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The Valor of Hispanic vets

Our freedoms were not for free. Maintaining the freedoms that our forefathers fought to achieve in 1776 is a constant effort. As we approach the Fourth of July, I want to highlight our veterans who have, more than any other group, sacrificed to ensure those very freedoms.  In particular, I want to focus on the sacrifices of our Latino veterans whose contributions rarely get the attention they deserve.

Throughout our nation’s history, Hispanics have been proud to serve, fight and in many instances have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.  In fact, Hispanics have fought in every U.S. conflict from the American Revolution to the war in Afghanistan and have received at least 44 Medals of Honor. Undoubtedly, many more deserve such recognition.

For example, during WWI even in the face of blatant discrimination, Hispanic enlisted servicemen served their country with distinction. Such is the case with Private Marcelino Serna. Serna was personally responsible for capturing 24 German soldiers. In recognition, he was awarded with the Distinguished Service Cross, the French Croix de Guerre, the Victory Medal with three bars and two Purple Hearts. Private Serna was an undocumented immigrant who loved this country.

During WWII, the contributions of Hispanic Americans were also well noted.  The Arizona National Guard Unit made up of mostly Hispanic soldiers fought with such distinction that General MacArthur referred to them as “the greatest fighting combat team ever deployed for battle.” In addition, the 141st Regiment of the 36th Texas Infantry Division, which included many Spanish-speaking Americans, was recognized for service and valor. Remarkably, the members of this Regiment were awarded with 31 Distinguished Service Crosses, 12 Legion of Merits, 492 Silver Stars, 11 Soldier’s Medals, 1,685 Bronze Stars, as well as numerous commendations and decorations.  Finally, there were multiple Hispanic recipients for the Medal of Honor for WW2.  

 During the Korean War, 43,434 Puerto Rican soldiers served in the 65th Infantry Regiment. For their service, the infantry received the Presidential Unit Citation, a Meritorious Unit Commendation and two Republic of Korea Unit Citations. Certain members within this infantry also received four Distinguished Service crosses and 124 Silver Stars. As commander of the 65th Infantry Regiment, General W. Harris later described the courageous efforts of this group, “No ethnic group has greater pride in itself and its heritage than the Puerto Rican people. Nor have I encountered any that can be more dedicated and zealous in support of the democratic principles for which the United States stands. Many Puerto Ricans have fought to the death to uphold them.”

During the Vietnam War, approximately 170,000 Hispanic-Americans served in Vietnam, incurring a disproportionally high percentage of casualties.

During the 1990s, 20,000 Hispanic servicemen and women enlisted for Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  Army Chaplain (Capt.) Carlos C. Huerta of the 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery stated that “Hispanics have always met the challenge of serving the nation with great fervor. In every war, in every battle, on every battlefield, Hispanics have put their lives on the line to protect freedom.”

For LULAC, ensuring our veterans receive the benefits and care they need is an integral part of our mission. As a result, the LULAC National Convention from July 4 to the 8 will provide detail workshops and a town hall on the following topics: a discussion of the “Choice” program which allows veterans the use of their own physician when they are unable to be seen by their VA physician; information on burial benefits, as well as, the compensation and claims process which can be difficult to navigate; challenges and fears for green card veterans; and a town hall where veterans can discuss a variety of issues related to the VA.

The 88th LULAC National Convention will also highlight the efforts by the LULAC Veterans Program.  Specifically, this year LULAC sponsored 10 Vietnam commemoration events around the country honoring Vietnam veterans for their service.

We’re able to celebrate and enjoy the 4th of July because brave men and women have fought and sacrificed for our continued freedoms.  Thus, I hope as your family prepares to enjoy the fireworks, picnics and gatherings with friends and family that you give some thought and thanks to all veterans and in particular Hispanics veterans who have fought so hard so that we can celebrate the 4th of July.



Media reaps dividends from Trump attacks

Media reaps dividends from Trump attacks

Cable news outlets are pulling huge ratings and reporters are becoming overnight celebrities as the attacks between President Trump and the media enters strange new territory.

The Trump White House has agitated for the fight, believing that every day it spends feuding with the media exposes further press bias and energizes the conservative base.

But Trump’s claim that MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski was “bleeding” from a “face-lift” unified the media, with anchors from Fox News to CNN expressing outrage at the president’s tweets and pointing to them as evidence that the press should not treat Trump like a normal president.

Trump again sent the media into a fury over the weekend when he tweeted a doctored videoshowing him at a fake wrestling match body-slamming someone with the CNN logo over their face. Reporters accused Trump of encouraging violence against the press.

