Archive for 'Immigration'

Obama, Burmese Monks Call For Release Of Suu Kyi

Posted on May 26, 2009, by Hanna Ingber, under Immigration, International.

Check out my story in today’s HuffPost.

On a recent trip to New York City, three Burmese monks who helped lead the 2007 protests known as the Saffron Revolution also called for the immediate release of Suu Kyi.

“For Burma to gain democracy without Aung San Suu Kyi is impossible,” U Pyinya Zawta told the Huffington Post through a translator.

The monks, who fled Burma (also known as Myanmar) after a government crackdown on protesters and were resettled in upstate New York as refugees, said there have been no significant protests inside Burma against the trial, but that is only because people are fearful of being arrested. Burmese have shown their solidarity with Suu Kyi by gathering outside Insein Prison, where her trial is now taking place.

“People feel very strongly about the government trying to imprison Aung San Suu Kyi. They are holding back [from protesting] because of the government repression against them,” U Pyinya Zawta said.

Continue reading here.

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Between Iraq And A Hard Place

Posted on May 21, 2009, by Hanna Ingber, under Immigration, International, Politics.

The ongoing violence in Iraq has forced 4 million people to flee their homes and communities in search of safety elsewhere. About 2 million remain displaced within Iraq, whereas the other 2 million or so have fled to neighboring nations. In countries like Syria and Jordan, these Iraqis, many of whom were professionals back home, now live a life of poverty and fear. They struggle to find jobs to feed their families and can get kicked out at any time.

For years the Bush administration refused to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis caused by the war. After significant political pressure, the administration began to allow a limited number of Iraqis to resettle in the United States. President Obama, who made it a campaign promise to help displaced Iraqis, has acknowledged that the United States has a moral responsibility and security incentive to help people displaced because of a war the United States started.

However, despite the apparent political will in the Obama administration to help those Iraqis still in danger, the United States now faces a massive financial crisis. The economic downtown threatens to derail Obama’s efforts to resettle more Iraqis and provide more aid to the countries that harbor most of the refugees. The crisis has also caused a financial nightmare for the Iraqis who have already resettled in the United States. Struggling to compete for a limited number of jobs with laid-off Americans who speak the language and have experience working in this country, these Iraqis face a dire situation. Many Iraqis, who came to America in search of safety and a better life, now live on the brink of homelessness.

Read my LA Weekly cover story about the Iraqi refugees who have resettled in El Cajon, California. Most are Chaldean Catholics who fled religious persecution in Iraq.

If you weren’t paying close attention, it would be easy to mistake Main Street, El Cajon, for any other Main Street across the USA that has been transformed by its immigrant population. Kebabs and falafel are on the menus of most of the restaurants, and the local supermarket sells green olives, hummus mix and a wide assortment of olive oils. The television in one café shows a woman in a head scarf delivering the news in Arabic. Outside another, 2-foot-high hookahs sit on a table, ready to be smoked. These are sights we’ve become accustomed to in many California neighborhoods. But there are other details that make this street a little different. The word Babylon, for instance, is all over the place. There’s Babylon Hair Style, Babylon Restaurant, Babylon Jewelry, Babylon Hookah Lounge. And inside a small deli, where a clerk’s computer screen saver shows a photograph of men in traditional turbans and robes gathered on the floor around a feast of Middle Eastern delicacies, Iraqi flags are for sale near the lamb shanks and the ground meat preferred for a certain type of kebab favored in Iraq.

Where most of Los Angeles’ Middle Eastern neighborhoods are dominated by Armenian and Lebanese shops and restaurants, El Cajon, just two hours south of L.A., is the epicenter of Iraqi relocation in the Western United States. With tens of thousands of Iraqis living in San Diego County, El Cajon is home to the second-largest community in the U.S., after Detroit. The neighborhood Catholic church, St. Peter Chaldean Cathedral, with its distinctive domed roof and large cross, boasts some 37,000 Chaldean Iraqi members. A sign outside the church lists the times for mass in English and Aramaic. And one of its walls is dominated by a stone replica of Iraq’s famous winged Khorsabad bull sculpture.

Continue reading here.

See a slideshow of Iraqi refugees living in Jordan by Jessica Malter with the IRC here. And one with Iraqi refugees in Syria by Erika Solomon here.

If you would like to find out how to help Iraqis displaced in Southern California, please contact Catholic Charities, Department of Refugee Services, 4575-A Mission Gorge Place, San Diego, CA 92120. You can call Lejla Voloder, their Resettlement Program Manager, at 619-287-9454.

