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NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Formerly Undocumented Teen Inocente Recognized On Oscar Stage

Formerly Undocumented Teen Inocente Recognized On Oscar Stage

On Sunday night a film about a 15-year-old homeless girl from San Diego won the “best short documentary” Oscar. “Inocente” follows a young woman named Inocente Izucar who refuses to give up her dream of being an artist.

The film was directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix who set out to make a film about homeless youth. But the 40-minute film is about a lot more because Izucar and her mother are undocumented.

Izucar says she was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was five or six. (Skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want any spoilers.) Her father was deported to Mexico for domestic abuse. She once stood on a bridge and convinced her mother not to jump. Her mother battles alcoholism and the constant struggle to keep her family afloat. I’ll stop there so you can watch the film on your own below.

In August 2012 Inocente told Teen Vogue she is no longer undocumented.

“I got a visa, so I’m in the United States legally now. In a few years, I can apply for my green card. I want to put a face to all the issues going on and be a voice for people who don’t have one. I want to inspire people and show them that life does get better,” Inocente told Teen Vogue.

At a screening of the film in Los Angeles on Saturday Inocente said she now lives in her own studio apartment and is supporting herself by selling her artwork.

She said she’ll be traveling for the next year and doing advocacy work and hosting screenings of the film. She went on to say she’s considering college or art school when she’s done promoting the film.

The Oscar-winning film was produced by the nonprofit Shine Global. “Inocente” is also the first film to be backed by Kickstarter supporters to win an Oscar, 294 backers donated a total of $52,000 to support the film last year.

For more information on Inocente’s art visit INOCENTEART.COM.

Watch the entire film below:

Michelle Obama Wears Indian-American Designer Naeem Khan’s Dress to Oscars

Michelle Obama Wears Indian-American Designer Naeem Khan's Dress to Oscars

First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance via video at last night’s Academy Awards ceremony.

“I am so honored to help introduce this year’s nominees for best picture and to help celebrate the movies that lift our spirits, broaden our minds and transport us to places we have never imagined,” Mrs. Obama said.

“They reminded us that we can overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough and fight hard enough and find the courage within ourselves,” the First Lady went on to say.

The dress was designed Indian-born, American fashion designer Naeem Khan.

The First Lady wore the gray and silver Art Deco-esque design to host the Governor’s Dinner in Washington earlier in the evening, and thus needed no costume change for the Oscars, Womens Wear Daily reports. This was the second year in a row that she had worn a dress designed by Khan to the dinner.

Quvenzhané Wallis Hits the Oscar Red Carpet in Style

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Quvenzhané Wallis walked the Oscar red carpet in style on Sunday afternoon.

Wallis could become the second African-American ever to win an Oscar in the best actress in a leading role category. (Halle Berry made Academy Award history in 2002 as the first African-American woman to win the best-actress award.)

Just two-hours before Wallis hit the red carpet, Sony Pictures confirmed she will star as Annie in the new film based on the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip.

“With the recent Academy Award nomination and critical acclaim, Quvenzhané Wallis is a true star and we believe her portrayal as Annie will make her a true worldwide star,” Hannah Minghella, president of production for Columbia, said in a statement. “She is an extraordinary young talent with an amazing range, not only as an actress but as a singer and dancer, and we can’t wait for audiences to further discover her.”

James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Shawn “Jay Z” Carter are signed on as producers, according to Deadline.com.

Just in Time for Oscars, Street Artist Gets Hollywood to Think About Its Workers

Just in Time for Oscars, Street Artist Gets Hollywood to Think About Its Workers

On Friday evening artist Ramiro Gomez placed an installation right in the Beverly Hills-West Hollywood border to get those heading to the Oscars to consider who was taking care of their families and homes while they were out making movies.  

“As hollywood prepares for their annual self-congratulatory party, I wanted to make this piece to honor those who will not be thanked during the award’s acceptance speeches,” Gomez told Colorlines.com in an email.

Gomez’s installation includes cardboard cutouts of the Oscar statue, a housekeeper and gardener. 

Gomez went on to say the installation is called “And the award goes to…” because “the reality is that the many people working in this area will never receive one.”

