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Archive for August, 2010

Can American Citizens Become Illegal Immigrants?

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Many American citizens now  fight illegal immigration in many parts of the country. Yet, what most legal Americans do not realize, they too could become illegal immigrants.  There are facts to prove  how it could happen.  There are at least 2 ways it could occur. First, if some country invades our soils and overtakes us by force, we could all become illegal immigrants in our own land. You say that’s  far fetched.  Well, think about it for a moment. Isn’t that what Americans did to the Native Americans?  Second, all we have to do is revoke citizenship to legal Americans for a variety of reasons. That one is not so far fetched.

When Christopher Columbus  sailed to America from Spain in 1492,   unlike what the history books claim, he did not discover America.  America was already inhabited by many tribes of Native Americans.  After Columbus’  arrival, one hundred years later, English settlers  invaded and occupied America.  Over time the new Americans forcibly removed the Native American people already living here, killed and raped them. We created laws that gave us the legal authority to remove the Native Americans and place them on reservations.  Native Americans had no immigration policy in effect. They probably didn’t think they needed one.  Now, they know better. Every American that is not a Native American or a descendant of a Native American is already an illegal immigrant.

The early English settlers  from England were not from the upper crust of England.  Instead, many were from backgrounds not unlike what we perceive the backgrounds of many of the brown immigrants.  Many of  the early settlers or immigrants were from a sultry mix of diverse backgrounds.  Many persons living illegally now in our country came for the same reasons as Christopher Columbus and the American settlers.  They came for a better life for themselves and their family.  They came because they were prosecuted in their country.  They came for economic, religious and political freedom. They came yearning to be free.   Every illegal immigrant is not a criminal in the same way that not every Pilgrim was a criminal.  They are here for the same reasons that the early English immigrants came here.

Since our history proves that we could become illegal immigrants in our own land,   maybe that’s why Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and the Tea Partiers are so critical of immigration laws in this county. Perhaps, they fear that illegal immigrants will someday outnumber us and take over our country.  Estimates claim that white Americans will be the minority around 2040.  Maybe, the tough stance on immigration is to hold the tide back.

Some harsh critics of present immigration laws propose laws that would change the US constitution to revoke citizenship to babies born on American soil to illegal immigrant parents. If we make this change, children living here as legal citizens will become illegal immigrants.  Will  laws be changed one day to send African Americans back to Africa? Will we move towards revoking citizenship of Muslim Americans forcing them to return to a majority Muslim country one day?  Will the citizenship of Asian Americans be at jeopardy as it was during World War II. Where will we stop it?  No one knows the answers today. Whatever the reason, changing laws and amending the Constitution to make already legal citizens illegal is not the way to go.  We must stop that terrible tide from rising. If not,  many legal Americans will end up illegal immigrants.

Debbie Hines, Esq. blogs on race, law and women from an African American female lawyer’s perspective.  She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania. For the Best of Legalspeaks, click on Res Ipsa Loquitur.

The Muslim Mosque and America’s Hypocrisy

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Islamic extremist al-Qaeda terrorists proclaimed “in the name of Allah” before crashing two airplanes into the World Trade Center and killing thousands.  Many Americans oppose the building of a Muslim mosque and community center near Ground Zero. A mosque is a religious house of worship in the same way a synagogue is to Jews and the church is to Christians.   Opponents to the building of the mosque condemn all Muslims for the sins of the al-Qaeda terrorists.  Yet, Christians also kill in the name of Christianity.  No one ever argues about building churches.

Historically, Christian Americans killed, stole and destroyed the lives of African- Americans, Native Americans and other minorities in the name of Christianity.  In the building of America, Christians committed ethnic cleansing on Native Americans, nearly destroying their entire race, in part, due to intolerance, ignorance and religious beliefs. In the 1800’s, Christians justified their actions, by labeling Native Americans as “heathens”, because they did not practice Christianity. Blacks were enslaved in support of Christianity. Frederick Douglas spoke in 1845 about the connection between Christianity and slavery. He stated “men were sold to build churches; women sold to support the gospel; and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen”. During the Civil War, southern white Christians fought to keep blacks in slavery in the name of Christianity.

America’s first true homegrown terrorist group, the Klu Klux Klan, formed as a racist and anti-Semitic movement in 1866.  The Klan’s ideology was “Christian” oriented as they often recruited in churches although they practiced hate and violence against blacks and those in support of blacks and other minorities.   The KKK sign of the cross is no coincidence as the same sign of the church and Christianity.  The KKK burned blacks’ homes and lynched blacks well into the 20th century.