The relationship between the White House and the media is in shambles, with the daily press briefings devolving into shouting matches and airing of grievances. Both sides engage in stunts, grandstanding and political theater meant to undermine or embarrass the other.

The White House has long viewed attacking the media, dubbed “the opposition party” by chief strategist Stephen Bannon, as a winning strategy. But the nasty turn has also been a boon to the media and the individual reporters who register acts of protest against the administration.

“Ratings are part of it, but the media’s open contempt for this administration is part of it too,” said Tim Graham, the director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center. “I imagine it will continue as long as the ratings keep going up.”

Left-leaning MSNBC pulled big numbers as the only network in open opposition to the president, even before the spat between Trump and the “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Brzezinski engulfed Washington.

According to Nielsen’s second quarter ratings, MSNBC’s total viewers are up 73 percent year-over-year, with primetime viewership up 86 percent, easily making it the fastest growing cable news outlet.

Anchor Rachel Maddow has become a cultural icon on the left while also attracting a younger audience of viewers. MSNBC’s share of the coveted 25 to 54 demographic grew 78 percent in primetime over last year. Their primetime audience has nearly tripled since second quarter of 2014.

Scarborough said over Twitter that his show had a record month for ratings.

CNN, meanwhile, is running third in the cable wars. Journalistically, the network has had a rough stretch, with retraction-related dismissals, sting videos showing producers expressing frustration with the network’s editorial decisions and allegations of bias coming from the right.

But CNN has still grown 25 percent in total viewers and 10 percent in primetime year-over-year. The network’s deep well of contributors and political talkers ensures that the Trump Show is always rolling.

It’s a stark departure from the pre-Trump era, when sagging ratings provoked a move away from breaking news and political programming. As recently as 2014, CNN was airing “Dirty Jobs”, “America’s Most Wanted”, or “Our America with Lisa Ling” in the primetime 9 o’clock hour.

Some media watchers are growing alarmed by the increasingly antagonistic approach some in the press are taking. But most expect it will continue as long as the feuding with Trump attracts new viewers.

“The news world is reaping some short-term benefits from the running battle with Trump, but this is really a short-sighted and ultimately losing strategy,” said Jeffrey McCall, a media critic and professor at DePauw University. “Sure, it's sensational and somewhat entertaining, but it makes the media look small and petty. Media credibility is quite low and most news consumers aren't going to sympathize with the news industry, even when Trump makes boorish attacks.”

Fox News is still the front-runner in the cable wars, despite shake-ups that roiled both its primetime line-up and executive suites. 

Fox’s audience grew 19 percent between 8pm and 11 pm, as viewers tune in to watch Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity rail against the news media on a nightly basis.

Feuding with Trump has also become a profitable endeavor for many individual reporters, with viral video clips and tweets opening new doors for previously little-known journalists.

Taking on the White House worked for Brian Karem, an editor for a regional newspaper in the Washington suburbs.

Karem was little-known before Tuesday, when a video of him lecturing White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders over press access went viral.

Less than a week later, he has nearly 80,000 followers.

After his exchange, Karem made the cable news rounds to call Sanders a bully. He sat for scores of interviews with print and online outlets, where he claimed the nickname “honey badger” — a supposedly fearless animal — and said members of the press corps had likened him to legendary reporters Sam Donaldson and Helen Thomas.

Left-leaning outlets have held Karem up as a hero, although the episode cemented in the minds of many conservatives that reporters want to use the briefings to make their names by grandstanding against the administration.

That’s a point press secretary Sean Spicer made in explaining why fewer press briefing would be televised.

Other reporters have had similar experiences.

Veteran White House reporter April Ryan, who has been covering the White House for 20 years and has long been one of the most respected journalists in the press corps, scored a contributor position on CNN this year after several high-profile dust-ups with Trump and Spicer.

CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta has become the face of the resistance inside the briefing room, ranting against the administration on the air and on social media. 

Acosta’s antagonistic tweets have gone viral amid the furor over the White House decision to take the briefings off-camera. Frustrated with the lack of camera access, Acosta began to tweet pictures of his socks — the only things in the briefing, he wrote, that he was allowed to show on camera.   

But Acosta has drawn scorn from many conservatives, who say he is grandstanding and making himself the story.

“In honor of the Fourth of July, let's save all our fireworks for Tuesday,” Sanders said at the start of Friday’s press briefing.

The frenzy and eagerness to capitalize on what some in media have dubbed the “Trump Effect” has led to some sloppy journalism.