The Latest Online Education Craze Could Very Well Worsen the Achievement Gap

Online education is just about the hottest new trend in education these days. In 2007, more than a million K-12 students took an online course; that number was itself a 47 percent increase over the previous two years. And the numbers are increasing rapidly as legislators tout online learning plans as a cost-effective answers to budget woes. But while the jury’s still out on the academic efficacy of online education programs, new research suggests that these trendy education programs may well be exacerbating very old racial inequities in education.

In a working paper by Columbia University’s Di Xu and Shanna Smith Jaggers, they lay out findings from their study of half a million online courses taken by more than 40,000 community and technical-college students in the state of Washington. What they found is that students who have a harder time in traditional offline higher education are no better served by online courses. Xu and Jaggers, who is the assistant director of the Community College Research Center, found that all students, no matter their race, age or gender, who took online courses were actually less likely to finish their degree. But males and black students and those who came to their courses with less academic preparation than their classmates were less able to adapt to online course formats.

“We found that the gap is stronger in the underrepresented and under-prepared students,” Jaggers told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “They’re falling farther behind than if they were taking face-to-face courses.”

“If this pattern holds true across other states and educational sectors, it would imply that the continued expansion of online learning could strengthen, rather than ameliorate, educational inequity,” Jaggers and Xu wrote in their paper.

The news is troubling because online education is sweeping across the country, and not just in community and technical colleges. New York and Chicago have their own pilot initiatives centered around online education. Last month in California, the state college system rolled out a pilot online education partnership. Starting in 2011, Florida made it mandatory for every ninth grader to take an online course. And just last month in Idaho, less than three months after voters rejected a bill requiring high school students to take four online courses, the state legislature revived it.

Sequestration Means 424,000 Less HIV Tests and 540,000 Fewer Vaccines for Diseases like Flu, Measles and Hepatitis

Sequestration Means 424,000 Less HIV Tests and 540,000 Fewer Vaccines for Diseases like Flu, Measles and Hepatitis

Colorlines.com economic justice contributor Imara Jones visited Democracy Now this week to discuss the sequestration battle and the trillion-dollar budget cuts that are set to begin in a matter of days. Jones said the automatic, across-the-board cuts made in government spending will hit communities of color, the working poor and other marginalized groups especially hard.

“For communities of color and communities that have been hard hit by the recession, it’s a nuclear bomb that’s waiting to go off,” Jones told Democracy Now.

Jones explained how poor folks could be affected by sequestration: 

It reads like a laundry list, and we could take up the rest of the time going through the list. But some of the critical areas are: 125,000 people will lose Section 8 housing, which is critical housing support for the working poor; 100,000 people who are homeless will not receive the support that they need without a place to go; there won’t be 450,000 AIDS tests; something like 500,000 vaccines won’t be manufactured; a million people won’t be able to access community health centers; unemployment insurance for four million long-term unemployed will be cut by 10 percent; in terms of education, 70,000 kids won’t have access to Head Start; another 30,000 in terms of child care assistance. And then, if the sequestration goes on, because, you know, it’s a rolling—sort of a rolling storm, if it goes on through the summer and into the fall, the programs that support up to 20 million of the nation’s poorest students will be cut and are in jeopardy.

Read Imara Jones’ Colorlines story titled “What’s ‘Sequestration’ Mean in Real Life?” for more details.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is Back With a Review of ‘Django,’ Rihanna and da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is Back With a Review of 'Django,' Rihanna and da Vinci's Mona Lisa

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is quickly becoming a prolific reviewer of all sorts of things.

Earlier this month he critiqued HBO’s “Girls” series for including black character to the story line that felt like some “jungle fever lover.” Abdul-Jabbar said the show could’ve skipped that story line and just gotten a black dildo because it would “have sufficed and cost less.”

Last Tuesday he published a review of the film “Django Unchained” in Esquire Magazine. Then Wednesday night he visited Conan O’Brien’s show to review a few other works, including “Silver Linings Playbook,” Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” whole grain fig newtons and last but not least Rihanna’s latest album.

First, we’ll start with the review of “Django Unchained.”

“Basically, Django Unchained is a B movie. A damn fine B movie, but still a B movie. That’s not an insult. I’ve been in B movies, many of my favorite films are B movies, and B movies tend to make a lot more money than A movies,” wrote Abdul-Jabbar in his review.