After the Civil War, whites used Christianity to promote segregation as the way God intended for us to live, “separate but equal”.  Yet, segregation caused the loss of lives, black businesses, economic gains, denial of voting rights and resulted in inferior education, inadequate housing and overall substandard quality of life for blacks. Segregation resulted in whole towns of blacks being burned down, including the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma massacre where over 1000 black homes and businesses were burned and many lives lost.

In the 21st century, home grown American terrorists still kill and destroy in the name of Christianity. Many abortion doctor killings are committed in the name of religion. In 2009, Scott Roeder, a born again Christian, murdered abortion Dr. George Tiller, out of his religious and zealous Christian beliefs.  In 2003 Reverend Paul Hill, a former Presbyterian minister, was executed for the 1994 killing of abortion doctor John Britton.  A December 25, 1984 bombing of a Pensacola, FL abortion clinic was said to be a “gift to Jesus” by one of the bombers.   Recent reports indicate the KKK is seeing a spike in membership since 2006 as a result of a perceived “assault on Christianity” due to gay marriage and immigration issues.  Islam has no unique claim to religious terrorists who commit acts of violence in America in the 21st century.

The September 11 terrorists called themselves Muslims just as abortion killing doctors, Klu Klux Klansmen, Christian slave masters and proponents of segregation called themselves Christians. Their representations of Christianity never stopped the building of any churches. Native Americans, African-Americans and others have never turned their backs on the Christian church, for its acts of violence and racial atrocities, in the same way we are now turning our backs on Muslims and building the mosque near Ground Zero. We cannot make decisions based on our religious intolerance and beliefs. If America made decisions based on religious beliefs, then slavery, segregation and systemic lynchings and killings of minorities might still be alive and well. All were sanctioned in the name of religion and “Christianity”.  Mayor Bloomberg is right when he says it’s a sad day in America when we deny a house of worship to be built based on our intolerance of other religions.   Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who is Jewish and represents the lower Manhattan neighborhood surrounding Ground Zero, calls it a “slap in the face if you think that the people in the {Muslim} congregation are responsible for al-Qaeda”. He understands that if we allow this to happen to Muslims, it will happen to Jews, African-Americans and other minorities in our country, given the opportunity.  Christians, African-Americans, Native Americans, Jews and other minorities should stand in solidarity of the building of the mosque.

Are we really this hypocritical and intolerant in America?

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines, Esq. blogs on race, law, women and politics @  She holds a Juris Doctorate degree from George Washington University and a BA in African- American history from the University of Pennsylvania.

Click on Res Ipsa Loquitur for the Best of LegalSpeaks.

DC Mayoral Candidates- The Good, Bad and Ugly

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

I attended a city wide mayoral candidate’s forum held at the National Council for Negro Women building on Tuesday, August 17.  There are three primary candidates running for DC mayor. The choices are A. Mayor Adrian Fenty; B. City Council Chair Vincent Gray;  C. Leo Alexander and D. None of the above.  I’d really like to check box D. As an African American, whose parents never missed voting after leaving the Jim Crow south, box D is simply not an option. So, let’s go over the highlights.

The forum was helpful in assessing the candidates.  I walked in undecided.  I came out with a better overall view of the candidates.  The format started with a 1 minute opening statement by the candidates. Washington Post reporter Nikita Stewart moderated the forum. Questions, which were prepared in advance by the sponsoring organizations, were directed to the candidates. Each candidate initially had one minute to respond. That’s about the same time as a commercial break between a TV show. There wasn’t much time for any real substantive answers. One candidate joked the questions were as long as the time allotted to answer them. The issues touched on education, HIV, domestic violence, crime, women’s issues and the Attorney General. So, here’s the good, the bad and the ugly on the 3 candidates.

Early on in the forum, mention was made of the irony of the forum taking place in the Dorothy I. Height building as Mayor Fenty took heat for not meeting with Dr. Height and Maya Angelou in 2009. Mayor Fenty addressed the issue and gave an excuse relating to a doctor’s visit with his child. Mayor Fenty later scored with some good points on crime, economic growth in Ward 8, and getting things done.  According to Mayor Fenty, homicides are down to a low rate dating back to 1966.  He touted that DC’s homicide rate is 20% below the national average. As for economic progress, Ward 8 has a grocery store now with another one set to open soon.  Libraries have been built and improvements made to schools. Although, the jury is out on School Chancellor Michelle Rhee, some results have come about as a direct result of her efforts, despite the means that she uses to bring them.  There are increased test scores in some grades and little to no change in others. According to Mayor Fenty, we stopped the tide of students leaving public school system to attend charter schools. The bad and ugly of Mayor Fenty is his harsh arrogance and that of his cohort School Chancellor Rhee.

