Emil Guillermo: Bipartisan politics wins Congressional medal for Filipino Vets, right-wing ire for Trump on DACA
September 15, 2017 7:56 AM

For real bipartisanship in Congress, we must celebrate the passing this week of a resolution in both the House and Senate to honor Filipino World War II veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Low-hanging fruit? Slam dunk? Not necessarily. 

It required 70 senators to co-sponsor a resolution led by Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono. And then it needed more than 290 members of the House so it could pass by unanimous consent, Ben De Guzman of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project told me on Emil Amok's Takeout.

The real work was getting the legislators to understand why the Filipino World War II vets deserved a Congressional Gold Medal in the first place. More on that toward the end of this column.

News of the Congressional medal for the Filipino Vets coincidentally comes after Donald Trump stumbled while trying to be bipartisan on the more contentious Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.


After a meal of Chinese food with Trump, Democratic leaders Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi were so quick to announce they were aligned with Trump on the Dreamers. Maybe even before the eal was digested.

They released a statement that said a framework for a deal on DACA had been reached.


"We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that's acceptable to both sides," the statement added. 

The idea was that border security would somehow be combined with the DREAM Act, which the Democrats a week ago had called for an immediate vote.

But if a meal and a deal were done, Trump apparently had a case of acid reflux. 

Tweeted Trump: "No deal was made on DACA."

He followed that up with more tweets that a wall definitely would be built. 

But then Trump tweeted out two other messages that sounded like a real pathway to something was being discussed.

"Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!....."

And: "They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own - brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security"

Could have been regurgitated from a Democratic press secretary's talking points.

Later, Trump told the media he was behind some kind of plan.


The lesson: Bipartisanship will not be easy, though it appears Trump doesn't mind being called "Amnesty Don" by Breitbarters.

He threw them some red meat after all the DACA hubbub when he repeated his remark about violence "on both sides" at Charlottesville.
What's up with Trump? 

He's showing he's tired of losing the straight Republican way on just about everything. 

So as Trump tweets and defines and redefines himself on any number of issues, we're all stuck with his shifting politics, bending left or right, depending on the issue.

It's a kind of situational politics that is really not much different from any successful politician in the recent past, from Obama, to Bush, to Clinton (Bill or Hillary).

Is it principled enough? Is it too compromised? 

When ideology gives way to practicality, it may just be the cost of getting something done.

Let's not forget even Obama had his compromises. He not only gave us DACA, but deported millions of people during his tenure. And then there was Guantanamo.

He wasn't perfect. 

Just way more perfect than Trump.

Contentiousness has a way of screwing up attempts at bipartisanship. On DACA, it was interesting to see the Republicans immediately fight amongst themselves. 

The nationalists see DACA recipients taking away jobs and admissions spots in college, and want them all deported pronto.

The more compassionate conservatives see the DACA recipients as smart and upwardly mobile. They won't mind a pathway to citizenship as long as it provides the 800,000 a pathway to the GOP.

And Trump? All he cares is that you see him as the guy who fixed another "mess" left by his arch-enemy, Obama.

It will take some doing to get to a bipartisan promised land on contentious issues like this one.

For now, issues like The Filipino Veterans Congressional Gold Medal resolution, passed by both the Senate and the House, serves as a reminder that the two major parties can work together.

It's so rare in these uncivil times--you have to marvel that it can still happen.

De Guzman told me on Emil Amok's Takeout that the toughest part was educating the legislators. Many just didn't know the role of Filipinos and the Philippines in the Pacific during WWII. For example, most knew that General MacArthur retreated and returned. But they didn't realize how vital the Filipinos in the U.S armed forces there were during the void.

For the community, the big news may be how those eligible for the medal include more than just the Filipino Vets who were subject to the Rescission Act of 1946. (See my stories on the vets' fight for equity pay and on the Rescission Act.)

The Congressional Gold Medal is expansive in scope and will be awarded to all Filipinos who served in WWII. In other words, not just those Filipinos who answered Roosevelt's call in the Philippines, but also Filipino Americans who were in the U.S.

De Guzman said the number eligible for replica medals could be as high as 250,000. 

The actual gold medal will be awarded on Oct. 25 in a special ceremony at Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in D.C. It will then be on display at the Smithsonian. 

A community celebration is also planned after the ceremony, and the first 1,000 who registered at http://www.filvetrep.org will get replica medals.

