosity itself. As in Mr. K's story, it was populated by friendly natives who helped us out. There was that businessman at the L.A. airport, a stranger, who offered to pay for my entire family's plane tickets to San Francisco when we left the refugee camp of Pendleton. In school my friends Remigio, Tai, Marvin, Wayne, Robert -- white, black, Filipino, Mexican kids -- all adopted me. Eric taught me to play baseball; 200-pound Tai protected me from the rowdy kids; and Robert, the popular blue-eyed jock, offered to take me on vacation with his family. And best of all Mr. K., ever patient and nurturing, made me his pet. Whenever I missed the bus, or even simply asked, he would drive me home after school.

That Thanksgiving my family gathered on the floor and ate two gigantic turkeys donated by religious charities. The kids fought over the food and the adults talked about job prospects. There was even talk of a possible trip next summer to the place I equated with paradise: Disneyland.

Sssthanks give in. Thanksgiving.

We have moved into the middle class since then. My father retired from his job as a bank executive, my mother from hers as an accountant. My brother and his wife are successful suburban engineers. My sister lives in a luxury condo downtown San Francisco and, not far away, I in mine. Thanksgiving at my brother's home this year will be replete with wines and seafood and crab and yes, turkey, and fabulous Vietnamese dishes. But the Thanksgiving I remember with fond memories is the first one, where we ate on the floor and wore donated clothes, and when I was just learning to pronounce the word.

New America Media editor, Andrew Lam is the author of "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora" (Heyday Books, 2005), which recently won a Pen American "Beyond the Margins" award and "East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres." His next book, "Birds of Paradise Lost" is due out in 2013. He has lectured and read his work widely at many universities.

Jenny Rejeske

DACA Recipients Shut Out of Affordable Health Care

By Jenny Rejeske, Nov 16, 2012 11:00 AM

National Immigration Law Center

The Obama administration’s decision to cut access to affordable health care for young people granted relief from deportation hurts everyone. This decision came weeks after the administration initiated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which lifts the cloud of deportation for immigrant youth who have grown up here. At the same time, the administration quietly issued policy changes excluding DACA recipients from federal health insurance programs, effectively shutting their door to affordable health care.




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