City Council Chair Vincent Gray argued the point that the entire DC school system cannot rest on one person’s shoulders. I agree. There’s been no transparency with Chancellor Rhee and her decisions. She has apparent carte blanche to do as she pleases without much, if any, accountability to anyone.  Regardless of who is elected, that’s not good for the city and the school system.  Gray asserted he does not support school vouchers. Chairman Gray admitted he wishes he could take back his vote in favor of Attorney General Peter Nickles.  Nickles often acts as if he’s  counsel for Mayor Fenty and not the people of DC.  Gray unequivocally stated he would fire Peter Nickles, if elected. That’s almost a no brainer. He reserved on any similar comment on School Chancellor Rhee. And “read my website” Gray didn’t give many specific facts on anything else. Gray appeared to have the popularity support of the audience.

As for Leo Alexander, he states that the other candidates are the “NNI” guys which he says stands for no new ideas guys.  Mr. Alexander proposed, among many ideas, that students should be allowed to work all year long and not just in the summer jobs program. That appears contradictory to good grades and scores. Students need to devote their school year to school to improve their grades and test scores. Unlike Chairman Gray, Leo Alexander had many specific ideas.  However,  most sounded like rhetoric. At least, that’s how it sounded to my trial lawyer ears.

No one candidate fits in any one category.  There’s good, bad and ugly in all. What I came away with from the forum is DC needs to decide whether we want younger versus older, nice versus arrogant, accomplishments versus promises or starting over versus staying the course.  The decision is really whether we hold or fold.

I came into the forum as an undecided voter. If I were allowed to ask a question, it would be why should  I vote for either candidate. That question cannot be answered in 60 seconds. If I had to vote last night, I would vote for Mayor Fenty. That’s not because of any rhetoric. It’s because facts talk and everything else walks.

September 14 is election   day. That’s a long way off.  So I’ll remain undecided for now.

Debbie Hines, Esq. blogs on race, law, women and politics. For the best of Legalspeaks, click Res Ipsa Loquitur.

Let’s Do a Dr. Laura to Dr. Laura

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Many already know by now that Dr. Laura on August 12, 2010 went on a “N” word rampage while taking a caller’s call on the Dr. Laura Show. She used the “N” word over 12 times, by my count.  What is equally offensive is her on air insult of one of the nation’s oldest civil rights and human rights organizations, the NAACP.

A caller called in to ask a question related to race. During the  discourse with the caller, Dr. Laura berates her for too much sensitivity. It turns out that Dr. Laura could stand a little sensitivity. Dr. Laura admonishes the caller to not take things out of context. She next says “Don’t NAACP me” further adding racial insensitivity to the already hot flames. That was the first time that I heard the NAACP used as a verb.  Perhaps, Dr. Laura thought it was cute and catchy.  It is disparaging to an organization that has fought for civil rights, human rights and social justice for over 100 years. No matter what Dr. Laura may think, the NAACP has been instrumental in fighting for and bringing about racial and social change in this country. There is no place for Dr. Laura to discredit, belittle or disparage the NAACP  name while repeatedly using the “N” word in the same breath.

Dr. Laura’s “Don’t NAACP me” statement is also offensive to the sponsors of the NAACP. Media Matters for America has called for a boycott by the advertisers on Dr. Laura’s show.  Recent advertisers include Pfizer, Chase Bank, NetFlix, Motel 6 and Home Depot according to Media Matters. Strangely enough, at least, one of the sponsors of the NAACP is an advertiser of Dr. Laura’s show.  Pfizer has been a sponsor of the NAACP for several years on health and wellness of African Americans by promoting health advocacy. I call on readers to join in Media Matters call for a boycott by her advertisers.  I further call on the NAACP to urge its sponsors to remove all advertisement from Dr. Laura’s shows.  It is incongruous for any past or present NAACP sponsors to be affiliated with both Dr. Laura’s show and the NAACP.

While Dr. Laura has apologized, sanctions are appropriate. When athletes engage in improper actions, they are fined, suspended or worse. When Janet Jackson had her wardrobe malfunction on Super Bowl XXXVIII, the FCC fined the network. Well, we should fine, suspend or do worse financial harm to Dr. Laura and her show. I call on everyone who cares about stomping out racial insensitivity one step at a time to begin stomping here and now.  Contact  to end  all ties with Dr. Laura’s show.  Pfizer’s mailing address is: 225 E. 42nd Street, NY, NY 10017 (212)733-2323.

