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Argentine Dispute a Concern on World Press Freedom Day

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HOST INTRO: Today is World Press Freedom Day. Journalists from South America gathered on the campus of Columbia University today to debate one of the continent’s most heated disputes between a government and journalists. It pits Argentina’s left-wing government against a media conglomerate that opponents say has grown too big and too powerful. Alexandra Hall reports.

[CLARIN LOGO AMBI]

Clarín is Argentina’s biggest and most influential multimedia conglomerate. It has 44% of the market share in Argentina. Argentineans consume more news produced by Clarín than any other media company. Four years ago, the government said that media in the country was too concentrated, making it impossible for smaller broadcasters to compete. So it enacted a law to break down monopolies and increase the number of voices in the media. It requires Clarín to get rid of most of its holdings. But the company says its being unfairly targeted, according to Miguel Winaski, editor of El Clarín newspapers.

MIGUEL WINASKI: They feel fear of our investigations. Freedom of speech is under attack, so and we are under attack as journalists.

But Damian Loreti disagrees. He’s Secretary of the Center of Legal and Social Studies, an Argentine human rights NGO, and he helped draft the law.

DAMIEN LORETI: In Argentina, there is no press restrictions, there is no censorship, there is no journalists killed, there is no journalists imprisoned.

Clarín’s first reaction when the law was enacted four years ago was to take legal action, but it was unsuccessful. It wasn’t until two weeks ago that a federal appeals court granted Clarín’s request saying that clauses of the law, which apply to the company, are unconstitutional violations of private property rights. This was a triumph for supporters of Clarín, who argue that it has been unfairly singled out for political reasons. Columbia University political science professor Victoria Murillo isn’t convinced.

VICTORIA MURILLO: I don’t know to what extent their fear is warranted. Monopolies are not good anywhere, so in that sense, the law is not bad, it’s good.

She thinks that Clarín is a monopoly.

MURILLO: What’s bad is that the enforcement of the law is uneven in the sense that there are other monopolies and the government doesn’t seem to be paying attention to those.

This would have been a rare opportunity for representatives of Clarín and the leftist administration of President Christina Kirchner to talk openly about media reform. But no government representatives were present. Roberto Saba is Dean of Palermo University School of Law in Buenos Aires. He says that’s one reason why the conflict is still ongoing.

ROBERTO SABA: The big media and the government cannot even talk to each other. Which makes things very difficult.

Columbia University will make one more effort to bring the two sides together again this fall.

Alexandra Hall, Columbia Radio News.

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Stories From My Grandfather, Stories From My Homeland

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HOST INTRO: Commentator Tenzin Shakya has been hearing stories about her family’s homeland, Tibet since she was a little girl. She says her grandfather’s stories have shaped how she thinks about Tibet — and its occupation by China.

It was 4 o’clock in the morning when my grandfather, Popo Sonam, awoke me. “It’s time to go for kora,” he said.  Kora is a Buddhist practice of praying and walking in circles, usually around a temple. I got dressed, put on a t-shirt and chupa, the traditional dress that Tibetan people wear.  since I was visiting my grandfather in Nepal, where many of Tibetan elders live, I decided to dress in proper attire. Also to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of old Tibetans starring me down and calling me “inji,” which means foreigner.  Of course as soon as Popo Sonam saw me with the t-shirt underneath my chupa instead of the traditional silk shirt, he insisted that I change. “If you’re going to wear the chupa, wear it right,” he said. “and while you’re at it, go braid your hair,” .

I argued against it. “Popo Sonam, times have changed and you must learn that we are not required to walk around with braids.” Little did I know, that an argument about braids would help me to understand my family’s history.

