News From Washington / July 2024

Health Care July 2024 PREMIUM

Summer in DC features embassy galas like the Dominican Republic’s cultural showcase, Biden's campaign mirrors Obama's DACA strategy to legalize immigrant spouses, and the Folger's Library reopens with exhibitions and debates on the difficulties of translating Shakespeare's work.

Summer in DC is for Galas and Showing Off Your Embassy like the Dominican Republic

The months of May and June are party time in DC. All the museums have spiffy new exhibits and many embassies offer space for relevant non-profits to hold their end-of-year galas, award ceremonies and fundraisers. The biggest deal with embassy hosts is to go to a party at the Ambassador’s residence rather than just to the embassy’s consulate’s auditorium. Hosting a gala at an embassy residence assures a good turnout and gives the country a chance to showcase their culture, their issues and partnerships with good U.S. non-profit organizations in a more personal way.

 On June 6, her Excellency Sonia Guzmán, the Ambassadress of the Dominican Republic, offered drinks and lively music in the garden of the mansion at 2930 Edgevale Terrace (just off Embassy Row.) Ambassadress Guzmán stayed from beginning to end of the event to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Washington Global Charter School – a top academic public middle school that requires daily hour-and-a-half long Spanish immersion classes with a focus on reading and writing Spanish as well as speaking it. Dozens of lightly bound books created by the students called Mi Vida, Mi Familia were on display, filled with colorful pictures and stories in Spanish about the lives of the students who created them. The school is located in the SE sector, a minority community in DC. The Ambassadress praised the school’s educational processes, and talked about the challenges in education and the economy in the Dominican Republic. 

She also openly discussed the immigration challenges of trying to close their border to the violent gangs that have taken over much of neighboring Haiti, while allowing desperate Haitian families caught in the strife to come in as asylees. “We need more resources (aka: money) to be able to do it,” Guzmán told the well-connected gala celebrants – reflecting well the networking culture of DC during gala season.

Attempts to Save the Reelection: Biden’s Idea to Legalize Spouses Echoes Obama’s 2012 DACA 

It’s the summer of a presidential election year. With only four months before election day, the incumbent Democratic president finds himself battling to be reelected for a second term. In June, he realizes that support from one of his formerly most reliable constituent group – Latinos – is wavering noticeably and making the news. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus leader warns him, “Don’t take the Latino Vote for granted”. He strongly cautions the President that campaign fund contributions from sitting congressional representatives – a heretofore unquestioned mandate running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars -- could be withheld if certain issues weren’t addressed, particularly the legalization of illegal immigrants who entered the country as children. In 2011, President Obama had faced down a chanting room of thousands of “Dreamers” at a Concilio de la Raza dinner telling them “I can’t do that! I don’t have the authority to legalize a whole class of people. Only Congress can!”   

 So what did President Obama do in June of 2012? He sent an executive memo (not an order) to his Secretary of Homeland Security (Janet Napolitano at the time), firmly suggesting that the DHLS create a program through which individuals could apply for a deportation deferment. It was called DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. While DACA did not legalize the successful applicants (some 900,000), it did give those who could prove they came in to the United States (not “brought in illegally by their parents” as the popular narrative has it) before the age of 16 and before 2007, formal deferment from deportation papers. In addition, DACA recipients were granted the most coveted paper of all: a two-year-renewable work permit. Latino leaders of the day, like Luis Gutierrez (IL), claimed that Latinos and DACA saved Obama’s second term.

 The Biden election campaign leaders are trying the same thing now in June of 2024. To save President Biden’s reelection four months away, apparently, an executive order has been issued to DHLS to develop a program so that a highly sympathetic group of mainly women and children could apply for a green card. They are the foreign-born spouses and children of US citizens.  

This is safe, very low-hanging fruit, unlike DACA. It will affect about 550,000 people, and has safeguards from abuse (such as requiring that the couple have been married for at least ten years). Times are different now from 2012; people are looking more strictly at who is getting legalized, after three years of surges that have brought in well over 5 million new unvetted illegal border crossers. Whether it is found constitutional or not, Biden’s DACA-like move probably gets an A for effort.

Folger Library Back and Better: Pondering Ser and Estar

The Folger Shakespeare Library, which has the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare and early English-language books, reopened on June 21 after four years of heavy construction. The historic building, with its replica of an authentic Shakespeare theatre and sumptuously paneled reading rooms with age-old stained glass windows, was braced up for four years, as a large high-ceilinged basement for exhibitions, rare-book presentations and a reception area was carved out underneath. Then the entire building was cemented in and surrounded by a luscious garden of Shakespearian plants – plus a new café with the most tasty morcels from Shakespearean times and open every day to the public.  

While there on a press tour, the Hispanic Outlook discussed the many translations the library owns of Shakespeare’s work and how difficult it can be to translate. One surprising example is the ubiquitous verb “to be” - as in Hamlet’s famous existential question,“to be or not to be?”  It turns out there are many languages (including Hawaiian, Arabic and Hebrew) that do not even have the verb to be (so is Hamlet asking “to live or not to live?” or what exactly?) Then there is Spanish with its two forms of the verb to be: ser (for permanent conditions) and estar (for temporary conditions). So which is it, Hamlet? The Folger Reading Room curators went for “ser” – “Ser o No Ser.” What say you?



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