This Documentary Would Go Well With…

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Restore FairnessHere’s a summary of my thoughts on im/migration so far:

  • Short of 1st Nations people, everyone living in the US emigrated—whether by choice or force, whether the im/migrant is themselves and/or their ancestors or current family members—from somewhere else. And we’re squatting on 1st Nation lands.
  • For those who want to argue that the Black people who came to the US cannot be immigrants in that Ellis Island/American Odyssey Mythology sense because that group were forced by white slave traders and slaveowners to be on these shores: no, we—and I say “we” because I’m the great-granddaughter of an enslaved Africans and African Americans, so I’m of that group–didn’t see Ellis Island. That does not negate that we moved or “migrated,” albeit involuntarily, from one part of the world to another—which is the definition of an “immigrant.” Or that we don’t have our own American Odyssey. That’s also another post for another day.
  • The US government needs to give undocumented people amnesty and broader roads to citizenship, if that’s what they seek, instead of assigning inherent criminality to them based on some racialized rhetoric. They don’t have papers, usually because the system is so labyrinthine and expensive that it’s discouraging. Or they’re trying to get residency and/or citizenship and are stuck in the process. And the reality that’s clouded by the vitriol is, among other things, that undocumented immigrants not only contribute to this economy—sometimes endangering their health in the process–they also contribute to the economies of the places from which they moved.
  • Thanks to the nasty racialized rhetoric, people who have US residency, of not citizenship, are getting caught in the dragnet to catch “those people” who, according to the heuristics, allegedly look nothing like the people spouting the rhetoric. (And, to the clear, the folks spouting the rhetoric aren’t always white, either—my mom and uncle will hiss about the “Mexicans” taking “our” jobs and trying to have children in the US so the parents can stay in the country and “take advantage” of “our” public services. Like I said, allegedly.)

My pro-immigration stance isn’t radical or revolutionary; honestly, I think it’s quite middle-of-the-road, compared to writers and other creatives who have extensively and award-winningly written on the topic and advocates who tirelessly work on this issue.  (Usually, these groups overlap.)

But my middle-of-the-road thoughts don’t stop me from wondering if an advocate seems to be doing a bait-and-switch for the cause.

Case in point: Restore Fairness, a campaign spearheaded by Breakthrough, a human-rights organization which is, according to its website:

….using the power of popular culture, media, leadership development and community education to transform public attitudes and advance equality, justice, and dignity. Through initiatives in India and the United States, Breakthrough addresses critical global issues including violence against women, sexuality and HIV/AIDS, racial justice, and immigrant rights.

We use creative tools to build a culture of human rights. These rights make up the daily fabric of our lives, of how we tend to live individually and as a community. The rights to life, food, shelter, freedom of expression, freedom from violence, religious freedom – these are all human rights to which we are all entitled. The United Nations has codified many human rights in documents called conventions and treaties, which are ratified by member countries that promise to adhere by their rules. They are described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Guaranteeing these rights for us and for others is what building a human rights culture is all about.

And I’m so down with their principles because they’re commonsensical to me. Breakthrough also allies with major pro-immigration organizations, such as American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, National Council of La Raza, Asian American Justice Center, Women’s Refugee Commission, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and South Asian Americans Leading Together.

But then why is their “Restore Fairness” campaign website comes of like a subtle campaign for their own documentary?

Here’s the documentary. Judge for yourself:

Restore Fairness: bring back due process to the immigration system from Breakthrough on Vimeo.

As a documentary maven, this doc is a beautifully produced film which distills the message of the need for immigration reform well. After watching I feel informed and agreeing, but not moved from my already-held position. Is it “powerful,” as the press release claims?  For me, the message would be powerful if coupled with a documentary like Arturo Perez Torres’ Wetback: The Undocumented Documentary, which chronicles the journey of two Nicaraguan men trying to cross through the US to Canada without documentation. In this turned-to-eleven hatred-of-the-“illegals” climate, people need to see as well as hear from undocumented people as well as those who are residents, citizens, and asylum seekers as to why the immigration system need to be fixed.  That, to me, would be fair and, yes, powerful.

Like I said, Breakthrough’s movie is a necessary one for those who want to start understanding the debate about reforming the immigration system—goodness knows the damn thing needs to be overhauled, and we need more information and less venom. However, instead of just touting its own cinematic effort, a good idea may be for the organization to offer pop-culture resources, like a blogroll of other pro-immigration sites and a filmography of other films dealing with the same issue.

In other words, form a pop-culture coalition. In the spirit of left-leaning coalition-building, especially online, that would be innovative.

Photo Credit: B-listed