August 22, 2013

By Sgt. Jacob Harrer

Special to the LAWT

 

The surviving family of a Montford Point Marine received the Congressional Gold Medal on his behalf during an award ceremony at Camp San Mateo here, Aug. 16.

Larry and Kirk Elder, sons of Staff Sgt. Randolph Elder, were presented the nation’s highest civilian award by U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California 48th District, and Col. Jason Q. Bohm, 5th Marine Regiment commanding officer, for their father’s service as one of the first African American Marines to enlist and undergo recruit training at Montford Point, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

President Franklin Roosevelt opened the armed forces to all races in 1941. Montford Point was a segregated recruit training facility where more than 20,000 African American Marines trained between 1942 and 1949. Many graduates of Montford Point served during World War II, as well as in Korea and Vietnam.

During 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously voted to award the Congressional Gold Medal collectively to all Montford Point Marines for their sacrifices and service to the nation.

Elder passed away on March 31, 2011. His sons worked with the 5th Marine Regiment to verify their father’s military service and organize the award ceremony.

“I am just proud that my dad was a pioneer,” said Larry, a Los Angeles radio personality and host of the Larry Elder Show on 790 KABC. “He was kind of like a Jackie Robinson of Montford Point Marines. (Seeing the diversity in the Marines) lets me know that he left a footprint, that others are inspired by him and that he was a role model for the country.”

Elder was born during 1915 in Athens, Ga., where he lived in poverty and was kicked out of his house by his mother and her boyfriend, Larry said. He worked a series of menial jobs before enlisting in the Marine Corps on Nov. 13, 1943.

During the Pacific Campaign, Elder worked as a cook and served hot meals to troops on Guam who were preparing to invade mainland Japan. He quickly rose to the rank of staff sergeant before departing the service on April 9, 1946.

Larry said his father was very proud of his service, and the work ethic and values he learned as a Marine stayed with him throughout his life. Elder lived a very structured life and focused to attain each of his goals. At 47 years old, he opened a restaurant in Los Angeles, Elder’s Snack Bar, and for 30 years he woke up each morning at 4 a.m. to open the restaurant for breakfast.

Bohm, a native of Oyster Bay, N.Y., said he recognized much of the Marine Corps ethos in Staff Sgt. Elder.

As the previous director of the Marine Corps Liaison Office in the U.S. House of Representatives, Bohm and his staff, under the direction of Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, worked hard to get the Con­gressional Gold Medal approved in Congress.

“The Montford Point Marines are part of the Marine Corps’ legacy,” Bohm said. “If you stand in front of a formation of Marines, you can see the diversity that exists in the Corps today. To be here today to actually present the medal to the family of one of those Montford Point Marines is a true honor.”

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

August 22, 2013

By AMY TAXIN

Associated Press

 

A government program to screen immigrants for national security concerns has blacklisted some Muslims and put their U.S. citizenship applications on hold for years, civil liberties advocates said Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said in a report that the previously undisclosed program instructs federal immigration officers to find ways to deny applications that have been deemed a national security concern. For example, they flag discrepancies in a petition or claim they didn't receive sufficient information from the immigrant.

The criteria used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to blacklist immigrants are overly broad and include traveling through regions where there is terrorist activity, the report said. The criteria disproportionately target Muslim immigrants, who often wait years to get a response on their citizenship applications and in some cases are denied, advocates said.

The ACLU learned about the program through records requests after detecting a pattern in cases of Muslim immigrants whose applications to become American citizens had languished.

“It is essentially creating this secret criteria for obtaining naturalization and immigration benefits that has never been disclosed to the public and Congress hasn’t approved,” said Jennie Pasquarella, an ACLU staff attorney and the author of the report.

“I feel like ultimately this is just about politics. They don’t want to be seen as having granted citizenship to somebody who’s going to be the next Boston bomber,” she said.

It was not immediately clear how many immigrants have been re­viewed under the program, which began in 2008 and is formally known as the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program.