He goes on to argue “Django Unchained” doesn’t deserve any Oscar nominations:

First, let’s get this straight: I liked Django Unchained and have been recommending it to everyone. It’s gritty and lively and filled with entertaining scenes. It zigs when you think it will zag, and, as with all Quentin Tarantino movies, it has flashes of brilliance. The character of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), the malevolent house slave who is the real brains behind the plantation, is an inspired creation. His smug compulsion to destroy the innocence and humanity that he has lost but sees in others echoes the best of villains from Harry Lime in The Third Man to John Claggart in Billy Budd. (And Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen? He’s no Fifth-Floor Guardian, but he deserves an Oscar. As do Jamie Fox, Christoph Waltz, and Kerry Washington.)

But should Django have been nominated by the Academy for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay Oscars? No. Not unless the Academy starts new categories such as Most Entertaining Movie or Best Kick-Ass Movie or Movie I Most Wish I Was In. Until then, the Academy members have a responsibility to promote films that demonstrate the highest quality on both a technical and literary level.

According to AMPAS’s website, their 6,000 members “reward the previous year’s greatest cinema achievements.” But most people see the awards as an effort at blatant self-promotion in order to shake a few more bucks out of the public’s wary pockets (especially since the suspicious 2009 decision to increase from five to ten possible nominations for Best Motion Picture). Nothing wrong with commerce being part of the motive. It just shouldn’t be the main motive.

Virginia Legislators Approve Voter ID Law, May Kill Chances for Federal Bailout

Earlier this week, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a photo voter ID law that narrows the list of identification voters are required to show on Election Day to vote. The bill, which now sits before Gov. Bob McDonnell to sign or veto, would allow only a driver’s license or U.S. passport to vote. Without either of those, a voter would have to file a provisional ballot, and then bring the required photo ID to the election board by the Friday after Election Day.

If McDonnell signs it, it wouldn’t go into effect until 2014 — when the mid-term congressional elections are held — but it would have to be approved by the federal government first. Since Virginia is a covered jurisdiction under the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5, any election law they make has to be pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department or the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Virginia passed a voter ID bill last year that was pre-cleared by the Justice Department. But that law allowed for non-photo ID forms to be used, like a paycheck or utility bill. Also, Gov. McDonnell pledged to send a state-issued voter ID card to everyone in the state who needed one.

As he determines whether to sign this more restrictive photo voter ID law, he may want to consider that Virginia apparently is close to bailing out from Voting Rights Act Section 5 supervision.

In a briefing this morning hosted by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, attorney Debo Adegbile told reporters that Virginia is “very close,” probably “within a year” of being “completely bailed out” from Section 5. In that case, the legislature will not need to pre-clear any election laws with the federal government because they proved they had no Voting Rights Act violations for the previous ten years, a stipulation for bail outs.

However, if Gov. McDonnell signs this law, and then the Justice Department rejects it due to any discriminatory intent or effect found in the law, then the Section 5 clock starts over, and they will continue to be subjected to federal supervision. Voting rights advocates estimate that as many as 870,000 Virginians lack the proper ID or the documents needed for voting purposes under such law.

Adegbile will be one of the attorneys arguing on behalf of the Voting Rights Act next week as it is reviewed before the U.S. Supreme Court. Gov. McDonnell should consider if he wants to make Virginia an example for Adegbile to use in that proceeding.

Kid President Meets the Real President (Plus Some Outtakes)

Kid President Meets the Real President (Plus Some Outtakes)

Remember Kid President? The star of a weekly series on SoulPancake that offered us a good pep talk last month? He’s back.

Kid President was asked by the White House to make a video for their upcoming Easter Egg Roll!

Check it out. His excitement is contagious.

USC Frat Planned a ‘Racist Rager’ Until a Mexican-American Student Put Them on Blast

USC Frat Planned a 'Racist Rager' Until a Mexican-American Student Put Them on Blast

The “racist rager” parties organized across U.S. college campuses shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore.

But a recent “phi-esta” party planned by members of a fraternity at the University of Southern California (USC) caught my eye for two reasons: 

1) It was a Mexican-themed event and the USC campus is literally surrounded by Latinos: the communities that surround USC are all predominantly Latino. The most recent Census data also found Latinos make up 47.7% of the population in Los Angeles, with Mexicans making up the majority of the group. 

