Culture

How this UCLA Student Is Working to Tear Up Latino Stereotypes and Replace Them With Realities

Focusing on Potential

mitú met Bernardette Pinetta this summer at the NCLR Líderes Summit in Kansas City, where she was excited to share her story for #WeAreAmerica. She told us about the work she is doing with at-risk youth. She told us about how high school friends would come over to use her home printer and wifi because they did not have basic technology at home. She recognizes the struggle her parents went through when they came to the U.S. to give her a better opportunity and now she’s working to pay it forward. Bernardette is a student at UCLA.

What’s your story? Share it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #WeAreAmerica and don’t forget to like us on Facebook to see more inspirational stories like this one. 

An Incoming International Harvard Student Has Been Denied Entry To The United States

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An Incoming International Harvard Student Has Been Denied Entry To The United States

Cengiz Yar / Getty Images

The Trump administration’s immigration policies are criminalizing survivors, tearing families apart and emboldening racists and xenophobes throughout the country. But President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration agenda is also negatively impacting higher education in the US. According to multiple recent reports, it has become increasingly difficult for international students to receive their visas, also adding a greater workload on universities and their employees who try to help students work through the red tape and advocate on their behalf.

Those in higher education and immigration law say that the process for international students to attain their visas have become harder under Trump.

 According to government data, approval of student visas is down and many remain in limbo for longer periods. The latest available department data show that student visas declined by more than 100 thousand from 2016 to 2018. This has led to an overall decrease in the number of new international students enrolled at US colleges. For instance, survey data collected by the Institute of International Education during the 2016–17 school year found that enrollment of international students fell by 3 percent from the previous year. In the most recent data, which looks at the 2017–18 school year, it fell by close to 7 percent.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators reports that these visa obstacles started after Trump issued a memorandum in 2017 that called for the “heightened screening and vetting of applications for visas and other immigration benefits” as well as new or updated requirements for visa holders studying or working at US colleges. Additionally, the Atlantic reports that changes initiated by the Trump administration in 2018 made it even harder for recent graduates with student visas to continue living in the country legally. 

“I’ve been in the field for almost 20 years, and the amount of immigration changes during the last three years has been exponential,” Kristy Magner, who oversees Tulane University’s Office of International Students and Scholars, told the publication. 

One of the most high-profile cases was that of Ismail B. Ajjawi

In August of 2019, the incoming Harvard Palestinian freshman from Lebanon was detained by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a Boston airport. The 17-year-old was denied entry after CBO officers found social media posts from his friends that criticize the US. As a result, Ajjawi’s visa was canceled. However, because the teen was detained at an airport, sparing him from being officially deported, he was able to re-apply for a visa back home. Ten days later, Ajjawi returned to Boston and was able to start school.

Also in August, nine Chinese students who were returning to the US as undergraduate students at Arizona State University were detained at Los Angeles International Airport.

 According to the university, the students were in CBP custody for a week and were “denied admission to the U.S. to continue their studies.” They were ultimately forced to return to China, despite being “academically eligible to return to ASU and to the United States under their visas.”

“[I]t is beyond my comprehension how the U.S. government could establish and implement policies that bring about the outcomes we are now witnessing,” ASU president Michael Crow wrote in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. 

While these cases are among the most extreme, they follow a growing pattern of increased difficulty for international students. 

Many institutions, including New York University, expressed seeing more students denied travel in advance of their trips.

NYU was one of the first schools to establish support for immigrant students upon the start of Trump’s presidency. In January 2017, just days after Trump’s inauguration, it created the Immigrant Defense Initiative, which offers “free, confidential advice and representation” to students and staff who could be at risk for deportation. Other universities, including Columbia University, the California State University system and George Washington University, now also offer free immigration-related legal services for students. 

But students, and now university employees who are tasked with new responsibilities in helping the international academics, need more help. Back in July, Harvard University president Lawrence Bacow sent a letter to Pompeo and McAleenan sharing his grievances. “Students report difficulties getting initial visas — from delays to denials,” he wrote. “Scholars have experienced postponements and disruptions for what have previously been routine immigra­tion processes such as family visas, renewals of status, or clearance for international travel.”

Dr. Hironao Okahana, associate vice president of policy and research analysis at the Council of Graduate Schools, told Teen Vogue the rise in incidents like Ajjawi’s are concerning and worth further investigation. 

“[W]e’ll be carefully observing to see if any additional incidents occur as quarter-system schools begin their term in a few weeks,” he said.

In addition to the denial of visas and slowed-down processes, universities face another problem: Trump’s anti-immigration agenda is stopping international students from applying to US institutions. 

“I think that both [the Trump administration’s] immigration policy and the messaging of the day are literally turning [international] students away … and making them less inclined to want to study in the United States,” Brian Rosenberg, the president of Macalester College, a liberal-arts institution in St. Paul, Minnesota, told the Atlantic.

As a result, some schools are doing additional work to ensure international students that they are welcome at their universities.

