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A prom delayed
May 20th, 2013
08:34 AM ET

High school prom, 50 years later

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

Birmingham, Alabama (CNN) - The class of 1963 crowded in a rectangle on the dance floor, the memories of high school fresh on their minds as the band played in a sea of pink and blue hues.

Aretha Franklin. Etta James. The Temptations. Just what you would expect to be playing at a 1960s prom. Yet the song that drew the most bodies to the dance floor was "The Wobble."

Until this hip-hop song emptied the chairs, it felt as if the auditorium had been transported back 50 years.

But it's 2013, and despite the full-court nostalgia for the 1960s, that decade was one of the most difficult times in Birmingham's history.

Societal tensions over race were so high in 1963 that the city canceled senior prom for five of the city's segregated high schools for blacks.

Today, a half century has passed since the seminal civil rights protests that changed Birmingham and plotted a path for the nation away from segregation and toward equal rights.

Just like that path, the healing process has been a long one.

The Historic 1963 Prom, held Friday and hosted by the city of Birmingham, closed one chapter for these Alabamans.

FULL STORY
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Mexican priest fights for immigration reform in U.S.
The Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, seen here in an undated photo, will travel coast-to-coast in the U.S. to push for immigration reform
May 14th, 2013
05:52 PM ET

Mexican priest fights for immigration reform in U.S.

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

(CNN) - Known for his outspoken, unapologetic support of migrants in Mexico, the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde is bringing his message to the United States.

The priest is part of a caravan of migrants and their supporters traveling from Los Angeles to Washington to push for immigration reform.

In Mexico, Solalinde has criticized the government, and even the Catholic Church, saying that both can be more compassionate to migrants. His views are shaped by the years he has spent leading a migrant shelter in Oaxaca that offers support to Central Americans who embark on the dangerous route north by clinging to trains.

A number of threats last year led to his leaving his post, located in Ixtepec, in the southern state of Oaxaca, but he has since returned.

"I don't know how to live with fear," Solalinde told CNN.

Immigration issues must be tackled both at the source and the destination of the migrants, he said.

FULL STORY
May 10th, 2013
07:00 PM ET

Grandson of Malcolm X killed in Mexico

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

(CNN) - The grandson of civil rights activist Malcolm X, Malcolm Shabazz, died in a Mexico City hospital after suffering an apparent beating, police told CNN.

Prosecutors are investigating the death as a homicide, police spokesman Octavio Campos said.

Police were called to the scene of an injured man at 3:30 a.m. Thursday one block south of Plaza Garibaldi, a rough but famous patch of Mexico City known for its mariachis.

Shabazz appeared to have been beaten, but had no wounds from other weapons, Campos said.

The 29-year-old was transported to Mexico City's Balbuena General Hospital, where he died later Thursday morning because of his injuries, he said.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Black in America • History • Who we are
The Latino List
March 20th, 2013
04:50 PM ET

More than Mexican: Study highlights diversity of Latinos

By Michael Martinez and Mariano Castillo, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) - Jonathan Larios hears it all the time: Someone walks into his Honduran restaurant and they think it's a Mexican place.

"Oh, I hate that. That bothers me a lot," said Larios, 21, general manager of two Los Angeles-area restaurants called Honduras Kitchen. "They always ask, 'How's the Mexican food?' It gets frustrating over time.

"It's like the most race that people always see is black, Mexican and American. They don't see anything else," said Larios, whose mother is Honduran and father Salvadoran.

His first-hand experience shows that some Americans confuse all Hispanics as being Mexicans.  While it's true that Mexicans make up the largest segment of the Hispanic population in the United States,  a new Brown University study that shows Latinos are hardly a monolithic group.

The demographic has wide differences in nationalities that are becoming more salient, the study said.

"When studies are done of Hispanics, the results mostly reflect the experience of Mexicans, who are more than 60% of the total," the study says. "But observers would be mistaken if they thought they knew Hispanics in the U.S. by looking only at Mexicans."

FULL POST

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Filed under: History • How we live • How we look • Latino in America
5 turning points in gay marriage debate
March 15th, 2013
02:22 PM ET

5 turning points in gay marriage debate

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

CNN) - Republican Sen. Rob Portman's flip-flop approval for same-sex marriage, is just the latest change of heart on the issue by conservatives.

Even Democrats like President Obama - have turned around after opposing it. This change in attitude is just one of many milestones for the movement.

Here are five of the most important turning points in the same-sex marriage debate:

1993: In a landmark case, Hawaii's Supreme Court ruled that the state can't deny same-sex couples the right to marry unless it finds "a compelling reason" to do so. It orders the issue back to the state legislature, which then voted to ban gay marriage. This was one of earliest debates on the issue at the state level, and was a precursor to the legal battles nationwide. Today, domestic partnerships and civil unions for same-sex couples are legal in Hawaii.

FULL STORY
March 5th, 2013
06:10 PM ET

Chavez leaves a revolutionary legacy

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

(CNN) - Charismatic and combative, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cultivated a larger-than-life appearance. But even after 13 years in office, his legacy may be more fleeting than his outsize personality suggested.

Chavez, 58, died Tuesday afternoon, according to the country's vice president. Chavez had battled cancer.

Supporters and opponents alike can name ways Venezuela has been transformed while Chavez was in office - poverty is down, crime is up, polarization has become the status quo - but the changes may not be as ingrained as they seem.