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Blogger Detained at JFK

Posted on November 16, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Immigration, International, Media.

Three Egyptian bloggers spent a week with us at the HuffPost’s OffTheBus. One of them, Ahmad, got detained at JFK airport as he tried to leave New York for his next stop in Austin. He did nothing wrong, other than have an Arabic name. Once the U.S. officials freed him, and he bought a new plane ticket with his own money since he missed his flight, he wrote about the experience:

The place perfectly resembled any Egyptian police station, except for the picture of Mr. George Bush handing on the wall in place of Mubarak’s, and that the officers’ clothes were blue rather than white. The American officers had the same cold, dumb faces of their Egyptian counterparts. I told the officer at the beginning about my flight leaving in two hours, but he told me to sit waiting until they called my name.

Continue reading here.

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Fire and Naturalization Applications

Posted on August 12, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Crime, Immigration.

A couple more stories I did during my stint at the NY Sun:

U.S. to Process Applications for Citizenship More Quickly

Two Killed in Fire on Upper East Side

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From an Iraqi Stranded in Malaysia

Posted on August 9, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Immigration, International.

An Iraqi interpreter named Ashraf who fled his country because of fear of being killed for his work with the Americans wrote a comment on this blog. He said he wants his story told and agreed to have his comment posted, in the hopes that someone might be able to help him. “I feel hopeless and lost,” Ashraf wrote. In his own words:

i am an iraqi guy, i’m 26 now and i’m a registered refugee asylum seeker with the unhcr here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia…i worked in iraq as an interpreter with the US army, and US special forces (the navy seals) in anbar province and in baghdad….i did alot of work and i was so devoted to my job… my father was killed by a terrorist group that wanted me cause i worked against them with my unit, and my family was displaced and i was almost killed twice and my brother was kidnapped and thank god he survived it and he is working now in baghdad with the US forces also as an interpreter…

i registered here in malaysia cause i was hunted in syria also and i couldn’t get a visa to egypt or jordan or other near countries so i got a visa to Malaysia and here i am here…

i went to the US embassy here in malaysia but they have no help and no answers for any question i have…. and they never gave me hope…and when i go to the unhcr here after being registered they also have no answers for me, they just said that no countries are accepting any refugees now and we have no info about the US accepting iraqis…

i am totally lost and i dont know what to do….if i had enough money then i would try to go back and work as an interpreter, i dont know what to do…

please miss Hanna……. please i need some advice and i really hope that i can be recognised or told what to do or where to go to apply or how to do it….i am totally lost…i wish i can reach the american media or any media to hear my story….

i was the only iraqi local interpreter to work with the US nave Seals cause they are so special but cause of my dedication and devotion to work i was assigned to them….

please miss hanna….i need some advice or some help…i would do anything to survive…

The only thing I can do is share his story. If someone else has some ideas, let me know and I’ll give you his contact info.

It is horrifying to think how many people are in similar situations (more than 2 million Iraqis have fled the country). Ashraf is 26, clearly smart and well-educated judging by his English…so similar to my friends and co-workers. And yet, my friends and I spent the day on the beach, flipping through photographs of Shilo and Angelina’s new baby twins. Ashraf, because he was born in Iraq, because he helped the United States military, is now living in fear and misery.

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Interpreters for U.S. Left Behind

Posted on July 9, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Immigration, International, Politics.

Check out my story on the Huffington Post today:

Every couple of weeks an email from Baghdad pops up in Iraq War veteran Joey Coon’s inbox at his home in Washington, D.C. It’s Coon’s 23-year-old Iraqi interpreter, nicknamed Dash, pleading for help to get out of Iraq and into the United States. Dash feels in constant grave danger that he and his family will be killed because of his work with American troops.

“People like Dash put their lives on the line to help keep people like me and my friends and fellow soldiers and Iraqi civilians safe,” said Coon. “It was a very admirable, heroic thing that he did, I think, and I do feel that both soldiers and the American people in general have a certain responsibility here.”

That responsibility, however, is one that is more or less being shirked off by the presidential campaigns. While both candidates hotly debate each other’s plans for withdrawing or maintaining troop levels in Iraq, virtually nothing is being said about the 4 million Iraqis who have been displaced by the war or about the tens of thousands of Iraqis like Dash who feel at immediate risk for having worked with the Americans. Even less is being said about how the incoming administration will deal with the humanitarian crisis still evolving.

