TPS for Venezuelans? What is the VERDAD Act?

by Jose Enrique Perez

Since the beginning of this year, we have heard about Venezuela and its political crisis almost on a daily basis given that there is a new Interim President named Juan Guaido. On the background, politicians have been working on some measures to help Venezuelans currently in the United States.

The Venezuela TPS Act of 2019 is a bill in the current United States Congress presented by Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). It aims to extend temporary protected status to Venezuelan nationals in light of the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis and the crisis in Venezuela in general. It is important to keep in mind that this is a bill sponsored by both parties (bipartisan) and therefore has more potential to be passed.

Temporary protected status or “TPS” is a temporary immigration status to the United States, which will be granted to eligible Venezuelan nationals because they are temporarily unable to safely return to Venezuela due to the current civil and political crisis.

If approved by Congress, during the period of approval, TPS beneficiaries may remain in the United States and may obtain work authorization. However, TPS does not lead to permanent resident status or “green card” holder status. When the United States terminates the TPS designation, beneficiaries revert to the same immigration status they maintained before TPS unless that status had since expired or been terminated or to any other status they may have acquired while registered for TPS. We need to wait and see what happens in Congress.

There is also the VERDAD Act being considered. This Act, however, is not for help to Venezuelans in the United States. This will provide help to the Venezuelan people still in Venezuela. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are sponsors of this Act that was recently passed in the Senate Committee. It is also a bipartisan act. The Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance, and Development (VERDAD) Act, is a comprehensive effort to date to confront the crisis in Venezuela. The VERDAD Act drastically increases humanitarian assistance, expands current tools to address kleptocracy, formally recognizes and supports the Interim President of Venezuela’s efforts to restore democracy and prosperity in the country, and accelerates planning with international financial institutions to advance the country’s post-Maduro reconstruction.

We need to follow very closely the developments of these measures because it estimated that will help millions of Venezuelans both in the United States and in Venezuela.

You should remember that this article is not intended to provide you with legal advice; it is intended only to provide guidance about potential immigration policies. Furthermore, the article is not intended to explain or identify all potential issues that may arise in connection with representation before immigration courts, USCIS or ICE. Each case is fact-specific and therefore similar cases may have different outcomes.

I represent individuals in immigration cases. If you have any questions or concerns about an immigration case or potential case, you can call me at (315) 422-5673, send me a fax at (315) 466-5673, or e-mail me at The Law Office of Jose Perez has now moved and is located at 659 West Onondaga Street, Upper Level, Syracuse, New York 13204. Now with offices in Buffalo and Rochester!!! Please look for my next article in the July edition.

Birds of a Feather by Lorin Lindner

Provided by Linda A. DeStefano

Book Review by Collette Charbonneau

Translated into Spanish by Rob English

This is a true story – a sort of autobiography of how two parrot sanctuaries in California came to fruition. It is a recollection of life events by the author, Lorin Lindner, an animal lover and vegan. She recounts how she transitioned from running her own psychology practice to creating a rehabilitation program for veterans (and parrots). It all started when she took in a parrot while still in college. She was determined to navigate through the complexity of how to properly care for such a bird. She realized many people do not know how to do so and she had to do something to help.

She weaves her miraculous story into the sad, but true, story of why she had to build a parrot sanctuary in the first place. She presents honest, horrifying, and hopeful words to the plight of the parrot, a bird that is taken from his/her home in the Amazon as a baby and transported to the U.S. and sold to the highest bidder – overcrowded and uneducated/untrained pet stores or breeders who sell to unassuming people who just want a “pet”. As Lindner explains several times throughout her book, parrots need companionship, attention, proper food, clean cages, and room to fly around and spread their wings. While this can be easy for people to provide early on in their relationship with the parrots, it becomes harder as their lives get busier and the parrots continue to need a high level of attention and support. Most people do not realize, myself included, that parrots can live up to eighty years in captivity! It is hard for parrots to move around from home to home because they “imprint” or develop a deep connection to another bird, animal, or even a human. When they are separated by life circumstances, the parrot can have a difficult time recovering and moving on from that incident. Lindner wanted to help parrots.

