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Dominican Republic President Medina Speaks About Ending Constitutional Nightmare Over Haitian Citizenship

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COMMENTARY

Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

Should we accept the word of the President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina when it comes to ending the abusive treatment of Haitians in the DR?

Because we want to see a speedy and positive change to the current odious impasse between Dominicans and Haitians over the constitutional rights of the latter in the DR our first reaction was to answer in the affirmative. But until President Medina spells out in detail the solution he has in mind we are adopting a wait-and-see attitude to his pledge to introduce a naturalization law in the National Assembly, one that would eliminate the concerns of Haitians, many of whom were born in the DR and know no other country than the Spanish-speaking republic.

In a two-hour long speech the other day, President Medina promised to act in a way that would ease the concerns of Haitians who were told almost six months ago by the Constitutional Court in Santo Domingo that they weren’t entitled to citizenship. The DR’s head of state said he would take steps to end the citizenship nightmare but unfortunately, he didn’t provide a timetable to end the crisis and he kept the steps he plans to take close to his chest.

Actually, Medina used the occasion of the 170th anniversary of his country’s independence from Haiti to give the grand assurance, not simply to Haitians but to the international community. The trouble is that Medina knows better than most that his country has a lot to lose, economically, socially and otherwise if changes aren’t made to the law there and if the court’s decision was implemented.

As a matter of fact when the Constitutional Court ruled last September that tens of thousands, perhaps more than 100,000 children of Haitian parents weren’t entitled to DR citizenship, the international reaction was revulsion in and out of the United Nations, the Caribbean Community, the Organization of American States and the European Union.

The idea that Haitian families, some of whom were living in the DR since 1929 would be suddenly become stateless persons in their birthplace was so offensive that it triggered international outrage on human rights grounds alone. The fallout from the ruling can harm the DR’s relations with its neighbors, especially the members of Caricom which decided that the Dominican Republic wouldn’t be allowed to join the regional group if it didn’t reverse the Court’s decision.

In its folly, court ruled that anyone born to undocumented parents couldn’t be considered Dominican, a decision that was made retroactive to 1929. The ruling can’t be appealed to any higher legal or executive authority, conveniently ignoring the DR’s obligations to Haitians under international human rights laws.

Medina gave the OAS a solemn promise that he would do something about the situation and one of his diplomatic representatives in Washington gave a similar assurance to the Western Hemisphere’s top decision-making arm the Permanent Council.

Anything that falls short of restoring the full rights of Haitians would be totally unacceptable. After all thousands of Dominicans who are undocumented immigrants in the U.S. enjoy the rights their birthplace is seeking to deny to Haitians. Dominicans who came to the U.S. and later became undocumented immigrants have children who were born in New York, Miami, Boston and other cities and towns they enjoy American citizenship by virtue of their birth in the U.S., yet the DR’s court didn’t think twice before denying Haitians their birthright of citizenship. In effect, the court ruled that it was alright for Dominicans in the U.S. to become citizens but Haitians in a similar condition in the DR should not. That’s unconscionable and hypocritical.

Aria Maria Belique, who belongs to a movement that it is working to protect the rights of people affected by the court’s decision reacted, quite sensibly when she describe the situation as being quite “absurd. How are you going to take away a document that I already have, that is mine and give me the one as a foreigner when I have never been outside of the country?”

The United Nations Refugee Agency was quite clear about absurdity of the situation when it stated quite plainly that “should this process indeed be carried out without the necessary safeguards, three generations of Dominicans of Haitian descent could become stateless.” Medina and his administration can’t pretend they don’t understand the message being sent.

In the meantime, Haitians remain fearful that despite the nice sounding words and promises of Medina the change wouldn’t be made. For one thing, the nightmare spawned by the court decision fits into a pattern of inequalities and abuses Haitians have suffered in the DR for decades. For another at the heart of the court decision is the social exclusion the court decision is intended to accomplish.

