latino wire

Noticias del Distrito 4.8.13

This special edition of District Wire News in Spanish covers the intensifying debate over immigration reform in President Barack Obama’s second term. Noticias del Distrito breaks down the most controversial reform proposals, including the elimination of certain family visas and a new temporary visa category for low-skilled workers. The show also weighs in on the Senate “Gang of Eight’s” long-awaited immigration bill. Alexia Campbell and Kenya Downs produced the newscast, with writing, video and graphics by Vivian Roussel and Natalie Plumb.

Noticias del Distrito  4.2.12

In this special segment, District Wire News was produced in Spanish by Vanessa Haces-Gonzatti and anchored by Nadya Batson and Vanessa Haces-Gonzatti. This segment covers this Tuesday’s republican primaries, the hostages release in Colombia, a plane crash in Russia, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’ radiotherapy treatment in Cuba, and the upcoming meeting between presidents Jose Mujica and Dilma Rousseff, among other international news. There is also the start of the baseball season and a revival art performance in Washington.


Ozzie Guillen: Cuban-American Reaction

By Trey Dyer

April 2012-The Cuban-American community is still outraged about comments Miami Marlins manger Ozzie Guillen made about Fidel Castro.

In an interview with Time magazine, Guillen said he admired Fidel Castro and respects the former Cuban dictator for staying in power as long he did. This is not the first time Guillen has gone on record about his admiration for Castro.

 In September 2008, Rick Telander of national magazine Men’s Journal interviewed Guillen. During the interview, Guillen made similar comments about his admiration for Castro.

“He’s a bull—- dictator and everybody’s against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him,’’ Guillen said. “Everywhere he goes, they roll out the red carpet. I don’t admire his philosophy; I admire him.”

Following his comments, Miami Marlins management suspended Guillen five games. Guillen issued a public apology in a press conference on April 10.

“I’m sorry that I hurt the community without any intention,” Guillen said in Spanish as a man translated to the audience. “I’m here to say I’m sorry.”

Guillen said that his comments about Castro were misconstrued and that the meaning behind them were ‘lost in translation.’ English is the Venezuelan born Guillen’s second language.

“I don’t want to make excuses,” Guillen said. “But I meant that I was surprised Fidel Castro stayed in power so long. That’s what was missing in the translation. … I’m not saying the journalist was wrong. I was wrong. I was thinking in Spanish and I said it wrong in English.”

Even after Guillen’s apology and suspension, members of the Cuban-American community are still furious about the comments.

Marcos Marchena, a Cuban exile and attorney at the Marchena and Graham law firm in Orlando, FL could not believe Guillen’s comments when he first heard them.

“My first reaction was ‘what an idiot,’” Marchena said. “I can’t believe that he would make that kind of comment when he is making a living in a community that is filled with Cuban exiles, many of whom suffered at the hands of Castro’s henchmen and many of whom, most of whom, had to leave their country of birth because of that guy’s [Castro] brutality.”

Marchena also said that he did not agree with the five game suspension from Marlins managment and that Guillen should receive a more severe punishment.

“I thought it was pretty light,” Marchena said of the suspension. “I didn’t think that he ought to be fired. I think everybody gets an opportunity to make amends. Although I think Ozzie has had multiple opportunities in the past to make amends. But I thought the suspension should have been a little longer.”

While Marchena says Guillen should be able to keep his job, other Cuban-Americans say he should not. Ceasar Calvet, a Cuban exile who came to the U.S. through Operation Peter Pan, a program in the 1960’s where Cuban parents sent 14,000 children to Miami to save them from Castro’s tyranny, says Guillen should be fired.

“There is no way for him to redeem himself,” Calvet said. “He should lose his job over this.”

04.23.12 Latino Vote: Campaign 2012

By Maureen Chowdry

The Latino vote is up for grabs this campaign season. Mitt Romney is already targeting President Obama’s lack of focus on Latino issues, like immigration. We spoke to American University  School of Communication Professor, Rick Rockwell, about the impact of low voter registration this campaign season.

Rockwell, says that the Latino community is not as engaged this election year because of lack of support for Latino issues.

“There are several reasons why Latinos aren’t as engaged….Latinos have asked certain things from this President to deal specifically with the immigration issue and to be more involved in Latino affairs in America and even though I think they’re still supportive of the president…people are not [focusing] on registration,” Rockwell said.

President Obama launched a new ad campaign last week, with a series of videos of Latino supporters speaking in Spanish. The video also includes the President speaking Spanish as well.

Rockwell says that while the GOP will try and garner support, they’re more focused on preventing voter fraud.

“Truthfully…registration is not an area that republicans have been strong about. If anything the recent track record and the long track record of republicans is to prevent people from going to the polls. So the idea there is to make sure there’s not voter fraud and to check voters and that’s the republican strategy is to prevent people from going,” Rockwell says.

There is also the notion that Latinos favor Democrats over Republicans and therefore it is better strategy to prevent voter registration:

“And if you’re just playing the numbers game if more Latinos tend to vote as democrats then it’s best to prevent them to actually prevent them from getting to the polls,” Rockwell says.

The results from both party’s efforts will be more apparent over the summer, when registration is expected to increase.

04.23.12 Spanish for Business Professionals Class

by Alla Ivanova

Business professionals can now learn business Spanish in Washington D.C. A company called Spanish Tutor DC has introduced a new course option to their variety of classes.

Spanish for business professionals is the class intended for those workers who want to master Spanish for better delivery of their service.

In the country where Spanish is not only the second official language, but also the only language many Americans speak, the importance of better communication in Spanish language has increased for business professionals.

Juan Luis Panizo is a Spanish tutor who has been with Spanish Tutor DC for the past three years. He says that his students who want to learn business Spanish come from all kinds of professions. Some-are workers of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, others are doctors, lawyers, and teachers. The company offers business classes for both categories: groups of students as well as individuals.

