Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Dear President Biden: Bring Home All Deported U.S. Military Veterans

U.S. War Heroes, Deported to Mexico

Imagine this: You're a United States Marine and you earn a Purple Heart while fighting alongside your fellow American troops in Iraq, or Afghanistan, but when you return home from war, you are kicked out of the country.

It's an unconscionable scenario. But this kind of thing happened all too frequently during the Trump Administration. No empathy or remorse was shown for these war heroes by the former President or his fellow lapel-flag patriots. 

While the official number of US veterans who were deported by the Trump Administration is at least 250, many veteran advocates who follow this closely tell me that there are more than 1,000 American soldiers deported to Mexico alone.

Tragically, some of these veterans have been forcibly recruited by the criminal cartels in Mexico. And many of them understandably feel abandoned by the country for which they proudly fought. 

Most have been deported for minor crimes such as smoking or selling marijuana, which has led many to ask, "Why are we deporting heroes?"

Bring Them Back 

President Biden has vowed to right this wrong. At a CNN town hall in November 2019 while along the campaign trail, Biden said his plan regarding deported veterans was to “bring them back.”

"It's outrageous what they did. Outrageous what the President [Trump] did," he said, adding that at one event he and his wife Jill Biden swore in 120 soldiers and sailors and none of them were American citizens.

They had all volunteered to serve, Biden said, and they were winners of some of the military’s highest honors, from silver stars to bronze stars to purple hearts.

"And you should have seen the looks in their faces as each one of them came up. That's why we're who we are, the country we are. We are a country of immigrants, and they serve, and they should be treated the same way,” Biden said.

In late February, White House officials reiterated Biden's promise, telling McClatchy newspaper reporters that Biden would indeed review the deportations of veterans and military family members that occurred under Trump's stricter immigration enforcement.

“The administration’s immigration enforcement will focus on those who are national security and public safety threats, not military families, service members or veterans,” White House assistant press secretary Vedant Patel said in a statement in February. 

“The federal government in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security will take further review of removals of veterans and their family members.” 

New Spotlight on the Issue 

Tomorrow, the Deported Veterans Support House and its supporters will launch a campaign urging the Biden Administration to keep his word.

At the press event, a wide array of distinguished members of the military, veterans and supporters will urge Biden to use his executive powers to bring them home. 

The roster of speakers at the virtual event based at the Deported Veterans Support House (also known as “the Bunker,”) which offers services to deported veterans in Tijuana, Mexico, will include several veterans who have been deported or face deportation.

Will Attig, a U.S. Army veteran and Executive Director of the Union Veterans Council, AFL-CIO, told The Reno Dispatch this week that all those who have served our country deserve to be served by our country, no matter their place of birth. 
"But our government has failed in this duty, deporting unknown numbers of military veterans, usually based on post-service criminal convictions," he said. 
"These veterans have been failed by our public support systems and targeted by our biased criminal justice system, these veterans were not afforded adequate support to reintegrate into the workforce or to address trauma, substance abuse and other medical issues resulting from their service."

WHEN: Thursday, May 6, at Noon (Pacific Time).

WHERE: The event, based at The Bunker, will be available on:
Webinar ID: 846 6910 5762
Passcode: 301149

Speakers will include:
Deported U.S Army veteran Jose Velazco, Tijuana
Deported USMC veteran Roberto Salazar, Tijuana 
Deported U.S Army veteran Laura Meza, Costa Rica (Pending)
U.S Army Veteran Mario Martinez facing deportation Downy, Ca. 
Rocio Rebollar Deported mother of Active duty officer, Tijuana 
Deported U.S Army veteran Francisco Lopez, Juarez 
Deported U.S Army veteran Ivan Ocon, Juarez 
Congressman Mark Takano, United States Repr. for California's 41st congressional district. 
Congresswoman Nannette Barragan U.S. Rep. for California's 44th district
Margaret Stock immigration attorney, retired Lieutenant Colonel U.S Army founder of the MAVNI program, MacArthur Foundation Fellow 
William Attig, U.S Army Veteran with the Veterans Council AFL-CIO Domingo Garcia 51st President of LULAC, Lawyer & politician.  
Yolanda Varona founder of Dreamers Moms Tijuana, deported mother & spouse of Veteran, Father Dermot Rodgers,  
Lawrence Romo - American GI Forum National Commander


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Back to the Beach: An Exclusive Look At San Diego’s Best Waterfront Restaurants In 2021

The view from ALBACA at the Marriott Coronado - Photo by Jamie Reno
It’s a perfectly warm San Diego spring Saturday evening, and my wife and I are enjoying a sunset dinner at ALBACA at the Marriott in Coronado. 