What all of this comes down to is that by its own actions in the past and up to now, the Dominican Republic’s credibility is virtually non-existent, the emperor has no clothes. Realistically, it is the fear of being hit with sanctions from the EU, a possible reduction in assistance, and the blot on its international reputation that are both driving Medina to give an appearance of a willingness to compromise. It’s certainly not being propelled by a genuine desire to allow Haitians to remain in a country they call home.

Gun Violence Aimed at Black Males Triggers Concern

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Several new studies confirm what most people have suspected all along: No group is harmed more by gun violence than young Black males.

“While 13 percent of Americans are black, in 2010, 65 percent of gun murder victims between the ages of 15 and 24 were black,” revealed a report by the Center for American Progress (CAP). “Forty-two percent of the total gun deaths of individuals in this age group were of black males.”

This trend has continued, the report noted, even as crime rates decline.

Another report on gun violence by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) mirrors the CAP findings.

“Between 1963 and 2010, 59,265 Black children and teens were killed by guns – more than 17 times the recorded lynchings of Black people of all ages in the 86 years from 1882 to 1968.”

The Children’s Defense Fund study also reported that, “Black males ages 15-19 were nearly 30 times more likely to die in a gun homicide than White males.”

Yet another study on Black homicides in the United States by the Violence Policy Center, shows that 8 percent of Black homicide victims never reached their 19th birthday and the average age of Black homicide victims was just 30 years old.

But the numbers tell only part of the story.

“More than 1 million years of potential life are lost due to gun deaths each year,” the CAP report found. “These are years of life that young people killed by guns would have achieved educational milestones, entered the workforce, had families, and contributed to the social, economic, and cultural advancement of society in untold ways – all erased by gunfire.”

Neill Franklin, a 34-year law enforcement veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, said that the proliferation of guns in the Black community is directly linked to the growth of illegal drug markets there and the failed War on Drugs.

Franklin worked as a narcotics agent early in his career and is now the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit group of current and former law enforcement members that advocate for reform in existing drug policies in the United States. Franklin said that guns were tools of the trade for managing the drug territories.

Franklin said that there’s no major drug organizations controlling drug traffic in the cities anymore, just little independent drug dealers on the corners fighting for market share and the “stick up boys” robbing the drug dealers.

Part of the violence can be attributed to the way disputes are settled on the streets.

“Now whenever there is a dispute of any type, whether it’s over a girl or something that someone said, or if somebody’s shoe gets stepped on, the way to settle that argument is with a gun,” explained Franklin.

Add the easy availability of guns to that dangerous mix and the problem is compounded.

According to a report by the Children’s Defense Fund on youth gun violence “virtually anyone can buy a gun without a background check.”

A loophole in the federal law governing gun sales allows private sellers, even on the Internet, to peddle guns without submitting the buyer to a background check.

“In 2009, undercover stings at gun shows in Nevada, Ohio and Tennessee revealed that 63 percent of private sellers sold guns to purchasers who stated that they would be unable to pass a background check,” stated the CDF report.

It also found: “A 2011 study of internet gun sales found that 62 percent of sellers agreed to sell a gun to a buyer who said he probably couldn’t pass a background check.”

Researchers say that this is how guns often make it onto the black market – literally and figuratively – and it’s also the reason why many gun control advocates support background checks for every gun sale.

A law mandating universal background checks on all gun sales enjoys nearly unanimous support (92 percent) among with 18-29 year-olds.

According to the CAP report, 60 percent of people under the age of 30 were concerned that gun violence would affect them “personally or their communities in the future.” For people of color under 30 years old, that concern jumped to 73 percent.

“A vast majority of Americans support this idea: that every gun sale should have a background check,” said Chelsea Parsons, associate director of Crime and Firearms Policy at the Center for American Progress. “Without that, it’s meaningless to say that certain categories of people can’t buy guns.”

Although Franklin supports background checks on gun sales, he said that handgun laws don’t have anything to do with the massive gun violence in the Black community in cities like Baltimore.

