Fighting for Women’s Rights in the Arab World

December 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

By Lilian Tse

At a young age, Hala Deeb loved to argue with others and her parents knew that she was destined to be a lawyer. Deeb enrolled in law school at the Amman Arab University in Jordan and she distinctly remembers a moment that made her passionate about women’s rights. During one of her criminal law classes, the topic was on rape.

“The male students did not want any of the female students to join the class because it would make it awkward for them to ask honest questions. I refused to comply with this. If I have a client in the future who is raped, what will I do if I don’t attend this class?” she asked.

Deeb ignored her male classmates, got permission from the professor and sat in the class. There was only one other female student who was willing to stay in the class with her. Deeb realized that it was crucial for her to stand up for women’s rights in the Arab region. Standing up for women’s rights is about defending her own rights, she said.

Today, Deeb is a human rights activist helping to fight discrimination and violence against women in Arab countries. She works at the Jordanian Women’s Union that is based in Jordon, and collaborates with local NGOs in Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco.  Deeb explained that female workers from poorer neighboring countries often leave their children at a young age and move to Jordon for work. “Many women get smuggled into Jordan with promises to have jobs in restaurants or hotels But when they arrive, they are forced into the sex trade and their families never find them,” she said.

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The Heart of Full Disclosure

December 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

By Yumna Mohamed

Gabriel is a 24-year-old New Yorker who has just recently made the transition from being an undocumented immigrant to applying for legal residency. Tune in to hear Gabriel’s story.

Every day, Gabriel, 24, is faced with the challenge of articulating his identity, guarding himself and carefully choosing to whom he reveals himself and when. To put it another way, he inhabits more than one closet.

For 17 years, Gabriel lived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant. He also is gay.

“My undocumented status had a large impact on my upbringing,” says Gabriel, who moved here from Quito, Ecuador with his parents when he was seven.

“Without my papers, I felt like I was trapped in a box. I could see everything outside of it and I wanted to access it but couldn’t and I just wanted to get out of it,” he says.

This year, his uncle was able to sponsor Gabriel and his family’s application for legal residency. As his mother’s brother, Gabriel’s uncle, who is a U.S. citizen, is able to sponsor his immediate relatives’ application for an “adjustment of status,” which will hopefully lead to permanent residency and eventual citizenship. In the meantime, Gabriel has finally been able to get a state ID, Social Security number and work permit.

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Micheal Castaldo: The Unofficial Italian Ambassador

December 12, 2011 § 3 Comments

By Cristabelle Tumola

If you met Micheal Castaldo you wouldn’t think he was an immigrant. But he isn’t American—he grew up in Canada. It’s easy to mistake a Canadian for an American, but Micheal actually isn’t a native Canadian either—he is, as his name suggests, Italian.

This two-time immigrant left Southern Italy’s Calabria region when he was three years old. He grew up in Toronto Canada, and as an adult came to America to study music, later falling in love with New York and staying for good.

It was in the United States that Micheal, 49, started his career as an Italian ambassador, but not in the literal sense.

For the past 10 years, Micheal has been exploring his Italian culture through his music, olive oil business and his restored family villa that he rents out to tourists in Calabria.

“I feel blessed that I’m able to go back to my roots and tell my story because everybody has their own story to tell and put it out there and see who likes it and who doesn’t,” he says.

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Fighting for Change

December 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

By Dervedia Thomas

One year ago, a walk home from work turned into a nightmare for Abraham Paulos, 30, an immigrant born in Sudan to refugee parents from Eritrea.

Paulos came to the United States as a political asylee when he was two years old. But his future in this country was threatened one afternoon when a victim of a robbery told police that he was one of the perpetrators.

This led to four days behind bars, including two at Rikers Island prison complex, before his roommate bailed him out.

Abraham Paulos advising a detained immigrant on Families for Freedom's hotline

“I felt like I was in a dream, with endless cages, handcuffs and dark faces,” he said. “I was angry because I realized that the criminal justice system has little to do with justice and more to do with racism and poverty, and I was extremely sad to see that almost all of the prisoners in one of the biggest city jails in the world were men of color.”

His experience would do more than just make him sad and angry, it would give birth to his career as an activist fighting to change U.S. immigration policies.

After being warned by family and friends that his criminal charges could also lead to the cancellation of his green card and possible deportation,  Paulos called the hotline of Families for Freedom a non-profit immigrant rights organization. One year later, he became the executive director of the same non-profit that gave him legal advice and counsel.

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The 10 Million of the 99 Percent

December 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

By Rebecca Ellis

Jose works 55 to 56 hours a week as a full-time chef at a downtown pizzeria. One of his specialties is a 15-inch pizza with pepperoni around the edges and lined down the middle, a popular item among the protesters at Occupy Wall Street. The pepperoni is arranged in the shape of the universal protest symbol, served up piping hot to hungry and freezing Wall Street occupiers.

Jose, who is undocumented and asked his last name not be published, is one of the 99 percent.  Jose is one of more than 10 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States and without comprehensive immigration reform he has no way to legalize his status.

“I am not afraid to say I am illegally here,” Jose said. “I came like all Mexicans who come here, to work.”

Jose is more focused on what he calls the  “the Mexican dream” rather than “the American dream.” Instead of buying a big house in the suburbs, Jose looks forward to the day when he can go back to his home country and be with his children.

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