Assistant Professor Steven Richardson: Justice Americorps

In order to ensure that the large number of migrant children who have been placed in immigration detention receive the opportunity to remain in the United States if they are entitled to legal relief, the President recently announced that AmeriCorps will now supply attorneys and paralegals to organizations who provide legal services to the undocumented. While this information was picked up in the national news media, it has not received the attention that it fully deserves. Many of us assume that anyone in legal proceedings in the United States will be represented by counsel, as is the case with these children, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The fact of the matter is that immigration proceedings are civil matters, and not criminal ones. Thus there is no right to have counsel provided for you. This usually means that you must pay for an attorney of your own instead of relying on one from the U.S. government. That these children will be assisted by legal professionals through a government program, despite their cases being held in immigration court is essentially unheard of.

Only time will tell how many, if any, of these children will obtain legal relief. In order to avoid removal from the United States, many will probably claim asylum. The conditions of the countries they are leaving are, admittedly, terrible. But whether or not U.S.C.I.S. or the court system will find them eligible to remain will depend largely on the types of persecution they allege and how well constructed their claims for relief are. What is clear is that having legal advice on how to present their claims, and whether or not a cognizable claim is even available to them is a boon that many adults in the immigration detention system will never see.

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Mon, June 16 2014 » A Chance for Every Child, Latinos in the United States » Comments Off

Three Cheers University of Minnesota Students Demanding Diversity, Transformation and Accountability!

This author remains extremely pleased to see the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on a measure impacting diversity. The newly implemented measure officially recognizes October 2nd as Indigenous Peoples Day. In other words, they replaced Columbus Day on the civic calendar. In essence not-celebrating what has become recognition of oppressive marginalization of the Indigenous community in the region since time immemorial and long before Senor Columbus. This author however also wishes the University of Minnesota, in the same city of its City Council, would similarly act and promote transformative knowledge rather than remain tethered to colonized educational models of learning. Accordingly, this author is beyond pleased of the recent student demands asserting diversity and transformation in the University’s present educational systems.

The students are promoting greater recognition in their curriculum with yet greater awareness of the broad range communities that exist throughout the State. Their list of five demands are tethered with additional specificity that include for example, “engagement with substantive, instead of cosmetic diversity,” a demand of the University to “redefine its comittment to the “recruitment, retention and graduation of students from historically marginalized communities as a priority,” with a further list of demands including Reporting Discrimination, Harassment & Retaliation. Some demands place “an emphasis on a comprehensive educational experience for all students,” and an additional demand seeks  “faculty members of color that engage in “critical race and ethnic studies scholarship with a social justice emphasis.” The demands are detail specific with an emphasis on University transparency and accountability to reach out to marginalized communities long on the outside of present educational models.

It is beyond heartening to see student insurgency against painful colonized models of learning particularly in today’s political and economic climate in which communities of color are employed as tools to create hostile and harmful legislation such as anti-immigration reform, or promote federal laws that block the labor rights of workers, or fail to promote beneficial economic models for those at the bottom.  This is in stark contrast to the immeasurable benefits those at the top of the economic ladder obtain from tax write-offs, subsidies for agri-industry that seeks to crush alternative models of producing food across the nation, or any measure that fails to take care of the nation’s children that are confronting hunger and other harms from social and economic injustice.   Consider the issue of food stamps for example and how the budget that goes to supporting families in need yielded to the chopping block!  Its unconscionable that in comparing the economic benefits of those at the top with those at the bottom many of the nation’s residents are immeasurably harmed.

So against these social-economic-political disparities, it is beyond heartening to see the resurgence of students once again making demands for not only recognition of the broad span of diversity that comprises residents in the State but also seeking transformation in educational models.  What other venue could promote newer diverse models of learning and transformation but in Universities?  What other models could transform marginalized communities with social justice models?  There is something large at stake this student insurgency brings with attendant payoff to communities in distress.  Against such harms time is of the essence!

Congratulations to those students who dare to question the status quo!

To access the student demands go to  The students are asking for our support and have an Endorse the Demands page to sign onto.