As the sun begins to set, we both notice the golden, Van Gogh-ish swirls of light reflecting on San Diego Bay, and we share a silent sense-of-wonder smile. 

It’s time to exhale, everyone. It’s been a year to forget, for all of us, but our lives are slowly returning to sanity, if not normalcy. 

We’re not out of the Covid-19 woods just yet, but with both vaccine shots done, our family and some of our closest friends have begun to rediscover one of the things that makes San Diego so special: Dining on the waterfront.

Enjoying breakfast, lunch or dinner near the Pacific Ocean, Mission Bay or San Diego Bay is a longstanding tradition in our family. 

Not surprisingly, America’s Finest City has some outstanding waterfront eateries - though not as many as one might think given the many miles of shoreline here. 

We favor the restaurants that provide casual elegance, which contrary to popular belief is not an oxymoron. We like the places where you don’t have to wear a tie but where you know you’ll get friendly service, delicious food and a stunning view. 

We like the restaurants where the atmosphere is as enticing as the menu. And we like places that never rush you out once you're in. 

When the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) deemed it safe to visit restaurants again, we didn't need much coaxing. We still only dine al fresco (outdoors) and will continue that policy for the foreseeable future.

But in San Diego, that’s just not a problem. 

We’ve been checking in on some old haunts as well as discovering some new favorites. Below is our latest report on what we believe are the finest waterfront restaurants in San Diego. 

First here's the list, followed by the delicious details. 

 The Top Seven Waterfront Eateries:

 * ALBACA Restaurant at the Coronado Island Marriott  

* Mustangs & Burros at Estancia La Jolla 

* Oceana Coastal Kitchen at the Catamaran 

* Il Fornaio in Coronado 

* Bella Vista Social Club and Caffe’ 

* Firefly Eatery and Bar at the Dana 

* Cusp Dining & Drinks at La Jolla Shores 

* And one wild card surprise (see at bottom) 

There was a "sea change" recently at the Coronado Marriott on the shores of San Diego Bay. The global Marriott folks had a nice and charming little restaurant at the resort. 

But Jonathan Litvack, the property's GM and resident good guy, explains that there was a strong desire to turn it up a notch, or three. 

So, the restaurant underwent major renovations prior to opening with its new concept and name, ALBACA, in the Spring of 2019. 

Then of course Covid hit, and the place was shut down again. Ugh. Not great timing. But then is there ever a good time for a pandemic?

The good news is things are opening up, which means it's finally time for ALBACA to shine. 

The restaurant doesn’t get as much publicity as some of the more established waterside dining haunts in San Diego. But it should. It is among our new favorites, for all kinds of reasons. 

The improvements are many, both in style and substance. The service is terrific. The view is nonpareil. And the food. That would be a wow.

“Our dishes are relatable, yet presented in a way that consistently delivers on a cool Baja California Caribbean cuisine, with a twist,” explains Litvack, a cordial host who like me is a cancer survivor who never forgets to be thankful for the life we have been given. 

“We are proud of what we have done here," Litvack says. "At ALBACA, our patrons get a fresh taste of Alta and Baja cuisine as they look to explore California's varied cultural influences.” 

The restaurant’s philosophy, Litvack adds, is simply to encourage guests to explore and enjoy California’s “varied cultural culinary influences.” 

Each dish is created with local ingredients and celebrates the fishermen, farmers, delivery truckers, artisans and restaurant workers themselves who bring the best of San Diego to ALBACA’s kitchen. 