My family fled Tibet in 1960, a year after China invaded. Five years later, my grandfather traveled back to Tibet. He hoped that he would find it safe to return. Instead, he was captured by Chinese soldiers and forced to work in labor camps for 6 months. He had to plow fields, and clean up rubble left by the war. He had been a farmer in Tibet, so the work didn’t bother him. What really hurt him was being told by a young Chinese soldier to kneel, and remain still as he chopped off my Popo’s long braids. Traditionally, Tibetan men kept their hair in braids, too, wrapped around their head. For Popo Sonam, the braids represented his devotion to a centuries-old cultural tradition. But for the soldier, it represented the “old ways.”

Growing up as a Tibetan refugee, I’d heard much worse stories.  I’ve wept as Tibetan nuns shared their stories of being raped in prison by Chinese soldiers, while monks were forced to watch. They were political prisoners because they demanded freedom.

It’s hard not to resent the Chinese government.

Popo Sonam is a constant reminder of why I am hopeful about the future of Tibet. Popo Sonam never re-grew his braids but he did escape the camps six months later in 1965. And, he did it with the help of a young Buddhist Chinese soldier who empathized with his longing to be reunited with his family.

I’ve tried to visit Tibet twice; both times I was denied entry.  But when I listen to Popo’s stories, I travel. He is a window into a world I may never get to see.  Popo Sonam gives me hope, inspires me with his wisdom and compassion. He always tells me to focus on the good.

He’s old now, and every time I talk to him, he says his time is coming.

I fear his passing. Not only because I would lose my last remaining grandfather, but, because it would mean that the stories would come to an end.

BACK ANNOUNCE: Tenzin Shakya is planning a journey back to Tibet with her grandfather, soon.

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Obama Administration Reacts to Syria Crossing ‘Red Line’

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HOST: Yesterday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made what seemed like a dramatic announcement about the civil war in Syria. He said that the US now has evidence the Syrian government used sarin, a powerful chemical weapon. The US has resisted getting deeply involved in the war in Syria. But President Obama has said that if the Syrian regime used chemical weapons, that would cross a “red line” and the US would consider a wider range of options. That could include a military intervention.

Michael Cohen is a fellow at The Century Foundation. He says that despite two years of war and thousands of deaths in Syria, the use of chemical weapons would be a dangerous new development.

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What Mandela Means to Me

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HOST: Nelson Mandela is an inspirational leader known around the world. Commentator Ntshepeng Motema says for South Africans like her, Mandela is more than just the man who fought against apartheid.

REPORTER: Every time Nelson Mandela goes back to the hospital I cannot help but worry his time has come.  At 94, Mandela, he keeps getting lung infections — complications from the tuberculosis he contracted during his 27 years in jail. During his more recent hospitalization in March, I found myself checking newswires every hour, and calling journalist friends and mother back home, asking, “Any news on the old man?”

For us South Africans, Mandela is not just our former president. He’s a beloved grandfather, a protector, and a symbol of what’s best about our country. We name everything after him. The Mandela Bridge, The Mandela University, The Mandela Children’s fund, The Mandela Soccer Cup. I mean the man’s face is even on our money.

My mother tells me to feel grateful to have grown up in a free South Africa. I was 10 when Mandela became president. Before then, my mother had to travel with her passport everywhere she went. The police would stop her when she went to places reserved for white people. She went to blacks-only schools, blacks-only restaurants and did hard labor, a blacks-only kind of a job.

I didn’t go through any of that. I went to a multi- racial school. I can go to any part of my country with no restrictions. Blacks and whites live side-by-side, in harmony.

Or at least, so it seems on paper. Sadly, almost twenty years on, South Africa remains divided. Racism has left the restaurants, but it’s alive at the dining room table. Behind closed doors, blacks say “White people have such a sense of entitlement. They forget that this is our land, and we could kick them out any time.” And I’ve heard white people say, “Black people are such savages, their government is corrupt, and I’m thinking of moving away.”

And then there’s the economic inequality. Wealth still remains in the hands of the white minority and a small black elite while the rest of the country is poor. Resentment bubbles under the surface and violence threatens to explode. Many fear that once Mandela is gone, his rainbow coalition will fall apart, whites against black, rich against poor. And what scares me is that, these days, we do not have the kind of leaders that can hold the country together.