With a fast-growing Spanish community in the United States, Spanish language is in demand more than before. Many people want to learn business Spanish to stand out among work candidates. Carry Lewis is learning Spanish to get a grant for which the primary condition is advanced knowledge of Spanish.

Business professional Spanish is an advanced class. A typical business Spanish class consists of a group of 5 to 15 students. The classes are offered only in Spanish without any English translation.

The tutor in charge of the class creates a customized syllabus that focuses on the core work requirements for each group or individual learner. The students learn business Spanish by means of communication with peers and teachers, by fulfilling assignments and memorizing lexica. 

To learn more about the Spanish for business professionals class, visit www.

04.16.12 District Wire News: International Edition

This special international edition of District Wire News was produced by Vanessa Haces-Gonzatti and anchored by Arushi Sharma and Daniela Vlacich. This segment focuses on the issue of the drug war in Mexico and Central America, as well as the U.S. role in it. also goes in-depth about an ongoing issue in Mexico and Central America: the drug war and the role of the U.S. in it.

11.7.11 Special Edition: District wire news in Spanish, Noticias en español

In this special segment, District Wire News was produced in Spanish by Ada Mariela Ortega. Ortega covers the Nicaraguan election and talks about the bilateral relations between the United States and Argentina. Also, learn about about how Northern Virginia counties are seeing more public official positions being filled by immigrants. Ortega also covers the shocking death of one of the most wanted men in Colombia.

Noticias del Distrito l 4.5.11

District Wire News was produced in Spanish by Yecenia Alfaro and Annie Stephens. In this special newscast Briona Arradondo talks with experts and students about the Hispanic population’s increase and what it means for the future of America. Karina Stenquist gives a special report on a small community in Naco, Sonora, México, and takes a closer look at a resource center that helps illegal immigrants when they are deported from the United States. This Spanish newscast also focuses on the day’s international issues and local news.


By Meghan Sweeney

Efrain Ramirez, the host of Tiempo Caliente, is a sophomore in the college of arts and sciences. Originally from Spanish Harlem in Manhattan, Ramirez grew up immersed in Latino culture.

Ramirez came up with the idea for his show freshman year after going to an informational meeting with American University’s WVAU on a whim. He wanted to share his taste in music with the AU community.

Ramirez advertises his show as the first and only Latino music station on WVAU. Tiempo Caliente is going into its fourth semester. The show airs Sunday from 10 pm-12 am on WVAU. “Tiempo Caliente may cause Spanglish tongue and loconess,” Ramirez said.

WVAU’s general manager, Dan Rabby, says the station was immediately interested in doing a show that featured salsa, reggaeton, and other Latin music. Rabby said he liked the idea of bringing diversity into the WVAU studio.

Fans of Ramirez can listen live online at The show’s target audience is a small group at AU, but Ramirez spread the word about his show using Facebook and word of mouth.

Tiempo Caliente

is not the only way students can engage themselves in Latino culture, there are several groups dedicated to the Latino community such as

Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity and Latino and American Student Organization.

DREAM Act Not Really a Dream Solution for all Latino Students

By Amanda Zimmer

American University students react to the DREAM Act and the complications behind a bill that was introduced almost ten years ago.

It is a bill that has captured the attention of lawmakers, the media and the Latino community. The Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors Act that is better known as the DREAM Act would allow students who are illegal and deportable in the United States to earn a permanent residence within the country if they meet certain criteria after two years of service in the military forces or two of four years in an institution of higher education.

“It is important to notice that the Dream Act has not passed Congress, not necessarily because all lawmakers don’t want students to get an education, but because the proposed law as it stands is not specific enough in terms of its requirements and ramifications,” American University professor Lilian Baeza-Mendoza said. “However, if it is regulated in a fair way, it could facilitate the lives of a lot of young men and women that live here and want to do the right thing by getting an education and playing by the rules.”

The criteria to qualify for the DREAM Act is that the student must have entered the country before the age of 16, been in the United States at least five years, be in good moral standing with no criminal record and have graduated from high school or obtained a G.E.D.

“I would like to see it affect a greater number instead of 34 percent maybe 64 percent,” AU sophomore Efrain Ramirez said. “But it is the only thing we have to work on.”

A recent study from Center for Immigration Studies says that the DREAM Act would cost taxpayers $6.2 billion per year excluding the cost of immigrants who wish to attend private universities as well as other financial assistance outside of tuition.

“The problem emerges when these prospected –and eligible students—become the key for their family to get legal status. This situation puts a lot of pressure on these individuals, and it puts a strain in our economy,” said Baeza-Mendoza.

Over two million illegal youth would benefit from the DREAM Act if it passes in the Congress where it is currently bundled with the repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law. The DREAM Act acts as a political bargaining chip in the aftermath of President Barak Obama’s proposal to extend the Bush tax cuts. Politicians are trying to push the bill through in order to obtain a higher percentage of votes from the Latino community in the 2012 elections.

“The Latino vote is a factor that political parties are taking into account for 2012, and these parties will get or lose the Latino vote based on their stand on issues that Latinos care about,” said Baeza-Mendoza.

The House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act on December 8th and the bill now moving on to the Senate.

Latino Representation in Congress

By Elizabeth Stephenson

Out of the entire Congress, only 8% of the current 111th Congress is Latino.

Latinos find themselves having the lowest representation out of all the ethnic groups in the United States. Latinos only count for three percent of the Senate and five percent of the Congress.

Over the years the Latino population has begun to increase but representation in Congress has not been able to equal the population. “Keep pushing, and trying to get elected, keep running,” said Shamar Walters, an American University sophomore. “It’s hard but the harder and harder you work and the more and more you build, eventually they have to recognize you.”

The first Latino to ever represent a state was Romualdo Pacheco in 1877. He was a Mexican American from California. The first Latino woman was not elected into Congress until 1989. She was Ileana Ros-Letinen, a Cuban American.

A Latino woman has yet to be elected and serve on the Senate. They have only served in the House.

One problem Latinos have that may be affecting the small percentage of representation is the lack of voting.

