Tag: foreign policy

Thousands of Iraqi Refugees Overwhelm Arab Community Service Agencies in Detroit

Arab community groups in Detroit that stepped up to help thousands of Iraqi refugees settle in the area now say they are overwhelmed by the task of assisting them. They also say they get little to no support from the local, state or federal governments.

Feeling Disrespected: Poles React to Obama’s Shift on Missile Defense

When the Obama administration recently announced its decision to scrap the Bush-era plan for an anti-missile shield based in Poland and the Czech Republic many Poles were not surprised. It simply confirmed what they had been expecting.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski meets with reporters in New York. Photo Karolina Szczepanska

Polish President Lech Kaczynski meets with reporters in New York. Photo Karolina Szczepanska

Last fall then-President-elect Obama expressed doubts about the system, and members of the Polish community in the U.S. anticipated that he wouldn’t feel obligated to respect agreements signed in 2008 by the previous administration.

“The US has its own problems now and they do whatever is best for them,” said Grazyna Bulka, east coast director of a Chicago-based shipping company, Polamer Inc. Bulka feared the system would have infuriated Russia, and was relieved to

learn that it had been abandoned.

“Poles love America so much and the U.S. really doesn’t care about us much,” lamented Emilia Sroczynska, a small business owner from Brooklyn, who favors the anti-missile system. “They remember us only when they need us, but they abandon us as soon as they don’t. To me it’s just another disappointment.”

Whether they supported or opposed the Bush plan to place ten ground-based interceptors on Polish soil, many agreed that Obama’s decision to scrap the deal proved that the U.S. considers Poland a second-class ally.

But what truly embittered Poles was the timing of the announcement, widely interpreted either as ignorance or insensitivity to Poland’s history by the Obama administration. (more…)

U.S.-Cuban Immigration Talks Resume, Outlook Unclear

By Maibe Gonzalez Fuentes, FI2W contributor

After six years of stalled negotiations, the U.S. and Cuba have started talking again about immigration issues affecting the two countries.

A meeting held Tuesday at UN headquarters in New York City is the most recent signal from the Obama administration that Washington wants to set a new tone with Havana. In April, the administration lifted restrictions on Cuban immigrants that wish to visit or send remittances to the island.

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Tuesday’s encounter was the first time Cuban and U.S. diplomats sat at the same table to talk about immigration issues since President George W. Bush suspended the negotiations in 2003.

Bush had cited failures by the Cuban government to honor previous immigration accords such as ensuring that Cubans with U.S. visas obtain permission to leave Cuba, and that Cubans who have fled the island and are caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally are accepted back by the Cuban government and treated justly.

A brief statement issued by the U.S. State Department after yesterday’s meeting said that it, “reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to promote safe, orderly, and legal migration.” (See the full text below) (more…)

Videos

Where is Their Vote? Iranian-Americans in New York Join the Debate over Iran’s Contested Election

By Aditi Anand, Feet in 2 Worlds

As turmoil continued in Iran over last month’s contested presidential election, several hundred people gathered in New York City’s Union Square last Wednesday for a vigil in support of those protesting the vote’s results. The vigil was organized by the NYC arm of Where is My Vote, an Iranian diaspora organization, largely over Facebook and other social media sites.

Participants dressed in green or wearing green armbands lit candles, stood behind large swaths of green fabric and held signs reading, “Where is My Vote?” and “RIP Neda”— the latter in reference to Neda Soltan, whose gruesome death was seen around the world after she was reportedly gunned down by pro-government forces during protests in Tehran.

Many in the crowd chanted “Down with the dictator” in English as well as other slogans in Farsi.

Watch video footage of the vigil:

(more…)

Change Comes… at Least Internationally: Cuba Will Discuss Immigration With the U.S.

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

Cuba-pa-pa! by Brainless Angel/Flickr

Photo: Brainless Angel/Flickr

If some parts of the Democratic constituency –civil rights groups, for example– are starting to doubt President Barack Obama’s commitment to real change, Latin America is continuing to see signs that its relationship with the U.S. may be altered in the next months and years.

Cuba has agreed to restart talks with the United States on migration and other issues, an openness from both sides that seemed unthinkable less than five months ago, when there was another tenant in the White House. The talks, in fact, were suspended under President George W. Bush in 2003.

The Washington Post reports this morning that

Cuba has agreed to restart talks with the United States on immigration and has signaled its willingness to cooperate on issues including terrorism, drug trafficking and even mail service, a sign that the island’s communist government is warming to President Obama’s call for a new relationship after decades of tension, U.S. officials said Sunday.

(more…)

Illinois Congressman Asks Obama to Add Poland to Visa Waiver Program

Rep. Mike Quigley (D.-Ill.), a newly elected congressman from Chicago, has wasted no time in addressing a key concern of the Polish community in Illinois’ 5th district.

Last Friday, Quigley called on President Barack Obama to support Poland’s plea for inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program — a matter we reported on last week.

Poland has proven to be an indispensable ally in the global campaign against terrorism,” wrote Quigley in a press release.