Mandela may not be with us for much longer. And I would hate if something happened to him while I’m so far from home. I want to be able to hold hands with my countrymen when his time comes. But, then again, I think Mandela would want me to be here, in New York City, taking advantage of the opportunities he spent his life fighting for. So I’ll keep checking the newswires, texting my friends, calling my mom, desperate for the news I hope will never come.

BACK ANNOUNCE:

Ntshepeng Motema met Nelson Mandela once. She says she’ll never forget the glow of his smile and the sparkle in his eyes.

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Latest Developments In The Boston Bombings

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Amber Binion updates us on the latest developments in Boston at the top of today’s show.

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Students at MIT Weather The Boston Lockdown

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One of the first casualties of the manhunt last night was 26 year old Sean Collins. He was an MIT police officer. All college campuses in the area have been closed down. Will Whitney is a fourth-year undergraduate studying computer science at MIT. He’s been in his dorm room since last night when the shooting took place.

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Suspects’ Ethnicity Forces Chechnya Into The Spotlight

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Ever since the two suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing and shootout were identified as Chechen, attention on their ethnic identity. Chechnya is a small region in southwest Russia that was split into two parts after the fall of the Soviet Union. It’s part of an area known as the Caucasus. Lincoln Mitchell is a professor at Columbia University who studies the region.

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Latest From Boston: Chechens React To Suspects

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INTRO: Our reporter Stephanie Kuo has been following reactions from Chechnya today. Stephanie, what have you found?

So earlier today, President Ramzan Kadyrov of the Chechen Republic said the United States is actually to blame for the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday. He posted a picture of himself on his Instagram feed with a caption. It offered condolences to the victims of the bombing but denied any connection between Chechnya and the Tsarnaev brothers. He said they grew up in the United States and that their attitudes and beliefs were formed here.

A translation from his caption read in part, quote, “You must look for the roots of their evil in America.”

Emily, as far as we know, Djokhar, the brother who is still on the run, has never been to Chechnya. From what we’ve heard he was bonr in Dagestan. And he and his brother moved to the States 10 years ago.

So then let’s talk about the Tsarnaev’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni. He spoke to reporters in front of his home in Maryland this morning and urged Dzhokar to give himself up.

TSARNI: I say Djokhar, if you’re alive, turn yourself in and ask for forgiveness.

He said his nephews for disgracing their family and their heritage.

TSARNI: He put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity. Cause everyone now plays with the word Chechen.

We’ll hear more about Chechen immigrants later in the show.

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Arms Treaty Sparks Fierce NRA Opposition

Arms Treaty Sparks Fierce NRA Opposition

New Jersey Firearms Academy Director Lateif Dickerson at his practice booth in the shooting range. He’s a member of the NRA and fiercely opposes the UN Arms Treaty. (Camilo Vargas/Uptown Radio)

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HOST INTRO: Gun control was shot down this week in the Senate, but the gun debate has gone global. The UN passed a treaty earlier this month that bans the sales of weapons to countries suspected of using them for war crimes, terrorism, and organized crime. The White House supports the Treaty, but as Camilo Vargas reports, it’s going to be a tougher sell for the powerful NRA lobby.

To get a sense of what gun advocates in this country say about the UN Treaty, I head to the New Jersey Firearms Academy in Jersey City. I’m taking the NRA’s basic pistol course.  

Ambi from the shooting range

Jerry Martin

Ok, before you walk through this door you gotta have your eyes in and your ears on.

Come on in!

Jerry Martin’s is the senior instructor at the academy. It’s my first time shooting a gun and I’m NERVOUS.

FADE UP SOUND OF GETTING IN PLACE

At the cage, Martin positions my trembling hands until they form a tight grip on my pistol.

Jerry Martin

Firm grip now, get as high up in there as you can. Get the gun in there, and when you’re ready squeeze

I pull the trigger for my first shot.

SOUND OF SHOT

Not too bad, I get better with every shot.