Latinos make up 15 percent of the United States but Latino’s only count for four percent of the American vote during elections.

Though there is not much representation in Congress for the Latino community, the Supreme Court welcomed Sonia Sotomayor last year to become the first Latino justice.

Sotomayor said she would “faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me,” during her swearing in.

Sotomayor made history when she was chosen to take over for Justice David Souter who retired. She now has power to make major decisions having to do with the United States Constitution.

The Latino community continues to have very little representation in the federal government. According to students at American University this may be a reason why some ideas and topics do not get presented in the Congress like immigration, and education.

Few Latinos get federal jobs

By Gabrielle Jones, Contributor

There is a large disparity between the number of Latinos in the U.S. workforce and those working for the federal government. Experts and leaders share some of this issue’s challenges.

The federal government is hiring fewer Latino workers. The percentage of Latinos in the federal workforce remained flat in 2009, and the number of Latino new hires dropped 2 percent, according to the latest government report.

Latinos represent 13.2 percent of the national workforce, but only 9 percent of the federal workforce. The report by the Office of  Personnel Management shows Latinos accounted for 9.2 percent of federal new hires in 2008. That number fell to 7.3 percent in 2009.

“The federal government is not fully tapping the talent in the Hispanic community for public service,” the report concludes.

Public Affairs professor Linda Mancillas says the government needs to step up it‘s hiring practices.

“There just hasn’t been the commitment on the part of any administration, Mancillas says. “It’s  a lot of lip service to it.”

Mancillas teaches Latino Politics at American University. She says one of the biggest obstacles for potential Latino employees is the application process.

“One of the big problems is the USA jobs website,“ Mancillas says.

The website is the federal government’s official online job search engine. Mancillas says using the site can be difficult.

“You have almost got to be connected to somebody in the federal government to know actually job qualifications they are looking for,” she says.

Leaders say  the small pool of Latinos qualified for government jobs is another issue.

“We know that Latinas and Latinos in our public school system are not being served,” Mancillas says.  She added that leads to fewer Latinos ready for college. “Most federal government jobs require a college education,” she says.

In 2008 only 12.9 percent of Latinos over 25 had college degrees compared to 27.7 percent of  all Americans, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Mercedes Lemp, director of the District’s Office on Latino Affairs, echoed Mancillas’ concerns about finding Latinos qualified for federal jobs.

“I have been told by different directors that they would like to hire bilingual employees but they’re just not finding the right employees to fill those positions,” Lemp says.

The D.C. Office on Latino Affairs helps Latino residents find jobs and learn about government programs.
The office regularly holds job fairs that highlight jobs available in the federal government.

“We get the word out for sure,” Lemp says. “Weather folks then get jobs based on the information we give them we’re not quite sure.”

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute is one program that is successfully helping Latinos get federal jobs. The organization offers scholarships and fellowships to Latinos interested in working in politics. According to its website, the organization has helped 1,900 Latinos get jobs across the country, including in the federal government.

Mancillas says the caucus shows that programs aimed at increasing the number of Latino workers in the federal government can work.

“If you had initiatives, you had a real desire to recruit the Latino and Latina population you can do that,” Mancillas says. “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Latinos Fight Back

By Michelle Carlson, Contributor

Latino groups are fighting back and getting the U.S. government’s attention. A few weeks ago, Immigration Reform was not on the government’s agenda, but now it may be at the top of the list.

Protests, boycotts, and Arizona’s new law helped put Immigration Reform back on the Senate’s agenda.

Arizona’s immigration law may even inspire President Barack Obama to fulfill his promise and create a bill for immigration reform. Capitol Hill sponsors have put the climate change legislation on hold because of all attention immigration is getting.

Arizona’s law SB1070 is one of the toughest bills on illegal immigration signed into law. It aims to identify, prosecute, and deport illegal immigrants; which many say is racial profiling.

“I think personally what Arizona did was not just a huge mistake, but also unconstitutional,” Sen. Robert Menedez said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, from Nevada agrees with Menedez. He made immigration reform his platform for re-election this year and is pushing the Senate to focus on drafting a bill.

“I think we should pass a comprehensive immigration reform, starting with securing our borders,” Sen. Reid said.

Reid hopes to mobilize Hispanic voters in his state with Immigration Reform, and others like Senator Graham say it’s a “political ploy”  to win votes.

Latinos make up twenty percent of the population in Nevada, but polls show Latinos are not that interested in coming out to vote for Reid in November.

While Latinos in Nevada may not be responding, many other groups across the nation are taking action. Immigration groups are boycotting the state of Arizona and Hispanics leaders are planning to ask the D.C. Council to take up a resolution similar to the one recently enacted by San Francisco.

This resolution calls for San Francisco’s government to stop doing business with Arizona companies.  The Arizona boycotts have the potential to deliver a serious financial blow to the state’s economy.

Mexican Embassy Helps Kick Off International Awareness Month

By Andrea Posner, Contributor

Mexico showed off its rich culture at the embassies cultural institute during Passport DC. May is International Awareness Month. Passport DC is an annual event that kicks off International Awareness Month as 35 embassies open their doors to the public. This month is dedicated to the celebration and honor of the diversity of influences in Washington.

The Mexican Cultural Institute is the cultural attache of the the embassy. The building itself was the original Mexican Embassy until 1989 when the Mexican Embassy moved to embassy row on Massachusetts Avenue. At that time the building was designated as the Mexican Cultural Institute, a place in which its prime purpose is to share Mexican culture with the local community.

This year the institute featured art exhibitions Elizabeth Catlett in Mexico and Shouts from the Archive: Political Prints from the Taller Grafica Popular (TGP). The exhibition presents 39 politically oriented prints from the TGP archive at the Mexico’s Academy of Art.

Two bands played different styles of Mexican music throughout the event. Pianist, Mari Paz, performed his series, Mosaic of Mexican Music. The Band, Cosita Seria, played Veracruz style music that visitors danced and sang to.

