Things That Matter

This MLB Team Just Swore In 15 New American Citizens And Our Hearts Are Overflowing With Emotion

As the 2020 presidential election draws near, every public act that involves issues of citizenship and migration becomes a political statement (perhaps involuntarily, but a statement nevertheless). That is why having a civic act involving issues of immigration in front of a stadium full of baseball fans is a super relevant ideological statement. Last weekend, at Citizen Bank Park in Philly, a few individuals had one of the most significant days of their lives. 

Fifteen new American citizens were sworn in before the Phillies-Red Sox game last Sunday.

Credit: Screen capture. CBS News.

Yes, 15 new American citizens of all kinds of origins were cheered as they waved flags and swore their allegiance to the United States. The new citizens, of all kinds of backgrounds, are a true snapshot of multicultural America, a representation that goes counter to the Trump Era vision of exclusivity and privilege.

As reported by CBS News, MLB has become an advocate for this kind of ceremonies: “Fifteen new Philadelphia-area residents from 11 different countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens Sunday at the game. The newly minted U.S. citizens are among the over 700 new citizens who have been naturalized at 11 professional ballparks this summer”. By the way, the Phillies lost 6-3 to Boston, but the evening had a celebratory vibe, of course!

And what could be more American than becoming a citizen in Philadelphia, right?

Credit: Giphy. Anonymous. 

After all, the United States Constitution was signed by the Founding Fathers there, right? What a moment it must have been for the 15 new citizens, some of whom surely had perilous migration paths, when they heard: “”Congratulation, you are now citizens of the United States of America. You now share the same rights, the same privilege, the same obligations as any citizen of this great country”. And to be honest, there are few things as American as a day at the ballpark. 

And let’s remember that Pennsylvania was all red after the 2016 presidential election, so statements like this are increasingly important for those who wish Trump to be kicked out of office.

Credit: Wikipedia

Just look at that red tide. Pennsylvania is heavily reliant on manufacturing industries that have been hit hard by global trade and the move of American companies overseas. The steel manufacturing industry, for instance, has lived under extreme duress for decades. This is perhaps why Trump’s message resonated with disgruntled workers. The state has large numbers of Latino presence, mainly Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. So statements of civil inclusion such as the citizenship ceremony at the stadium could send a message: we are all the same, we all deserve a shot, we are all equal. 

All it takes is a good hearted judge with a love for baseball.

Credit: Twitter. @PhillyInquirer

The ceremony was performed by Juan R. Sanchez, a judge of Puerto Rican origin who understood what multiculturalism really means on a personal level when baseball made him feel part of the community. He told CBS News: “We hope we remind people of the tremendous privileges we have under the constitution. And remind people that we have a responsibility to be engaged.” Preach, querido juez Sanchez. 

Last year the ceremony had 19 new Americans, so the trend is continuing that is just una chingonería.

Credit: Twitter. @GraceMarioano

The trend is constant now. Last year 19 new Americans were welcome at a Phillies game. By the way, those red hats are Phillies cachuchas, so don’t be alarmed!

But the trend goes back to the early 2010s, as reported by the Portland Press Herald. In 2012, before a Minor League game more than two dozen children were welcome as United States citizens: “The children were part of a pre-game ceremony that celebrated their new citizenship at Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs. The children, from Congo, Germany, the Philippines and Somalia, were presented certificates recognizing their citizenship, derived from their naturalized parents or adoption. After the ceremony was held between home plate and the backstop, the children and their families stayed for the Sea Dogs’ game with the Reading Phillies. The children held a giant American flag during the playing of the national anthem”.

Becoming a citizen of a foreign country is a big step in anyone’s life, particularly if they flee perilous circumstances at home, so having a whole stadium cheer you must be quite something!

Citizenship  ceremonies at Phillies’ games have a dual purpose: make new Americans feel welcome and educating the public.

Credit: Twitter. @SU2Citizenship

The best way to make a statement is a lived experience. The thousands of fans that have been overcome by emotion as new Americans are welcomed can see, and feel, how great cultural diversity is. This photo is from a ceremony in 2015. 

We are Los Dodgers fans, but the Philadelphia Phillies will always have a special place in our hearts.

Credit: Facebook. Philadelphia Phillies. 

As Angelenos and Latinos we remain loyal to our Dodgers, but we gotta admit that the Phillies are growing on us thanks to their approach. They make citizenship ceremonies a community affair 

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Report Shows That Immigration Narratives On TV Are Latinx-Focused And Over-Emphasize Crime

Entertainment

Report Shows That Immigration Narratives On TV Are Latinx-Focused And Over-Emphasize Crime

The media advocacy group Define American recently released a study that focused on the way immigrant characters are depicted on television. The second-annual study is entitled “Change the Narrative, Change the World”.

Although the study reports progress in some areas of onscreen representation, there is still a long way to go.

For example, the study reported that half of the immigrant characters depicted on television are Latino, which is consistent with reality. What is not consistent with reality, however, is how crime-related storylines are still an overrepresented theme in these storylines.

The study shows that on television 22% of immigrant characters have crime storylines show up as part of their narratives. These types of storylines further pedal the false narrative that immigrants are criminals, when in reality, they’re just everyday people who are trying to lives their best lives. Ironically, this statistic is an improvement on the previous year’s statistics in which crime themes made up 34% of immigrants’ stories on TV.

These numbers are further proof that the media feels stories of Latino immigration have to be about sadness and hardship in order to be worth watching.

According to Define American’s website, their organization believes that “powerful storytelling is the catalyst that can reshape our country’s immigration narrative and generate significant cultural change.”

