New Americans: Immigrants Ready to Take Their Place as U.S. Citizens

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June is Immigrant Heritage Month, and it is a time to celebrate the many cultures represented in our country’s society. While we celebrate the heritage of the millions of people living in the United States, we know that immigration remains to be a hot topic that is constantly being debated. Recently, I’ve noticed the media reporting about the increase in citizenship applications, and that new Americans are eager and excited to vote. As a naturalized citizen myself, I too shared the feelings of eagerness and excitement to be politically engaged after becoming a citizen in 2009. Raising my right hand before a federal judge and reciting my Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America is my proudest moment.

I had wanted to become a citizen in time for the 2008 presidential election. At the time I was a student at Bowling Green State University with a part-time job. The money from that job wasn’t enough to pay for the citizenship application. I had to get a second job in order to save enough to pay for the $700 cost of the citizenship test. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to become a citizen in time to participate in the election that year, but I was very excited to send in my voter registration form immediately after my oath ceremony.

I know that there are millions of other immigrants in this country who want to become citizens, but have a difficult time navigating the process. The bureaucracy involved in this extensive process to becoming an American is confusing and expensive. While there have been many efforts made to improve this process, there have also been many setbacks. Just last week the Supreme Court decided to block President’s Obama’s immigration plan with a 4-4 decision. This decision will have a detrimental impact on families and communities across our nation. By keeping immigration reform in limbo the Supreme Court has placed more uncertainty and fear upon a population who is simply trying to work hard and support their families. As a naturalized citizen, I get to live my American Dream everyday, but I’m disheartened by the fact that many others who are not yet citizens are living an immigration nightmare.

As a naturalized citizen, I believe it is important to celebrate both my heritage and the country that I call home. I am without a doubt proud to be Brazilian by birth, and American by choice. As I listen to the candidates talk about several issues during this election cycle, I will be paying close attention to their plans for fixing our broken immigration system. It is imperative that we elect a president who is knowledgeable on this issue, and who is intelligent and sophisticated enough to know that just building a wall along our Southern boarder is not an appropriate solution. I hope that others will participate in this debate and truly listen to the ideas to fixing this problem because at the end of the day our immigration laws impact all of us.


Editor’s Note: In response to Leo’s post, and in keeping with our mission to provide solutions to issues that our bloggers discuss, we propose the following for our readers to consider: 

                  > Stay informed. Read, watch, listen, and discuss immigration. The more information you pursue, the better equipped you will be to make decisions on the topic.

                  > To more fully understand how immigration impacts families and the consequences of enacted public policies on immigrants and refugees, consider volunteering with a non-profit organization dedicated to serving these populations. In Columbus, there are numerous organizations in which you can volunteer or learn more about immigrants and their families, some of which are CRIS, US Together-Columbus, and World Relief-Columbus.

                  > Contact the Columbus Community Relations Commission. According to their website, the CRC was created to recommend ways and means of initiating and improving city government programs designed to eliminate discrimination or to remove the effects of past discrimination. On Friday, July 8th, the CRC will be hosting a Lunch and Learn Series focusing on immigrants and refugees from 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM at 1111 East Broad Street. More information can be found at www.columbus.gov/crc/.

> Advocate: Contact your Congressman or Congresswoman and share your concerns on the country’s immigration system and urge your member to enact legislation. (****okay, this seems lame, but you see what we’re getting at here****)


 

Leo Almeida is a government relations professional who works and lives in the Columbus area.  Leo moved to Columbus after graduating from Bowling Green State University where he majored in Ethnic Studies and minored in Political Science.  He is currently a policy associate for an environmental non-profit organization.  He is also a community activist who spends most of his free time working with community groups and political campaigns.  Leo serves on the board of trustees for the Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS), which provides numerous services to many immigrants and refugees in Franklin County.  He is also the Chairman of the Franklin County Adelante Democrats, an organization focused on Latino voters and the general Latino community in Central Ohio.

Sex and Security

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s statement directing the Department of Defense to undertake a study designed to incorporate transgender individuals into the military follows relatively quickly on the heels of the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on gays serving openly, which took quite some time to overturn. These advances contrast with much more negative reports of continuing failure in attempts to address sexual assault in the ranks, and discrimination against female leadership in combat roles. Similar concerns have been raised about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses as well. These issues are united by an attempt to manage and contain sexuality among young people. But military service presents unique problems for young people, who often work in isolated and demanding circumstances far from home.

These issues are not new, nor will they be easily solved. But they do highlight some important, if indirect, ways in which gender and violence are too often united. The topic of gender in international relations was marginalized for many years, although it has made some meaningful inroads in recent years as more empirical evidence illuminating the relationship between gender and violence has become available. These critical issues raised by largely feminist scholars deserve wider public consideration and debate, precisely because it directly affects larger public policy issues such as those related to sexual assault in the military.

