Last week: While most national and international media attention has focused on possible U.S. military actions in Syria, U.S. immigration reform has fallen to a secondary place in public debates. Last week, a small group of Latino activists organized a car caravan to visit the local offices of Miami's Congressional delegates. The purpose of this public event was to press the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a bill to overhaul federal immigration laws and regulations.
Looking ahead: Most Americans agree that the current immigration system in the U.S. doesn't work properly, particularly as a deterrent to undocumented migration from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Yet, the possibility of approving new immigration legislation seems more remote before the end of this year. Regardless of what happens in Congress, how to control the nation's borders while providing a path for the regularization of millions of undocumented immigrants is an issue that won't go away any time soon.
Last week: Although it didn't make the headlines of major U.S. newspapers, I was struck by a minor story in a Puerto Rican newspaper. The family of the twin children who appeared in a new promotional government campaign for Puerto Rico as the "star Island" had recently moved to Florida. It was profoundly ironic that those who participated in a campaign to attract U.S. investment to the Island had migrated to the U.S. mainland.
Looking ahead: Large-scale Puerto Rican migration to the United States, especially to Florida, has taken off in the last decade due to a persistent economic recession, accompanied by chronically high unemployment rates and one of the highest murder rates in the world. As a result, Puerto Rican communities in Central and South Florida will likely continue to grow at a faster pace than other sectors of the population. The impact of this massive inflow of people will challenge both receiving and sending places, as more persons of Puerto Rican origin now live in the 50 United States than in their home country.
Last week: The U.S. Interests Section in Havana issued a travel advisory about a cholera outbreak in Cuba. The Pan-American Health Organization confirmed that 12 foreign tourists have contracted the disease during recent visits to the island. On Aug. 23, the Cuban government reported 163 new cases of cholera in three provinces over the past year.
Looking ahead: After 130 years, cholera has reemerged in Cuba due to the rapid deterioration of the island's water, sewage, sanitation, and housing infrastructure. It will be difficult for the Cuban government to improve this infrastructure amidst difficult economic conditions.
Last week: The Israeli government recently announced its plans to expand its settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This decision could hamper efforts to establish peace between Israelis and Palestinians in Israel.
Next week: Current talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives could have an enduring impact on the political situation of the Middle East. The creation of a separate Palestinian state, next to Israel, might eventually ensue from the ongoing peace negotiations.
Last week: The massacre of seven people in a Hialeah apartment complex by one of the tenants, Pedro Vargas, shocked residents of South Florida. The assassin's motivations are only now beginning to unravel, as more information on his background and behavior before the killings becomes public.
Looking ahead: On July 30, Florida International University held a public forum to discuss its plans to engage with a future Cuba, once federal and state restrictions are lifted and the FIU Board of Trustees deems it appropriate. The university has numerous strengths in several professional and academic fields to match the island's needs, ranging from hospitality management, to engineering and computer science, to the social sciences and the humanities.
Last week: One story that caught much attention was the interception of a North Korean ship trying to cross the Panama Canal last week. According to the Cuban government, the vessel was transporting "obsolete defensive weapons" to be repaired in North Korea and returned to Cuba.
Looking ahead: Many questions remain about the Cuban government's decision to smuggle weapons to North Korea in violation of the United Nations ban on arms exports to that country. Whether this incident will further impair relations between Cuba and the United States is still unknown.
Last week: George Zimmerman's trial captured most newspaper headlines last week. The jury's verdict of not guilty sparked protests throughout the United States and raised questions about continuing racial biases in the criminal justice system.
Looking ahead: A major concern is whether this case will contribute to further polarizing relations between Latinos and African Americans. Indeed, the issue of how to classify both minorities as if they were separate and distinct groups is very debatable, with many practical implications for census enumeration, police reporting and political representation.
Last week: The passing of a new immigration bill by the Senate was a significant bipartisan achievement. It should help to regularize he legal status of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Looking ahead: Current debates in the U.S. House of Representatives regarding immigration reform will have a lasting effect on public opinion, particularly on the Hispanic electorate. Whether Republican delegates will be able to reach a consensus about the practical details of the reform may well have repercussions for the next presidential elections in 2016.
Looking ahead: U.S. government officials believe that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden may have additional classified information that could hamper U.S. national security interests. His whereabouts and impact on international relations should be the focus of sustained public interest over the next few days.
Last week: The global manhunt for Snowden has attracted worldwide attention and speculation. His fugitive travels from Hawaii to Hong Kong, to Moscow, and then perhaps to Ecuador via Cuba or Venezuela, test the limits of U.S. relations with China and Russia as well as the influence of U.S. diplomacy in Latin America.
Looking ahead: Today I overheard several FIU students commenting on the uneven performance of the Miami Heat in the NBA finals. Whether or not the team wins the championship, residents of south Florida will continue to debate its playing style, coaching, and prospects for next year's season.
Last week’s headline: I was interested in the developing story about the resumption of negotiations between the U.S. and Cuban governments regarding immigration. These negotiations have the potential to improve current relations between the two countries, even if the U.S. embargo of Cuba remains in place.
June 16, 2013
Last Week: For me, the announcement that Osvaldo Paya's family would seek refuge in Miami was the most striking story of the week. The story raises unresolved issues about the future of any peaceful opposition to the Cuban government on the Island.
Looking Ahead: The continuing political and economic instability in Venezuela, and its repercussions for the country's ties to Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly Cuba, will continue to attract public attention and discussion.