They believe that changing the narratives depicted in entertainment media can “reshape our country’s immigration narrative and generate significant cultural change.” 

“We wanted to determine if seeing the specific immigration storylines influenced [viewers’] attitudes, behavior, or knowledge in the real world,” said Sarah Lowe, the associate director of research and impact at Define American to Variety. “And we were reassured and inspired to see the impact it had.” 

Define American’s founder, Jose Antonio Vargas, is relatively optimistic about the study’s outcomes, saying that the report has “some promising findings” and the numbers “provide [him] with hope”. He added that there are still “many areas in which immigrant representation can improve”.

via Getty Images

Namely, Vargas was disappointed in television’s failure to take an intersectional approach to immigration in regards to undocumented Black immigrants. 

“Black undocumented immigrants are detained and deported at higher rates than other ethnic groups,” Vargas told Variety. “But their stories are largely left off-screen and left out of the larger narrative around immigration.” 

“Change the Narrative, Change the World” also showed that Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants are also under-represented on television compared with reality. Also worth noting, male immigrants were over-represented on television compared to reality, while immigrants with disabilities were also under-represented.

The study also showed that when viewers are exposed to TV storylines that humanize immigrants, they’re more likely to take action on immigration issues themselves. 

The effect that fictional entertainment narratives have on viewers further proves that representation does, indeed, matter. What we watch as entertainment changes the way we think about other people’s lived experiences. And that, in turn, can change the world.

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With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

Things That Matter

With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

Damen Wood / Getty Images

Becoming a U.S. resident or citizen has never been an easy process. The country’s immigration system is a convoluted mess that sharply leans in favor of high-wealth individuals and under the Trump administration that is becoming more apparent than ever.

But 2020 has been an especially challenging year for immigrants seeking to complete their citizenship process.

Although it’s common for interest in naturalization to spike in the months leading up to presidential elections, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the citizenship process to a grinding halt in March. The outbreak shut offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) all across the country. And although many of these offices reopened in July, there is a widening backlog of applications.

Meanwhile, on October 2, looming fee increases could leave applications and citizenship out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants, as the process becomes significantly more costly.

Many migrant advocacy groups are hosting events meant to help immigrants complete their applications before prices are set to rise.

In South Florida, the Office of New Americans (ONA) — a public-private partnership between Miami-Dade County and non-profit legal service providers — launched its second Miami Citizenship Week on Sept. 11. This 10-day event is designed to help immigrants with free legal support so participants can beat the October 2 deadline.

In addition, the event will host a mix of celebrations meant to highlight the social and economic contributions of South Florida’s large immigrant communities.

“I think in Miami we talk about how we are diverse and how we are adjacent to Latin America, but we never take a moment to celebrate immigrants and the amazing work that they do whether it’s the nurses in our hospitals, the drivers that drive our buses, small business owners,” said Krystina François, ONA’s executive director. “We need to reclaim the narrative around immigrants and around our communities because it’s what makes us great.”

However, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, the events will all be hosted online.

Much like any other event, Covid-19 has greatly impacted this year’s “Citizenship Week.” Therefore, the event will be hosted virtually. That includes the Mega Citizenship Clinic, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16-20. At the event, pro-bono lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Americans for Immigrant Justice and other groups will connect with attendees one-on-one on Zoom and walk them through the process of filling out the 20-page citizenship application form. 

The clinic is open to immigrants eligible to become naturalized citizens, meaning permanent residents who have had a green card for at least five years.

Cities like Dallas are also getting in on similar events, meant to welcome new residents and citizens into the city.

Dallas’ Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs is hosting a series of virtual events from Sept. 12 to Sept. 20 in honor of Welcoming Week. The virtual events aim to promote Dallas’ diverse communities and to unite all residents, including immigrants and refugees.

According to the City of Dallas, this year’s theme is Creating Home Together, and it emphasizes the importance of coming together as a community to build a more inclusive city for everyone.

Participants will be able to learn about the voting process and what will be on the next ballot during the “Vontando Por Mi Familia: Enterate para que vas a votar” event. The event, hosted in partnership with Mi Familia, will be presented in Spanish.

A Council Member, Jaime Resendez, will host a virtual program on Tuesday at 11 a.m. that celebrates Latinx art and culture. The event will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Mayor Eric Johnson will read the Welcoming Week Proclamation, and the event will feature art exhibitions and performances showcasing the talents of performers and artists across Dallas.

Attendees will also have a chance to learn more about the availability of DACA and a citizenship workshop will take place where articipants will learn how to complete their N-400 application for citizenship. Volunteer immigration attorneys and accredited representatives from the Department of Justice will be there for assistance.

The events come as fees for several immigration proceedings are set to rise by dramatic amounts come October 1.

Starting on October 2, the financial barrier will grow even taller for many immigrants as fees are set to increase. The fee to apply for U.S. citizenship will increase from $640 to $1,160 if filed online, or $ 1,170 in paper filing, a more than 80% increase in cost. 

“In the middle of an economic downturn, an increase of $520 is a really big amount,” François told the Miami-Herald.

Aside from the fee increase, many non-citizen immigrants never truly felt the need to become citizens. That was until the Coronavirus pandemic hit and had many questioning their status in the country.

“There are people who up until this COVID crisis, their status as a permanent resident didn’t impact their day-to-day life … but then the pandemic has given them another reason of why it’s important to take that extra step and become a citizen, because of the additional rights and protections that are afforded to you, but also to just have a sense of security and stability in a crisis.”

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