Early in her career, after being approached by a homeless veteran needing someone to talk to, she realized other veterans needed help too. She began working with veterans at a nearby VA hospital and brought her two rescue parrots to work with her. The veterans often found it easier to communicate with a parrot than a person. She opened a parrot sanctuary for parrots in the community who could not stay with their human companions. Some of the veterans accompanied her each week to help clean cages, prepare their food, and socialize with them. Lindner then founded a rehabilitation program for veterans at the much closer VA hospital, that also happened to be a place for parrots.

Serenity Park, which opened in 2005, is described more like a garden sanctuary next to a hospital complex. The parrots, many of whom are severely traumatized, warm up to the veterans over time. They establish trust and help one another cope with the trauma they have experienced by learning that not all encounters with other humans are bad.

Lindner ends the book with hope for the veterans and parrots for whom she dedicated her life’s work. This book is a gentle reminder that people and our non-human companions both have feelings and past experiences that need to be recognized and addressed, in order for lifelong, meaningful relationships to exist. Just like us, they can find new meaning in life with the proper attention and care. Lindner reminds us that if we treat every living being right, we can all achieve true happiness and be successful in life.

Collette is a member of People for Animal Rights. You can contact People for Animal Rights at P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse 13215-0358,, (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.  Visit us at

The Rock Bottom Myth

by Maximilian Eyle

Everyone is familiar with the concept. We see it in movies, books, and on stage. Someone’s life spirals downward until they are struck with a lightning bolt of clarity and begin to make amends and change their ways. The message is clear: What do people who use drugs need to do? Hit rock bottom. How do we help them? Tough love or they’ll never learn. In many cases, we are afraid to show support or compassion for fear of becoming an “enabler”. There is an assumption that the person needs to be “torn down” before they can decide to change their behavior. The problem is that this concept is patently false. Not only that, but it has led to disastrous public policy results.

But what about all of the stories from people who described “hitting rock bottom” before changing their behavior? The key here is precisely defining what we mean by Rock Bottom. Many people do decide to make a change in their lives once they recognize the damage that their behavior is causing. However, this does not mean that they have to be coerced or “lose everything” to reach this point. What it does mean is that they experienced a shift in perspective. To quote Dr. Peggilee Wupperman, a professor at both John Jay and Yale University, it means that “they reached a point when they realized their life was extremely (and distressingly) different from the life they wanted or a life that fit their values.” Yet it is extremely important to recognize that this can be achieved without being torn down in therapy or experiencing severe material or emotional loss.

This idea that fostering shame and suffering is somehow the right thing to do is the natural conclusion of the Rock Bottom Myth. As a result, we turn our backs on our instincts for compassion and support. Tragically, this only makes things worse. Dr. Wupperman is a vocal critic of this philosophy. She points out that: “Despite widespread (and erroneous!) beliefs, shaming does not stop dysregulated behavior. In fact, the reality is the opposite. Shame actually increases the chance a person will continue to engage in dysregulated behavior.” This should not come as much of a surprise. We know that many people use mind altering substances to self-medicate their trauma and to ease their suffering. Consequently, when we increase the trauma and suffering in their lives – they will often consume more, not less.

It is imperative that we disengage ourselves from the punishment approach to substance use. The failed War on Drugs, the AIDS crisis, and the overdose epidemic are just some of the examples of how our determination to shame and marginalize people for their substance use has only served to worsen the problem. We have the opportunity to rethink our approach using evidence-based strategies that emphasize compassion over stigma, and empowerment over persecution.

Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at

Laura Bush in CNY

by Miguel Balbuena

The 43rd First Lady of the United States, Laura Bush, came to central New York on May 1 to be interviewed during the latest installment of the D’Aniello Family Speaker Series.