2) A Mexican-American USC student saw a flyer for the party and wrote an op-ed in the school newspaper. She shut the party down, got the frat that was throwing the party to apologize and had the members organizing the event expelled from the fraternity.

According to the op-ed written by Melissa Morales the invitation invited party-goers to “bring their ‘sombreros and accentos to a night of classy fun.’”

Here’s an excerpt from the op-ed written Morales, a junior at USC studying political science.

I love a fiesta and a good margarita as much as the next girl, but not when it is just an excuse to make racist jokes and poke fun at a different culture. There is a big difference between celebrating a culture and mocking it.

A few hours after the event was posted, the description was edited to include “what not to expect”: “border patrol, pickpockets, those kids selling you chicle gum, [and] Montezuma’s Revenge.” Classy, indeed.

Is this what Mexican culture has been reduced to? An entire country, an entire people, an entire tradition is recognized solely by negative stereotypes. Is it not possible to hold a party without the predictably offensive costumes and mocking accents? Will it be less of a good time if guests refrain from obvious racism? I highly doubt it.

It is offensive that race is so easily used as a party theme. This is not the first “fiesta” and I am sure that it will not be the last, but I’m not waiting for the party to be over before I speak up. I’m not waiting for the pictures of drawn-on mustaches, illegal immigrants and gardeners to make the rounds on Facebook. I’m not waiting for my heritage to be ridiculed before I start my protest.

This is my protest. This is me speaking up for what I believe in. This is me taking a stand.

Though I find this event to be utterly disrespectful, I mostly just find it disappointing. I refuse to believe that other students on the USC campus — other members of the Trojan family — can be so ignorant and reckless. We live in Southern California with one of the most ethnically diverse campuses in the country, yet we still face situations like these.

If you read this and think I am overreacting, then I am sorry for you. I am sorry that you do not understand.

Why Didn’t Race Come Up in Beyoncé’s HBO Documentary?

Why Didn't Race Come Up in Beyoncé's HBO Documentary?

Beyoncé’s documercial, “Beyonce: Life Is But a Dream,” attracted 1.8 million viewers to HBO for its Saturday 9 p.m. premiere, Nielsen said Tuesday. Beyoncé served as the film’s star, executive producer, narrator, co-writer and co-director. She’s even in the credits for ‘additional camera’ because much of the film was shot using the webcam on her laptop.

All that is to say: Beyoncé had total control of what we saw in the film. There were a few moments when she got personal, she talked about breaking up her business relationship with her father and what it took for her to become a woman who can demand things from the people she works with. She also spoke about a miscarriage.

But there was one topic she never discussed.

Jody Rosen, over at The New Yorker’s “Culture Desk” asks why “Beyonce: Life Is But a Dream” ignored race.

Still, there’s no question that Beyoncé is a terrible judge of what is interesting about Beyoncé. Consider one topic that never comes up in “Life Is But a Dream”: race. You could make the case that Beyoncé has reached an unprecedented position in American life. She is a black woman who has claimed the mantles of America’s Sweetheart, National Bombshell, and Entertainer-in-Chief. (According to Nielsen, an audience of 1.8 million watched Saturday’s broadcast of “Life Is But a Dream,” a record for an HBO documentary, and three times the average rating for the network’s marquee show, Lena Dunham’s “Girls.”) Beyoncé is one half of an African-American royal couple rivaled only by the duo in the White House. She is by far the “blackest”—musically and aesthetically—of all the post-Madonna pop divas; she represents African-American women’s anger and power like no one in popular culture since Aretha Franklin. Of course, the privilege to ignore race altogether is a sign of Beyoncé’s queenly status, and in “Life Is But a Dream” she avails herself of it. Instead, we get bromides: “We’re all going through these problems,” she says. “We all have the same insecurities.”

The hot air never stops blowing in “Life Is But a Dream.” There’s a funny thing about Beyoncé, though: the dreck that she serves up when seated on the interviewee’s couch, clutching a throw pillow, is transfigured, when she strides the stage, into art. In the film, she talks endlessly, excruciatingly, about money and power and ambition and self-reliance and womanhood and her love for her husband and child and, um, “the journey of my life.” It is a torrent of banalities. But those are the themes of Beyoncé’s music—the very topics that she compresses into the three minutes and thirty-three seconds of “Countdown,” a recording that will be confounding and electrifying musicologists, feminists, African-American studies scholars, and, most importantly, dance-floor revelers long after the last “Life Is But a Dream” DVD has been shot into space, destined for a Martian landfill. Listen to Beyoncé’s songs; watch her cyclonic performances. Everything else is like those cameras: additional, and superfluous.