Jerry Martin: good, a little bit lower, that’s good

SOUND OF SHOTS

Jerry Martin: good that’s even better, that’s close

By the end I was having a blast.

SOUND OF SHOT

Jerry Martin: Bullseye!

I shoot ten rounds, switching between pistols and revolvers. And I get it. The thrill of shooting a gun.  

The shooting practice was the fun part of the day-long class. In the classroom, Academy Director Lateif Dickerson – doesn’t wait long before he tells the students that the United Nations wants to tread on their Second Amendment rights.

Lateif Dickerson

It’s bad enough that our own government is infringing on our rights, and now you’re gonna let an outside government infringe on our rights, that’s a bigger problem to me fundamentally.

Dickerson’s problem is the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, or ATT. One hundred fifty three countries voted to adopt it on April second, including the United States. The ATT is the first attempt in history to regulate the sale of weapons worldwide. It will make countries that sell weapons essentially run background checks on the countries buying them, to make sure they’re not using them for war crimes. Seller countries would have a responsibility to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists and criminals. Every country in the treaty would have to report its annual weapons sales to the UN.

Dickerson tells the class if the US Senate ratifies the ATT, these controls may limit gun sales here in the United States.

Lateif Dickerson

That’s why we’re against the Small Arms Treaty and those outside influences that would have an impact on our ability to own and possess these types of firearms.

Dickerson is one of the hundreds of NRA members who fiercely oppose the UN Treaty. Here’s NRA Executive Vicepresident Wayne LaPierre speaking at the UN last year.

Wayne LaPierre

Any Treaty that includes civilian firearms in its scope will be met with the NRAs greatest force of opposition.

The NRA tells its members the treaty will force more Americans to register their guns. But advocates for the treaty say the NRA has it all wrong.

Steven Stedjan

This treaty is only about the international trade of weapons. There is nothing about the domestic control of weapons within this treaty.  

Steven Stedjan is an arms specialist at the international non profit Oxfam. He says the NRA’s campaign against the treaty is politics as usual.

Steven Stedjan

So they created this boogey man of the UN trying to take away your guns.

Stedjan says the US already has strict controls for the sale of weapons overseas. What the treaty does is level the playing field for US manufacturers. Foreign arms suppliers would have to compete with rules as strict as those the US already enforces. In fact, the only three countries that voted against the ATT were Syria, North Korea and Iran, three countries that already face arms embargoes. The ATT might make it harder for them to get their weapons.

But UN officials like Disarmament Officer Daniel Prins say the most important reason to sign the treaty is human safety.

Daniel Prins

People in the future can feel safer because I foresee that arms will not end up in the hands of criminals, of pirates, of armed groups as easily. I’m  very sure this treaty will save a lot of lives and lot of limbs.

For the United States to join in the Treaty, it needs the backing of President OBAMA AND a two thirds vote in the Senate. The White House is for the ATT, but the Senate is 10 votes short of the total needed for adoption. And ATT advocates say they’re unlikely to close that gap any time soon.

Camilo Vargas, Columbia Radio News

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Latest From Boston: Few Changes As Manhunt Continues

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Amber Binion gives the latest updates from Boston, including the police request to keep Dunkin’ Donuts running despite the lockdown.

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How Not To Travel In Mongolia

How Not To Travel In Mongolia

Train in Ulaanbaatar

: The train at the Ulaanbaatar station in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Commentator Sonia Paul should have ridden it Orkhon her first day in Mongolia, Aug. 2010. (Sonia Paul/Uptown Radio)

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HOST: Traveling has its ups and downs. When commentator Sonia Paul took a three-week trip to Mongolia to discover the country’s natural beauty, she found that sometimes all you can do is count on the kindness of strangers — even if it leads you astray.

PAUL: It was the summer of 2010, and I was traveling by myself in Mongolia — my first big solo traveling trip. I was in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city, and on my way to a ranch in a place called Orkhon. I showed the woman supervising the platform at the train station my ticket. She shook her head. No, no, not this train.

