Monday, September 27, 2010

Revisiting Manassas: Watching 9500 Liberty

Last night 9500 Liberty was aired on MTV2.  It was the first time I have been able to see the final cut version of the film.  I've been watching the development of the project since its first video clips went viral three years ago.  I've also hosted Annabel Park and Eric Byler to campus for a screening of the film as a work in progress.

That said, watching the film in its entirety was an emotional experience for me. I conducted fieldwork in Manassas and in the surrounding county from 2008-2009, speaking with native-born residents and immigrants, and I was impressed how the filmmakers were able to capture the essence of the immigration controversy in Prince William County, particularly the overwhelming influence of a small group of residents, the role of groups outside the community in pushing an anti-immigrant agenda, and  Cory Stewart's crass and obvious use of a local conflict to advance his political career.

What really struck me, however, was the overwhelming pain that Prince William County's "rule of law" ordinance inflicted on the largely Latino immigrant community.

The film documents an important and rarely understood aspect of the immigration debate: how immigration is shaping local communal identity, and how poorly equipped many communities are to deal with those changes.

Annabel and Eric--job well done.

Water in the Desert-littering or lifesaving?

When I read this story in the NYT yesterday, I thought, "my goodness, I live in a hateful country."

What type of person would ticket and charge someone with littering when they're leaving jugs of water to be consumed by dying men and women in the desert?

The act of leaving water is basic humane behavior.  To think otherwise is simply obscene.

Immigration, Economics, and Nativism

This essay by Ezra Klein argues that the positive aspects of immigration on the economy outweigh the negative one.  He'll find no argument with me on that point, however, he falls into the trap that so many pro-immigrant advocates do: he assumes that the obscure intellectual economic discussion will actually influence people who believe that immigrants are transforming their way of life.  And as idiotic as it may sound--some people would rather give up the economic benefits to live in communities where everyone speaks English, is white, and has the same cultural and aesthetic values.

I say this after years of experience working in new destination immigrant communities in the U.S.  It's irrational, but there are a lot of otherwise good-natured folks out there who see immigrants in their community about as positive as a radioactive brownfield. 

If, as a nation, we are going to address the issue of immigration in communities, it has to be done at the local level.

There is no other way.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Gringa on the DREAM Act

9500 Liberty

9500 Liberty will be broadcast on Sunday night at 8 PM.  This film is an outstanding & fair examination of the immigration controversy in Manassas, Virginia.

You can watch the film in its entirety on on MTV 2, MTV U and MTV Tr3s (with Spanish subtitles).  

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Powell on the GOP and Immigration

Bravo, Colin Powell.  I wish you were not the minority.  "Immigration is what is keeping our country's life-blood moving forward."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Colin Powell: illegal immigrants have worked on my home

If you're going to be honest, most of us would have to admit that at one time or another, we've had undocumented immigrants working in or around our homes.  Whether we've done this intentionally, by hiring a housekeeper whom we decided "don't ask, don't tell" is the best policy, to hiring a subcontractor to mow lawns or landscape who most certainly has picked up a day laborer or two to help out with a day's work.  Today's Washington Post highlights the perspective of Colin Powell, who breaks with the American tradition of pretending that we don't do thing we really do pretty often, and admits that he has hired the undocumented to work on his home.

He does this as an attempt to raise awareness of the need for comprehensive immigration reform.  Let's hope he's not the last reasonable Republican who's willing to take a stand.

Immigrant Voices: An Oliver Twist Story

This article from today's Washington Post highlights an amazing story of a Guatemalan immigrant child who arrived in the U.S. at age 14 and somehow survived--and thrived--with the support of teachers, family and friends.  He's a poster child for why we need to pass the DREAM Act.