It all works, largely thanks to smart management and the creativity of executive chef Rafael Corniel, who is determined to make this a unique dining experience. Check out ALBACA. I'm confident it will quickly become one of your new favorites. 

Photo courtesy of Mustangs & Burros

Mustangs & Burros, situated on the beautifully landscaped grounds of the Estancia La Jolla resort on North Torrey Pines Road, officially gets my nod as the new "Coolest Place In Town."  

That's a designation I reserved for Croce’s Park West, Ingrid Croce’s amazing follow-up to her legendary Croce’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar eatery in the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego. 

There was live music almost every night at Croce’s Park West. Ingrid, who of course is the kind and talented widow of legendary folk-pop singer Jim Croce, was a most gracious host. But that restaurant is now sadly gone, too. 

Mustangs & Burros deserves this new honor. The food isn’t quite gourmet-level as it was at Ingrid’s place, but it is delicious comfort food. And the vibe is infectious. Mustangs & Burros has a comfortable, rustic, Colorado-in-the-70’s feel, with outstanding live acoustic music on weekends. 

Some of my favorite acoustic San Diego singer-guitarists congregate there. Christian Taylor is a remarkable vocalist who sounds like a young Don Henley. And singer-guitarist Ryan Hiller, a longtime and accomplished performer in San Diego, and his fellow musicians play a hot set of recognizable classic rock tunes and turn them into long jams. It's one of the most enjoyable nights of music and food you will find locally. 

Estancia, which rests on the former site of a horse ranch, has kept that equine vibe. The resort's GM Eric Jenkins has gone out of his way to create a fun atmosphere for all. And here’s another hint for locals: Estancia is an outstanding place for a stay-cation. No need to drive home after dinner. Stay the night. This is a world-class resort and spa. 

Mustangs & Burros is not technically/literally on the oceanfront. But it’s a very short walk to the Torrey Pines International Glider Point and Salk Institute, where, on the large grassy hill overlooking the ocean, you can sit and watch the sun slowly dissolve into the sea, or so it appears. 

Catamaran view of Mission Bay

Providing laid-back elegance San Diego style, the management at Oceana has taken full advantage of its choice locale on the sands of Mission Bay. The food and service? Excellent. The setting? Perfection, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

The Catamaran Hotel, which is particularly adept at taking your worries away, has special meaning for me and my family. After college and before I was married, I lived for years on Mission Bay. I spent an inordinate amount of time at the Catamaran. I learned how to sail at the aquatic center within eyeshot of the hotel. And my family still often stays there when visiting San Diego. 

When my wife and I moved inland (Tierrasanta) to raise our family, I promised myself I would stay connected to the ocean. And I have. It’s just a quick and straight shot on Highway 52 from my home to Mission Bay or La Jolla Shores or Pacific Beach. I dip my toes in the water at least two or three times a week, and still surf a few times a year. 

For me, dining at Oceana feels like coming home again, and again. 

Il Forniao in Coronado

The best Italian food in San Diego.... The best view in San Diego.... The best dining atmosphere in San Diego.... Il Fornaio in Coronado, which is near the Coronado Ferry Landing, has been my go-to restaurant for many years. 

And there is one primary reason why this place is still the best: Luca Allieri, the finest restaurant manager in San Diego. Allieri, who hails from Bergamo, a town in Northern Italy about a half-hour drive from Milan, has a secret recipe’ for success: He cares deeply about his employees and his customers. It sounds trite. But it's true.

Unlike some "foodies" I know, Luca is unpretentious. He is passionate, but even-keeled. He never loses his cool no matter how crazy things get on a busy Saturday evening dinner rush. And that professionalism and kindness permeate the restaurant. He loves his job. What a concept!

Ask any waiter or host or cook or staff member at Il Fornaio how much they enjoy working at Il Fornaio. They will all tell you the same thing. In the restaurant business, management is everything. It’s a tough gig, but Luca does it almost effortlessly. And those of us who love restaurants are the beneficiaries. 

And here’s some news: Il Forniao Coronado has just finished building a new outdoor wood deck, so that you can dine al fresco and be even closer to the water’s edge. Fantastico! 