For one version of Indigenous Peoples Day reporting go to:

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Mon, May 5 2014 » Latinos in the United States » Comments Off

Cuba Enacts New Foreign Investment Law

(From Cuba approves foreign investment law, BBC March 29, 2014)

The Cuban state authorities have enacted a new Foreign Investment Law.  This was a long time coming and continues the very slow process of internal economic reform that was commenced with the Guidelines (Lineamientos) adopted several years ago.

The new foreign investment law passed unanimously last Saturday by Cuba’s National Assembly is a key component of President Raul Castro’s program to “update” the economy. Castro deemed the law so important that he called the assembly into special session to pass it rather than wait for the regularly scheduled session in July. The new law offers significantly better terms to foreign investors than the 1995 law it replaces, with the aim of boosting direct foreign investment (FDI) in Cuba’s chronically capital-poor economy.

Though Cuba’s internal sector reforms have garnered more attention, it was a crisis in the external sector that forced Cuba’s leaders to finally confront the need for sweeping change: The economy’s vulnerability to a future rupture in relations with Venezuela stirred memories of the so-called Special Period following the collapse of the Soviet Union and roused Castro’s leadership team to action. (William Leogrande,  Cuba’s New Foreign Investment Law Is a Bet on the FutureThe World Post, April 9, 2014).

The new law opens investment but the parameters still are grounded in government oversight and control.  And the measures are designed to generate as much income for the state as possible.

Meeting in an extraordinary session, Parliament replaced a 1995 foreign investment law that has lured less overseas capital than the island’s Communist leaders had hoped.

The foreign media were not given access to the closed-door meeting, but some details of the new law emerged in official news media in recent days.

The law would cut taxes on profits by about half, to 15 percent, and make companies exempt from paying taxes for the first eight years of operation.

Companies that exploit natural resources, however, could pay taxes as high as 50 percent.

Investment projects wholly financed by foreign capital would be allowed in all sectors except health care and education, which is essentially unheard-of today. (Cuba Moves to Attract More Foreign Investment, AP via New York Times, March 29, 2014).

The text of the bill has not been released but the BBC reports:

The text of the bill has not yet been released but is expected to introduce several incentives to investment when it comes into force in three months’ time.

  • Investors will be lured into joint ventures with the state and Cuban companies
  • The process of approving foreign investment will be speeded up
  • Legal protection will aim to re-inforce investors’ confidence in the Communist government
  • Taxes will be cut to 15% on profits in most areas, although special conditions will be set for investment in natural resources
  • Tax on nickel and fossil fuel investment could be as high as 50%

The reform is not expected to attract investment from the large Cuban community in the US, under the 50 year-old US economic embargo. (Cuba approves foreign investment law, BBC March 29, 2014)

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Mon, April 14 2014 » Cuba, Latin America, Law and Society » Comments Off

Modern day politics of politics

Long gone are the days when WE the people could elect a candidate based not on his opponent’s flaws, but on the candidate’s virtues. Politics and honor appear to no longer go hand and hand. These days we hear more about everything that is wrong with the other person than what is right with our candidate. To make matters worse money has now become the most important player on the board.
Yesterday’s SCOTUS decision further erodes on the possibilities of better, cleaner elections. Now the winner will not be the best man or woman for the job, but the person with the largest bank account. I am troubled and saddened by the direction in which this country continues traveling. Our leadership appears to have abandoned common sense and forgotten that WE the people placed them where they are so they could serve the nation, not their own interest.
For once I hope that I am being a pessimist and that I am wrong, but I fear that those steering the wheel have long forgotten about the rest of the nation.

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Fri, April 4 2014 » Latinos in the United States » 2 Comments

René Gómez Manzano on ¿Papas por la Libertad?


René Gómez Manzano is a lawyer and an independent journalist in Cuba who writes original and provocative commentary on issues of interest to those who follow events in Cuba. The following was recently published on on the relationship between Pope Francis and the Cuban state. It is reproduced in full (in Spanish) below.


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Tue, April 1 2014 » Cuba, Culture, Identity, Law and Society » Comments Off

Fragile, handle with care!

A great deal has been said of late concerning immigration reform, the pros and the cons, mainly focusing on the political and economic side-effects of it. However, little or no focus has been placed on the human factor, on the psychological consequences of a “do nothing” policy. The decision makers are too busy worrying about their own political aspirations to be troubled by the consequences of their inaction.