Christopher Bentley, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the agency routinely checks the background of immigrants applying for benefits and prioritizes the country’s safety and the integrity of the immigration system.

“We are vigilant in executing these responsibilities, and will not sacrifice national security or public safety in the interest of expediting the review of benefit applications,” Bentley said in a statement.

Under the program, immigration officers determine whether a case poses a national security concern and confer with the appropriate law enforcement agency that has information about the immigrant. Officers then conduct additional research and put many cases on hold for long periods of time. Most applications are eventually denied, as the program states that officers are not allowed to approve such cases without additional review, the report said.

Ahmad Muhanna, a 53-year-old Palestinian engineer, said he and his wife applied to become Americans as soon as they were eligible six years ago. They waited nearly four years for a response and were rejected because immigration officers said they failed to note on their application form an association with a Muslim charity to which they had donated money that U.S. authorities later declared a terrorist organization, he said.

Muhanna said the couple has appealed, but the wait has taken its toll. The couple, who lives in a Dallas suburb, missed their eldest daughter’s engagement in Gaza because they feared traveling abroad might jeopardize their green cards. And they haven’t been able to vote, something they’ve wanted to do for some time.

“You can’t just assume every Muslim is a guilty person, and every Muslim is a terrorist,” said Muhanna, adding that he agreed to be interviewed by the FBI with a lawyer present and has lived in the same house, with the same phone number for 15 years, making him easily traceable. “I have chosen this country to be my home and I want to be a citizen.”

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

August 22, 2013

By FREDERIC J. FROMMER

Associated Press

 

A divided federal appeals court has ruled that government employees involved in sensitive but noncritical national security work aren’t entitled to a key civil service protection available to other government workers.

The 7-3 ruling Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington said the Merit Systems Protection Board can’t review dismissals and demotions of government employees who hold sensitive national security positions that aren’t deemed critical — even if their jobs don’t require access to classified information.

Critics said the decision would significantly erode civil service protections for federal workers.

In a case involving Defense Department employees, the merit systems board said a 1988 Supreme Court ruling limiting board review of national security cases applied only if classified information was involved. But the appeals court ruled that the Supreme Court decision was broader.

“Its principles instead require that courts refrain from second-guessing DOD national security determinations concerning eligibility of an individual to occupy a sensitive position, which may not necessarily involve access to classified information,” wrote Judge Evan Wallach.

“Courts have long recognized that sensitive but unclassified material can be vital to national security,” he wrote.

Wallach added that it was “naive” to say that employees without direct access to classified information can’t affect national security.

In a dissent, Judge Timothy Dyk said the majority opinion will deny merit systems board review for “hundreds of thousands of federal employees — a number that is likely to increase as more positions are designated as noncritical sensitive.”

Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a whistle-blower advocacy group, said that the court had “created a loophole to remove the civil service rule of law from virtually the entire federal workforce.”

The American Federation of Government Employees said it would likely seek review by the Supreme Court.

“Due process rights are the very foundation of our civil service system,” said the group’s president, David Cox Sr. “That system itself has been undermined by the court today, if this ruling is allowed to stand.”

Carolyn Lerner, head of the federal Office of Special Counsel, which investigates retaliation against government whistle-blowers, said the ruling poses a significant threat to whistle-blower protections for hundreds of thousands of federal employees in sensitive positions.

Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson, a Defense Department spokeswoman for personnel and readiness, said the agency was reviewing the decision.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

August 22, 2013

By Charlene Muhammad

LAWT Contributing Writer

 

On August 17, Sybrina Fulton, mother of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, and family attorney Benjamin Crump, led a community conversation on racial profiling at Steele Indian School Park’s Memorial Hall.

Attorney Charlene Tarver of the Tarver Law Group and Fatimah Halim, a community organizer, coordinated the program, which examined the systemic impact of racial bias and profiling on communities of color.  The day’s highlights were a Q&A with Fulton, Crump, and Tarver, moderated by Halim, and a private reception hosted at a residence in Scottsdale.