“Criminals don’t care about the law,” said Franklin “They buy their guns illegally. They pay twice or triple what the gun is worth, because they have the money, because they are selling dope. These laws that we’re passing are only going to affect law-abiding citizens.”

Franklin said that background checks don’t get to the root of the problem: the continued drug war waged in our nation’s poorest communities.

The drug scene often attracts urban youth because they aren’t many attractive alternative economic opportunities for them, said Caroline Fichtenberg, research director for the Children’s Defense Fund.

“A smart, Black boy living in Southeast, Washington, D.C. may see the drug economy as the best way to get money and to be recognized as someone who has accomplished something,” said Fichtenberg. “And that is something we absolutely must change.”

Fichtenberg said that reducing the availability of illegal guns, teaching children that violence is not the way to resolve conflicts, making long term investments in communities and improving educational and economic opportunities for poor communities are just a few of the steps needed to change the tide of rampant gun violence that disproportionately affects young Blacks.

Franklin said that ending the drug war is paramount to stemming the tide of gun violence among Black youth.

“We have to end this drug war, we have to end drug prohibition,” said Neill Franklin, a 34-year law enforcement veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit group of current and former law enforcement members that advocate for reform in existing drug policies in the United States. “That’s going to halt the cycle of mass incarceration of sending all these young boys to prison. Once we end the drug war, we have to take some of the money that we’re not spending on cops and court rooms and prisons and we have to beef up these organizations that have these wonderful mentoring programs.”

Franklin continued: “If we don’t start now, outlining a long term plan to deal with these children and their families, beginning with ending the drug war, we’re going to continue to lose generation after generation. It’s been decade after decade after decade. We should know that by now.”

Black and Brown Inmates Herded into Private Prisons

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Although private schools are often lauded for providing a better education to students, the same can’t be said of private prisons, which house a disproportionate number of people of color, according to a report published in the latest issue of Radical Criminology, an online scholarly journal.

“The overrepresentation of people of color in private prisons indicates they are disproportionately siphoned away from public prisons – precisely the types of facilities that provide the greatest access to educational and rehabilitative programs and services,” the report states. “People of color continue to be seen in the national imagination as sources of profit extraction and not necessarily as citizens deserving of public services.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 137,220 offenders were serving time in private facilities, a 55 percent increase over the previous decade.

“One thing that came out of [the data analysis] was that there are fewer rehabilitative programs and educational services available in for-profit facilities, relative to public facilities,” says Christopher Petrella, a doctoral candidate in African American Studies at University of California-Berkeley, and the author of the report. “So when those two trends collide [racial segregation and fewer programs], it begs a variety of questions.”

One has to do with the use of health and age stipulations in private contracts that directly leads to overrepresentation of Blacks and Hispanics in privatized correctional facilities.

More than a half million Black Americans aged 18 to 49 were in public and private state or federal prisons as of 2010, compared to 396,600 Whites, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Among inmates age 50 and older, however, White inmate population exceeds their African American counterparts.

“… Private prison management companies responsible for providing health services exempt themselves contractually from accepting and housing prisoners with chronic medical conditions as well as those whose health care costs will be ‘above average,’” the report states. “This fact results in a prisoner profile that is far younger and far ‘darker’ in minimum and/or medium security private facilities than in select counterpart public facilities. In fact, the states in which the private versus public racial disparities are most pronounced also happen to be the states in which the private versus public age disparities are most salient.”

The most recent data available from the BJS counted 415 privately owned correctional facilities across the country (as of 2005), all engaged in state and/or federal contracts. Today, the two corrections firms with the most beds (Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group, Inc.) own and/or manage 125 of those facilities, and more than half of the state and local contracts in the United States.

For-profit prisons often cap the amount they will spend on inmate care. Contractual terms with state and local corrections departments explicitly obligate states to funnel older and/or less healthy offenders into state-run facilities, thereby not subtracting from the bottom line of private facilities.

For example, a contract between the Mississippi Department of Corrections and Management & Training Corporation states: “ [MTC] will not be responsible or liable for providing counseling and/or mental health programs. MTC will not be responsible or liable for providing medical, mental health, optometry, pharmaceutical, dental, or similar services. MDOC shall provide security and control of inmates for outpatient needs and /or hospitalization.”