The building itself is beautifully decorated to fit Mexican style. Murals on the wall depict scenes from Mexican life. A large sunroom is decorated with popular Mexican tiles. One room that has the feel of a chapel features a large organ in which its pipes are engraved with flower designs. A large library is stocked with rare Mexican books.

In celebration of Mexico’s Bicentennial of Independence and the Centennial of the Mexican Revolution the institute has several events going on throughout the month of May.

D.C. Bill against Federal Fingerprinting Program

By Lauryn Smith, Contributor

Several D.C. Council members oppose the possibility of the city’s police becoming apart of the federal fingerprinting program, which would allow for an immigration status check to take place upon an individual’s arrest.

“It’s not right. If you’re pulled over they should ask for your drivers license and that’s all. I understand other types of crimes, but this is just way too much,” Carla Quintana, Mexican Cultural Institute, said.

The federal program goes against the current policy upheld in DC, where the city’s police are not involved in immigration enforcement tasks. A bill supporting the continuation of the current policy is being sponsored by D.C. Council members Jim Graham and Phil Mendelson. The legislation opposing the federal fingerprinting program could be introduced as early as May 4th, according to Graham’s spokesman.

If the federal program is enacted, for Washington, D.C. an international city, “it’s going to be hard, because so many tourists come here not just from Mexico, but from all over,” Laura Cotter, Spanish Professor at American University, said.

According to Fox News, Police Chief Cathy Lanier expressed support for the Secure Communities program, which takes fingerprints when inmates are booked into jail. Under the federal program, if enacted DC police would be able to compare fingerprints to those included in a database previously taken by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security immigration.

Currently the program is running in more than 20 states and 168 jurisdictions, and similar to the responses from the new Arizona law, many D.C. residents believe the program will cause racial profiling.

“I think a lot of people who are here legally would feel offended as well because now they have to prove they have done what is necessary to be here, but yet they are still being pulled aside to say are you here illegally or not,” Matt Sanchez said.

Puerto Ricans to Vote on Statehood

By Lucy Strange, Contributor

A new bill called the Puerto Rican Democracy Act, is entering the senate. It will ask Puerto Rican residents to vote if they want to change their political status in relation to the United States. However, some critics are saying the bill is just a way to force Puerto Rico into becoming the 51st state.

As a commonwealth, Puerto Rican residents do not have to pay any Federal taxes on income earned inside Puerto Rico. They don’t get to vote in presidential elections but they do have a non-voting delegate in the house, just like DC.

Puerto Rico became a commonwealth in 1952 but became part the U.S. all the way back in 1898 when the U.S. defeated the Spanish in the Spanish-American War.

Democratic representative Luis Gutierrez, slammed the bill on the house floor yesterday, saying Puerto Ricans have opposed statehood for decades and now is no different. Gutierrez is the son of Puerto Rican-born parents and owns property in the Caribbean.

However the bill was introduced by the acting Puerto Rican representative Pedro Pierluisi, who is a member of the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico that advocates for statehood. Pierluisi said the bill was long overdue.

If the bill passes the Senate vote, four million Puerto Rican residents will have four options to choose from. They could choose between statehood, independence, sovereignty in association with the United States, or its current status as a commonwealth.

Even if Puerto Ricans choose statehood, the final approval will have to be voted on by the U.S. Congress.

Noticias del Distrito 4.20.10

In this Spanish language special edition, we see Senators’ Harry Reid and Robert Menedez urge President Obama for a reform on immigration in the wake of Arizona’s new immigration law.
Also, Europe is beginning to open its airways after Iceland’s volcanic activity, and Venezuelan Boxing Champion Edwin Valero commits suicide in his jail cell. Produced and anchored by Michelle Carlson with assistance from Caitlin Moore.

The cost of redeveloping columbia heights

By Charly Arnolt, Contributor

Tax dollars going towards the gentrification of Washington, D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood are in the billions, but the societal costs to the area’s tight-knit Latino community may be even greater.

Washington D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood is getting a multi-billion dollar facelift.

The redevelopment project began in part in the late 1990s as a way to beautify the crime-ridden area, but in the past years, construction has really taken off. Big businesses, including Target and Staples, and chain restaurants such as Five Guys and Potbelly, have been added to the downtown area to increase real-estate prices and to attract new neighbors. However, this seems to be pulling the threads of a tight-knit Latino community.

Enrique Lopez lives in the neighborhood. For years, he has gone to the same family-run coffee shop, but now is worried that the shop could be in trouble because of all the new area businesses, like Starbucks.

“The small businesses are losing because there is so much competition from the big businesses that are moving in,” he said.

Gloria Umana, the owner of an El Salvadorian restaurant agrees.

“We’re very low on business,” she said.

However, Umana is hopeful that the decrease in customer traffic is not a result of the new businesses. She says that her restaurant is still unique because it is traditional Hispanic food, whereas the new restaurants are mainly American. She believes the constant construction is the real problem.

“It’s been a long time since the streets have been under construction. People want to come here here, but there is no parking on the street, so they leave,” she said.

Despite the increased traffic and increased rent prices, residents are optimistic that the redevelopment project will help, rather than hinder, the Latino community.

The project is not expected to be complete for at least 5-10 years because of a setback in government funding resulting from the poor economy.

Latinos encounter health care obstacles

By Mac Kolling, Contributor

Difficulty accessing health insurance has been a continuous problem for the Latino community.  Latinos hoped that a health care reform bill currently in Congress would eliminate these obstacles, but this may not be the case.

Health care reform remains a widely debated topic on Capitol Hill, but Latinos may not get the help they need from a health care reform bill.

“The health care reform bill has basically by definition excluded immigrants.  Illegal, undocumented or even legal immigrants,” Jeff Radersterong, communications assistant at La Clinica del Pueblo, said.

“It’s not really going to help our clients because—a lot of our clients—there’s a five year waiting period for Medicare or Medicaid if you’re a recent immigrant,” he said.

Radersterong said many of the patients that receive help at La Clinica del Pueblo have healthcare through DC Alliance.

