Brothers, Viet Nam Vets Facing Deportation, Speak at UCCS

The Deportation of our US Military Veterans continues and there is not enough of an uprising and outrage regarding this travesty of justice. As Americans we say we support our troops but what about when they come home? We just throw them away?

Brothers, Viet Nam Vets Facing Deportation, Speak at UCCS

Author: Tim Paynter
Published: March 22, 2011 at 7:12 am

Manuel and Valente Valenzuela signed an oath to protect the United State of America when they enlisted in the military. Shortly thereafter, they found themselves fighting for their lives and their country in Viet Nam. Both brothers saw the heat of combat, and Valente, the older brother, had some special duties, something he keeps close to his conscience to this day.

Many Valenzuela friends paid the ultimate price, leaving each brother grateful it was not his time to be called to a higher place while defending democracy in a rice paddy in Viet Nam. Unfortunately, the country that sent our youth to fight and likely die to defend the homeland lacks gratitude for those who answered the call of duty. The United States is in the process of deporting both Valenzuela brothers from it’s borders.

This is a disgraceful story which places yet another black mark on the record of civil rights and respect for dignity of a mighty country. Manuel and Valente Valenzuela were brought to the US by their citizen mother when they were young. They grew up as Americans and consider themselves citizens. They answered the call of duty. They have paid taxes and lived like any other American. Yet they are forced to fight the immigration system after fighting for their country in Southeast Asia.

On March 29th, 2001, Manuel and Valente Valenzuela will tell their story as featured guests at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, (UCCS) Colorado. The presentation will start at 3:00 p.m. at the University Center Building, Room 303.

The brothers will talk about how their deportation proceedings have affected their lives, on top of the post traumatic stress they suffered in Viet Nam. Manuel and Valente will also speak about other veterans who lost their battle to stay in the United States after fighting to defend this country. Few people are aware of the veterans who have been deported despite being considered citizens and required to serve in our armed forces.

The Valenzuela brothers are a prime example of a broken immigration system which panders to the cliché’s of “waiting in the back of the line”. Somewhere the system has failed to take into account veterans who served in combat duty, who offered their lives to protect democracy, and who are now forgotten by a country that pretends to laud freedom and human rights. If deported, the Valenzuela brothers can come back to the United States one final time. That will be to lay their bodies to rest in Arlington National Cemetery after they die in a foreign land. Until then, they will be personas non grata. The talk is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend.

Second thoughts of a ‘hanging judge’

Insights from an experienced Republican judge, justice doesn’t need to be partisan or political…

Second thoughts of a ‘hanging judge’

A death sentence in California rarely leads to an execution. Let’s stop the charade.

By Donald A. McCartin

March 25, 2011

In 1978, the first time Jerry Brown was governor of California, he appointed me to a judgeship in the Superior Court of Orange County. It was a gutsy move on his part, a liberal Democrat naming a right-wing Republican to the bench. I served there until 1993, after which I sat on assignment on death cases throughout California.

During that time, I presided over 10 murder cases in which I sentenced the convicted men to die. As a result, I became known as “the hanging judge of Orange County,” an appellation that, I will confess, I accepted with some pride.

The 10 were deemed guilty of horrifying crimes by their peers, and in the jurors’ view as well as mine they deserved to die at the hands of the state. However, as of today, not one of them has been executed (though one died in prison of natural causes).

I am deeply angered by the fact that our system of laws has become so complex and convoluted that it makes mockery of decisions I once believed promised resolution for the family members of victims.

That said, I have followed the development of legal thinking and understand why our nation’s Supreme Court, in holding that “death is different,” has required that special care be taken to safeguard the rights of those sentenced to death. Such wisdom protects our society from returning to the barbarism of the past. And though I find it discomfiting and to a significant degree embarrassing that appellate courts have found fault with some of my statements, acts or decisions, I can live with the fact that their findings arise out of an attempt to ensure that the process has been scrupulously fair before such a sentence is carried out.

I can live with it and, apparently, so can the men I condemned. The first one, Rodney James Alcala, whom I sentenced to die more than 30 years ago for kidnapping and killing 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, was, just last year, again sentenced to death for killing Samsoe and four other young women who, it has subsequently been determined, were his victims around the same time.

