21 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


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Obama immigration reform speech

Jimmy Ortiz, 8, holds a candle during a candlelight vigil after watching the nationally televised announcement of US President Barack Obama on immigration reform. Photograph: Ringo Chiu/AFP/Getty Images

Barack Obama: ‘We are and always will be a nation of immigrants’

Most far-reaching aspect of executive action involves giving undocumented migrants who are parents of US citizens the chance to come out of the shadows

Barack Obama used a heartfelt televised address  to the nation on Thursday to explain his decision to enact sweeping immigration reforms that will shield from deportation almost five million people currently living in the country illegally.

In an emotional broadcast from the White House, the president unveiled controversial executive action that will make millions of undocumented migrants eligible to live and work in what Obama described as “a nation of immigrants”.

He urged America to show compassion to newcomers who entered the country illegally but have worked hard and put down roots yet still “see little option but to remain in the shadows or risk their families being torn apart”.

“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?” he asked. “Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms?”

The address was a passionate and unapologetic attempt by the president to explain one of the boldest and most contentious decisions of his six-year presidency………………………………..


bolivian dreamers

Bety Andrade and her daughter, Hareth Andrade. Photograph: Zacarias Garcia/ for the Guardian

Two families watched Obama’s immigration speech together – but the president’s plan only helps one

The Andrade and Vaca families watched Barack Obama announce a plan to shield five million people from deportation. Their reactions were very different

Less than five miles from the White House, where Barack Obama’s address to the American people seemed full of political certainties, the randomness of US immigration policy is all too apparent in a small suburban sitting room.

Like so many others this time in the evening, it has the television on. Children are returning from school basketball games. Pizza is being ordered for visiting friends. Two neighbouring families share stories of long hours and high hopes.

In most respects, the people here have as much in common with each other as they have with the rest of this country. Ingrid Vaca, a 51-year-old divorced cleaner from Bolivia, is there with her two handsome sons: Gustavo, 21, and Diego, 19. Next to her sits Betty Andrade, a 46-year-old Bolivian-born nanny, and her two eldest daughters: Hareth, 21, and Haziel, 16.

Both families have been living in the Washington area for well over a decade after entering the country on tourist visas. They have been brought together by a shared fight to have their US-educated children recognised under the law.

Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program in 2012 had transformed the lives of these so-called Dreamers. Social security numbers and driving licences meant the Vaca boys were able to drive and take up a soccer scholarship at a local college. Hareth Andrade channeled her relief at not having to return to a country she barely knew into a national campaign against the deportation of her father, Mario, whose sudden arrest for drink-driving plunged the Andrade family into panic last year.

But their reaction to Obama’s speech on Thursday offering similar temporary legal status to 5 million older undocumented migrants is coloured by one important difference between the two families: the Andrades have a third child, 10-year-old Claudia, the basketball player, who was born at the local Children’s Hospital.

In the president’s speech, which the families watch silently side by side, Obama portrays his decision to include parents of US citizens – Betty and Mario – but not parents only of Dreamers – like Ingrid – as an attempt to chart a rational course between two unpalatable extremes.


The Andrade and Vaca families watching President Obama addressing the country.

“Mass amnesty would be unfair,” he says. “Mass deportation would be impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability – a common sense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”

Many immigration experts suggest a less deliberate drawing of the line. “If you look closely at the advice he got from government lawyers, this was basically as far he could go,” says Edward Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Including parents of citizens and green card holders was deemed to be lawful executive action; extending it to parents of those who already got relief under Daca would have required action from Congress.”

But whatever the reason, and however much the compromise had been signalled in careful White House leaks over the preceding 24 hours, those watching had still hoped for a last-minute change of heart.

“I am happy for my friends, but it’s just not fair,” say a sobbing Ingrid as her shell-shocked sons try to comfort her. “We have lived here for many years. We work hard. We pay taxes. We follow the rules. We try to be good people. We are human beings also. We want to live free, but I still feel scared.”

Many critics who are opposed to the relaxation of US immigration rules might look at Ingrid’s case with limited sympathy – after all, there are many around the world who would like to work here who do not break their visas and settle without documents in this way.