CNN admitted that it did not follow protocol in pushing out a story alleging that a Trump associate had improper ties with a Russian bank. The network had to retract the story, while the three journalists responsible for it resigned.

That latest CNN embarrassment came after a story authored by some of the network’s top talent, including anchor Jake Tapper and political analyst Gloria Borger, was retracted after it was directly contradicted by public testimony from former FBI director James Comey.

In his testimony, Comey also said that a New York Times bombshell story alleging Trump officials had colluded with Moscow was totally false and that most reports on the matter should not be trusted.

Those incidents have emboldened the White House, with Trump’s allies in conservative media saying the mainstream media is nothing but “fake news.”

Now, some on the left, like Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi and Intercept founder Glenn Greenwald, are sounding the alarm. Both argued this week that media outlets are behaving recklessly in covering the Russia investigation, which has driven much of the coverage on CNN and MSNBC.

“Over and over, major U.S. media outlets have published claims about the Russia Threat that turned out to be completely false — always in the direction of exaggerating the threat and/or inventing incriminating links between Moscow and the Trump circle,” Greenwald wrote. “In virtually all cases, those stories involved evidence-free assertions from anonymous sources that these media outlets uncritically treated as fact, only for it to be revealed that they were entirely false.” 






Trump Will Add Cuba To List Of Obama Achievements He’s Taking Apart

A Miami speech is set for Friday to announce changes to the relaxation of tourism and trade rules. To the list of things former President Barack Obama did that President Donald Trump is undoing, go ahead and add Cuba. Two and a half years ago, Obama, with great fanfare, announced an easing of the decades-long travel and trade restrictions on the island nation’s authoritarian regime, arguing that the policies had not worked and were only punishing ordinary Cubans.

At a speech Friday afternoon in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, Trump is expected to reverse at least some of Obama’s changes, despite public opinion nationally and even among Cuban-Americans that shows support for more ties with Cuba, not fewer.

“I’ve never seen a coalition this broad and it have no influence,” said Marguerite Rose Jiménez, who helped craft the Obama policy at his Department of Commerce and is now with the Washington Office on Latin America advocacy group. “This is not a move that’s supported by a majority of the Cuban-American community.”

But it is supported by the veterans of the failed 1961 CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow Fidel Castro. The group endorsed Trump last fall, becoming one of the few Latino organizations to support the Republican nominee.

“The president was honored and humbled,” said a senior administration official who, along with two other officials, explained the coming policy Thursday on the condition that their names would not be used. The official said that Trump promised the group he would restore tougher restrictions and that his actions fulfill that promise.

Specifically, the changes to be announced Friday would eliminate a provision that Americans have used to visit Cuba on their own. They would also make it illegal for Americans to do business with entities controlled by the Cuban military or intelligence services. This would prohibit individuals from staying at state-owned hotels and would ban U.S. businesses from trading with state-controlled enterprises.

“That would be our guiding principle,” said a second administration official, who added that the policy would be lifted if Cuban President Raúl Castro institutes reforms including free elections and the release of political prisoners.

Trump’s new policy will not prevent U.S. travelers from bringing back Cuban rum and cigars or stop airlines and cruise ships from offering routine service. It would also not restore the immigration advantage Cuban refugees have had for decades if they managed to reach dry land in the United States ― the “wet foot, dry foot” policy.

Nor will Trump’s policy restrict visits by Cuban-Americans to their relatives or reverse the reopening of formal diplomatic ties, the second official said. “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle 100 percent,” the official said.

The crackdown on travel will end what had become an easy way for Americans to visit Cuba: Declare an individual “people-to-people” educational exchange. A third administration official said group trips will still be permitted for cultural visits and charitable efforts but that the crackdown would make sure visitors are actually fostering closer ties with the Cuban people “and not just drinking daiquiris on the beach.”

Supporters of Obama’s changes, while grateful Trump does not plan to reverse everything Obama did, nevertheless criticized the policy as a step in the wrong direction. Jiménez said that the way the Cuban economy is structured, with so many enterprises tied to the military, blocking trade with entities connected to the Cuban military would basically block trade, period.

“That’s a backdoor way of effectively stifling all commerce,” she said.

Toward the end of his campaign last year, Trump promised to help the people of Cuba stand up to their government and to make a “good deal” with Castro to replace the bad one he said Obama had made.

We’re on the wrong side of history when it comes to this.Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.)

Little Havana is home to much of the one constituency that continues to favor a hard line toward Cuba: the older generation of refugees who left in the 1960s and ’70s following Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution overthrowing the U.S.-backed dictator.