I need not go into the permutations of Alcala’s legal journey. Behind bars since 1979, he has not harmed, nor can he harm, any other young women. But harm has been done, and that’s what infuriates me. Robin Samsoe’s mother has been revictimized time and time again as the state of California spent millions upon millions of dollars in unsuccessful attempts to finally resolve the case against her daughter’s murderer.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have given Alcala and the others the alternative sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Had I done that, Robin’s mother, Marianne, would have been spared the pain of 30 appeals and writs and retrial. She could have dealt then and there with the fact that her daughter’s killer would be shut away, never again to see a day of freedom, and gone on to put her life together. And the people of California would have not have had to pay many millions of tax dollars in this meaningless and ultimately fruitless pursuit of death.

It makes me angry to have been made a player in a system so inefficient, so ineffective, so expensive and so emotionally costly.

I watch today as Gov. Brown wrestles with the massive debt that is suffocating our state and hear him say he doesn’t want to “play games.” But I cringe when I learn that not playing games amounts to cuts to kindergarten, cuts to universities, cuts to people with special needs — and I hear no mention of the simple cut that would save hundreds of millions of dollars, countless man-hours, unimaginable court time and years of emotional torture for victim’s family members waiting for that magical sense of “closure” they’ve been falsely promised with death sentences that will never be carried out.

There is actually, I’ve come to realize, no such thing as “closure” when a loved one is taken. What family members must find is reconciliation with the reality of their loss, and that can begin the minute the perpetrator is sent to a prison he will never leave. But to ask them to endure the years of being dragged through the courts in pursuit of the ultimate punishment is a cruel lie.

It’s time to stop playing the killing game. Let’s use the hundreds of millions of dollars we’ll save to protect some of those essential services now threatened with death. Let’s stop asking people like me to lie to those victim’s family members.

The governor doesn’t have the power to end the death penalty by himself, but he can point the way. He could have a huge financial impact on California by following the lead of Illinois and commuting the sentences of the more than 700 men and women on California’s death row to life without parole.

Donald A. McCartin is a retired Superior Court judge.

THE GINGHAM DRESS

A motivational story that cuts across demographics, cultures, political parties, genders with global implications.

THE GINGHAM DRESS

A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a old suit, stepped off the train in Boston and walked timidly without an appointment into the Harvard University President’s outer office. The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard & probably didn’t even deserve to be in Cambridge .

‘We’d like to see the president,’ the man said softly. ‘He’ll be busy all day,’ the secretary snapped. ‘We’ll wait,’ the lady replied. For hours the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away. They didn’t, and the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted.

‘Maybe if you see them for a few minutes, they’ll leave,’ she said to him! He sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn’t have the time to spend with them, and he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office. The president, stern faced and with dignity, strutted toward the couple.

The lady told him, ‘We had a son who attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. My husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus.’

The president wasn’t touched. He was shocked. ‘Madam,’ he said, gruffly, ‘we can’t put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery.’ ‘Oh, no,’ the lady explained quickly. ‘We don’t want to erect a statue. We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard.’

The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed, ‘A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million dollars in the physical buildings here at Harvard.’

For a moment the lady was silent. The president was pleased. Maybe he could get rid of them now. The lady turned to her husband and said quietly, ‘Is that all it cost to start a university? Why don’t we just start our own? Her husband nodded. The president’s face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.

Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford got up and walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California where they established the university that bears their name, Stanford University, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.

You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who they think can do nothing for them.—- A TRUE STORY by Malcolm Forbes.

People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel!

U.S., in Shift, Sees Marriage Act as Violation of Gay Rights

Interesting how this will eventually affect US citizens’ rights to petition for their same-sex married partner to come to the United States. Same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden.

U.S., in Shift, Sees Marriage Act as Violation of Gay Rights
By CHARLIE SAVAGE and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
Published: February 23, 2011

WASHINGTON — President Obama, in a major legal policy shift, has directed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act — the 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages — against lawsuits challenging it as unconstitutional.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sent a letter to Congress on Wednesday saying that the Justice Department will now take the position in court that the act should be struck down as a violation of same-sex couples’ rights to equal protection under the law.