Go to the website to see if your loved one's service makes him or her eligible for a replica. 

De Guzman said it's not too late to register. The organization is counting on community donations for the medals (each one costs around $52).
"There's still time to get one for Lolo," said de Guzman, who used the respectful Tagalog word for grandfather. 

Listen to the podcast for more on how the bipartisan legislation was passed, and also on de Guzman's view of Trump's bipartisan push on DACA.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

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Emil Guillermo: Podcast--What you need to know now about DACA
September 9, 2017 8:05 PM

As the head of the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, Janet Napolitano knows all about DACA. Though it was announced by President Obama, it was Napolitano's agency's plan.

Now as the president of the University of California system, Napolitano feels DACA was repealed "capriciously" and by "unreasonable" executive whim.

She's a plaintiff in the first major lawsuit filed by a university to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and its hundreds of thousands of Dreamers.

"On a personal basis, yes, I have a keen interest in DACA," Napolitano said in a media call, but she added her main interest was in the young people--4,000 undocumented students throughout the UC system alone, many of whom are DACA recipients--"whose futures are now being put in doubt. We're doing all we can to support and protect those young people."

Hear excerpts from the Napolitano media call on this edition of Emil Amok's Takeout.

We also hear from Tom Wong, UCSD professor on his latest study on DACA recipients. 

There's a reason why they represent the "best of America."

Also we hear a Dreamer who admits he's lost trust in government after the Trump decision.

All that, plus I talk about what could happen in six months. 

Could Trump be so hateful of Obama that he can't allow DACA to exist without rebranding it? 
Like his buildings, steaks, and other products? Is Trump's problem his anti-Obama mania, not rule of law? 

If so, maybe he just wants to rename it Trump's Action for Childhood Arrivals in six months. 

From DACA to TACA.

Also, we talk about Irma and hope all those in the Southeast will be safe as the storm moves through the area the next few days.

Listen to Emil Amok's Takeout here!

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

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Emil Guillermo: What killed DACA? Trump's white identity politics
September 6, 2017 7:57 AM


When President Obama was hailed as ushering in a "post-racial" America, the phrase was often said derisively by those who wished to bury our country's race mistakes of the past.  

That would include immigration exclusion laws, but the main debt was slavery. It was the only way some people could deal with a person of color elected president of the United States.

This week, some are still making us pay the price for an Obama presidency.

Post-racial? Donald Trump is undoing everything associated with Obama, taking it upon himself to make America pre-racial again. 

As America's demographics become increasingly diverse, with racial minorities becoming the majority, Trump is doing his best to restore much of pre-1965 America. 

This is America not just before civil rights, but before the massive immigration overhaul that ended restrictive quotas and led to a growing Asian America.

That's all anathema to Trump, who has cast his political fate on white identity politics and appeasing the white minority with whom he identifies and defines as his base.  

Shall we review the recent past?

When the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists marched without hoods in Charlottesville and Donald Trump couldn't unequivocally denounce them without a teleprompter, that was the first sign.

Then Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted for racially profiling Latinos in Arizona.

But the coup de grace was this week's killing of DACA, the Obama era's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that spared innocent children for the actions of their undocumented parents.

Trump acknowledged that we don't punish kids for their parents' deeds. But in a statement, he added, "We must also recognize that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws."

He means the rule of law. Or make that the rule of Trump laws. 

He likes his pardon of Arpaio better than Obama's executive action for the Dreamers.

But it makes for some unbalanced scales of justice.

One Joe Arpaio is heavy enough to fling 800,000 Dreamers' lives up in the air. 

It was enough to make President Obama issue his most forceful statement to date during the Trump administration.

President Obama in his last news conference in January warned us about this sort of thing. He said if DACA recipients were threatened, it would mean "our core values would be at stake." 

And what about those core values? If you believe in the great ideas of diversity and compassion that have created this land of opportunity we call America, then saving DACA is a no brainer.

Not only do we not punish children for the actions of their parents, but when we put them through a detailed  process like DACA that vets them and forces them to put their trust in government, we don't renege on the deal.

It is both cruel and immoral suddenly to tell them the rules have changed--that bighearted America is no longer so bighearted.

This is exactly the crossroads where we find ourselves in Trump's America.

Thousands protested around the country in reaction to the DACA announcement.

But there was also a new chill among those who now see a clock ticking attached to their deportation.