That’s why Coon and veterans like him are working harder than ever to mount a national campaign to save the lives of their interpreters by bringing them to the United States. Although there has been some progress recently made in establishing special immigrant visas for Iraqis who worked for Americans, the process of getting these Iraqis to the United States continues to be filled with long, bureaucratic delays. As papers get shuffled, untold thousands of Iraqis are left in danger.

Read more here.

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I Want a Leader

Posted on July 3, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Immigration, International, Politics.

Barack Obama can find time in his schedule to have two press conferences on his timeline for withdrawing combat troops from Iraq - in one day. Couldn’t he fit in one press conference - say in one month - in which he discusses his plan for Iraqi reconstruction, humanitarian aid and refugee resettlement?

The chair of the campaign’s immigration policy group, Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, insisted to me that the senator is deeply committed to helping the almost five million Iraqis displaced by the war. He said Obama feels that the United States has a responsibility to these people.

So where’s the press conference?

Leadership is about bringing up sticky, uncomfortable issues. It’s about taking a stand when others want to hide under a blanket. A president with true leadership can force the American people to grapple with the difficult questions - like what the hell are we going to do about this massive humanitarian and security crisis that the war we started created - and get them to rally around an issue simply because it’s the right thing to do.

We’ve been in this war for five years. Debating how quickly we remove combat troops is the easy part. Figuring out what happens once we leave is the real challenge. And it would be nice if the candidates took 30 minutes out of their months of campaigning to tell us what they plan to do.

(P.S. Sorry, I can’t tell you how committed John McCain is to Iraqis displaced by the war. His campaign won’t return my phone calls or emails.)

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‘Please, Please Stop’

Posted on May 19, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Crime, Immigration, International.

South Africans have killed at least 22 foreigners and terrorized many times more in the past week as a wave of xenophobia washes over the country. See photos here. Anger against immigrants is not new to South Africa, but the violence rarely reaches this level.

Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu condemned the attacks: “Please stop. Please stop the violence now. This is not how we behave. These are our sisters and brothers. Please, please stop,” he said, as quoted in the Cape Times.

The violence has been targeted at refugees and immigrants who fled Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Somalia and other African nations to find safety and jobs in their new home. But South Africa itself has been struggling with 40 percent unemployment and rampant crime. Marketplace reporter Gretchen Wilson has a powerful story on how the violence is tied to the country’s economic problems.

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Workplace Raid Nets Americans

Posted on April 25, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Crime, Immigration.

A group of U.S. citizens and greencard holders are pissed off after immigration agents - on a raid for undocumented workers - entered their job site, blocked the exits, didn’t let them use their cellphones and detained them for 45 minutes. A civil rights lawyer, Peter Schey, filed 114 federal claims for damages on their behalf yesterday.

The raid, which took place February 7 at Micro Solutions Enterprises in Van Nuys, California, led to the arrest of 138 undocumented immigrants.

Putting aside the immigration issue, and whether workplace raids are effective, humane or good public policy, the rights of the U.S. citizens and greencard holders caught up in the raids poses a fascinating debate. Should all citizens and permanent residents, if they have not committed a crime, be allowed to go to work, do their job and mind their own business free of nuisance? Do law-abiding citizens have a right to work in peace and quiet? A right to not have to provide identification, be harassed by federal agents or explain their immigration status? A right to not be searched or detained for no reason? Isn’t that the point of the fourth amendment?

Or is working in peace and quiet a privilege that ICE agents can take away if necessary? Maybe upholding immigration law is more important than the right to some privacy at the office.

Schey said the raid violated his clients’ fourth amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure and was therefore unconstitutional. Listen to a discussion with Schey on KPCC Patt Morrison today. (I intern for the show.)

Schey said 300 people were detained and kept in a state of fear and confusion. “People were told they could not use the bathroom. People were told they could not use their cellphones,” he said. “In essence, they were locked down until they were questioned by ICE agents regarding their status and their citizenship.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the search was fair because the agents had a warrant and followed all the rules. Steven Camarota, the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, said there are plenty of circumstances in which people not accused of a crime are affected by law enforcement activities. For example, if an officer storms into your friend’s house during a drug bust, and you just happen to be over visiting, you can’t simply get up and leave. He said to Patt Morrison: “If you are in a home, if you are in a business, in which dozens of people all around you are violating the law, and they come in with a legitimate warrant signed by a judge, they are going to detain you. “

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