This Serie was launched by Dan D’Aniello, a member of the Board of Trustees of Syracuse University

(SU), with the goal of promoting “dialogue on subjects with national impact with some of the nation’s most prominent leaders and thinkers speaking on topics such as entrepreneurship, free enterprise, patriotism, veterans’ issues and leadership,” according to the press release for the event.

D’Aniello is best known for co-founding the Carlyle Group, along with Bill Conway and David Rubenstein,

where he strengthened his connections to the Bush family and some of its closest friends. This investment management company has its fair share of detractors in the press, most notably The

Economist magazine, described by philosopher Karl Marx as an “organ of the aristocracy of finance.” This alleged mouthpiece of the plutocracy suggested that the Carlyle Group epitomizes “crony capitalism,” which operates in the liminal space between the political and business classes.

“The secretive Carlyle Group gives capitalism a bad name,” The Economist said in 2003. The only reason

quoted by this London-based publication for its hard assessment stemmed from a conference, held on the fateful date of September 11, 2001, in Washington, D.C., during which this business group was represented by its big-gun hires such as formers President George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State James Baker and Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci.

“The conference was hosted by the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm that manages billions of dollars,

including, at the time, some bin Laden family wealth. It also employs Messrs. Bush and Baker. “In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, when no one was being allowed in or out of the United States, many members of the bin Laden family in America were spirited home to Saudi Arabia. The revival

of defense spending that followed greatly increased the value of the Carlyle Group’s investments in

defense companies.”

Laura Bush graduated from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in University Park, Texas, with a

baccalaureate in education, followed five years later with a master’s degree in library science from

the University of Texas at Austin. Fittingly, during her stay in central New York, Bush was questioned

on stage by SU’s Dean of Libraries and University Librarian David Seaman, born in England. The interview, which only lasted half an hour, took place in the Marvin and Helaine Lender

Auditorium of the Martin Whitman School of Management on the SU’s campus.

The format of the function insured Bush having limited interaction with the general public in attendance. Besides the 30-minute time constraint, no questions from the audience were allowed and, at the end of the event, Bush was whisked away by three Secret Service agents through a door next to the stage, far away from the two back doors used by the public. Seaman said that she had to leave for another commitment, probably with the university head honchos.

Further isolating the regular attendees, they were relegated to a few upper rows of seats in the

auditorium, with only 64 spots available, which were all taken half an hour prior the starting time of

the dialogue between Bush and Seaman. Those who tried to enter after that time were courteously

directed to the overflow room, where they comfortably watched the event via video link.

As an undergraduate at SMU, the 43th First Lady was a member of its chapter of the Kappa Alpha

Theta sorority. Her sisters from its homologous chapter at SU were seated in the Very Important Person

section of the auditorium and they were acknowledged by Bush when the emcee pointed out their

presence to her. The VIP section, consisting mostly of school faculty and administrators, occupied the

front part of the room, about 70 percent of it. Between this section and the ordinary one were three

rows reserved for reporters like myself.

The interview was not conducted by a professional journalist nor a political scientist. No probing

questions were asked. Despite this, some insight into Bush’s personality could be gleaned. I could

summarize it with a Latin phrase: “A healthy mind in a healthy body.”

About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields

(in the fiction and non-fiction genres).

The Millennials

by Aixa G. López

I hear much buzz regarding the “Millennials.”  Yes, those who were born between the 1980s and 2000s. Some also call them Generation Y. The Millennials are often described as confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat, and open to change. They are too impatient, focused on themselves, and not willing to compromise on certain matters they think are non-negotiable.

I have to admit that sometimes I have been guilty of judging them as not committed, selfish, and lazy, but in reality, what happens is that they see the world through a different perspective. Older generations were people that were trying to conquer the world and breaking the established, but they were also people that respected the authority figures in a very extreme fashion; to the point that sometimes they sacrificed their rights. That being said, having both, a member of the “Millennials” and a member of the “Silent Generation” living in my household, is quite a challenge sometimes.