I know a young DACA recipient--an Asian American of Filipino descent--who just began her first year of college on a full-ride scholarship.

When I first met her, she was so proud to speak out and had no fear about declaring publicly her status as an undocumented but thoroughly vetted Dreamer.

When I texted her Tuesday, she was more guarded.

"Do I fear deportation? Yes, but not more or less than I did before," she said at first. But she admitted this. "I haven't been open to students about it here yet, but I have found support within the administration and staff."

"Trump's decision was not the right choice," she added. "It's time for Congress to step up and pass legislation."

Already in California, where the largest number (200,000+) of the 800,000 DACA recipients live, work, and go to school, Janet Napolitano, University of California president, has expressed the school's continued  financial, legal, and moral support for Dreamers. 

But she too was ready to lean on Congress.

"I call upon the U.S. Congress to immediately pass bipartisan legislation that would provide a permanent solution for these young people--one that charts a secure pathway toward citizenship and allows these Dreamers to continue to live, work, and serve the only country most of them know as home," Napolitano said.

Everyone mentions Congress because Trump did, having put DACA in swaddling clothes on the steps of Capitol Hill. But Trump's six month window to save it may be unrealistic given that Congress has yet to pass a significant piece of legislation this year. 

Have you heard of the American Hope Act of 2017? That's the bill that was put together early in the summer to save DACA and allow recipients to apply for conditional and permanent resident status. (Read a summary of the American Hope Act of 2017 here.)

Is there hope for the Hope Act? Who knows what a legislative solution will look like once politicos start stuffing the sausage. 

Border wall funding anyone? 

Sen. Mazie Hirono doesn't think so.

Maybe the most encouraging sign is that a number of Democratic states' attorneys general were all set to file a lawsuit to protect DACA, to counter the 10 Republican attorneys general who started the threat on DACA to begin with.

You'll recall the reason why Trump had to act on Sept. 5  was due to the threat of Texas attorney general Ken Paxton and nine others to add DACA to a suit that ended DAPA, the program for undocumented parents.

Trump could have made the Justice Department defend it. But instead, he decided to use the DACA recipients as leverage to get Congress to bend to his will.

On Tuesday, the Washington State Attorney General Robert Ferguson, who is 4-4 in legal suits against the Trump administration, most notably the Trump anti-Muslim travel ban, hinted at litigation to stop Trump's ending of DACA. 

"We think the president's action is not lawful," Ferguson said on CNN, noting that legal action could involve violations of the equal protection clause, due process, and the administration procedures act.

In the meantime, think of all the make-work and anxiety Trump has created in September, with a legislative calendar that includes the budget, tax reform, and Harvey relief. 

If he really "loved" the Dreamers, as he has often declared openly since February, if he truly valued their presence and the billions of dollars they're worth to the U.S. economy (Moody's chief economist Mark Zandi put the impact of the loss of DACA on GDP at $105 billion), then Trump simply should have fought to keep the program alive.

That would have been the brave and moral thing to do as our country's leader.

Trump could have ordered his favorite cabinet member, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to defend DACA in court against the Republican AGs for the good of the country, unity, and our adherence to American values.

But Trump's core values are all about himself, and the ratings of his flagging presidency.

Trump had to kill DACA off.

Trump's rabid base, the once white majority dwindling to minority status, needs to be constantly reassured he's got their back. 

In Trump's pre-racial America, they're the only minority that counts, to the exclusion of others.  

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

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Emil Guillermo: Three Asian Americans on Harvey: A stranded evacuee, a Katrina survivor, and a Trump booster
September 2, 2017 8:53 PM

If you're a president known for tweeting, of course, there's only one way to show any empathy.

You do selfies.


It was Trump in what would be known as a "mulligan" in golf--his second visit to Houston since Hurricane Harvey demolished Texas. Trump arrived on Saturday at the NRG shelter in Houston and on the make-good finally seemed to understand his role as comforter-in-chief.

When he spoke to reporters, he seemed impressed by what he saw.

"Very happy with the way everything's been done, a lot of love," said the president about the aid effort.

Trump likes to throw that word "love" around these days. Let's see if he finds any for DACA recipients on Tuesday. 

But on this day, Trump said people he talked with at the shelter were happy. 

"It's been a wonderful thing," he told reporters. "As tough as this was, it's been a wonderful thing. Even for the country to watch and the world to watch."