“Beyoncé: Life Is But A Dream” resulted in the the biggest audience for an HBO documentary in a decade. Spike Lee’s 2006 documentary, “When the Levees Broke,” that looked at the devastation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is the only documentary to come close with 1.7 million viewers.

Mad About Black History Month? Take Some #WhiteHistoryClasses

Mad About Black History Month? Take Some #WhiteHistoryClasses

PostBourgie contributor Tracy Clayton aka Brokey McPoverty (you may know her as the woman behind Little Known Black History Facts took over Twitter yesterday when her #WhiteHistoryClasses started trending. You can guess what kind of person it’s intended to poke fun at.

Check out her Storify archive below of her favorite 70+ #WhiteHistoryClasses tweets by folks all across the internet.

LAX Officials Threaten to Deport Palestinian Filmmaker On His Way to Oscars

LAX Officials Threaten to Deport Palestinian Filmmaker On His Way to Oscars

An Oscar nominated Palestinian filmmaker and his family traveling to Los Angeles for the Academy Awards this Sunday were detained for hours at the Los Angeles International Airport by U.S. Customs officials.

Emad Burnat, whose film “5 Broken Cameras” has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature, was held for an hour and a half for questioning on why he was visiting Los Angeles.

“Although he produced the Oscar invite nominees receive, that wasn’t good enough & he was threatened with being sent back to Palestine,” said director Michael Moore in a tweet. Moore began relaying text messages he was receiving from Burnat to his 1.4 million followers on Twitter.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Actor Jesse Williams Offers Tips On How To Portray Slavery

'Grey's Anatomy' Actor Jesse Williams Offers Tips On How To Portray Slavery

Actor Jesse Williams, known for his role as Dr. Jackson Avery on the TV series “Grey’s Anatomy” just published an essay on CNN.com that juxtaposes the Quentin Tarantino films “Django Unchained” with “Inglorious Basterds,” the 2009 fantasy involving a band of American soldiers taking revenge against the Nazis.

Williams asks why “Django Unchained” included stereotypical and graphic images of black slaves while “Inglorious Basterds” avoided much of that imagery.

An excerpt from Williams’ essay titled “Django, in chains” is below:

“Inglourious” did not walk us through provocative scenes of concentration camp torture, gas chambers and ethnically stereotyped victims. Nor were Jewish characters subjected to the indignities of being torn apart by dogs. And while we have our trusty authenticity card out, did the Jewish people not suffer the repeated verbal onslaught of “kike,” “rats” and other grotesque terms?

Were such words used in “Inglourious Basterds” more than 100 times? How about 70? OK 30? 10? Thankfully, Tarantino knew that he was perfectly able to tell a story without such gimmicks. (He also knew the community he claimed to be avenging wouldn’t stand for it.)

Hey, remember when Tarantino was selling those emaciated Jewish prisoner action figures with the concentration camp tattoos? So funny and ironic and harmless, right? No. That would have been cheap and disgusting. 

 […]

 A big reason slavery is avoided in American storytelling is guilt. Unlike the Holocaust, when it comes to slavery, our people were the bad guys. But we’re not German, so we can rail on Hitler and the Nazis all day without thinking critically about our legacy.

For descendants of slaves, and all Americans, our ovens — the slave plantations — are tourist destinations and wedding venues, home to preservation societies and guided tours. The “good ole days,” when faceless black folks with zero potential were merely quiet, collateral damage.

Read Jesse Williams’ essay on CNN.com.

Williams is a Temple University graduate and former public high school teacher that taught “American and African history.” Williams founded the production company, farWord Inc. and is an executive producer of “Question Bridge: Black Males.

Introducing the 2013 ‘Official Portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama’

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This morning the White House released the First Lady’s 2013 official portrait.

A poll conducted by CNN found seventy-three percent of Americans approved of the way Michelle Obama was handling her job as first lady, compared to 20% who disapproved.

