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July 4 Brings Mixed Feelings for Some Minority Communities in USA

July 4 is Independence Day of USA How do you celebrate during what some people of color consider troubling times?

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Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a spiritual leader of the Great Sioux Nation puts on his headdress for an interfaith ceremony at the Oceti Sakowin camp where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D. As cities and towns host July 4th parades and fireworks shows, some minority residents are expressing mixed feelings about the holiday used to reaffirm the country's founding based on equality and civil liberties. VOA

As many in the United States celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, some minorities have mixed feelings about the revelry of fireworks and parades in an atmosphere of tension on several fronts.

How do you celebrate during what some people of color consider troubling times?

Blacks, Latinos and immigrant rights advocates say the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, recent non-convictions of police officers charged in the shootings of black men, and the stepped-up detentions of immigrants and refugees for deportation have them questioning equality and the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the United States.

Filmmaker Chris Phillips of Ferguson, Missouri, says he likely will attend a family barbecue just like every Fourth of July. But the 36-year-old black man says he can’t help but feel perplexed about honoring the birth of the nation after three officers were recently cleared in police shootings.

FILE - Protestors rally during a Black Lives Matter demonstration, July 10, 2016, in Cincinnati. More than a thousand protested against the shootings of black men by police officers.
Protestors rally during a Black Lives Matter demonstration, July 10, 2016, in Cincinnati. More than a thousand protested against the shootings of black men by police officers.

Police shootings

Since the 2014 police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, officer shootings — of black males in particular — have drawn scrutiny, sparking protests nationwide. Few officers ever face charges, and convictions are rare. Despite video, suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted last month in the shooting of Philando Castile, a black man. The 32-year-old school cafeteria worker was killed during a traffic stop July 6, almost a year ago.

“Justice apparently doesn’t apply to all people,” said Phillips, who saw the protests that roiled his town for weeks following Brown’s death. His yet-unreleased documentary “Ferguson 365″ focuses on the Brown shooting and its aftermath. “A lot of people have lost hope.”

Unlike Phillips, Janette McClelland, 55, a black musician in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said she has no intention of celebrating July Fourth.

“It’s a white man’s holiday to me. It’s just another day,” McClelland said. “I’m not going to even watch the fireworks. Not feeling it.”

McClelland, who grew up in Los Angeles before the urban unrest of the 1960s, said she fears cities may see more violence amid a feeling of helplessness. “I’m praying and trying to keep positive,” she said.

FILE - protesters rally outside a federal courthouse in Detroit. Protesters rallied in hopes public outcry will again delay the deportation of Jose Luis Sanchez-Ronquillo from the United States to Mexico.
protesters rally outside a federal courthouse in Detroit. Protesters rallied in hopes public outcry will again delay the deportation of Jose Luis Sanchez-Ronquillo from the United States to Mexico.

Immigration

Immigration was a key issue during the presidential campaign for both parties. Since then, President Donald Trump’s administration has stepped up enforcement and instituted a scaled-back partial travel ban that places new limits on entry to the U.S. for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries. The temporary ban requires people to prove a close family relationship in the U.S. or an existing relationship with an entity like a school or business. On Friday, the administration announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would arrest people — including relatives — who hire smugglers to bring children into the U.S. illegally.

Patricia Montes, a Boston resident and immigrant from Honduras, said she’s grateful for the opportunities and security the United States has given her. Yet this year, she doesn’t know how to approach the Fourth of July holiday.

“I fell very conflicted,” said Montes, an immigrant advocate. “I mean, what are we celebrating? Are we celebrating democracy?”

Montes said it pains her to see children fleeing violence get turned away and deported back to Central America without due process. She also is disturbed by recent immigration raids in Latino and Muslim communities that spark more fear and uncertainty.

In Texas, Latino activists have been protesting a state law that forces cities and towns to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. In New Mexico and Michigan, immigrant advocates have been rallying on behalf of Iraqi refugees facing deportation.