In a recent article reviewing a number of books on the topic, I discuss several of the central issues that divide many of the debates around the relationship between gender and violence. A few of these concerns present noteworthy problems for scholars and activists to consider when seeking to counter violence against women and other vulnerable populations.

First, despite arguments over whether gender is socially constructed or biologically determined, and of course it is a bit of both, the reality is that most victims of sexual violence around the world are women.   Even in the military, where men sustain more sexual assault than women in terms of numbers, women sustain more sexual violence as a percentage of their population.

Second, most violence is perpetrated by men. Women who commit murder are exceedingly rare relative to men; the majority of killing is of men by men, whether for personal or political reasons. This does not render women entirely innocent: encouraging men to fight for things they want, or providing rewards to those who have fought, implies some element of shared complicity. However, the reality is that men do most of the fighting and the vast majority of the killing. Elsewhere I have argued that some of this is explained by the uncomfortable reality that some men just like to fight; such individuals make the best warriors and we should not shy away from supporting them embodying such roles to achieve a more effective defense for all of us at lower psychological cost to those who do not wish to engage in direct forms of violence. Indeed, violence has long been used effectively to defend in-group members from predators, and to protect the vulnerable from victimization.

But of course the reality of the relationship between sex and violence is not so simple. People (usually men) often use violence to get sex, among other things. And of course both men and women use sex to get all kinds of things all the time, from children to resources to status and power, and even something as ephemeral as love. And this raises a critical point: Men and women have different reproductive goals, opportunities, and paths, partly as a result of the drop in fertility in women beginning in their 30s, which does not begin to affect men until decades later.   This means basic reproductive biology restricts men and women who want children in different ways, and at different times. This can have a particularly acute impact on gender relations when people are younger, as they necessarily are during times of military service.

Important psychological tendencies, including those related to the propensity for aggression and violence, follow from these different sexual and reproductive goals and strategies. Gay or straight, cis or trans, finding a mate is hard and important work whether or not a person wants children. And, over evolutionary time, natural selection has shaped human psychological architecture to privilege particular kinds of responses which are more likely, on average, to lead to the ability to have and raise children successfully. And because these processes operate through reproduction, a great deal of basic psychology is geared toward competing for and retaining mates, and guarding against interlopers. Those psychological tendencies affect the tendency toward aggression, and do so in a way which differs by sex, on average. This means that sex and aggression remain inextricably linked through deep motivational processes. It is critically important to understand the ways in which individual experiences of sex and aggression can affect widespread attitudes toward large-scale conflicts such as war.

But this highlights a critical point about the nature of sex and violence. Violence, like gender, results from a combination of nature and nurture.   This means that the family of origin unit proves critical in modeling the implicit assumptions about dominance between parents, and appropriate mechanisms for the resolution of conflicts. When children continually see men berating or beating women, they learn not only that violence constitutes an acceptable means of conflict resolution (and that might makes right), but they also learn that women must remain subservient to men because men possess greater physical strength on average, and are willing to use it against weaker people to get their way. Neither of these lessons are good, nor are they right, but they do become visited on the larger society as young people replicate the lessons they learn growing up onto their assumptions about wider society, and even appropriate relations between states.

So when sexual assault in the military or on college campuses is not addressed in a strong and swift manner, or when women are not allowed into, or are fired from positions of leadership in the military or elsewhere, we need not wonder where the source of such discrimination originates, or how it comes to be replicated across generations. There is no question that individuals are born with their own particular dispositions, but those tendencies exist in interaction with larger environments and cultural norms. And critical forms of early socialization which direct and shape strategies of conflict resolution become formulated in families of origin. And yet very little is done to help teach parents how to raise children within a context of nonviolent conflict resolution strategies.

This does not mean learning and progress are not possible. Thankfully, there is much less tolerance for racist sentiment in the military or on college campuses than there was 50 years ago. But somehow tolerance for sexual violence against women remains endemic and represents a continuing stain on any pretense of equality in the military or elsewhere in larger society.  Large societal laws, institutions and strategies for preventing and punishing violations are indeed important and need to be supported. But greater attention needs to be paid to how parenting strategies, and other patterns of early socialization in school and other large institutions like the military, inculcate particular patterns and assumptions about how dominance hierarchies work to privilege the powerful at the expense of the weak. And too often this dynamic privileges men over women, just as it privileges white people over those of color, the rich over the poor, the straight over the gay and so on.

The tendency to categorize humans into in-groups and out-groups lies deep, but that does not mean that strategies to shift the way such groups solve disputes cannot reduce the propensity toward violence between them. And it all begins with how we raise our children, and how we teach them about the rights and responsibilities of power in the home. And these lessons can, over time, infiltrate into a safer society for everyone.