According to the Social Services Center, D.C. residents can get Alliance if they are without health insurance and make less than a designated salary.

Latinos living in the Washington, D.C. area may get assistance from a non-profit group called Neighbors Consejo.

“One of the main issues, especially with the clients we serve is insurance.  Healthcare…basically most of them do not have,” Judith Diaz said.

She said they assist these people by taking them to a health center to sign up for insurance.

The insurance dilemma impacts the Latino community due to the type of jobs many Latinos pursue.

Latinos for National Health Insurance reported that 15.5 million Latinos are uninsured in America.

Tutoring program at American University lets students become teachers, gives others a chance to learn

By Brookes May, Contributor

For workers in American University’s Aramark housekeeping department, there’s not much time in the day to study. But thanks to a student led program known as C.L.A.S.E. these workers are able to take advantage of the academic environment where they spend their workdays.

Ana Urrudia has worked at American University for fourteen years. But she doesn’t want to work for AU’s housekeeping department, Aramark, forever.

Someday, she wants to be nurse.

So she takes tutoring lessons from AU students through a program called C.L.A.S.E. which stands for Community Learners Advancing in Spanish and English.

The program, established several years ago, helps Hispanic workers at AU improve their literacy in both English and Spanish, offers computer and technology training, and helps them study for citizenship exams.

There are approximately sixty workers participating in the program while Aramark itself employs a a little more than 100 workers, many of whom are Hispanic.

“People can go from not reading or writing to doing both in one semester,” CLASE Co-Chair Julia Young said.

The program is important for fostering a sense of community and for empowering a marginalized group on campus, according to CLASE Co-Chair and Tutor Melissa Mahfouz.

“We do see relationships and friendships building between the tutor and the student,” Mahfouz said.

Student volunteers are matched with student workers based on language skills and availability. The tutoring sessions are held during hour long pre-scheduled Aramark lunch breaks.

As for Rosuda, she says learning makes her happy. She even passed her citizenship test last year.

“You can see how much we really are helping,” Young said.

A young man’s journey to America through the game of soccer

By Tom Anderson, Contributor

Packing up and leaving your home at an early age is never easy. Leaving your home and moving to another country is even harder. One American University student knows this well. At the age of eleven, he left everything he knew behind in Guatemala and made his way for the United States.

Dor Yasur is a senior at American University in Washington D.C. and is a left defensive back on AU’s Mens Soccer team.  This is what he is best known for, but not many people know that he is from Guatemala.

Yasur spent the first eleven years of his life growing up in Guatemala City.  From the day he was born in Guatemala, he was kicking a soccer ball around.

“That’s all we did,” said Yasur.

With hard work and dedication, Dor improved as a soccer player.  And at the age of sixteen, he was invited to play on the Under-20 Guatemalan national team.  Yasur said it was one of the best experiences of his life.

The move to the United States was at first difficult for Yasur because the culture in Guatemala was completely different from that of the United States.

Yasur pointed out one difference he recognized immediately was when he first moved to the United States.  He went up to a girl he had just met and kissed her on the cheek.  The American girl freaked out and Dor did not know why.  In Guatemala, it is a tradition for every man to give a kiss on the cheek to a woman he meets.  There, it is the polite thing to do.

“It was pretty embarrassing,” joked Yasur.

Yasur is a Business Management major at American University and plans to graduate in May.  He wants to move back to Guatemala eventually and work for his father’s security company.

As technlogy becomes a larger part of everyday life, more latinos are getting internet on their cell phones.

By Kimberly Auron, Contributor

A survey done by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that more Latinos and Blacks have internet on their cell phones than Caucasians.  The main reasons for the trend include teens networking and keeping in touch with their friends, the ease of communication with family overseas, and the cheaper cost as opposed to paying for a home internet connection.

The trend of having internet connections on cell phones is especially popular among Latino youth.  Franklin Peralta, an Outreach Worker at the Latin American Youth Center in Columbia Heights has noticed most of the teenagers at the center are constantly on their cell phones.  He said, “especially the teenagers say ages 14 to 19 that we have all of them have cell phones…cuz of the Facebook, Myspace, keep in touch with their friends, update their twitter…so they use it a lot for that.”

The state of the economy is another contributing factor to the trend.  One reason more Latinos are getting internet on their cell phones is because a mobile upgrade is cheaper than paying for a home computer and internet connection.

Additionally, cell phones help Hispanics to stay in touch with their family and friends.  Lilian Baeza-Mendoza, a Spanish teacher at American University, said, “The idea of staying close to your loved ones and the community is very important so if you put that into the idea of having a cell phone or the internet will get you closer to your loved ones it makes a lot of sense.”

Having the internet on cell phones is especially helpful to Latinos who have family or friends living in Latin America.  The internet on a cell phone can help them stay in better contact with those overseas.  Adams Morgan resident Michelle Guzman says her boyfriends uses his cell phone to keep in touch with his family.  “He has family back home in Honduras and it’s cheaper getting your internet through your cell phone and texting and receiving those messages than it would be at home…so it’s easier you know you have the internet in your pocket.”

As Graduation Rates Remain Low in the Latino Community, One School Librarian Brings Books to the Community

By Gabrielle Gorder, Contributor

A Pew Hispanic Center study finds that Latino students value an education more than the average student. What’s keeping Latinos from closing the education gap?

One librarian at CentroNía organizes book fairs to encourage Latino students and their families to get hooked on reading.

Gabriela Aguayo, a librarian at the bilingual public charter school CentroNía, is working to change the education and literacy rates within the Latino community…one book and one child at a time. Five years ago Aguayo started organizing book fairs at CentroNía to help bring books to the Latino community in Colombia Heights and encourage students to start turning pages.

Latino students are the largest minority and the fastest growing demographic in D.C. public schools, but less than half go on to college. Latino students consistently lag behind in standardized test scores and high school graduation rates.