Being undocumented has allowed me to experience those consequences first hand. First growing up troubled, confused by the fact that I did not look like the rest of my classmates, and did not speak their language. As a result, I  kept to myself, and looked forward to the school day being over so I could rejoin my family.

The above is not unlike many undocumented youngsters in this country. As one grows older, if one was fortunate enough, you make it past the shy, insecure stage which granted is part of growing up. However, when you are undocumented you’re immediately met with another hurdle. At your tender age of 15 or 16, depending on where you live, you are faced with the desire to get a driver’s permit, but quickly learn you are ineligible to obtain one. This may be your first realization of your true legal dilemma; one that you did not create. As all your young peers excitedly prepare for their driving examinations, you find yourself asking your parents why you can’t do the same. That is if by then you have not realized you’re different than most of your peers in more ways than one. If you are aware of your status or lack thereof you simply complain to a higher power, asking why God, why me?
Eventually you learn to live within your limitations, at least until it is time to find a job. It is at this pivotal moment in a young person’s life when you realize you cannot be employed since you likely do not have a social security number and a work permit. Each step of the way, your soul is being consumed little by little, but you keep on hoping that one day all of that will change. You rely on faith, on family and friends. Some of us resort to gangs for a sense of belonging others such as me, bury ourselves in books. We hope to escape and transport ourselves to a new reality, a reality in which we actually belong. We seek a reality in which our hands are not tied behind our backs as we valiantly push forward enduring life’s beatings.
At some point, as adults, we are invited to the bar to grab a drink simply to have to scramble for an excuse as to why we’re not interested in joining. Time continues to pass and your hope for a better future starts succumbing to your sad reality. At that point you’re faced with two polar opposite options; do you succumb to adversity or rise above it and thrive? At my 37 years of age I have opted for the latter instead of the former. However, I have not arrived to where I am without injury and I am confident I am not alone.

Our youth’s hearts and souls are fragile therefore I ask the decision makers on both sides of the aisle to please handle with care!

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Tue, March 25 2014 » Latinos in the United States » 2 Comments

A View of the Ukrainian Crisis From Cuban Non-State Media



René Gómez Manzano, a Cuban journalist who writes on topics of interst both within and beyond Cuba, has recently published reflections on the Ukrainian crisis: Crisis Ucraniana o Legado de Stalin (Ukrainian Crisis or Legacy of Stain), first published on 11 March 2014 through .

It is reproduced (in the original Spanish) below.


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Wed, March 12 2014 » Cuba, immigrants, Latinos in the United States, race » Comments Off

Biblioteca Digital Cubana

This From Arch Ritter’s excellent Cuba blog:



The Biblioteca Digital Cubana is a most amazing web site with links to a myriad of complete books on Cuban history and historical archives, geography, economy, archeology, ethnology, literature and natural sciences together with old art, photos and drawings and maps. It also includes a library of Cuban periodicals and journals going back to the earliest colonial times. It constitutes an incredible library resource with an immense and probably quite complete collection of historical documents on Cuba,

It is unclear to me at this time specifically who or what organization assembled this listing. It brings together collections on Cuba from many parts of the world and in particular the Biblioteca Digital de la Biblioteca Nacional José Martí or BNJM at   It was brought to my attention through a Facebook posting by Haroldo Dilla a few days ago.



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Sat, March 1 2014 » Cuba, Culture, education, Latin America, latino culture, Law and Society » Comments Off

New Paper on Property Claims in Cuba: Demandas De Propiedad Entre Cuba Y Los Estados Unidos. Una Revisión De La Literatura

New paper worth reading for those interested in Cuba studies and law/international relations:

Demandas De Propiedad Entre Cuba Y Los Estados Unidos. Una Revisión De La Literatura.
De  Jesus Bu Marcheco, La Habana, Cuba
Spanish Abstract:Este artículo es una revisión de la literatura sobre las reclamaciones de la propiedad pendientes entre Cuba y los Estados Unidos, con el objeto de resumir el estado actual del conocimiento académico. Este artículo examina las reclamaciones entre las partes, los mecanismos legales diseñados para solucionar las demandas y los remedios para cada tipo específico de demandante.English Abstract: This paper contains a literature review designed to summarize the state of academic knowledge surrounding the outstanding property claims between Cuba and the United States. This paper examines the claims between the parties, the legal mechanisms designed to solve the claims and, the remedies tailored for each particular type of claimants.