“The president and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny and that, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law,” a crucial provision of the act is unconstitutional, Mr. Holder wrote.

The move is sure to be welcomed by gay-rights advocates, who had often criticized Mr. Obama for moving too slowly in his first two years in office to address issues that concern them. Coming after the administration successfully pushed late last year for repeal of the military’s ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly, the change of policy on the marriage law could intensify the long-running political and ideological clash over same-sex marriage as the 2012 presidential campaign approaches.

The government’s new position could have far-reaching implications for the rights of gays and lesbians that extend beyond the Defense of Marriage Act, legal scholars said. Gay rights advocates hailed it as a breakthrough.

“It’s a monumentally important decision,” said Tobias B. Wolff, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania who advised the Obama campaign on gay rights issues.

“The Justice Department and the president have taken the position on behalf of the United States government that discrimination against gay and lesbian people in all cases is presumptively unconstitutional,” he said. “It’s the first time the United States government has ever embraced that position, and if the courts agree, it will help to eradicate all of the various forms of discrimination that gay and lesbian people suffer around the country.”

The president has long said he opposes the Defense of Marriage Act, even as his administration has until now worked to uphold the act’s constitutionality. He has also favored civil unions over gay marriage, much to the consternation of the gay rights advocates who generally support him, but has also said on several recent occasions that his views on gay marriage are “evolving.”

Wednesday’s announcement seemed, to many, to bring him one step closer to reversing his position on gay marriage.

But with gay rights advocates agitating for such a reversal, Mr. Obama has steadfastly resisted talking about a timetable for one. Mr. Wolff said the announcement on Wednesday should give Mr. Obama “a bit more space in his relationship with the LGBT community to come to a decision about that issue in his own time.”

Inside the White House, the discussion about how the Justice Department should handle the Defense of Marriage Act case reached the highest levels. Bob Bauer, Mr. Obama’s White House counsel and a one-time lawyer for the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay advocacy organization, was deeply involved, as was Valerie Jarrett, the president’s senior adviser, who is his liaison to gay rights groups and is viewed as strongly supportive of their causes.

While Mr. Obama has long argued that the Defense of Marriage Act is bad policy and has urged Congress to repeal it, his administration has also sent Justice Department lawyers into court to defend the statute’s constitutionality.

The new position will require the administration to file new briefs in such litigation, including a major case now pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Boston.

Congress may decide to appoint its own lawyers to defend the law, or outside groups may try to intervene in the cases in order to mount legal arguments in the law’s defense. Mr. Holder said that the administration would continue to enforce the act unless and until Congress repeals it, or a court delivers a “definitive verdict against the law’s constitutionality.”

“Our attorneys will also notify the courts of our interest in providing Congress a full and fair opportunity to participate in the litigation in those cases,” he wrote. “We will remain parties to the case and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation.”

The decision to change position grew out of an internal administration policy argument, first reported by The New York Times in January, over how to respond to two lawsuits filed late last year in New York.

Citing an executive-branch duty to defend acts of Congress when plausible arguments exist that they are constitutional, the Obama administration had previously argued that legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act should be dismissed.

But those lawsuits were filed in circuits that had precedents saying that when gay people say a law infringes on their rights, judges should use a test called “rational basis” to evaluate that claim. Under that standard, the law is presumed to be constitutional, and challengers must prove that there is no conceivable rational government basis for enacting it, a hard standard for challengers to meet.

But the new lawsuits were filed in districts covered by the appeals court in New York. That court has no precedent establishing which legal test judges should use when evaluating claims that a federal law violates gay people’s rights.

That vacuum meant that the administration’s legal team had to perform its own analysis of whether gay people were entitled to the protection of a test known as “heightened scrutiny.” Under that test, it is much easier to challenge laws that unequally affect a group, because the test presumes that such laws are unconstitutional, and they may be upheld only if the lawmakers’ purpose in enacting them served a compelling governmental interest.

In his letter, Mr. Holder said the administration legal team had decided that gay people merited the protection of the “heightened scrutiny” test, and that under that standard, the Defense of Marriage Act was impossible to keep defending as constitutional.