I remember one day when my daughter was 9 years old, she came home very upset. She said that the principal of her school had done something to a student that she considered unfair. She wanted to send an email to the principal, expressing her opinion. I wanted to die. I felt proud because she had a strong feeling and opinion about it, but at the same time, I couldn’t understand how this young kid had the confidence to want to email the school’s supreme authority. Of course, I didn’t let her do it, but I had to sit down and explain to her why sometimes it is better not to react so quickly to our feelings.

I think this generation is ideally suited for the world they are living in. Even though I have some disagreements on certain aspects with the Millennials, I have to say that sometimes I wish I had more of their free-spirited personality and confidence. They go for the things they want in life and from life, and they have their priorities very clear. Another thing I admire about them is that they are not afraid of changing minds about things. Older generations would stay on the same job for 30 years even when they were miserable. This generation would change jobs (sometimes too often) until they find what they like. It is an interesting dynamic, and I can see it unfolding in my own house all the time.

I am looking forward to the challenge, and I am also looking forward to learning from them. I’m sure we can teach each other one or two things, right?

Aixa G. López, P. E. is a Consultant, Leadership Development, Digital Marketing, Organizational Process Improvement living in the Elmira, New York Area. She is a strategically minded, analytical Industrial Engineer with 27+ years of experience providing operations management, organizational process improvement, leadership & team development, and digital marketing. She has been recognized for improving organizational effectiveness and efficiency through leadership, aligning business processes to realize cost savings and revenue growth. She’s an industrial engineer who entered the field because of her passion for fixing things. As a columnist for CNY Latino, Aixa shares with the readers this passion and the lessons she has learnt along the way.

New Music Director at SU

VPA Names Pianist, Scholar Milton Laufer New Setnor School of Music Director
by Erica Blust

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) has announced that Milton Rubén Laufer, a pianist and scholar and current director of Western Carolina University’s School of Music, has been named director of the Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music, effective July 1.

Laufer will be responsible for the Setnor School of Music’s creative, academic and strategic leadership, and he will provide public advocacy for the school at the University, regional and national levels. He will also serve as an associate professor of music.
Laufer succeeds Martha Sutter, who will return to the faculty following a one-year research leave.

“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Laufer to Syracuse University, the college and the Setnor School,” says VPA Dean Michael S. Tick. “Our hard-working search committee, led by Ralph Zito, chair and professor of our Department of Drama, commended him for being a skilled and dedicated musician as well as an accomplished entrepreneurial leader in music education, arts consulting and arts advocacy. I look forward to collaborating with him on his vision for the Setnor School.”

“I am so honored to have been chosen to serve this remarkable institution,” says Laufer. “Music has been woven into the fabric of Syracuse University for 142 years. I endeavor to honor this great legacy while working alongside the extraordinary faculty, staff and talented students of the Setnor School of Music toward a bright and prosperous future.”
A Chicago native of Puerto Rican and Cuban parents, Laufer began playing the piano at three years of age, and his training includes studies at the Music Institute of Chicago, the Gnessin Institute, the Eastman School of Music, the University of Michigan (B.M.) and Rice University (M.M., D.M.A.).

Laufer has delighted audiences on four continents in prestigious venues from Lincoln Center to Tchaikowsky Hall. A versatile artist, he has shared the stage with artists ranging from Natalie Cole to Guerassim Voronkov. His appearances on Spanish-speaking television and radio have been aired throughout Europe, South America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Laufer is recognized internationally as a leading interpreter and scholar of Spanish piano music. His editions of Isaac Albéniz’s Three Improvisations for Piano and “La Vega” are published by G. Henle Verlag of Munich and available worldwide. Currently he is writing the book “The Pianist’s Guide to the Repertoire of Spain.”

In addition, he has two recording projects planned: an album featuring piano and vocal works by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona and recording of Latin works for cello and piano with Canadian cellist Nigel Boehm. His recording credits include albums on the Naxos, Zenph Sound Innovations, Bis Records and Beauport Classics record labels.