Are you sure? I asked. I had planned the trip fairly meticulously. But she waved me off.

The sun set and departure time neared. I went back to the train woman. I pointed at the train’s name on the ticket, gestured toward the green train in front of us, gave the thumbs up sign and nodded. And of course I flashed my pearly whites.

She glared back at me and shook her head. Next one.

I heard someone hollering in English and discovered it was a boy selling peanuts on the platform. I made my way over, bought a bag and made small talk with him about my travels to Orkhon.

Orkhon? His ears perked up. No, no! he said. That’s your train! And he pointed to the train just as it was pulling away.

I nearly dropped my bag of peanuts. It was the last train of the day to my destination. And it was only my first day in Mongolia. How was I ever supposed to survive three weeks by myself?

Before I knew it, a few tears rolled down my cheeks.

I got a room for the night at a hostel near the station, and asked a girl who worked there to buy me my seven-dollar replacement ticket to Orkhon. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t get lost.

Don’t worry, Sonia, she said when I finally got on the train the next day. She promised to call the ranch owner in Orkhon to tell him I was coming.

On the train, I sat next to a Mongolian woman who spoke English with a Russian accent. She nodded encouragingly when I showed her my ticket — Orkhon. My stop too, she said. Her smile was comforting.

When we arrived in Orkhon, she quickly disappeared. I started searching for a call center where I could dial the ranch owner. But then a girl about my age wearing Dior sunglasses called out to me.

You lost? Her English had a Russian accent too. I have a cellphone, she said.

I was grateful for the offer and quickly dialed the ranch owner.

You’re where? he said when he answered the phone.

Orkhon?…

And you just got off?

Yes?…

Do you realize you’re four and a half hours away from where you should be?!

What?!!

It turns out Mongolia has many locations that share the same name. And there are at least two places called Orkhon. The girl from the hostel had bought me a ticket to the wrong Orkhon.

What I needed to do was get to the right Orkhon. I had no time to feel sorry for myself. The Dior girl was getting in a cab with her brothers. I quickly explained my situation. With her sunglasses, English skills and cellphone, she had become my bodyguard in a span of five minutes.

She nodded intently and told me to join them in the cab. They could get me where I needed to go.

What else could I do? I squished in the backseat. I decided things just had to turn out fine. We peeled away from the station, and I let myself marvel at the vast land and open sky surrounding me.

HOST: Sonia eventually got herself to the ranch at the right Orkhon. She still gets lost sometimes, but she always manages to find her way back.

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Officials Hold News Conference in Watertown, Mass.

Officials Hold News Conference in Watertown, Mass.

Officials address the media during a news conference in Watertown, Mass.Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Boston Area On Lock Down; One Suspect Dead,One on the Run

Boston Area On Lock Down; One Suspect Dead,One on the Run

Investigators continue to search for one of two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, in Watertown, Mass. Friday, April 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Manhunt Locks Down Boston

Manhunt Locks Down Boston

Police officers take cover as they conduct a search for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, Friday, April 19, 2013, in Watertown,Mass. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Newscast 2

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NEWSCAST:

Secretary of State John Kerry warns North Korea against war threats.

US senators negotiating a new immigration law have reached a new agreement.

As the Senate gears up to debate expanding background checks for gun buyers.

CAMILO VARGAS REPORTS ON THE DAY’S TOP STORIES.

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More Than A Million State Department Files Released By WikiLeaks

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HOST INTRO:

WikiLeaks has announced its latest release of information. It’s a collection of more than a million State Department files from the 1970s. WikiLeaks calls it the “Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy,” or Plus D.  Sonia Paul spoke with Jeff Stein. He’s a national security reporter and founder of the blog SpyTalk. He says this new collection of documents marks a new direction for Wikileaks.