On February 27, 2013, Mrs. Obama will kick off a two day nation-wide tour celebrating the third anniversary of Let’s Move!, her initiative to ensure that all our children grow up healthy and reach their full potential. She launched the program on February 9, 2010 to “unite the country around our kids’ health and create real support for families to live healthier lives.”

Official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama in the Green Room of the White House, Feb. 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


Watch the 2013 State of Indian Nations Address

Watch the 2013 State of Indian Nations Address

Last Thursday, Jefferson Keel , president of the D.C.-based National Congress of American Indian, delivered the annual State of Indian Nations Address.

Beyoncé’s HBO Doc Most Watched Since Katrina Series

Beyoncé's HBO Doc Most Watched Since Katrina Series

Beyoncé Knowles’ autobiographical documentary that premiered last Saturday was the largest audience for an HBO doc since Nielsen amended its method of measuring ratings in 2004, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Beyoncé was the subject of the documentary as well as its executive producer, narrator, co-writer and co-director.

“Beyoncé: Life Is But A Dream” attracted about 1.8 million viewers during its initial 9pm broadcast. Spike Lee’s 2006 documentary, “When the Levees Broke,” that looks at the devastation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is the only documentary to come close with 1.7 million viewers.

Harlem Residents React to ‘Harlem Shake’ Videos

Harlem Residents React to 'Harlem Shake' Videos

Actor and filmmaker Chris McGuire took his camera to Harlem to ask the community what they thought of the current ‘Harlem Shake’ video craze.

McGuire recorded Harlem’s residents watching videos of folks dancing to DJ and producer Baauer’s hit song that has gone viral.

“That’s weird,” said one woman standing on 125th Street.

“I know the Harlem Shake, but that’s not the Harlem Shake,” said another man.

For more historical context on the “Harlem Shake” check out this story we published yesterday: “5 Ways The ‘Harlem Shake’ Meme Is (Slightly) More Complicated Than It Seems.”

Deported Father’s Case Ends As Congress Debates Immigration Changes

Deported Father's Case Ends As Congress Debates Immigration Changes

A deported father’s long, painful legal fight to regain custody of his children came to end today in a small North Carolina county courthouse. Felipe Montes, who lost his three U.S.-citizens sons when he was deported to Mexico in December 2010, stepped out of the court on this cold, rainy Appalachian day with his rights restored. He will now be allowed to take his children with him to Mexico.

“I am happy this part is over, finally,” Montes said. “Now I have to make arrangements to go. But I’m ready to leave with my boys.”

Felipe Montes’ case gained national attention last year after Colorlines.com broke the story and the Latino advocacy group Presente.org launched a petition calling on Allegheny County, North Carolina to reunite the boys with their father. The case has become emblematic of the rippling consequences of deporting parents, an issue that’s gained prominence in ongoing national debates about immigration reform.

“I grant legal and physical custody to the father, Felipe Montes,” Judge Michael Duncan said. “Good luck,” he added, before ending the short hearing.

When Montes was deported following a series of driving violations, he left behind his wife, Marie Montes, to care for their two children. The couple’s third baby was born while Montes was locked inside a Georgia immigration detention facility. Marie Montes, who has long struggled with drug addiction and psychiatric disability, could not care for the children alone, and they were placed with foster parents who hoped to adopt the boys.

But Felipe Montes protested, asking that the boys be placed with him. Until August, that appeared unlikely, but the case changed direction when federal immigration authorities, under pressure from the Mexican consulate, granted Montes a rare temporary immigration parole so he could attend the parental rights hearings.

“When he came back, he was no longer this man in a far away place but a father right in front of them,” said Donna Shumate, Montes’ local court appointed attorney.

In November, Judge Michael Duncan granted Montes custody of his children on a trail basis, and for the last three months, the father has lived with the boys in the basement apartment paid for by the Mexican Consulate for the Carolinas.

Today, Judge said that the child welfare case would be formally closed; that Isaiah, 5, Adrian, 3, and Angel 2 will be fully returned to their father. Judge Duncan said that because the trial placement revealed no concerns with Montes’ ability to care for his kids, the country lacks a legal basis to retain custody of the children.

The child welfare department seemed to anticipate this and told the judge this morning that they recommend the children be reunified with their father.

Montes’ federal immigration parole requires that he leave the country before March 23rd. Montes plans to live with family in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Whether Marie Montes, who is a U.S. citizen, will join the family is unclear. The mother is currently incarcerated for parole violations and is pregnant with another child. The family has not decided where the new baby will live.