That generation’s children and grandchildren are much more inclined to support Obama’s moves to increase tourism and trade opportunities with the island as a way of building a society that will bring democratic and human rights reforms.

A national poll of Cuban-Americans at the time Obama’s policies were announced in December 2014 showed 47 percent to 39 percent support for easing sanctions. Four months later, support had grown to 56 percent to 35 percent.

One prominent Cuban dissident, though, argued that, while he had initially supported Obama’s new policy, he has concluded that it is not working.

“Reality has proved otherwise,” wrote José Daniel Ferrer García, general coordinator of the Cuban Patriotic Union, in an open letter to Trump. “Castro’s tyranny has been benefiting from the good will of the US government without giving up a bit in their repressive attitude.”

Arrayed against Ferrer and Little Havana’s community of hard-line emigres are a host of human rights and pro-engagement groups. The U.S. business community has also long supported ending the sanctions because of the opportunities presented by a new commercial market so close to Miami.

“All the business entities have made their views known to the administration,” said Pedro Freyre, a Miami lawyer who has worked with a number of clients with interests in Cuba, including a handful of cruise lines.

Polling also shows overwhelming support in the general public for easing the restrictions. In a recent Morning Consult poll conducted for Engage Cuba, 65 percent of voters nationally support the Obama policy, while only 18 percent oppose it.

Engage Cuba’s Madeleine Russak acknowledged an enthusiasm gap in those numbers, however. Those who support the more relaxed rules don’t feel that strongly about it, while the pro-embargo side is passionate, she said.

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), who like many Republicans from rural states supports lifting restrictions that make it harder to export agricultural products to Cuba, said Trump has not been well-served by listening to a small group of pro-embargo lawmakers.

“We’re on the wrong side of history when it comes to this,” Emmer said.

Trump, like many Republicans, promised his supporters to undo much of what Obama was able to accomplish over two terms. Trump is pushing legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature achievement. He is working to scrap Obama’s Clean Power Plan to restrict carbon emissions, trying to undo workplace rules, repeal banking regulations and is withdrawing the United States from a near-unanimous international agreement to combat climate change.




Exclusive: Trump targets illegal immigrants who were given reprieves from deportation by Obama

In September 2014, Gilberto Velasquez, a 38-year-old house painter from El Salvador, received life-changing news: The U.S. government had decided to shelve its deportation action against him.

The move was part of a policy change initiated by then-President Barack Obama in 2011 to pull back from deporting immigrants who had formed deep ties in the United States and whom the government considered no threat to public safety. Instead, the administration would prioritize illegal immigrants who had committed serious crimes.

Last month, things changed again for the painter, who has lived in the United States illegally since 2005 and has a U.S.-born child. He received news that the government wanted to put his deportation case back on the court calendar, citing another shift in priorities, this time by President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration has moved to reopen the cases of hundreds of illegal immigrants who, like Velasquez, had been given a reprieve from deportation, according to government data and court documents reviewed by Reuters and interviews with immigration lawyers.

Trump signaled in January that he planned to dramatically widen the net of illegal immigrants targeted for deportation, but his administration has not publicized its efforts to reopen immigration cases.

It represents one of the first concrete examples of the crackdown promised by Trump and is likely to stir fears among tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who thought they were safe from deportation.

While cases were reopened during the Obama administration as well, it was generally only if an immigrant had committed a serious crime, immigration attorneys say. The Trump administration has sharply increased the number of cases it is asking the courts to reopen, and its targets appear to include at least some people who have not committed any crimes since their cases were closed.

Between March 1 and May 31, prosecutors moved to reopen 1,329 cases, according to a Reuters' analysis of data from the Executive Office of Immigration Review, or EOIR. The Obama administration filed 430 similar motions during the same period in 2016. (For a graphic:

Jennifer Elzea, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed the agency was now filing motions with immigration courts to reopen cases where illegal immigrants had "since been arrested for or convicted of a crime."

It is not possible to tell from the EOIR data how many of the cases the Trump administration is seeking to reopen involve immigrants who committed crimes after their cases were closed.

Attorneys interviewed by Reuters say indeed some of the cases being reopened are because immigrants were arrested for serious crimes, but they are also seeing cases involving people who haven't committed crimes or who were cited for minor violations, like traffic tickets.

"This is a sea change, said attorney David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "Before, if someone did something after the case was closed out that showed that person was a threat, then it would be reopened. Now they are opening cases just because they want to deport people."