Bella Vista Caffe and Deck

Bella Vista, which is professionally and benevolently run by owner-manager Amanda Caniglia, the princess of the San Diego biotech scene and a terrific hostess and interviewer, has a positively Euro’ feel. 

Sitting majestically above the Torrey Pines cliffs and located next to Salk, Scripps, and UC San Diego, Bella Vista has been dubbed “the perfect piazza.” It is a place where notable people dine - renowned scientists, CEO’s, city and county leaders, artists, as well as just plain folks. 

Bella Vista, whose enormous “dining room” deck overlooks the ocean, has the feel of a friendly Italian village eatery where people gather to share stimulating conversation and tremendous food. It's as if you are happily acting out a scene from “Cinema Paradiso,” my favorite movie of all time. It's pure joy.

The food is upscale gourmet Italian, but the vibe is low-key casual and fun. Bella Vista celebrates life. Just go!

Casual cool at Firefly at the Dana

Casual, fun and relaxing, Firefly is classic Cali'. They serve up contemporary food and a nice family atmosphere right on Mission Bay. Check out the live music on weekends this spring and summer. 

Visiting the Dana was another rediscovery that made me feel nostalgic and hopeful. 

When I was in 9th Grade, our tennis team took a field trip to San Diego to visit Sea World. It was my first time in California. I had never seen the ocean, though I already was having regular dreams about it. 

My tennis team stayed at the Dana Inn (now The Dana), and one afternoon during the field trip, a few of us walked down to the beach hoping to find the ocean. We found it while riding the roller coaster at Belmont Park, which is still operational all these years later. 

Seeing the ocean's big waves for the very first time as my roller coaster slowly ascended was a rush, to say the least. And I just knew at that moment that I would live in San Diego someday. 

The Firefly Eatery and Bar at the Dana, formerly the Dana Inn, is still bringing smiles to people’s faces. 

Cusp Dining & Drinks at La Jolla Shores

Great atmosphere, tremendous gourmet food and best high-rise view of the ocean in all of San Diego. That's Cusp. We wrote a glowing review of this restaurant literally days before the pandemic began. 

Now, you finally have a chance to check it out. I promise you will not be disappointed. 

No outdoor dining here, but you will feel like you are outside with the ceiling-to-floor windows facing the beach. And the place is too small to ever get too crowded. 

The best part? Ingrid Funes, a brilliant chef, is thankfully still in charge. She is among the most creative chefs in San Diego. 

Born in El Salvador, which is where a lot of her inspiration comes from when it comes to cooking with bold color and flavors, Funes comes from a lineage of talented cooks, including her mom, who ran a small restaurant and instilled in her daughter a sense of pride and passion for the craft of cooking. 

“Because of this, I learned early on that being a chef required hard work, and that it required a passion for food and those you prepare it for," Funes tells me.

Ingrid’s cooking style is deceptively simple: She creates menus that focus on bringing out the true flavors of each individual ingredient in the dish, and uses the best product possible." 

Ingrid likes to like to play with bold and colorful ingredients, bursting with flavor. "I often use my family’s recipes as inspiration in my dishes, and enjoy making guests happy with unexpected flavors. It’s what keeps me going,” she says.
Simply put: You will love Cusp. 

Splashes in Laguna Beach

Then there is this wild card. The one offering that is not located in San Diego County. We love Laguna Beach, and Splashes offers a perfect beginning, perfect middle or perfect end to a perfect day (or weekend) in Laguna. 

One of the many great things about Splashes is that it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

To enjoy the Complete Laguna Experience, you need to spend the entire day (or more) there so that you can check out the art galleries and other cool shops, and just soak in the general laid-back feel of the place, which is best referred to as Bohemian chic. 

Unique among Southern California communities, Laguna, even with all the surrounding growth and urban and suburban sprawl, has somehow managed to maintain its charms as a quaint artists’ colony. 
It all began a century ago when artists such as Norman St. Clair, William Swift Daniell and Gardner Symons moved to Laguna and set up shop there. 

And the tradition continues. The legendary Pageant of the Masters, for example, where art literally comes to life on stage, will return to Laguna this July, August and September.