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Mon, February 24 2014 » Cuba, Identity, immigrants, Law and Society » Comments Off

No Cuba Trade Relief On Horizon Despite Support


By Scott Flaherty

Law360, New York (February 21, 2014, 6:29 PM ET) — Although a recent survey showed

most Americans favor easing the longstanding U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, experts say

continued support among congressional leaders and a lack of progress in Cuba on human

rights issues make lifting the trade restrictions anytime soon a long shot.

The Atlantic Council, a think tank that studies international affairs, released a study Feb. 11

showing that about 56 percent of Americans who participated in a survey were at least

somewhat in favor of the U.S. taking steps to normalize its relationship with Cuba and ease a

more than 50-year-old trade embargo.

But experts say growing support for more direct engagement with Cuba is not enough to

overcome a number of political hurdles that stand in the way of changes to the embargo,

which includes travel restrictions and a general ban on imports and exports passing between

the U.S. and Cuba, at any point in the near future.

Peter Hakim, president emeritus of the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank focused on

policy in the Americas, said there is still strong support for maintaining the embargo among

influential members of Congress, such as Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who chairs the

Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is considered to be

a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016.

The embargo has been “held in place by a small number of highly committed people,” Hakim

said, adding that there doesn’t appear to be enough political will among Americans who want

to ease the embargo to outweigh the support that exists for keeping it in place.

“What does Cuba really matter to Barack Obama, or people who are concerned about a pivot

to China, or ordinary Americans?” he said.

Cuba’s track record on human rights is another hurdle, noted Florida International University

law professor Ediberto Roman, who said pressuring Cuba to clean up potential human rights

violations has been one of the key justifications for keeping the embargo in place for so long.

Although there may be economic reasons for the U.S. to move toward more normal trade

relations with Cuba, in part because it would open up the country’s market to U.S. goods,

Cuba’s continually poor human rights track record makes walking away from the embargo at

this point an implausible — if not irresponsible — choice on the part of the U.S., according to


“The human rights record hasn’t improved. If anything, it’s been worse,” Roman said.

As a practical matter, the embargo couldn’t be lifted at least until a new government takes



over in Cuba and the U.S. State Department certifies that it meets a number of requirements

laid out in the Helms-Burton Act, which was put on the books in 1996 and tightened U.S.

sanctions against Cuba, according to Judith A. Lee, chair of Gibson Dunn’s international trade

regulation and compliance practice.

To qualify for the certification called for in the Helms-Burton Act, Fidel and Raul Castro —

the current Cuban leader — would have to be out of government, and Cuba would need to

legalize all political activity, release political prisoners, organize free and fair elections, and

meet a slew of other requirements, according to the law.

But beyond the changes within Cuba that would need to take place before the country met

the Helms-Burton requirements, other U.S. political factors could keep the embargo in place

for the foreseeable future, Lee said. One of those is the passionate support for maintaining

the embargo that still exists in parts of the U.S., including in Florida, a key battleground

state with a sizable Cuban-American population.

“It’s not just the case that we [would] have to wait for the leadership in Cuba to recede,”

Lee said.

And there’s also another matter: the longevity of the Cuba trade embargo and the inertia

that has built up as a result.

“It’s the oldest sanctions program that we have, and it’s the strictest,” Lee said. “Even

though there’s support for relaxing the embargo … it’s still premature to think that it’s going

to happen anytime soon.”

But experts note that this month’s survey may indicate a generational shift in how Cuba is

viewed in U.S.

In a report detailing the findings of its survey, which sampled 1,024 people nationwide, the

Atlantic Council said the responses showed that Americans, for the most part, support

altering U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Hakim said Cuban-Americans who grew up in Cuba and fled the Castro regime have often

been vocal supporters of the embargo, but that is an aging group being replaced by younger

people who don’t have as strong of a personal connection to the issue and therefore don’t

have as much passion for keeping the embargo in place.

“It was pretty clear that the power of this issue was losing strength,” Hakim said. “There

was lots of evidence that there

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Fri, February 21 2014 » Latinos in the United States » Comments Off