But Ingrid also fits perfectly the description given by Obama during one of the more emotional portions of his speech: “Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system, where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?”

For 14 years, this single mother who trained as a teacher in Bolivia has done the only work she can find without papers. Often, from 6am to 10 or 11 at night, she has been out cleaning the houses of Washington’s policymakers and public servants – usually three houses a day, on her own.

The Andrade and Vaca families at home.

“Sometimes I was crying. It was very lonely. Sometimes I’d get home and I was just too tired to eat,” says Vaca, who has nonetheless spent thousands of dollars putting two sons into college and also found time to petition various members of Congress and Virginia’s attorney general as a campaigner.

For six of those years, she was unable to drive because of a lack of paperwork, catching two buses and a train into town and carrying her vacuum cleaner in a rucksack. Even when she did manage to get a driving license by providing a false address in Maryland, which has less strict rules than Virginia, she lived in fear of being pulled over by police, like her friend Mario Andrade.

But whereas Mario and his wife can now dream of a stable life – perhaps even one day returning to their careers as accountants and architects – Ingrid remains in limbo, waiting for another president, or for Congress to make a different speech.


Sohair al-Bata'a, who died after being subjected to female genital mutilation

Sohair al-Bata’a, who died after being subjected to female genital mutilation in Egypt

Egypt’s first female genital mutilation trial ends in not guilty verdict

Dr Raslan Fadl and father of girl who died during the procedure have been acquitted, dashing hopes for a nationwide crackdown

The first doctor to be brought to trial in Egypt on charges of female genital mutilation (FGM) has been acquitted, crushing hopes that the landmark verdict would discourage Egyptian doctors from conducting the endemic practice.

Raslan Fadl, a doctor and Islamic preacher in the village of Agga, northern Egypt, was acquitted of mutilating Sohair al-Bata’a in June 2013. The 12-year-old died during the alleged procedure, but Fadl was also acquitted of her manslaughter.

No reason was given by the judge, with the verdict being simply scrawled in a court ledger, rather than being announced in the Agga courtroom.

Sohair’s father, Mohamed al-Bata’a, was also acquitted of responsibility. Police and health officials testified that the child’s parents had admitted taking their daughter to Fadl’s clinic for the procedure…………………….


Curtis Boyd and his wife Glenna Halvorson-Boyd

Curtis Boyd and his wife Glenna Halvorson-Boyd: ‘These women who come to us are not idiots. They take this seriously. They think about it. They don’t wake up and say, “I’ll brush my teeth and go have an abortion.”’ Photograph: Justin Clemons for the Guardian

I can’t think of a time when it was worse’: US abortion doctors speak out

Curtis and Glenna Boyd have worked in US abortion clinics ever since Roe v Wade made the practice legal in 1973. Forty years on, restricted rights mean they have to practise under FBI protection

A couple emerge from a silver Sedan into an empty parking lot in north-eastern Dallas, Texas.  They are carrying multiple bags and an elegant, three-tiered white cage, temporary home to their West African parrot, Tutu. The pair, in their late-60s and 70s, share a courtly, gentle manner and a Southern drawl, although his is more pronounced.

It is a Sunday morning, and the smart brick and smoked-glass clinic they have parked outside is closed. There are none of the protesters who, in the US, have come to signal the type of healthcare provided here: from the religiously motivated to abuse-hurling zealots, who gather outside abortion providers, particularly in the Bible belt. It is difficult to imagine the couple, Curtis Boyd, a silver-haired preacher-turned-physician, or his wife, Glenna Halvorson-Boyd, a psychologist and counsellor, on an FBI watch list as potential domestic terrorism targets. But they are…………………….


Riot police escort demonstrators during a protest over the 43 missing students in Mexico City .

Riot police escort demonstrators during a protest over the 43 missing students in Mexico City . Photograph: Carlos Jasso/Reuters

Demonstrators march on Reforma Avenue during a protest in support of 43 missing Ayotzinapa students in Mexico City.

Mexicans in biggest protest yet over missing students

Rocks, fireworks and gasoline bombs thrown at officers as demonstrators press government to find 43 students


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