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Rose McDermott is the David and Mariana Fisher University Professor of International Relations at Brown University and a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  She received her Ph.D.(Political Science) and M.A. (Experimental Social Psychology) from Stanford University and has taught at Cornell, UCSB  and Harvard.   She has held numerous fellowships, including the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and the Women and Public Policy Program, all at Harvard University. She was also a fellow at the Stanford Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences. She is the author of three books, a co-editor of two additional volumes, and author of over ninety academic articles across a wide variety of disciplines encompassing topics such as experimentation, emotion and decision making, and the biological and genetic bases of political behavior.

Pure Peace=Pure Water

Oftentimes the relationship between peace and public health can be a murky route to navigate. Both can be perceived to be influenced by alternative forces, where in reality, public health could often be looked at as one part of how peace is defined. In fact, Ashley Bersani put it best, “Public Health and Peace­ they go together like peas and carrots”. In her article highlighting the relationship between peace and public health, she argued that in order to have a peaceful society, members in this society must have their basic needs met. With that, and and understanding of basic human needs, we know the most quintessential basic need to survive is, water.

But what specifically does water have to do with peace? How do we solve this problem?

All around the world, water is distributed and consumed in various ways. For many of us, we wake up in the morning take a shower, brush our teeth, and drink a glass of water. However, we know that everywhere that is not the case. Each and everyday the lack of clean water creates many problems for those on the other end. When clean water is scarce, it creates tension and conflict simply because many people are vying for a limited supply. As water consumption continues to increase this problem will only continue to spread internationally. In fact the struggles experienced by these circumstances have developed what many have deemed, “The Global Water Crisis”. In fact, the World Economic Forum determined that this Crisis is the most severe Societal Global risk today.

Fortunately, there are many organizations working towards creating easier access to clean water for areas around the world. However, roughly 50% of clean water interventions fail. Why does this occur though? Many of the interventions that organizations take on are ill fit for the communities they are working with. To solve any issue it is important to gauge the political, economic, and cultural climates of the areas an organization may work with to ensure sustainable solutions to clean water access. In fact, one such company working towards this is a Columbus based company, the Pure Water Access Project (PWAP).

PWAP was created in response to the circumstances of “The Global Water Crisis” and aims to resolve common issues it incurs around the globe. The aim of this company is to promote the sustainability of pure water access initiatives, and to help educate about the issues associated with promoting this. PWAP works toward these goals through a combination of physical support and consultation with organizations and people that have already established networks within the regions we aim to, or are already working in. U​sing key data analysis and research skills PWAP is able to have a broad reach with the help of the interconnected nature of the world it interacts in.

PWAP’s founding by Ohio State students paved the way for its Fellowship program that employs undergraduate students to coordinate the company’s projects and initiatives. PWAP has worked in major projects in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Ghana, with plans to begin work in Sri Lanka and Peru as well. In El Salvador and Nicaragua, PWAP assessed the effectiveness of different water filters, and worked to help construct major filters in the communities they visited, while maintaining contact with locals to ensure their sustainability. Additionally, PWAP evaluated the community’s behaviors and attitudes towards common WASH (Water and Sanitation Hygiene) practices to determine the impact that was having on issues with water access in the communities it worked in. In Ghana, PWAP worked in a similar capacity, through consulting “Global Brigades” in researching and determining the most practical filters for it to implement in the communities it worked in.

PWAP’s future involves maintaining the strategies it has implemented in its current projects, and applying the same practices to its work in Peru and Sri Lanka. PWAP hopes to also expand its work locally and have a greater presence within communities in the midwest and through the U.S.. Through implementing successful strategies from the past, while cultivating the innovation that new Fellows and Partners will bring, PWAP’s future is bright in helping address the Global Water Crisis one step at a time.

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Trisha Barnett is a third-year business student, specializing in Operations Management at The Ohio State University’s Max. M. Fisher College of Business. She has passion for social entrepreneurship and loves the idea of using business practices to make an impact. Aside from her work in PWAP she is involved in Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship, Delta Sigma Pi, and Politics, Society, and Law Scholars. Upon graduation, she plans on pursuing a dual MPP/MBA degree.

Peace and Policy in the Age of Space Technology (Part 2, The Ambitious)

Today, we live in a world where sights have been set on the next big goal: Mars. This is an effort that many may not find to be a priority in their lives. Why go to Mars? Who the heck would want to go anyway?! To quickly answer the latter question, me. I would go. But let’s look at the former inquiry more in depth. As my stories usually are, this is a roundabout way to get to the answer to that question, but bear with me.

Mr. Elon Musk is the Henry Ford of two massive industries: electric cars and space vehicles. One of these businesses alone would be a major undertaking, but Elon doesn’t do anything halfway, especially when it comes to being an entrepreneur. Before I fangirl too much on how cool Elon is, let’s focus on the space stuff he does i.e. run the world’s most successful startup space company, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. SpaceX.