Elzea said the agency reviews cases, "to see if the basis for prosecutorial discretion is still appropriate."


After Obama announced his shift toward targeting illegal immigrants who had committed serious crimes, prosecutors embraced their new discretion to close cases.


Between January 2012 and Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20, the government shelved some 81,000 cases, according to Reuters' data analysis. These so-called "administrative closures" did not extend full legal status to those whose cases were closed, but they did remove the threat of imminent deportation.

Trump signed an executive order overturning the Obama-era policy on Jan. 25. Under the new guidelines, while criminals remain the highest priority for deportation, anyone in the country illegally is a potential target.

In cases reviewed by Reuters, the administration explicitly cited Trump's executive order in 30 separate motions as a reason to put the immigrant back on the court docket. (For a link to an excerpted document:

Since immigration cases aren't generally public, Reuters was able to review only cases made available by attorneys.

In the 32 reopened cases examined by Reuters:

--22 involved immigrants who, according to their attorneys, had not been in trouble with the law since their cases were closed.

--Two of the cases involved serious crimes committed after their cases were closed: domestic violence and driving under the influence.

--At least six of the cases involved minor infractions, including speeding after having unpaid traffic tickets, or driving without a valid license, according to the attorneys.

In Velasquez's case, for example, he was cited for driving without a license in Tennessee, where illegal immigrants cannot get licenses, he said.

"I respect the law and just dedicate myself to my work," he said. "I don't understand why this is happening."

Motions to reopen closed cases have been filed in 32 states, with the highest numbers in California, Florida and Virginia, according to Reuters' review of EOIR data. The bulk of the examples reviewed by Reuters were two dozen motions sent over the span of a couple days by the New Orleans ICE office.


Sally Joyner, an immigration attorney in Memphis, Tennessee said one of her Central American clients, who crossed the border with her children in 2013, was allowed to stay in the United States after the government filed a motion to close her case in December 2015.

Since crossing the border, the woman has not been arrested or had trouble with law enforcement, said Joyner, who asked that her client's name not be used because of the pending legal action.

Nevertheless, on March 29, ICE filed a two-page motion to reopen the case against the woman and her children. When Joyner queried ICE, an official said the agency had been notified that her client had a criminal history in El Salvador, according to documents seen by Reuters.

The woman had been arrested for selling pumpkin seeds as an unauthorized street vendor. Government documents show U.S. authorities knew about the arrest before her case was closed.

Dana Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said that revisiting previously closed matters will add to a record backlog of 580,000 pending immigration cases.

"If we have to go back and review all of those decisions that were already made, it clearly generates more work," she said. "It's a judicial do-over."



Trump leaves three words out of his Saudi Arabia speech

President Donald Trump gave a highly-anticipated address to Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia during his first trip abroad on Sunday. One phrase candidate Trump repeated countlessly on the campaign trail was missing: "radical Islamic terrorism."

Trump stressed the need to build a coalition to address a "crisis of Islamic extremism," but neglected to use the charged keystone of his campaign trail rhetoric in his speech to 50 Middle Eastern leaders.

Before his victory and after taking office, Trump repeatedly bashed former President Barack Obama and then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for not using the phrase. As a candidate, Trump argued that Obama's insistence not to use the term to refer to terrorist attacks committed in the name of groups like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda showed he wasn't well-equipped to fight terrorism.

In the past, American presidents, diplomats, and foreign policy experts have argued that it hurts the US' goals abroad and undermines Muslim allies.

On Sunday, Trump largely stuck to the script, closely following the prepared remarks that the White House sent out before his speech, refraining from riffing like he so often did at campaign rallies.

"This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations," Trump said at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh. "This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil."

Announcing a new center to combat the financing of terrorism, Trump emphasized the need for nations to collaborate to "honestly" confront "the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires." He also used the phrases "the Islamists" and "Islamic terror of all kinds."

The White House has characterized the trip as an effort to strengthen ties between the US and Middle East, and "reset" relations with the region.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster has also urged the president not to say "radical Islamic terrorism," arguing that militant groups like ISIS endorse a twisted view of Islam and that the phrase ultimately hinders US goals, according to CNN.

He also seemed to suggest that Trump would not be using the phrase during his speech. "The president will call it whatever he wants to call it," McMaster told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" on Saturday.

"But I think it's important that, whatever we call it, we recognize that [extremists] are not religious people," he continued. "And, in fact, these enemies of all civilizations, what they want to do is to cloak their criminal behavior under this fall idea of some kind of religious war."




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