However, a recent study released by the Pew Hispanic Center discovered that Latino American students value a college education more than the average teen or young adult. The study found that many Latino students chose not to pursue a college education because they fear their English skills are not up to par.

Aguayo says the first step in changing those statistics is to teach Latino students to respect books and to love reading. But that can be difficult she says, because they may not see their parents reading at home.

Aguayo immigrated to the U.S. from Chile 10 years ago. She says books are more expensive and not as accessible in Latin American countries as they are in the United States. Therefore, she says many families who have immigrated to the U.S. place little emphasis on books.

“They’re not exposed [to books] in the same way that other people are exposed. For example, many of our students, they never have been in a Borders or Barnes and Nobles and they don’t know that culture of the book,” she says. “So to bring the book fair here for them is a huge success.”

But CentroNía does not just encourage children to improve their English. The school encourages its 1,500 students and families to be proud of their Latino heritage and maintain their Spanish. “They can be bilingual,” Aguayo says. “That way they can access both worlds and maybe another world. Maybe they can learn another language.”

CentroNía’s name represents is approach to education. The name is derived from Spanish, Swahili and Esperanto. The school strives to have students excel according to U.S. academic standards but its message to students is that multiculturalism is something to embrace rather than overcome.

11.9.09 District Wire News in Spanish

In this Spanish language edition of District Wire News, Hurricane Ida tears through El Salvador, The U.S. House of Representatives passes a bill for health care reform and find out who stole the show at the 10th Annual Latin Grammys.

11.2.09 District Wire News in Spanish

In this Spanish language edition of District Wire News, terrorist suspects at Guantanamo receive H1N1 vaccines, it’s Dia de los Muertos and 20 million more Argentinians are watching futbol this season.

10.26.09 District Wire News in Spanish

In this Spanish language edition of District Wire News, demonstrators rally for immigration reform in front of the Capitol building, a Halloween costume offends the Latino community, how some Latinos are responding to CNN’s special “Latino in America and why Hugo Chavez is against jacuzzis.

Immigration Reform Rally

By Gabrielle Gorder

About 5,000 people gathered in front of the Capitol building Tuesday, October 13 to show support for a new immigration reform bill that Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez will propose to Congress next month.

Gabrielle Gorder, District Wire News

As Latino Population Skyrockets, One School’s Model Tries To Keep Pace

By Neil Hickey, Contributor

Here in Northwest Washington, D.C., one of the more multi-cultural quadrants in the District, a public charter school has struck a model so successful it can hardly keep up with demand.
The Latin American Montessori Bilingual School is one of the few schools in the District that teaches classes in both Spanish and English, a boon for the city’s ever-growing Latino population.

According to the 2007 Census, the District boasts a Latino population of 8.3 percent, half the national average of 15 percent.

But the national figure – and the D.C. figure – are tipped to dramatically rise over the next generation.

A 2008 study by the Pew Research Center found while America’s Latino population stood at 45 million, that number  was expected to almost triple to 127 million by 2050.

By that time, the study predicted, Latinos will be the largest minority group in America and account for 29 percent of the total U.S. population.

The principal of the school is Cristina Encinas, who played a key role in getting it started in 2002.

The school, which teaches morning classes in Spanish and afternoon classes in English, boasts a total enrolment of 145 but will expand to 171 in the new school year.

That’s good news for those on the waiting list – of which there are currently more than 240.

Encinas, a lifelong educator who moved to the U.S. from Mexico in 1989, said the demand for this kind of education no longer surprised her.

“There is a huge demand and I think people are more aware that we need to be more multi-lingual,” she said.

Yoissi Ramos’s nine-year-old daughter, Alyssa, has been at the school since she was three.

She said the education model is perfect for her.

“She gets a great education in English and Spanish that’s why she comes here because of the bilingual program that they have,” she said.

The only way for the school to allocate places is through a lottery – the only prerequisite is that children must live in the District.

With a recently added wing, a stable teacher workforce and a happy student body, Encinas said she loved her work.

“Every morning I wake up and I want to come to work,” she said. “If I see happy children in a very multi- cultural setting with African-American, Caucasian and Latino children sharing culture and language … it’s just a win-win situation for everybody.”

May Day Rally for Immigration Rights

By Sarah Tobianski, Contributor

More than 2,000 area Latinos hit the streets of Washington, D.C., this May Day rallying for changes in immigration policies.

Rally organizers from the National Capital Immigrants Coalition are calling for a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and for an end to workplace raids and deportations that they say separate families.

“They are not targeting criminals,” says Darwin Donilla, an education worker for immigration advocacy group, CASA de Maryland. “They are only going to workplaces where people are working and the only crime they are committing is being here without legal documents.”
Demonstrators demand that President Obama stick to his campaign promise for swift immigration reform. Some protesters say he may loose their votes come the next election if they do not see results.
“We have heard President Obama say he is going to pass immigration reform, but we want him to act on those words,” Darwin says.
But immigration policy did shift a little last week. President Obama addressed immigration policy at his 100 days press conference, calling the immigration system “broken,” saying America can’t live without it.
Though he said he can’t control the legislative calendar,
a Senate Judiciary subcommittee took up immigration last week for the first time in the new Congress.
Also last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued new guidelines that place emphasis on prosecuting employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Raids during the Bush administration were more likely to result in the arrest of workers rather than the employees.
Some of the demonstrators at the rally have been pleased with recent statements made by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who said illegal immigrants make “significant” contributions to the economy.
“The economy is affecting all of us,” says Elsa Zambramio, a nonprofit coordinator. “Latinos will always find a job because when people cried about, you know, get all of the illegals back home, [illegal immigrants] are the people that work the hardest. Without them, where are the nannies? Who are going to take care of the children while they are at work?”
A recent report from the Center for Immigration Studies says the recession has hit immigrants harder than native-born Americans. It’s a change from the recent past when natives had higher unemployment rates than than legal and illegal immigrants.
Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, an advocacy group for immigration reduction, says illegal immigrants hurt the economy.
“The people who loose the jobs the most to illegal aliens are Hispanic Americans,” Beck says. ” But I think you will have trouble finding any Hispanic group that will actually be standing up saying, we are opposed to the protests, we are opposed to amnesty.”
May Day rallies are held annually in cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit and Chicago. Tallies show turnout this year wasn’t as high as the mass demonstrations in 2006. Nationwide furor over the swine flu virus and and fears of loosing jobs because of cutting out of work early may have kept many away.