Cases like the Montes’ have become increasingly common in recent years as the federal government deports historic numbers of people from the interior of the United States. In December, Colorlines reported that between July 2010 and September 2012, over 205,000 parents of United States citizens were deported from the country. Some of these parents lose custody of their kids entirely. In November 2011, a Colorlines investigation revealed an estimated 5,000 children were stuck in foster care because whose parents were deported.

These separations have migrated toward the center of fledgling congressional debates over immigration. Earlier this month Representative Karen Bass, a California Democrat raised the issue during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform.

“Because of the deportations that have taken place over the last few years there are anywhere to [sic] 5 to 6000 children who have been placed in foster care because their parents have been deported—the children were citizens,” Rep. Bass said, referencing the 2011 Colorlines.com investigation.

In similar fashion, during a Senate Judiciary Hearing last week, Senator Al Franken, a Democrat, cited data from the December Colorlines.com story. He then asked Secretary Napolitano to explain her agency’s practices when deporting parents. Napolitano said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents try to ensure children have other family members to care for children. But she added, “Where the parents need to be deported…in some cases we have to call in whatever the social agency involved in the state appears to be.”

Colorlines.com requested clarification on the policy from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but the agency did not respond in time for publication.

Senator Franken said during the hearing that he plans to introduce legislation to protect families from separation during the deportation process. States have started to move to protect families from going through what the Montes family has. In 2012, California governor Jerry Brown signed the a set of bills to address the needs of parents facing deportation whose children are in foster care. The laws were the first of their kind in the country, and legislators in several other states are considering copying California’s lead.

North Carolina’s legislature is not one of these states, but for Felipe Montes, these changes would have come too late. Though he has now been reunited with his children, the father was separated from his sons for two years and must now leave the country to raise the boys.

North Carolina Issues ‘Deferred Action’ Driver’s Licences

North Carolina Issues 'Deferred Action' Driver's Licences

Reversing a decision made last September, the North Carolina Department of Transportation will soon begin issuing driver’s licenses to young people who have received work permits under the federal Deferred Action program.

But local immigration advocates say the new driver’s licenses violate the holders right to privacy because the identification card includes a ‘No Lawful Status’ and ‘Deferred Action’ label. North Carolina is the only state in the country to issue this type of license, according to The Latin American Coalition, an immigrant rights organization based in Charlotte.

“We are shocked and appalled at the way these licenses are being issued,” read a statement issued by The Coalition and United 4 The Dream. “The format of the license design and class is completely discriminatory and untrue. The alarming pink highlight as well the vertical format- a format usually reserved for minors- can and will cause great difficulties for those who are of age and needing entry to various services and places.”

“The presence of the phrase ‘Deferred Action’ is inconvenient because it reveals a person’s former legal status and violates their right to privacy,” continued the statement from The Coalition. “In the same manner, the use of the term “NO LAWFUL STATUS” on the licenses is completely unnecessary. We are afraid that the presence of these two phrases will lead to discrimination against DACA recipients as well as harassment from law-enforcement authorities.”

north-carolina-driverslicense.png Local Spanish-language news outlet QuePasaNoticias.com published an image of the revised driver’s license design shortly after it was introduced at a news conference last Thursday. Representatives from the N.C. Department of Transportation have confirmed with The Coalition that is indeed the new DACA driver’s license.

“After weeks of review, study and consultation we’ve found a way to make this right by developing a process that will allow qualified deferred action for childhood arrival applicants to obtain driver licenses, while protecting the rights of all United States citizens,” said DOT Secretary Tony Tata in a statement.

“The driver’s license is designed the way it is so that it allows young people who have DACA status to obtain a NC driver’s license but it does have a look [sic] have some different language and look different so that it can protect the rights that are afforded to citizens, such as the right to vote,” DOT representative Greer Beaty told WFAE.org.

DREAMers who will carry the license say the labels are a recipe for harassment in their state.

“Let’s say somebody’s driving, they get pulled over,” DREAMer Ramon Garibaldo told WFAE. “The fact that law enforcement sees ‘No Lawful Status’ right there, will already give that officer almost a reason to harass the person.”

The N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing licenses to those who qualify under DACA on March 25.

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