Voices in Focus: First Military Trial in Death of Pvt. Danny Chen

To kick off the week, we have some hard news from New York City’s ethnic and community press, including the start of army trials in the death of Pvt. Danny Chen; distress over Florida and Colorado’s verification process for voter rolls; an update on the sex abuse scandal in Brooklyn’s Orthodox community; and President Barack Obama’s recruitment of an Indian-American comedian to help register voters. (Hint: It’s not Kal Penn.)

* The first of eight trials in the alleged bullying death of Army Pvt. and Chinatown native Danny Chen is set to begin this week in Ft. Bragg, South Carolina, DNAinfo reported. In October 2011, Chen was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gun shot wound in a guard tower on his base in Afghanistan. Sgt. Adam H. Holcomb has been charged with negligent homicide for allegedly using racial taunts and bullying Chen in the months leading up to Chen’s death.

Su Zhen Chen and her son Private Danny Chen. (Facebook via DNAinfo)

The charges against Holcomb accuse him of using numerous racial slurs, as well as pulling Chen from his bed and dragging him by his wrist over a gravel path, according to military officials.

* Florida is using the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration database to purge the voter rolls of non-citizen voters. Colorado and other states also applied and were granted access. The problem with this, argues Feet in 2 WorldsErwin de Leon, is that the the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, designed to identify the immigration status of potential grant recipients, is not a database of citizenship, and risks identifying citizens as non-citizens, thereby silencing their right to vote.

John Roessler, chief of the SAVE program, maintains that SAVE is technically not even a database. “SAVE uses an online system that queries for data from multiple sources, including those that are updated in real-time and others that are updated in daily uploads.”

The SAVE process is initiated by entering identifying numbers found on immigration documents, such as alien registration numbers, and as such the system is unable to verify U.S. born citizens. The program is not a complete or accurate list of U.S. citizens.

Advocates are concerned over the lack of oversight as well as the potential for the new measures to discourage voting.

Immigrant advocates have also raised concerns that immigration checks at the polls will scare eligible immigrant voters away. Valeria Treves, executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) in New York, told Fi2W earlier this week that it erodes the trust between immigrants and the government. ”If they see all this info sharing between local and federal agencies, it’s going to dissuade immigrants from engaging in the actions that we all engage in,” she said.

* A report on child abuse in New York state released in April by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office included some new information on the sexual abuse allegations in the Orthodox community, The Jewish Daily Forward reported. While media attention has focused on allegations against teachers, rabbis and other community members, most of the alleged perpetrators are family members or close friends, the report found.

The list, released by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes earlier this year, describes 97 abuse cases that Hynes says he prosecuted over the last three years. According to the data, 20% of these cases involved family members — usually fathers, brothers or uncles — and another 37% involved a perpetrator who was a friend or acquaintance.

In the close-knit Orthodox communities, “family” can be a broad term, the Forward reported.

Judy Braun, an author who was raised in the ultra-Orthodox community, said the distinction between family and non-family cases may be only partially useful when examining the ultra-Orthodox community. Braun, whose recent novel, “Hush,” is based on her experience of witnessing a friend being abused by a family member, said that because the community is like an extended family, there is often little perceived difference between family members and non-family members. “The [perpetrator] is a third cousin, or a friend of the family, or a son-in-law of a [family member],” Braun said. “It’s like a spider web.”

* On a lighter note, President Barack Obama has recruited the Indian-American comedian and actor Aziz Ansari to help with voter registration, the India Times reported. On July 9, a picture of the “Parks and Recreation” star was tweeted from the President’s Twitter account.

Ansari is supporting Obama’s re-election campaign. Last year at a fundraiser in New York City, the president pointed out Ansari during the dinner, saying his daughter is a huge fan.

“Now, this is big because Malia is a big `Parks and Recreation’ fan. So having Aziz here is like the only thing she thinks is worth me doing,” Obama said.

Ansari grew up in South Carolina and went to college in New York City, where he honed his stand-up act.

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