Of course, the whole world saw the state of American infrastructure under Trump. People in high water trudging along as if the U.S. were a developing country in denial of climate change.

Will this Trump show of empathy reverse first impressions? 

Sure, he's promised a personal donation of a million dollars to help. And he's asking Congress for $79 billion for Houston's recovery. So he's done what's expected.

Will it be enough to undo what could be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history?

While some residents were able to pick through the debris of their material lives on Saturday, that didn't include Jessica Kong and her mother and brother. 

The home where they live to the west of Houston in Katy--where the reservoir releases made Harvey's impact even more formidable--was still underwater.

The Kongs lived in one of the estimated 200,000 homes in Houston damaged by Harvey.

Since Monday, August 28, the family voluntarily evacuated, when the water was just thigh high. 

"I really don't know when we'll be back," Jessica told me by phone on Friday. She shared a picture of her home that a neighbor took on Thursday. 


"The water is still high," she said. "We have no flood insurance."

Her family has already applied for FEMA relief online. Reports say more than 450,000 have already registered. The Kongs have also contacted their homeowner's insurance company. After staying in a shelter in the local middle school, they've since relocated to Jessica's older sister's suburban home, which did not suffer from Harvey's rains. And even now, as she contemplates the laborious task of rebuilding after Harvey, she marvels at how strong her core family has been throughout the whole ordeal, relying on each other, friends, neighbors, and extended family.

She feels that the storm has prioritized the importance of things in her life.

She paused as she thought of a friend who lived in Dickinson, a more heavily hit area toward the coast.

That friend, a young woman, had been diagnosed with cancer this year. And she lost everything in the storm.

It's a reminder to Kong of her relative good fortune.

As she and her family rushed out of the house, they took only what was necessary. But one item she had to leave behind was a special portrait of her mom that her late father, who died of cancer in 2005, commissioned for her 50th birthday.

"It was too big," Kong said. They placed it on the second floor of the home and hoped for the best when they return.

Whenever that might be.

On the podcast Emil Amok's Takeout, she talked about how the family left her home when the water was still about thigh high and shared what she thinks her lasting memories of Harvey will be. And she contemplated the actions of Donald Trump, and if a show of compassion to Harvey victims could force his hand on DACA or expose him as a hypocrite. Kong said she's been disappointed by Trump's performance to date and doesn't expect much. 

Listen to what she said on the podcast, Emil Amok's Takeout

Also on the podcast is Katrina survivor Steven Wu, 25, who talks about how the experience helped him to both cope and assist his neighbors in his new hometown, Houston. 

"I have an idea how to help, " he said on an interview conducted Aug. 31 for the podcast, Emil Amok's Takeout. 

He talked about the power of the group hug, as he witnessed the love shared by volunteers who comforted Harvey victims in the shelters.
Wu, working as a volunteer for the Organization of Chinese Americans, said there were 17 shelters set up in churches and community centers in the west part of the county specifically to help out Asian Americans who needed language assistance. Some even offered the comfort of Asian food. 

Such a detail can be important in limiting the trauma that comes with mass evacuations during natural disasters. 

Wu said that his Katrina experience as a 13-year-old made him "grow up quickly." He worries about the kids who will have to deal with the trauma of Harvey, because he knows how Katrina impacted him.

He's also worried about FEMA and the insurance process.

"FEMA was a trainwreck," Wu said about his Katrina experience. which included life in a FEMA trailer outside his damaged home, eating MREs and living with an inconsistent water supply. The memory of that motivates him to help out for as long as necessary in the place he's called home the last three years.  

"I want to make sure it's as easy a process as it should be," Wu told me. "We went through this before as a region and a country. We shouldn't make the same mistakes in Houston."

The biggest lesson Wu learned from Katrina is that a community can rebuild, although it will take many years. Because he's seen it before, he offered some tips. "Conserve your energy," Wu said. "This is a marathon."

He also added this for those who may feel personally overwhelmed by the losses from Harvey. 

"We need you to be positive and to tell yourself not to give up," Wu said. " Please don't give up hope now."

Listen to Wu on our podcast, Emil Amok's Takeout.

Martha Wong, 78, is an Asian American political legend. The first Asian American woman elected to the Texas state house, she was also the first Asian American member of the Houston City Council.


She's also a Republican. Wong wasn't a Trump supporter at first, but became one by the election. She said Trump may not be great as far as empathy goes, but she was still satisfied by his first visit. 