“There’s a lot not to be proud about when celebrating the Fourth of July,” said Janelle Astorga Ramos, a University of New Mexico student and daughter of a Mexican immigrant. “Even though it’s a time to celebrate as a country and (for) our unity, it’s definitely going to be on the back of our minds.”

Despite those problems and concerns, Ramos said her family will recognize the holiday and visit Elephant Butte, New Mexico, a popular summer destination. “This is our home,” Ramos said.

Isabella Baker, a 17-year-old Latina from Bosque Farms, New Mexico, said she’ll celebrate the holiday based on her own views of patriotism.

“More people are standing up because of the political climate,” Baker said. “That makes me proud.”

America Indians and their supporters protest outside of the White House, March 10, 2017, in Washington, to rally against the construction of the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline.
America Indians and their supporters protest outside of the White House, March 10, 2017, in Washington, to rally against the construction of the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Pipeline protest

For months, members of the Standing Rock Sioux were at the center of a protest against an oil pipeline in North Dakota. A protest camp was set up. The tribe said the Dakota Access oil pipeline plan could pose a threat to water sources if there was a leak and cause cultural harm. Police made more than 700 arrests between August 2016 and February 2017. The Trump administration approved the final permit for the $3.8 billion pipeline, which began operating June 1. The pipeline moves oil from western North Dakota to a distribution point in Illinois. Four Sioux tribes are still fighting in federal court to get the line shut down.

Ruth Hopkins, a member of South Dakota’s Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe, said Native Americans have always viewed the Fourth of July with ambivalence, and this year will be no different.

However, there will be celebrations.

Her Lake Traverse Indian Reservation holds an annual powwow on July 4 to honor veterans as a way to take the holiday back, she said.

“Also, a lot of people up here use fireworks and the holiday to celebrate victory over Custer for Victory Day,” said Hopkins, referring to Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse defeating George Custer and his 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Still, the holiday comes after tribes and others gathered in North Dakota to support the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its fight against the pipeline, Hopkins said. Because of that, water and land rights remain on peoples’ mind, Hopkins said.

Gyasi Ross, a member of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation and a writer who lives on the Port Madison Indian Reservation near Seattle, said all the tensions this Fourth of July are a blessing because it has awakened a consciousness among people of color.

“The gloves are off,” Ross said. “We can’t ignore these things anymore.”

However, Ross said he wants his young son to be hopeful about the future. They will likely go fishing on the Fourth of July.

“I still worry about getting shot or something like that,” Ross said. “All this stuff is so heavy to be carrying around.” (VOA)

Next Story

U.S. President Donald Proposes Deal To End Shutdown

A spokesperson for Pelosi's office said the trip would have provided "critical national security and intelligence briefings"

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Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks about the partial government shutdown, immigration and border security in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, in Washington, Jan. 19, 2019. VOA

In a bid to end the monthlong partial shutdown of the U.S. government, President Donald Trump on Saturday offered Democrats compromises on his hard-line immigration policies, but they were knocked down by the opposition party even before he spoke.

“We hope they will offer their enthusiastic support, and I think many will,” Trump said of the Democrats. “The radical left can never control our borders. I will never let it happen.”

In his remarks, broadcast live from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room, Trump called for 2,750 more federal agents for immigration control and $5.7 billion for a steel barrier covering 370 kilometers (230 miles) of the border with Mexico.

“It is time to reclaim our future from the extreme voices who fear compromise and demand open borders,” Trump said. “That is why I am here today to break the logjam.”

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Migrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Central America queue at the Paso del Norte International Bridge in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, to cross the border and request political asylum in the United States, Jan. 9, 2019. VOA

Pair of programs

Trump offered compromises on two programs his administration has targeted for elimination: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from some Latin American and African nations.

The bipartisan Bridge Act would allow 740,000 immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children, often referred to as Dreamers, to keep their work permits and hold off deportations for three more years if their permits have been revoked.

That plan has been strongly opposed by some prominent conservative commentators.

Shortly before Trump spoke, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the offer a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives that were “unacceptable” and said the president’s proposal was “not a good-faith effort.”

