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JAN. 6, 2018

COVER STORY

COVER STORY

2017 Top Stories; A Turbulent, Divisive Year

By Edwin QUINABO

#1 Trump is president: January 20, 2017, was a defining point in U.S. history, a day of reckoning when perhaps the greatest salesman of our generation, Donald Trump, became the 45th president of the United States. His election -- unequivocally the top news story of the year -- gave rise to startling populism that widened the rift between white America, particularly disenfranchised whites, and everyone else on the margin: women, blacks, immigrants, Latinos, Asians, Muslims, the LGBT community in the most divisive way unseen in decades. Prior to this TV reality star’s ascent to the most powerful seat in the free world, there

already existed stark socio-political polarization among wide sectors of American society; but Trump has taken this division and exploited it to new, dangerous levels that continue to unravel the fabric of national unity.

Trump has never stopped campaigning; never made a transition as his predecessors, Republican or Democrat, to become a president for “all the people” of the nation. But realistically, how could he? -- given the radical right agenda he ran on that is so far right-wing, that even the likes of the KKK and white supremacists feel safe in this political environment to come out of the shadows as the world saw in Charlottesville, Virginia.

His version of “Make America Great Again” has not been simple rhetoric. His initiatives are turning back progress, rolling back policies in attempt to recreate an America of the 1950s, and earlier, to a time with far less immigrants of color.

#2, #3, #4 Barrage of anti-immigrant policies: POTUS has used nationalism (America-first) as a blunt tool to hammer into the American psyche the legitimization of xenophobia.

Policy-wise, this translated to the creation of Travel bans 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 (and counting), the RAISE Act, and the repeal of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program which were all deeply troubling to immigrants and immigrant advocates. These controversial initiatives, all covered extensively by the Chronicle each as cover stories, collectively put a stamp on 2017 as the year of anti-immigration.

Travel Ban: Trump signed by way of executive order the first Travel ban on January 27. Shortly after signing it, chaos erupted as hundreds of travelers were detained by custom agents at U.S. airports. Many of the detainees had a legal right to enter the U.S. as green card holders or students and workers with U.S. visas. But they were sent back to their country of origin because their country appeared on Travel Ban 1.0 that prohibited admission to the U.S. all non-U.S. citizens from seven predominately Muslim countries -- Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.

Trump claimed national security as the reason behind the Travel ban, assuring the public that it was not a ban on Muslims.  Immigrant advocate groups, the ACLU and states quickly sued the Trump administration. Hawaii joined those suing and cited that the Travel ban favored one religion over another in violation of the First Amendment, and that it denies protection of the law by discriminating based on national origin.

University of Hawaii professor Patricio Abinales worried about the scope of the ban. “I know the executive order only targets selected countries. But this could easily be expanded to other countries and broadly interpreted.”

What Abinales and others feared turned out to be right as Travel ban 2.0 and 3.0 added and deleted countries from the list and expanded the time limitation from 30 days to indefinitely. Travel ban 1.0 failed in the courts and was rewritten to exclude legal visa-holding immigrants from entering the U.S. even if they are from banned countries. The U.S. Supreme Court granted that the latest Travel ban be in effect while the courts decide on pending legal challenges.

RAISE Act: While the Travel bans received tons of press coverage, the introduction by the GOP and support by POTUS of the 2017 RAISE Act had the potential for far more sweeping consequences on immigration. The RAISE Act was stalled in Congress this time around; but it remains on Trump’s “to-do” list and anti-immigration PACs (Political Action Committees) continue to put out advertisements against certain forms of legal immigration. What the RAISE Act proposes is to cut legal immigration by half; do away with immigration via extended families ties, the largest way of entrance into the U.S.; and emphasizes a merit-based points-system of entry where English proficiency is required and high levels of education.  Curiously, the number of entry by this merit-based system would not be raised from current levels. So, the end goal is really to reduce legal immigration; and the Trump administration is deceptively selling immigration reform to the public as going after the best and quality immigrant candidates.