As an educator, Laufer is guided by the principle that students must be adaptable to the changing vocational landscape that awaits them. They must not only be skilled, expressive technicians, but also entrepreneurs and convincing communicators who understand the value of their art as a commodity in the marketplace and its power as a force for change within their community.

Laufer is a charter trustee and lifetime member of the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame and an active voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammys) and Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Latin Grammys)

Everson Museum exhibits the art of Juan Cruz

by Ricardo Loubriel

Juan Cruz is a Puerto Rican artist who at the early age of five was forced to leave the island and move to New York City, where his journey as an artist took form. Life situations and setbacks sparked the flame of creativity.

Cruz is 77 years old and a resident of Syracuse NY since 1975. He has been invited by the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse to present a retrospective exhibit that includes works from 1960 to the present. The show titled Juan Cruz: A Retrospective, opens on May 4 at 10am, at the Everson Museum, 401 Harrison St. Syracuse, NY 13202. The show will remain on view through August 4th, 2019.

In recent days, we had a chance to interview the artist, who has contributed so much in the fields of painting, sculpture, and the education of our youth in the arts. This is an excerpt of our conversation.

RL: What was the reason for your family to move out from Puerto Rico?
JC: Necessity and lack of resources.

RL: At what age did you first hold a brush?
JC: I was around 20 years old, but even as a five year old, ever since I can remember I spent my time drawing with pencils. This exhibition at the Everson will include one of my first paintings, a portrait of a young girl. That was in the 1960s.

RL: Did your parents in any way influence your career as an artist?
JC: I think about that and a lot. We were a poor family. I met my father when I was 12-years-old. My mom was a seamstress and she had that creative vision for drawing and designing dresses.

RL: Do you feel that the island of Puerto Rico influence your work?
JC: I do not know. My first influences were when I decided that art was more than painting pretty things, like flowers. I felt there had to be something more profound. I used to paint what I saw, very realistic. At that time I was struggling to make money. But when I started to analyze what I was doing, I opened my eyes realizing that art is not painting everything that you see. My work evolved in an attempt to reflect my experiences and my moods.

RL: Do you have a memory or anecdote that continually comes back to mind in relation to your art?
JC: I always liked to draw; I never had an interest in baseball or other sports. The truth is that all children are creators. The first thing they do is draw on walls, on the floor or the stove. We are all artists, but there comes a time when we take other interests or shift directions. For me, art comes from another planet. I am centered on personal experiences and social problems such as abuse, in all its manifestations.

RL: What does your art express, or what is the primary focus in relation with your work?
JC: My experiences, what I have lived through. Art for me is like music. Sometimes it grabs you and it speaks to your spirit. It pulls something out of us that provokes a certain connection. It is different for each person. The same happens with painting.

RL: How do you feel about this upcoming exhibition at the Everson Museum?
JC: Last New Year’s Eve, I was wondering what would happen to me this year. I was sick, alone, far from my family, broke and very cold. I read in a horoscope, “This year, something will open up for you.” I thought to myself, “There’s no other way around it!” One week later I got an invitation from the Everson to organize a show.

RL: Is there anything else you would like to say?
JC: Yes, art is therapy. I would like to send a message to our youth and tell them to think about what they are doing. Life in street gangs hit me hard when I was 17 years old, and landed me in prison without even speaking English. I did not know to read or write. I learned
to read, write and paint in prison. Not knowing English was a problem and one of the reasons why I would not advocate in my own defense. I learned that it is important to think before taking any action, rather than act without thinking. Any decision made thoughtlessly can change your life in a second. I spent 16 and a half years in prison, for a moment’s action that I made without thinking. That can take you to jail or to your grave. I want to advise our youth and tell them that it is never too late; that education is super important and it is what will pull you out of many miseries. It is important to be patient, think about what you do and work hard to move ahead. I was able to overcome that crisis in my life. I held on to my art. It saved me. Many do not have that life support. I want to tell our young people to not waste time, to get an education, seek understanding and do not let anyone pressure you to act without thinking. Art is therapy