Including Poland in the Visa Waiver Program will have positive security, economic, and bilateral effects.

In addition, there are thousands of Polish-Americans in my district alone who would benefit by making it easier to have a loved one visit them, not to mention the local businesses that would benefit from tourism dollars.

We owe it to a country that has stood by us, and to the people who would like to visit the United States.

Quigley, a former member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, won the special election held on April 7, 2009 to replace Rahm Emanuel after he vacated the seat in order to serve as Obama’s White House Chief of Staff.

One of Quigley’s rivals in the race was Victor Forys, a Polish immigrant who, despite the large percentage of Polish Americans in the 5th district (17% of all residents), ended up fourth in the special Democratic primary.

Goal of Visiting the U.S. Without a Visa Still Eludes Poles

In recent years, the Polish government stood by the U.S., strongly supporting President Bush’s war on terror by sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, and agreeing to install parts of an American missile defense system in its territory.

As a demonstration of U.S. gratitude, Poland hoped to be included in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which would allow Polish citizens to enter the U.S. as tourists or for business purposes for up to 90 days without having to first obtain a visa. But despite extensive negotiations between representatives of both governments Poland’s dream has not come true, and the chances of Poland joining the program anytime soon are very slim.

Biometric systems to verify travelers identities could help Polands chances of entering the Visa Waiver Program. (Photo: E. Kern-Jedrychowska/Polish Daily News)

Biometric systems to verify travelers' identities could help Poland's chances of entering the Visa Waiver Program. (Photo: E. Kern-Jedrychowska/Polish Daily News)

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Latin American Leaders, Media Hail New Relationship With the U.S.

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
Western Hemisphere presidents pose for the Summit of the Americas official photo. (Photo: AFP)

Western Hemisphere presidents pose for the Summit of the Americas' official photo. (Photo: AFP)

Four years ago, President George W. Bush arrived in Mar del Plata, Argentina, escorted by U.S. Navy ships and hounded by thousands of demonstrators who rejected a U.S. initiative to create a hemispheric free trade zone. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Bolivian then-presidential candidate Evo Morales joined football star Diego Maradona and the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in a parallel demonstration that filled a soccer stadium with anti-Bush, anti-U.S. slogans.

This past weekend, the Summit of the Americas met in the Caribbean island of Trinidad and the mood was much calmer. When it was over, many in the Latin American news media joined their nations’ leaders in hailing what they described as the start of a new era in inter-American relations.

Latin American columnists this morning confirmed the consensus emerging from Trinidad over the weekend: the region is ready for a rapprochement with the U.S.

“Few times had a gringo president arrived in a summit of the American continent like Barack Obama did last Friday in Trinidad and Tobago,” Colombian newsweekly Semana said. “The president had solved a great number of the things his Latin American colleagues were going to ask from him.” Semana mentioned Obama’s statements in favor of immigration reform, his vows to help Mexico fight drug cartels and last week’s softening of U.S. policy towards Cuba.

(more…)

Obama to Mexico: Let's Work Together

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

MEXICO CITY — Even before he landed in Mexico City today to begin a two day visit, President Obama had already sent a strong message to Mexicans via one of the capital city’s most influential newspapers.

 

El Universal 041609“Years of Progress, At Risk: Obama”  That was the headline this morning on the cover of El Universal, announcing an op-ed article penned by Obama, which ran simultaneously in several countries in newspapers belonging to the Grupo de Diarios de América consortium.

In the piece, the president acknowledges that the U.S., distracted “by other priorities,” has on many occasions “neither sought nor maintained relationships with its neighbors.”

…our progress is directly linked to progress in the whole American continent. My government has committed to the promise of a new day. We will renew and sustain more extensive relationships between the United States and the hemisphere.

(more…)

Drug Wars, Immigration on the Agenda as Clinton Heads South: Mexico Hails "New Age Of Cooperation" With U.S.

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

One day after the U.S. announced it will beef up security along its southern border, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Mexico today to discuss drug-related violence and economic issues. Clinton’s counterpart, Patricia Espinoza Castellano, said at a Mexico City press conference yesterday that the American measures are “coherent with the fight against organized crime.”

Mexico's Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinoza - Photo: AP

Mexico's Foreign Minister Patricia Espinoza. (Photo: AP)

Clinton’s visit comes in advance of a trip by President Barack Obama himself, who will travel south in April to meet Mexico’s head of state, President Felipe Calderón. In response to news of growing drug cartel-related violence in Mexico –and recently in some American cities close to the border– the Obama Administration seems determined to engage and cooperate much more closely with Mexico than the Bush Administration did.

The security measures announced yesterday include sending more immigrations, customs, anti-drug and gun law enforcement officers to the border. In response Espinoza, the Mexican foreign minister, expressed hope for a renewed, closer relationship with Mexico’s northern neighbor.

Espinoza added that the security issue will feature prominently during Clinton’s visit, which she called the start of “a new age of cooperation between both governments.”

She also stated that her government will talk to Clinton about U.S. immigration policies. “We have insisted on an end to raids and to the separation of families (through deportations),” she said. (more…)