The discussion is just one of many town hall meetings, rallies, or protests still occurring across the country since a Sanford, Florida jury of five White and one Hispanic women found George Zimmerman, not guilty of second degree murder charges on July 13.

Fulton said she feels the prosecutors did the best job they could and that everything rested in the jury’s hands.  “They couldn’t understand or maybe they didn’t have the understanding of Trayvon’s point of view, which is very sad because they can’t take away certain facts:  that he was unarmed, that he was a minor, that he was not committing any crime,” Fulton said.

“They have to live with some things, which is going to cause them problems with sleeping at night,” she added, as the audience exploded into applause.

Fulton and Crump also came to raise awareness about the Trayvon Martin Foundation and the Trayvon Martin Amendment, which would change Stand Your Ground Laws to prohibit people from profiling, following, and killing someone, and then claim they were standing their ground, Ms. Fulton explained to a host of concerned residents, lawyers, educators, activists, artists, politicians, and community and religious leaders. 

Fulton shared that the ordeal has thrust her — a regular woman, with a regular income and a regular life — into a spotlight she nor her family have asked for and that no family would want.  But, she will continue to fight because the Stand Your Ground law must be reversed, she said. 

Her attorney said the people’s continued engagement in the Justice for Trayvon Martin movement is multi-layered and phenomenal, and the program reminded him of how the case impacted him early on. 

“Everybody has a ‘Trayvon moment’ and the moment for me was when his father called me and the lawyers on the phone, trying to get me to represent them and I said you don’t need me because he killed him on the street. He was unarmed.  Of course they’re going to arrest him,” Crump told this writer in a private interview.

“We really believed and that was the thing that was most heartbreaking because you allowed yourself to believe. You knew about the Oscar Grants. You knew about the the Emmett Tills, the Medgar Evers, but you wanted to believe.  You thought in a post-racial society, with a Black president, with this evidence they’ve got to arrest him,” Crump continued.

Tarver urged the audience to get involved. “As lawyers, as business owners, as professionals, I think it is incumbent on us to begin to create a voice for Stand Your Ground and I think as long as we remain afraid to address it, it will never be dealt with,” Tarver stated.

A morning panel, moderated by Lasana Hotep, an educator and researcher, explored the criminal justice system and racial profiling’s impact on youth.  Presenters included Judge Penny Willrich of the Phoenix School of Law, Alex Munoz, founder of Films By Youth, Rampage, a multi-platinum rap artist, and Ja’han Jones, a student activist.

“African American males are constantly subjected to powerlessness and that brings into question our personalities, the kind of people who we are.  The acquittal of George Zimmerman brings into question America’s value of Black life,” Jones said.  As a result, he’s spent the last few months trying to reconcile the value his mom assigns to him and the value America assigns to him.  “There’s a formidable gap between worthless and priceless,” Jones added.

Munoz highlighted the role of arts on incarcerated youth.  Most of the men he works with are Black or Latino he said, and filmmaking is just one of many tools society can use to empower them in a world that’s already determined their worth as zero, he offered. 

An afternoon panel comprised of Crump, Dr. Ray Winbush of Morgan State University, Attorney Daniel Ortega of the Ortega Law Firm, and Tarver, highlighted the law and human rights through a historical lens.

There’s always been a restriction on the plain, old locomotion of Black men,  and that is a 400 year old mentality, Dr. Winbush noted.  He denounced society’s historical line that if Black males and females fight back against injustices, they are wrong.  “Black men and boys when attacked do have a right to fight back,” he said, encouraging the audience to broaden their understanding of the criminal justice system, racial profiling, and their legal rights.

“Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere and if we allow one group to be subject to injustice, it applies to all,” Ortega said.  He advocates a restructuring of police culture.  “The only way we’re going to do it is if all of us fight together and challenge it together,” he continued.

Student Minister Charles Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 32  thought the program was much needed.  “It was very inspiring to see Sybrina Fulton at the event and that actually capped the event with her spirit and her strength.  Even though she’s mourning the death of her son, she’s inspiring people and letting them know it could happen to any one of us, especially youth,” he stated.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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