And she has no doubt Houston will be back on its feet.

She was untouched by Harvey, living in a high-rise next to Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church. We talked about that and other things, including Houston politics and how small government conservatives might sing a different tune in post-Harvey politics. And we talk about why Houston floods so much.

Listen to my conversation with Wong on the podcast here.

NOTE: OCA of Greater Houston, which AALDEF represented in a voting rights case in Texas, has helped to establish the Harvey AAPI Community Relief Fund. Help the Asian American community in the Houston area by making a donation: http://www.ocahouston.org/harveyrelief.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies

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Emil Guillermo: Hurricane Harvey is more proof--Trump doesn't know how to act presidential, or human
August 28, 2017 7:10 AM

"This is the worst," Ed Gor, a Houston resident, told me on our podcast, Emil Amok's Takeout. We were on the phone Sunday talking about the power of Harvey, demoted from hurricane to tropical storm, but still packing a wallop.

Gor knows he was lucky for now. His street was flooded, but the water was still a few feet from his front door. But with more rain in the forecast, he wasn't sure how Harvey would end for him.

"We don't have any water in our house," Gor said. "There are a lot of areas around Houston where unfortunately the houses have flooded over. And in some places, you can't even see the top of a car."


Gor is the president of Chinese American Citizens Alliance, formed in 1895 and the oldest Asian American civil rights organization in the country. This week, he was wondering how he would get to his organization's 54th Biennial National Convention in Chicago.

In the podcast, he talks about the vast Houston Chinatown and how it may be affected by Harvey.  He also  said because the community is spread throughout Houston, it's hard to gauge how Asian Americans will be impacted. He said senior citizens would suffer the most. 

On the positive side, Gor said he's seen the storm bring out the best in people.

"This is the good part about this storm," Gor said. "You have Hispanic and White and African American helping Chinese people. I saw a Vietnamese guy, his car had stalled, and this African American and White helped the people there push his car out of the water. This is the thing about humanity that is good in natural disasters."

Houston is going to need a lot of that in the weeks to come.

I asked him if he thought the president has done enough. 

At the time I called, the president had made a few perfunctory tweets. But nothing that expressed any concern for the human toll that was taking place in real time.

Nothing to indicate Trump really knew how the presidency works to help us all as a nation during a massive natural disaster.

Trump did, however, see it fit to tweet/plug a friend's book, mention something about a trip to Missouri, and tweet more on his border wall.


There were tweets about meetings and FEMA. But nothing to indicate he really gave a hoot for the people struggling with Harvey.

Nothing with any heart.

You'd expect that from a leader. No matter what party.

But after Charlottesville, we should know we don't have that kind of leader.

We have a me-first leader who elevates the neo-Nazis and white supremacists among his base nationalistic support. How else to explain his "both sides" and "many fine people" talk?

We have a guy whose Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, when asked if Trump's response represents "American values," answers tersely on Fox News Sunday, "The president speaks for himself."  

We know how Trump explains it all.

In Phoenix, he purposefully misrepresented what he said to his followers. 

And the media manipulation doesn't end there. With Harvey's encroachment on Texas, we have a leader who used that news to shield the dumping of more significant negative news on the country when all attention should have been focused on the storm.

Maybe his should have too. 

But is there any better time to formalize a discriminatory transgender ban in the military?

And it's probably the best time to unveil the polarizing announcement of his pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio--who was convicted of illegally racially profiling Latinos. 

Is there any doubt what our divider-in-chief represents? 

He likes pre-1965 America. Pre-civil rights America, when our country was not so diverse.

And despite his preference to be president for only some of us, we've come to expect a president to offer something to show concern and lift the spirits of all those suffering in Texas.

Something more significant than a 140 character tweet.

That's what a leader is supposed to do.

I used to live in Houston. I'd say I did a fair amount of my growing up there as a nineteen-year-old announcer at the major rock station of the time, KLOL. 

I remember reading flash flood warnings from the wires during times like these. And then not heeding the warnings, I drove onto a flooded street in my low-riding car. I know the pain of Houston floods.

The memories came back as I watched the news dispatches from Texas. 

Water, water everywhere. And the damage is unfathomable. Heartbreaking. 

The only thing missing is a president offering empathy and comfort for everyone touched by Harvey.

If only we had that kind of president.

Listen to my podcast with Ed Gor here.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

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