SpyTalk Blog: http://spytalkblog.blogspot.com/

WikiLeaks “Plus D” Projecthttp://wikileaks.org/plusd/

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How A Tattoo Strengthened A Family Bond

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HOST INTRO:

For commentator Stephanie Kuo, family is everything.  Two years ago, she and her sister found a way to get even closer by honoring their father.

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Visa Showdown Hits As International Workers Look For Jobs

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HOST INTRO

For many university students, graduation is fast approaching. But for international students who want to stay in the United States, getting a visa is harder than ever. Sonia Paul reports.

There’s an alphabet soup of visa options for international students who want to work here. Some skilled workers go through employer sponsored H-1B visas. Others in academia get J-1 visas. It can be really confusing.

[BRING IN AMBI OF VALIA]

Valia Mitsou is Greek. She and her fiance met as students in Athens. Both computer scientists, they came to New York five years ago to get their PhDs.

MITSOU

It was basically a common decision to come to the U.S., and CUNY was an institution that accepted us both, so that’s why we ended up here.

(0:10)

Their field is theoretical computer science. That means they design the ideas and procedures other computer scientists use to solve problems.

Mitsou has one more year until she gets her PhD. Her fiance finished his early. But when he started looking around for a university job here, he couldn’t find one.

MITSOU

So he decided to go to Europe, to Sweden. Because the situation, finding work in Sweden, is much easier than in the U.S.

(0:11)

Competition for visas is fierce in the United States. Each year, 85,000 H1-B visas are reserved for foreign nationals. Employers must apply to sponsor these potential employees for visas. The application process just started this past Monday, April 1st.

Eleanor Pelta is an immigration attorney based in Washington, D.C. She says demand for these visas has increased sharply in the past few years.

PELTA

Three years ago, when the quota opened up for applications on April 1st, it wasn’t exhausted until January of the following year.

Then two years ago, it was exhausted in November. Then last year, it was exhausted in June.

And this year?

PELTA

It looking like it’s going to be exhausted in the very first week of filing.

(0:05)

That’s this coming Monday, April 7th. As the U.S. economy recovers, more companies   want to hire these high-skilled workers.

And H1-B visas aren’t the only ones in demand. For Mitsou to stay in the United States to do post-doctoral work, she needs a J-1 visa. It’s not subject to the quota system like H1-B. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get – and the whole process is hard to understand.

[HAVE AMBI OF CUNY GRADUATE CENTER COMING UP HERE]

At CUNY’s International Students Office, Mitsou runs into another student, Wen Ju from Taiwan. They soon start talking about their work plans. They even discuss the longest of longshots — getting a green card through the annual lottery.

WEN JU

I enter every year.

VALIA MITSOU: Michael applied every year too. Well I didn’t apply this year. I feel it’s worthless…It’s like the game of the chicken and the egg, I guess. If you want to get a job, you need to have the proper job status. And if you want to get the proper job status, then you need to get the job! (laughing). So it’s easier if you can get a green card.

(0:29)

U.S. companies and universities need people like Mitsou and Wen Ju to stimulate economic development. That’s according to Jeremy Robbins. He leads Mayor Bloomberg’s national coalition for immigration reform.

ROBBINS

The question is not should this job go to an American, or should it go to someone who is foreign-born. The question is, how do we get the right worker to make a company more competitive, so that it can grow and create more jobs.

(0:10)

Robbins says it’s especially important to retain students in the most sought after areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — also known as STEM.

ROBBINS

STEM jobs grew three times faster than the rest of the economy in the last ten years. But the problem is that not enough Americans are studying STEM.

(0:07)

Mitsou is a prime example of the type of person Robbins is advocating to stay. As an aspiring professor, she’d likely teach STEM classes. But she has to do her post-doctoral work before she can become a professor. And she has the additional problem of trying to find positions for herself and her fiance.

MITSOU

I think that the most important for me and Michael right now is to get a position in some place in the world, anywhere — literally (chuckles).

With this year’s expected record number of people applying for H-1B visas, the fate of the high-skilled foreign worker may boil down to old-fashioned luck. Sonia Paul, Columbia Radio News.

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