Trump called the RAISE Act, “the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century,” adding “this legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.”

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect called the RAISE Act an “ethnic purity test that harkens to the worst in world history.”

The National Immigration Forum said the country is already projected to face a work force gap of 7.5 million jobs by 2020. “Cutting legal immigration for the sake of cutting immigration would cause irreparable harm to the American worker and their family,” said Ali Noorani, the group’s executive director.

As if barring visitors from select countries via Travel bans and proposing to reduce immigration by 50 percent via the RAISE Act weren’t damaging enough to immigrants in 2017, the year also saw increased hiring of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents, more arrests and massive deportations of undocumented aliens. There is also the ongoing push for the building of a southern border wall which some critics believe is more symbolic of anti-immigrant sentiments than practical.

DACA rescinded: Arguably the most egregious attack on immigrants this year is the Trump administration’s rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on September 2017. About 800,000 signed up for the DACA program which allowed undocumented immigrants who came into the country as minors (mostly as young children) to receive a two-year deferred action from deportation. Because DACA was scrapped by Trump, these individuals, often referred to as Dreamers, now face deportation unless Congress comes up with legislation to address this subgroup of undocumented.

Earlier in the year, POTUS suggested that DACA would remain intact and that Dreamers could breathe a sigh of relief. At that time, Charlene Cuaresma, vice president of the Filipino American Citizens League said, “Rather than fixing and improving our broken immigration system, President Trumpʻs erratic positions and statements create tremendous fear, stress, confusion and mistrust for DACA students and their families. DACA students who are allowed to complete their college education stand to be an asset for their families and the economy with the likelihood of increasing their earning potential.”

Come September, Trump changed his mind, caved in to political pressure from his far-right base, and squashed the Dreamers’ dream of staying in the country by rescinding DACA. U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-Ca) said, “Every single day that we don't pass the Dream Act, is another day these young people have to live in fear. Congress must pass the DREAM Act now.”

#5 Martial Law in the Philippines: The biggest news to come out of the Philippines in 2017 is the declaration of martial law. Gun battles erupted between Philippine government forces and the Islamist militant group Maute in Marawi City, Mindanao at 2 p.m., May 23. By evening the same day, the government said that 14 hostages were taken, including a Catholic priest, parts of the city of 200,000 were controlled by insurgents, including the Amai Pakpak Medical Center, City Hall, and Marawi City Jail. Other facilities -- the Dansalan College and Saint Mary’s Church -- were set ablaze. Residents throughout the city reportedly heard multiple explosions. Marawi was under siege. At least 21 people have been reported killed in the initial violent outbreak. Within a few days casualties have risen as high as 200 dead and 70,000 residents displaced. On the same day of the insurgency, President Rodrigo Duterte declared at 11:30 p.m., martial law not just in Marawi City, but the entire Mindanao.

Urged on by Duterte, the Philippine Congress recently voted to extend martial law for another year in Mindanao to combat insurgent groups. The latest figure shows more than 1,100 people dead and half a million displaced. The number of fatalities and displaced skyrocketed in just seven months.  While Philippine polls show that a majority are in favor of martial law in Mindanao; a majority do not support an expansion of martial law to other parts of the country.

#6, #7, #8 Senior issues: Like immigrant issues, the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle covered senior-related issues extensively in 2017, presenting cover stories on the Kupuna Caregivers Program, the proposed Physician Assisted Suicide bills at the State Legislature, and updates to Medicare.

The Kupuna Caregivers Program was a momentous victory for seniors and their family caregivers. The program, the only one of its kind in the nation, received mass support by the community and legislature. Governor David Ige signed HB 607 into law in July 2017, appropriating $600,000 to establish the program. The program helps working families care for their elderly member by providing a $70 a day stipend to go towards adult day care, caregiving supplies, chore services, transportation, or respite help. To qualify for the program, caregivers must be working at least 30 hours per week and provide direct care to a recipient who is a U.S. citizen, 60 years of age or older (needing care), and not be covered by other comparable care services, government or private.

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