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Mr. Elon “I Do Literally Whatever I Set My Mind To” Musk.

On the verge of collapse after three failed launch attempts in the mid-2000s, SpaceX seemed to be a poor investment of the self-made millionaire’s money after selling Paypal (yes, The Paypal) to eBay. Yet, their fourth launch was successful, and that was the beginning of an amazing shift in the space industry. SpaceX now has contracts with NASA and now the U.S. Air Force (after first trying to sue them) and conducts space launches at less than half(!) the cost of other launch providers, namely United Launch Alliance (ULA). To read more about how incredible this is, read this. Understatement of the century: Elon is changing the game.

So, again, why go? Mr. Musk has a comforting answer: we go to Mars to ensure the survival of the human race. And he is 100% serious. Now for some people who don’t work in the field of aerospace, this might be the first time you are hearing this. To you, this might seem laughable. But I assure you, if we do not become a multi-planetary species, humans will be just another blip on the screen of animals that once lived on Earth. Elon firmly believes that Mars is the back-up hard drive most accessible to us as a species. Should something happen to planet Earth whether it is a dinosaur-like extinction via asteroid, a nuclear holocaust, or just a slow, greenhouse-gas-driven melting of the planet, we are protecting our species by moving to Mars. Elon Musk believes not only that going to Mars is a good idea but a necessary one.

Whoa, right? Lots to think about here. For me, it is hard to argue with a man so seriously smart and with such similar aspirations to me. I have wanted to be an astronaut for 18 years, so when a guy says, “hey, I think we should go to Mars”, it is hard for me to not immediately kneel at his feet. But this is an important discussion for everyone, not just the space enthusiasts. This undertaking of ensuring the survival of the species is not for the shortsighted, and yet we live in a world where shortsightedness dominates our everyday decision-making. A president of a single country could never make this effort to back-up the human race on Mars a reality in his or her four- or even eight-year tenure. This is a global, species-wide effort. It will be a direct reflection on just how willing we are to operate on a species level rather than national level.

For fear of tiring you all out, I will cut myself off there, but I implore you to read “Wait But Why” blog author Tim Urban’s article on SpaceX, specifically How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars, Part 2: Musk’s Mission. This gives a greater outline to Elon’s objectives and the history this planet has of wiping out its own species. I promise you the Earth will be here long after any of us, but we are finally at a point in our evolution where we can use our technology to extend the species’ lifespan by a bit. So let’s do something about it.

I understand that I started this article sounding very rational and ended with an idea that someone who fears UFO abductions and wears a tin foil cap to bed every night might exclaim at a NASA conference they were not invited to. But I am a big thinker who loves glorious, crazy ideas like flying vehicles that takes passengers across the country in hours and sending men to the moon and small touchable screens that connect to a hub of information from anywhere in the world that also includes a way to talk to a person you can’t see.

I didn’t grow up in a time when airplanes, rockets, and smartphones were ludicrous ideas, but I’m growing up in one where living on Mars is a ludicrous idea. This is my generation’s power move, our sailing-to-the-New-World moment. I refuse to let the grandiose nature of living permanently on Mars intimidate me. I think it is the most amazing goal we have ever had as a species and to not be a part of that movement would be a shame. So what I beg of you is to open your eyes to the space industry. Watch more rocket launches, especially the SpaceX ones where they now have hosts talk to you about the payload mission, the launch itself, and these days, the rocket landings. Read more about the International Space Station and the research astronauts aboard do that might be affecting your everyday life. Follow NASA on Twitter, Snapchat, or Facebook. Go to a lecture involving space policy. I promise you that you won’t find the field of aerospace boring.

This is the future of international relations and policy. The time has come for more people to realize the effort that it will take for policy to keep up with the ever-rapid pace of technology, especially space-based technology. It is the responsibility of policymakers to understand how important contested space, orbital debris, and human missions to Mars are to the entire population. If anything, I hope this “short” article has given you a new perspective to these issues of which I am infinitely passionate. Let us do something amazing as a species. Let space travel bring together all people from young to the old, the artists to the engineers, business owners to policymakers. This is a goal that can only be accomplished together and one that is as worth achieving as it is exciting to achieve.

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About the author: Jillian Yuricich is a recent graduate from The Ohio State University in the Class of 2016. She studied Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering with a minor in International Studies, Security and Intelligence. Jillian participated in several internships during her undergraduate career including ones at Rolls-Royce North America, NASA, and the Naval Air Systems Command. In 2014, she became Ohio State’s first Astronaut Scholar, a grant awarded for excellence in STEM research by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation originally created by the Mercury 7 astronauts. She also participated in scientist-astronaut training through a program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where she experienced high-G loads and microgravity and flew in a spacecraft simulator in an operational spacesuit. Starting in August of 2016, she will begin her PhD program at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Aerospace Engineering.