Economic Woes for Day Laborers:

Job losses estimated at more than 50 percent

By June Kim, Contributor

The green van pulls up in the Elden Street 7-11 parking lot in Herndon, Va. and is instantly swarmed by a large group of men, eager for work. Only four of them get lucky and jump in while the van drives off, the other 50 day laborers return to the sidewalk. Most of these men will walk home tonight empty-handed.

What was already an unstable line of work is now rockier than ever because of the slumping U.S. economy, according to local day laborer support groups.

“Jobs have decreased dramatically,” says Andres Tobar, the executive director of the Shirlington Employment and Education Center (SEEC). The SEEC is the only existing local government-sponsored day labor center in Northern Virginia.

Last summer, the Pew Hispanic Research Center found that nationally Hispanic immigrants were the most affected by the decline in the construction industry, losing more than 250,000 jobs from 2007 to 2008. A report from earlier this year, showed nearly a 3 percent rise in the unemployment rate for Hispanic immigrants.

There were almost 400 jobs a month for SEEC’s day laborers before the recession began two years ago, according to Tobar, but now he says there’s only 100.

Tobar says the situation is so desperate that rather than sending money home, the men are calling home to ask for support—some are even returning home. Tobar received a postcard from El Salvador recently from one of these men.

Juan Carlos works as a day laborer in the Culmore area of Falls Church, Va., where he knows other men that have returned to their home countries because of their difficulty to pay rent and make a living.

“They thought it would be better to return home because it’s difficult like when the doors are closed and there’s no other exit,” he said in Spanish.

These days, Carlos can only find work two to three days a week. He usually makes $130 a day. But, he says that after paying for living expenses for himself and his fiancée, he barely has money left to send to his family in Mexico.

To improve his job situation, Carlos takes English language classes through Tenants and Workers United (TWU), a community-based organization focusing on leadership training of low-income minority workers.

TWU organizer José Gonzales says the 10,000 to 12,000 day laborers in the community are caught in an economic crisis.

“The situation is critical, very critical,” Gonzales said. “It’s in our hands to support our brothers and sisters survive this crisis.”

Other than providing educational resources for day laborers, Gonzales says immigration reform would be part of the solution to the economic troubles of immigrant day laborers.

A barrier to finding permanent jobs for these men is the lack of documentation. A 2004 Fairfax County government survey of day laborers found that 85 percent of them had no legal documents.

Borromeo Legal Project Helps Realize Dreams

by Cate Cetta, Contributor

In 2008, more than half of new U.S. citizens were from Latin American counties. The total number of new citizens topped one million for the first time in more than 100 years. In the Washington, D.C., area people are lending a hand to the new members of their community.

At the suggestion of Rev. Gerard Creedon, a group of parishioners at Saint Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, Va., founded the Borromeo Legal Project. The group’s mission is to provide English classes, civics lessons, legal counseling and financial assistance to members of the parish interested in the naturalization process of U.S. citizenship. So far the group has 20 volunteers and 17 immigrants.

The cost of naturalization is almost $700. For its part, the Borromeo group will contribute a portion of the fee as a loan to an immigrant. That the person would then be asked to pay back the money for use by the next hopeful citizen.

Churches Reach out to Latino Community

By Annie Aho, Contributor

The District has a population of 600,000, many of whom are from South and Central America, as reported by the 2007 Census Bureau.
The Latino community in D.C. grew almost 60% from 1990 to 2002 – making them the fastest growing ethnic minority.
By 2010, the District estimates it will have 70,000 Latino residents.
The 2007 Census estimates that there are 45,000,000 Hispanics living in the United States – and over 70% identify themselves as Catholic.
With such a large Latino community in D.C., churches are reaching out specifically targeting their Spanish-speaking parishioners.

Ana Lopez came to the United States almost twenty years ago from Puerto Rico.
She says she felt a need in the Hispanic community for faith based services in her native language.
In January, she started a Spanish-speaking Bible Study in Capitol Hill.  It began with only two members and has quadrupled in just four months.
She says there are many churches focusing on other minorities, like the Vietnamese and African Americans, but very few who appeal to the Latinos.  Her goal was to create an extended family for those living in a foreign country, using the Spanish language as the common denominator.
Father Mario Dorsonville is the Director of Immigrant Services at the Spanish Catholic Center, a branch of Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C.
The Spanish Catholic Center was founded in 1967 by the Archdiocese of Washington.  Its aim was to provide services and assistance to those coming to the nation’s capital.
Today, the Center provides health, education, immigration legal issues, economic development, employment and other social services to all immigrants.  Last year, the Center provided more than 50,000 services to 31,000 clients.
Father Dorsonville says the Catholic Church is a large part of the Latino culture.  When people immigrate to D.C., they see the church as a familiar symbol.
But Dorsonville says there has been a change in the post-9-11 era.  He says that the events that took place 8 years ago are making it more difficult for the Latinos to assimilate.  Although, he says some people see the events as strictly Middle-Eastern issues, the repercussions have caused heartache and headache for Hispanics.
He says the church is grounded in the right for freedom and the pursuit of happiness.  Due to stricter immigration regulation, many Latinos are stuck.
For Father Dorsonville, the church can only do so much.   He says Catholic Charities is dedicated to helping the Latino population once they arrive, but getting to America is in the Lord’s hands.

Cuba travel restrictions loosened

by Mark Syp, Contributor

For many Cuban-Americans, it has become easier to travel between the United States and their native island nation.

President Obama has passed new legislation to lessen some of the restrictions of the long-standing embargo between the two nations.  The main feature of this legislation is to grant greater travel freedoms to Cuban-Americans who wish to visit close relatives.  It has also increased the number of remittances that one is allowed to send to family.