A 2012 ACLU report estimates that it costs $34,135 per year to house a non-elderly inmate. That figure literally doubles for inmates over 50 years old, who require extra care, even without a chronic or age-related condition.

“Therefore, age and health serve as dual proxies for race when explaining the persistent racial disparities in private versus public facilities with similar population profiles,” according to the report.

Meanwhile, privately owned prisons continue to make headlines for financial mismanagement, violence, abuse, and civil rights violations. In a class-action lawsuit filed last year, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center described “barbaric” conditions at a Mississippi facility managed by Management & Training Corporation.

Because national data by race doesn’t exist yet, Petrella conducted his study by looking at the inmate populations of Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. These states each house more than 3,000 prisoners in private minimum or medium security facilities.

Oklahoma and Texas exhibit the most private to public racial disparity: 57 percent of inmates in Oklahoma’s private facilities are of color, compared to 44 percent in public facilities. In Texas, the split is 69 percent and 57 percent, respectively.

These states also have the most age disparity: 36 percent of inmates in Oklahoma’s public facilities are 50 years or older, compared to 11 percent in private facilities. In Texas, elderly offenders make up 37 percent of the state-run facility population, and 17 percent in private facilities.

Obama Tries to Add Substance to Black Male Initiative

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – No one had seen President Obama more emotional than last week when announced “My Brother’s Keeper,” a new initiative aimed at helping young Black men. He spoke from the heart, recounting the pain of not having his father in the home and not always putting his best foot forward.

Attention now shifts from an emotional announcement to follow-up. The details of the initiative have not been fully flushed out, but a memorandum President Obama signed launching the “My Brother’s Keeper Task Force” chaired by Broderick Johnson, the cabinet secretary and assistant to the president, provides a closer look into how the president plans to move forward.

According to White House officials, the task force is designed to:

 

  • Assess the impact of federal policies, regulations, and programs of general applicability on boys and young men of color, so as to develop proposals that will enhance positive outcomes and eliminate or reduce negative ones;
  • Recommend, where appropriate, incentives for the broad adoption by national, state, and local public and private decision makers of effective and innovative strategies and practices for providing opportunities to and improving outcomes for boys and young men of color;
  • Create an administration-wide “What Works” online portal to disseminate successful programs and practices that improve outcomes for boys and young men of color;
  • Develop a comprehensive public website, to be maintained by the Department of Education, that will assess, on an ongoing basis, critical indicators of life outcomes for boys and young men of color in absolute and relative terms;
  • Work with external stakeholders to highlight the opportunities, challenges, and efforts affecting boys and young men of color and
  • Recommend to the president means of ensuring sustained efforts within the Federal Government and continued partnership with the private sector and philanthropic community as set forth in the Presidential Memorandum.

 

Flanked by students from Being a Man (BAM), a Chicago-based program that teaches discipline, conflict resolution and offers mentoring, the president shared details of his life that all too-often mirror the experiences of young men of color. “I didn’t have a dad in the house,” said President Obama. “And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short.”

The president shared that he “grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving” and that he relied on a support network of family teachers and community leaders that many young Black men don’t have access to.

The president called on dozens of business leaders, nonprofit organizations and corporations to invest in and offer support for the initiative. The foundations pledged to invest $200 million over the next five years to lift up programs that are proven to work.

The president was joined by representatives of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The John and James L. Knight Foundation, The Open Society Foundations, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and The Kapor Center for Social Impact.

“From the White House, the president has been able to shine a light on issues that some of us have been working to address for decades,” said Shawn Dove, the manager for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement at the Open Societies Institute “It’s a clarion call for collaboration and to handle some of America’s unfinished business.”

Simmons College of Kentucky Wins Accreditation

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By Yvonne Coleman Bach
Special to the NNPA from the Louisville Defender

LOUISVILLE – Simmons College has become accredited as the first private Historically Black College and University in Kentucky and is only the second HBCU in the state, along with Kentucky State University, a public institution.