The cornerstone of Chavez's presidency was the Bolivarian Revolution, his ambitious plan to turn Venezuela into a socialist state. The most visible symbols of the revolution were the numerous social "missions" aimed at eradicating illiteracy, distributing staple foods and providing health care in all corners of the country.

Social programs were not new to Venezuela, but Chavez elevated them in scope and prominence.

"The most positive legacy that Chavez has is that he put his finger on a legitimate grievance that many Venezuelans have: social injustice," said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a research and policy center in Washington. "Whoever succeeds him is going to have to deal with that question."

iReport: Send your thoughts on the death of the Venezuelan president.

Chavez was elected and re-elected in large part thanks to support from the country's poor, who felt marginalized by previous governments.

FULL STORY
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DREAMer's clout increases in immigration debate
DREAMers are some undocumented youth who would have benefitted from the DREAM Act.
January 26th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

DREAMer's clout increases in immigration debate

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

(CNN) - When Erika Andiola's mother and brother were detained by immigration agents this month, she jumped to action.

She summoned the help of undocumented youths like herself, known as DREAMers, and within hours, immigration officials were flooded with dozens of phone calls.

Andiola's mother and brother were released.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say the detention of the pair and their eventual release had nothing to do with Andiola's activism.

But that does not dampen her spirit. As far as she is concerned, the DREAMers snatched her mother from the brink of deportation.

"For us to get them to do that, it takes a lot of pressure," she said.

Her work, along with other DREAMers, has increasingly become a powerful voice shaping discussions on immigration reform, which President Obama has vowed to pass in his second term.

Dubbed DREAMers, their name is derived from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which, if passed,  would have granted some undocumented immigrant youth legal status in return for attending college or joining the military.

In 2009, DREAMers knocked on doors and begged for support of the DREAM Act, a bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for certain youth who came to the United States as children and live in the country illegally.

Today, the movement  is enjoying a certain amount of clout. FULL POST

Five reasons why time may be right for immigration reform
Immigrants who came to the U.S. as children line up in August to file deferral applications at an office in Los Angeles.
November 13th, 2012
04:58 PM ET

Five reasons why time may be right for immigration reform

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

(CNN) - Comprehensive immigration reform has so far eluded President Barack Obama. But with his re-election victory in battleground states propelled by strong Latino support, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have a stronger interest in cultivating support from a group with growing political clout.

Here are five reasons why the time may be right for immigration reform to take hold in Washington.

1) The voters have spoken

Immigration reform may not have been the biggest issue in the election - the economy was paramount - but it is very important to a key segment of voters. Latino voters turned out in force and helped to tip battleground states in Obama's favor. The number of registered Latinos has increased by 26% in the past four years to 12.2 million, or 8.7% of all voters. That means this demographic will only increase its political power. Issues important to this minority logically will become increasingly important to both major political parties.

2) Obama promised but failed to deliver on immigration reform

Obama promised to push for immigration reform before the 2008 election and had to answer tough questions from Latinos about why that did not occur. At a forum by the Spanish-language Univision network, Obama was pressed to admit that he had fallen short and took responsibility for a lack of action. But the president also said he didn't promise he would accomplish everything he wanted right away.

FULL STORY
September 3rd, 2012
08:20 AM ET

Arizona Sheriff Arpaio cleared of financial improprieties

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

(CNN) - Federal investigators have cleared controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio's office of criminal wrongdoing regarding allegations of financial improprieties.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona declined to file charges against the Maricopa County Sheriff's office after an investigation into claims of abuse of county credit cards, misuse of funds and other financial matters.

The investigation is separate from a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing Arpaio's office of racial profiling.

The federal financial probe stems from a 2010 request from Maricopa County officials for help in investigating the claims of misuse of county funds. Federal authorities acted as "special deputy county attorneys" tasked with finding possible state charges.

Last year, federal investigators declined to press charges on several of the allegations. In a letter to the Maricopa County officials Friday, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced it will not initiate charges on two remaining claims.

Read the full story

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Joy, skepticism at immigration policy move
A coalition of immigrant groups and their supporters march across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York in July 2010.
June 15th, 2012
02:42 PM ET

Joy, skepticism at immigration policy move

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

Editor's note: How does this affect you? Share with us on CNN iReport.

(CNN) - Jose Luis Zelaya shed tears of joy Friday morning.

"It's just insane," the graduate student at Texas A&M University said. "I've been working on this for six years. It is just overwhelming."

Zelaya was electrified by news that the Obama administration will stop deporting illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they meet certain requirements.

Zelaya came to the United States illegally from Honduras at age 14 to find his mother, who was already in the country, he said.

Without the change announced Friday, he couldn't get a job to help pay for school; Zelaya, 25, is pursuing a master's degree in education with hopes of earning a doctorate and teaching middle school. He also wouldn't be able to consider job offers that presented themselves afterward. The uncertainty over what loomed after graduation spooked him.

"Now, maybe I will be able to work without being afraid that someone may deport me," he said. "There is no fear anymore."

Immigration shift sparks reaction from both sides

News of the change raced across the country, buoying the spirits of immigrants and immigrant advocates who have campaigned for such a change for more than 10 years.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Family • Immigration • Politics • What we think • Who we are
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