Questions remain, however, as to what effects this measure will have on the two countries, and the people who live in them.

Juan Carlos Hidalgo of the Cato Institute feels that the easing of restrictions will not cause a sudden increase in travel to Cuba.
“If you look at the practical significance of the decision, there’s not much substance behind it.  Cuban-Americans were already allowed to travel to Cuba, once a year.  They were already allowed to send remittances,” said Hidalgo
However, Hidalgo believes that Obama’s decision to reach out to Cuba will have a symbolic resonance.
“This is a welcome step towards a normalization of relations with Cuba,” he said.
Frank Calzon agrees with Hidalgo about the importance of Obama’s gesture.
Calzon is the Director of Center for a Free Cuba.  He is an exile from the Castro regime, who still retains his Cuban citizenship.
“Why would I return (if the Castros lost power)? I never left,” said Calzon, in response to his current status.
Calzon said that this lessening of restrictions would provide Cubans with an opportunity to visit sick relatives, but feels that the current economic recession will probably limit travel.
He also believes in the symbolic value of the president’s decision, since Obama’s interaction with Cuba provides its people with the rare opportunity to see a person of color in a position of power.
“President Obama is a risk…for the Cuban dictatorship.  The majority of Cubans are non-white and yet blacks are absent for the most part from Cuba’s leadership.” said Calzon.
The men disagree on the scope of the plan.  Hidalgo believes it should be expanded to include American tourists, since these interactions will allow Cubans to have first-hand interactions with Americans.
Calzon disagrees, since he believes that tourist dollars would only be used to finance the regime.
“The tourism industry in Cuba is controlled by the military.  The money goes into the hands of the regime…to help repress the Cuban people,” said Calzon.
Hidalgo also points out that a large portion of what happens next depends on the actions of Cuban president Raúl Castro.
“The Obama Administration was pretty clear that the ball is now on the Castros’ court, to use a tennis analogy,” said Hidalgo.
Hidalgo said that things were not looking promising.  He cited the renunciation by former Cuban president Fidel Castro, who retains popularity in Cuba, of a recent Los Angeles Times article wherein Raúl Castro had said he was open to better relations with the Obama Administration.  Raúl Castro himself would later publicly criticize Obama’s new policy, claiming it didn’t do enough for Cuba.

Citizenship Education

By Haifa Al-Mubarak, Contributor

Getting a US citizenship is one of the obstacles that Latinos in the US face everyday.

Northern Virginia lends a helping hand to those immigrants who need instruction on how to prepare for the oral and written citizenship exam.  For example, in Arlington there are courses to prepare students for the exam.

These courses are offered through the district’s Community Outreach program free of charge.  Other courses offered include English lessons for those who need to boost their English skills to be able to take the citizenship exam.

Sowatha Chea, a representative for Arlington’s Department of Human Services, overseas the courses offered in Arlington.  She says that in recent months the majority of immigrants who attend the course are of Latino background.  Sowatha says although it is not evident why most of the students are Latino her job is to focus on encouraging students to excel in these courses so that they may become U.S. citizens.
Monica Naranjo, an immigration assistant with the Hispanic Community Center in Arlington Virginia, says their one of their goals is to help Latinos become citizens so that may become a legitimate part of the American Society.  Monica says it is important for them to become neutralized so that they can represent the growing Latino communities in the US and voice their rights in this democratic society.
Unlike other Northern Virginia counties, Arlington offers citizenship courses for immigrants free of charge.  There are four locations in Arlington where Latinos can be found studying for the citizenship exam.  Each location offers courses up to four days a week for two-hour sessions per day.  And some, like the Fairlington Community Center, even offers courses on Saturdays for working immigrants.
Although most of the students are from Latin decent, there are also other students who come to study, such as Asians and Africans.  All students make it a priority to attend as many classes as possible so that they can succeed in the examination.
Art Politano, a volunteer instructor at Fairlington, says that students seem more encouraged to take these courses today than they did before.  He says this may be because the immigration process to get a US citizenship is shorter than in previous years.  Politano says it can take only three months to process immigration papers today whereas before it took as longs as 18 months.

Prom Dress Giveaway for Latina Youth

By Lauren Swanson, Contributor

April Chairs organized the prom dress giveaway at the Latin American Youth Center in Columbia Heights.  Girls attending the event were treated to snacks, refreshments, music and raffle prizes.  They were also given prom gowns, shoes, purses and costume jewelry free of charge, on a first come, first served basis.

The young women browsed the racks of dresses and tables of shoes and accessories as if they were shopping in a department store.  There was even a fitting room so each girl could find the perfect dress.  Once they chose a dress, the girls were given shopping bags to take home their selections.

Most of the outreach for the event was organized through the Latin American Youth Center.  The center describes itself as a “multicultural community-based organization.”  It serves youth and young adults, mostly between 10 and 24 years old, a majority of whom are high school age.  Roughly two-thirds of the youth involved with the center are Latino, and one third are Latin American-born.

Chairs says she was able to collect more than one hundred dresses—maybe as many as two hundred— with the help of LAYC organizers through an email campaign seeking donations.

She said she was inspired to organize the event when she decided to give away her own prom dress.  She was also assigned to organize an event for school involving some kind of leadership, and decided a mass prom giveaway would be a great way to accomplish both.

Chairs is extremely proud of the event and was pleased with the turnout.  She says she would like to make the give-away an annual event, and hopes it inspires other young women to give back to their communities in similar ways.

 Noticias del Distrito 3.23.09

In this Spanish language edition of District Wire News, police are investigating a robbery on the campus of Georgetown University; and a case of vandalism strikes American University during its Relay for Life fundraiser.

Noticias del Distrito 4.6.09

Even if Puerto Ricans choose statehood, the final approval will have to be voted on by the U.S. Congress.

“if you had initatives, you had a real desire to recruit the Latino and Latina population you can do that.”

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