Simmons has just learned that it has been accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE).

“Simply put, accreditation is value,” explained President Kevin Cosby. “It is proof that Simmons has met national standards necessary to produce graduates who are prepared to enter into selected professions.” He explained, “The accreditation of Simmons College of Kentucky will have a ripple effect throughout west Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky and is the most monumental achievement, by African Americans, to take place in the state in the last 100 years.”

Most HBCUs were founded in the post-Civil War era, when Blacks were not allowed to attend college with Whites. Today, many private HBCUs are struggling to remain keep their doors open. Last summer, St. Paul’s College, a private Black institution in Lawrenceville, Va., ceased operating after being in existence since 1888. Its 35 buildings and 183 acres have been put up for public auction.

Simmons College sees itself in the opposite trajectory and will be a vital force for the community it serves.

Rev. F. Bruce Williams, chair of Simmons’ Board of Trustees, said the goal of the college is to “teach the unteachable and reach the unreachable.”

And there are plenty of needy people to reach.

The college is in west Louisville, in the heart of the 40203 zip code. With open enrollment, it targets students in zip codes 40203, 40210, 40211 and 40212. Those four zip codes contain a population of low-income, first generational college students with limited resources to attend college.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 76,399 people live within those zip codes, 15,184 being between the ages of 20 and 34. The unemployment rate for those in that age group ranges from 20.6 percent to 38.8 percent. In the 18 to 25 age group, 55 percent do not have a high school diploma.

Simmons College is a story of revival.

Founded in 1879 by former slaves as the Kentucky Normal and Theological Institute, Simmons College of Kentucky was the premier liberal arts institution for African Americans in the state. With law and medical departments, a teacher’s school and ministers’ studies, Simmons prepared a number of well-trained Black attorneys, physicians, teachers and ministers and emerged as a top choice for Kentucky’s Black middle class.

But like most Black colleges, it has recently struggled financially.

Under the leadership of President Cosby, who took the helm seven years ago, Simmons has taken several steps to restore it to its original prominence. In 2007, the college regained its original campus after 77 years and relocated to its original site. In 2010, the institution attained candidate status with national accreditor ABHE, making it immediately eligible to receive federal funds under Title IV.

It signed an articulation agreement with the University of Louisville and enjoys partnerships and agreements with Jefferson Community and Technical College, Spalding University and Campbellsville University. Simmons is a signature partner of the 55,000 Degrees, a community-wide effort to add 40,000 bachelor’s degrees and 15,000 associate’s degrees in the Louisville Community by 2020.

Rev. C. B. Akins, a Simmons Trustee, said “The time was right for Dr. Cosby to be at the helm of this school. If I told him he could not swallow an elephant, he would say, ‘I can if I take one bite at a time.’”

With the recent accreditation, Simmons is diversifying its curriculum with new Associates and Bachelor’s Degrees, starting with the 2014 fall semester. Four new degree programs will be added, including Associates Degree in General Studies, Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with the focus on entrepreneurship, Bachelors Degree in Communications with focus on cross-cultural communication and a Bachelors Degree in Sociology with the focus on lifelong wellness. In 2015, Simmons plans to reopen its West Campus, located in the most destitute and deprived area of west Louisville.

At the celebration last week announcing the accreditation, Carl Thomas, executive director of the Gheens Foundation, presented a check to the college for $2 million.

“The Gheens Foundation applauds the work of Simmons College of Kentucky and its desire to bring about transformational change in west Louisville,” said Thomas. “We hope our gift will encourage others to give to this important work taking place at Simmons.”

Also joining the celebration were Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY), State Senator Gerald Neal and Metro Council President Jim King.

Senator Paul said, “What an exciting day.” He said he was proud to be a part of the ceremony, acknowledging Simmons as an Integral part of Louisville and Kentucky.

Yarmuth borrowed a quote from Vice President Joe Biden, saying, “This is a big deal.”

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