Let’s do a Laura on Dr. Laura.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines. Esq. writes on race, law, women and politics. For the best of Legalspeaks, click on Res Ipsa Loquitur.

Obama’s Promise of Change

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

President Obama promised to bring change to America. Everyone who voted for him believed that he would bring change.  We clung to his promises. Now after only 18 months in office, many Obama supporters are disenchanted that the change they anticipated has not come. Has President Obama reneged on his promise of change? The short answer is no.

President Obama knew it would be an uphill battle to effectuate change. Although,  even he may not have foreseen the degree of difficulty for change. Sara Palin questioned Obama supporters at a speech in February, 2010 about how’s that hopey dopey change working for you. Sara Palin and others, including Obama supporters who expect an overnight overhaul of our system, are in for a bumpy ride. Melissa Harris Lacewell says you might also want to take a civics 101 lesson along with the ride. For those expecting immediate  change, please take note that our political and electoral process is neither swift nor speedy.

Years ago, I learned a lesson from my mother who tirelessly worked in local community politics to improve our community in Baltimore. She fought to make changes in the Park Heights community of Baltimore. Small changes were relatively easy to come by. Yet, larger ones like building a healthcare center took years.  No one can wave a magic wand and make sweeping change over night. That applies to President Obama, too.

Many young voters and older ones that are new to the electoral and political process expect instant change. Our system doesn’t quite work that way. I urge those voters to pledge to do more than cast a vote. Often times, we hear complaints that I cast my vote and nothing changed. I challenge those persons, who are becoming disenchanted with the pace of change and President Obama’s commitment,  to get involved in an organization. I challenge you to take action in an organization on the local, state or national level that supports your cause. Voice your opinion but also take action. In the words and lyrics of Michael Jackson, if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.  That’s how change comes about.

Debbie Hines blogs on race, law, women and politics. Please click on Res Ipsa Loquitur for the Best of Legalspeaks.

White House photo courtesy of Pete Souza.

Is President Obama Being Held To A Higher Standard?

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield is famous for saying he doesn’t get any respect.  That’s how President Obama must feel some days.  Nothing he does appears good enough for left liberal Democrats (now dubbed the “professional left”), right wing Republicans, Whites, Blacks and anyone in between. Blogger Marie Cooper recently wrote if President Obama were a combination of Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Jesus, he would still be criticized.  President Obama is being held to a higher standard than any other president, even within his own party. That’s because he’s our first African American President. As the first African American in any position knows, African Americans are held to a higher standard than their white counterparts in the same position.  African Americans know that we must work harder, be smarter, go farther and will still be sharply criticized.

Compared with President Obama, in the first 18 months of former President Clinton’s first term, his administration failed miserably at getting any healthcare reform passed despite dogged efforts by then First Lady Hillary Clinton. Does anyone even remember what President Clinton accomplished in his first 18 months of office?  I don’t recall the criticisms from Democrats of former President Bill Clinton who took the country on a side show tour with his sex escapades with Monica Lewinsky. There was not much criticism among Clinton’s own party for his wasting tax payer money, the country’s time and effort to defend against the now famous  I did not have  sex with “that woman” saga.  In fact, most Democrats rallied around him.

As the late  civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer once said, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired” of hearing all the intense criticism, complaints and character assaults being hurled at President Obama from inside his party.  I expect no more from the Republicans. Democrats should take a lesson here from Republicans.  I don’t recall Republicans hurling public verbal assaults at President George W. Bush when we learned there were no weapons of mass destruction. Few Republicans, if any, publicly criticized President Bush for causing the Iraq War that’s taken the lives of thousands of Americans and Iraqis.

Here’s the problem with President Obama.  He can’t be all things to all people at all times.  As a progressive African American, I want him to be more vocal and supportive on race issues and appear less like the cowardly lion on these issues.  I want the first African American female nominated to the Supreme Court. I’m still waiting for President Obama to speak out on the teachable lessons on race. He missed his opportunity again during the Shirley Sherrod debacle.  I wanted the public option in healthcare reform.  I also wished women’s rights to abortion were fully protected in healthcare reform. Yet, I understand in the words of my former marathon coach that a half (loaf) is better than none.  I want more from President Obama on race and issues affecting women.

President Obama is not going to be all things to all people at all times. So to all the Obama liberal professional left haters, naysayers, whiners and cry babies, just get over it.  That’s an impossible mission. Yet, that’s the standard that we expect of our first African American president.

Debbie Hines, Esq. blogs on race, law, women and politics.  For the best of Legalspeaks, please click on Res Ipsa Loquitur.

White House Photo courtesy of Pete Souza.