“It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a nonstarter. For one thing, this proposal does not include the permanent solution for the Dreamers and TPS recipients that our country needs and supports,” Pelosi added in her statement.

Nancy Pelosi, USA, Trump
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 17, 2019. VOA

U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, tweeted: “We will never allow a shutdown as a negotiating tactic. Need to reopen government first.”

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, an Alabama Republican, chastised his Democratic Party colleagues in the House for rejecting Trump’s proposal even before the president announced it, saying Trump “keeps trying to negotiate and Democrats just keep saying no.”

Trump said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, would bring his proposed legislation to the floor next week in order to “immediately reopen our federal government.”

The president made his announcement shortly after he attended a naturalization ceremony in the Oval Office for five new American citizens, highlighting his support for legal immigration.

Trump’s proposal reportedly stems from a Thursday night meeting involving his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner; Vice President Mike Pence; and McConnell to craft an outline for legislation that could win sufficient approval from opposition lawmakers.

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is surrounded by reporters as he returns from meeting with President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders at the White House, to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 2, 2019. VOA

McConnell has resisted any immigration-related bills being introduced in the Senate that the president would not agree to sign in advance.

‘Time to make a law’

In a statement released after Trump’s speech, McConnell said, “Everyone has made their point — now it’s time to make a law. I intend to move to this legislation this week.”

There had been speculation Trump might declare the situation on the southern border a national emergency, giving him a face-saving way to end the government shutdown that could prove both politically and economically costly, while maintaining the backing of his core supporters.

Later, several top administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, spoke with a small group of reporters at the White House.

Mulvaney cautioned that while declaring a national emergency “is still a tool that is available to the president,” it is not the preferred route.

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A man looks out at the U.S. border where workers are replacing parts of the U.S. border wall for a higher one, in Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 19, 2018. VOA

The president faces pressure from his conservative base not to compromise on immigration issues. Some influential commentators, who are hard-liners on border security, have warned Trump that trading amnesty for wall funding could cost him re-election in 2020 because he would lose support.

Pence denied the criticisms, saying, “This is not an amnesty bill.” He said the proposal was for a three-year reprieve for DACA recipients and would not grant citizenship or permanent residency to any of the immigrants affected.

Trump has repeatedly insisted he needs $5.7 billion in taxpayer funding to extend a wall along the U.S. southern border with Mexico.

The Democrats, who control the House but not the Senate, have offered more than $1 billion in new money for border security, but none specifically for a wall. Democratic sources say the money will be included in a packet of spending bills the House will consider next week — $524 million to improve ports of entry and $563 million to hire more immigration judges.

The impasse over the wall and the record-long government shutdown also led to a dispute between Trump and Pelosi over her plans to travel to Afghanistan.

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An Air Force bus waits on the plaza of the Capitol after President Donald Trump used his executive power to deny military aircraft to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just before she was depart to visit troops abroad, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 17, 2019.. VOA

‘Very irresponsible’

Pelosi accused the White House on Friday of leaking information about her planned trip to fly commercially to Afghanistan after Trump denied Pelosi the use of a military plane for the trip.

Pelosi said it was “very irresponsible on the part of the president” to release details about her sensitive travel plans, which the State Department said significantly increased the security threat on the ground.

The White House denied leaking Pelosi’s flight plans.

Trump on Thursday had revoked the use of a military plane for Pelosi and Democratic members of Congress for their planned trip to Afghanistan to visit U.S. troops and to Brussels to take with NATO leaders. In a letter to the speaker, the president said that “in light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay [as a result of the shutdown], I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate.”

Also Read: U.S. President To Address The Nation Regarding The Shutdown

A spokesperson for Pelosi’s office said the trip would have provided “critical national security and intelligence briefings” as well as served as an opportunity for Pelosi to thank the troops.

The president’s letter did not directly address Pelosi’s call Wednesday for Trump to delay his scheduled Jan. 29 State of the Union address until government funding was restored and the shutdown ended. (VOA)