Philip A. Glotzbach, the president of Skidmore College, told the Atlantic that his staff has had to “work a lot harder” to recruit and retain international students. Additionally, Barbara K. Altmann, the president of Franklin & Marshall College, said that her school has been taking “extraordinary measures … so international students know [they’re welcome here].” For instance, because one in five students at the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, liberal-arts school is from outside of the US, mostly China, it has created a network of Chinese nationals that send reassuring messages to incoming students from the Asian country. 

“These incidents,” said Okahana, “as isolated as they may be, are troubling and have created chilling effects.”

Read: Migrants Are Dying In US Immigration Custody And Here’s What You Need To Know About The Victims

Trump’s Latest Direct Pitch To Hispanic Voters Was Truly Bizarre, Even By Trump Standards

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Trump’s Latest Direct Pitch To Hispanic Voters Was Truly Bizarre, Even By Trump Standards

Despite the election being more than 400 days away, the 2020 Election campaign season is in full swing. We’ve got Democrats debating substantial policy ideas in debate after debate and then we’ve got Donald Trump blurring the line between campaign rallies and presidential events.

Trump has been busy jetting from state to state (largely staying in states that supported him in 2016) to spread his message of falsehoods and hate.

Until now. 

Is Trump starting to change his ways just in time for the 2020 campaign? 

If you pay attention to the news, you’ll of heard about Trump’s “pitch” to Hispanic voters.

It makes sense that Trump would put effort into Latino outreach in New Mexico, which has the highest percentage of Latinos of any state of the country. But remarking on the tone of an ally’s skin and suggesting Latino voters have dual loyalties are probably not the best ways to do it. Trump’s comments unsurprisingly seemed to play well to his supporters in the room, but they are unlikely to win many new ones in a state where he can use all the supporters he can get

But oh, it was so much more.

President Donald Trump did his best to appeal to Latino voters during his rally on Monday evening in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. His “best,” however, was profoundly bizarre.

In one especially odd moment, Trump remarked upon how white one of his key Latino surrogates looks.

“He happens to be Hispanic, but I’ve never quite figured it out because he looks more like a WASP than I do. So I haven’t figured that one out. But I’ll tell you what — there is nobody that loves this country more or Hispanic more than Steve Cortes,” Trump said. (Cortes is a pro-Trump television commentator and member of Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council.)

“Nobody loves the Hispanics more!” Trump continued, before asking Cortes a question that suggested Latinos have dual loyalties: “Who do you like more, the country or the Hispanics? He says the country. I don’t know, I may have to go for the Hispanics to be honest with you. We got a lot of Hispanics! We love our Hispanics.”

In anticipation of Trump’s New Mexico rally, the ACLU but up billboards that obviously hit some important points. 

Another one said “No Ban, No Wall, No Hate In Our State.”

While another group had this to say:

Apparently New Mexico has some legit billboard game. Who knew?

Many in New Mexico wondered why Trump was visiting a state to share his hateful views in a state that is overwhelmingly Democratic.

Trump is not doing well with Latinos in particular or in New Mexico in general. Polls consistently show his approval rating at about 30 percent.

Trump’s poor performance is dragging him down in New Mexico, a state he lost by 8 points to Hillary Clinton in 2016. According to Morning Consult’s tracking polls, Trump’s approval rating in the state has dropped a whopping 34 points since his inauguration, and as of last month, sat 17 points underwater.

Not to mention the President’s hurtful, hateful, and dangerous rhetoric used against immigrants, refugees, and basically anyone who isn’t cis white.

Nonetheless, during his rally on Monday, Trump insisted he plans to win New Mexico in 2020. His sales pitch largely centered around low Latino unemployment rates and stoking fears about immigration — but these were also key components of his campaign message heading into last year’s midterms elections, and Republicans ended up losing all five statewide races in New Mexico. At this stage, there’s little reason to believe things will be different next November.

But of course, Trump wasn’t just in Mexico to awkwardly talk about ‘Hispanics.’

He was also there to repeat many of the lies he’s now become so famous for. 

Trump spoke for 95 minutes at the rally in New Mexico on Monday night, among the longest speeches he’s given as President. And, according to CNN, he made at least 26 false claims — most of them ones he’s said before in recent months.

From blaming a former Google executive for him losing “up to 10 million votes” to saying San Diego’s mayor agrees with Trump on the wall (hint: he doesn’t), Trump was in typical Trump form. 

From New Mexico, Trump departed for deep blue California.

After leaving New Mexico, Trump headed for California — another state he lost by millions of votes in 2016. He’s there to raise funds for his 2020 re-election but he’s also getting in some attacks on the heavily Democratic state. 

Before even arriving, Trump had been shaming California cities over a very real issue — homelessness. It’s out of control from San Diego to San Francisco but many doubt that the administration is going to help address the issue with any substantial policy. Meanwhile, the President is also set to revoke California’s ability to set stricter standards on vehicle emissions, which would set up yet another legal battle between Trump and California.