Sunday, July 10, 2011
"A Better Life" a moving experience. . . It draws one to Outrage or just rage
Note: In the movie "A Better Life" veteran Mexican actor Demián Bichir tries to seek "A Better Life" for him and his son. The movie is strikingly realistic. It touches the issue of immigratin reform in our country like few movies have. It sends a poignant message that Prsident Barrack Obama could understand better if he watched the movie. In El Paso, recently, President Obama promised comprehensive immigration reform. It's time.
I write this blog with a sense of outrage. No, make that rage.
I open this blog with a review of Chicano history. A generation ago in the 1960s to the 1980s many Mexicano young people took to the streets to protest the continuous acts of discrimination and denial of civil rights we suffered under the dominant Anglo population.
I would say, that for the most part, those protests worked. Today Mexicanos and Tejanos born in the United States and those activist Chicanos who valiantly fought for civil rights are enjoying a piece of the American pie and living "A Better Life." But, we grew old and lost our valor and many of us are now complacent and even reluctant to open our eyes and see that our brothers and sisters - the new Latino immigrants to our country - are been treated with disrespect and disregard for their humanness. They are being abused right before our very eyes and we do nothing (nada).
Oh, sure, Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo, the famed Latino radio DJ from California who has now won national acclaim, did organize a national rally and boycott to bring attention to the immigration problem in our country. But, many of us said, that's not our fight. We have fought our fight. It's the immigrants turn to fight for their rights. Besides, they are not even citizens, some may say.
Where is the outrage? Where is our soul and heart? Why don't we understand that when they belittle one Hispanic, Latino, Mexicano, Tejano, they belittle all of us? Why can't we see that the Arizona law is not the anomaly but the norm in this country that is becoming more and more anti-Hispanic with each passing year?
I must apologize for my "Juanito llego tarde (Johnny come lately) attitude on this issue. I have always wanted to do something, but .... It was a movie that changed my mind and opened my eyes.
The movie "A Better Life" was so realistic that it hit too close to home. The movie features veteran Mexican movie actor Demián Bichir in the role of Carlos Galindo, an immigrant father who is fighting to give his son Luis (Jose Julian) "A Better Life" in the United States. One thing leads to another and eventually he gets caught without a driver's license and is deported, leaving Luis behind. He is sent to a detention center as he awaits his deportation for months. He lives with the regular prison population even though he has been a law-abiding citizen his entire life in the United States. He is treated like a common thief, murderer or rapist. He gets no respect and his only crime has been that he was looking for "A Better Life" for him and his son.
One of my former students had a similar experience. He made a mistake on some paperwork. Soon, the Department of Homeland Security came to look for him at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. They found him working at the University Bookstore, handcuffed him and took him away. He had no chance to pack his belongings, make sure his car was okay or talk to his professors about his classes. He had no rights in this country. He was illegal. In an instant, he was off to Houston. Three days later, he found himself in a detention center in Louisiana where he began a nine-month stay in the Immigration Services detention centers. He was finally released and will be taking classes at A&M-Kingsville this fall and hopes to get his master's soon. He is still searching for his belongings. He has lost everything, but he is back "home" in the Corpus Christi area. He was offered the choice to be deported to El Salvador, his home country as a child, and avoid the trauma of living in a jail cell for almost a year, but refused, saying simply, "This (the United States) is my home."
He was lucky. Ninety-nine out of 100 immigration detainees are deported. Under President Barrack Obama's administration, those numbers have increased and undocumented immigrants (not criminals) in the U.S. deportation center are treated worse than ever. The deportations under President Obama are on pace to surpass 37,100for the year, an increase of more than 1,200 from 2010. If the trend continues, the Obama administration will have prosecuted more illegal immigrants for illegal re-entry in his first term than George W. Bush’s administration did in his two terms combined. From 2001 to 2008, 111,920 aliens were prosecuted for the crime — 42,465 in Bush’s first term and 69,455 in his second, an annual average of about 10,600 and 17,360, respectively. Obama's administration is averaging about 34,355 annually and is on pace to surpass 103,000 in his first three years.
So, why is this Democratic president who rode to victory behind Hispanic vote turning a blind eye to this? It's baffling. Statistics show 64% of Hispanic males and 68% of Hispanic females supported Obama. Latino youth supported Obama over McCain by a lopsided margin -- 76% versus 19%.
So, what's the deal?
Reports from Washington say Obama has simply decided that we are a nation of laws and laws should be followed. He forgets that slavery was once legal in this country, but that law changed.
One thing is clear, Barrack Obama would not be president of the United States without the Latino vote in the American Southwest and, to a certain extent, Texas. It is clear that the Hispanic voter looked to Obama to lead the immigration reform. It is clear that the Hispanic gave Obama a mandate to go to Washington and "change the law or practice" that is clearly as unconstitutional as the issue of slavery was in the 19th century. Besides, it's simply a human rights issue. Period.
We must urge President Obama to do something. We must show him we are outraged that he has sat there motionless and made campaign speech after campaign speech, including a recent one in El Paso, where he promised, again, he would take the lead in this quest.
I would like to start by asking President Barrack Obama to go see the movie "A Better Life." Then, if he is moved enough, I would like to ask him to visit an immigration detention center and talk to some of the immigrants. He would find that the vast majority of them are hard-working "residents" of our country who deserve a better chance, "A Better LIfe." He will find that they are treated inhumanely and we are probably violating the Geneva Convention.
Then, I would ask him to go into the Mexicano barrios and, after witnessing first-hand how the jornaleros (journey man or day laborers) who line up for "work" at street corners in cities throughout our country, call a press conference and say simply, "Bienvenidos (Welcome)."
I want him to say, "There is work here for you. Come out of the shadows and join our society. We will develop a system for you to gain your citizenship. Continue working hard and you too will have a piece of the American pie and realize el sueno Americano. This is your country. We are a country of immigrants who worked hard to seek 'A Better Life.' Continue to work hard. Be decent hard-working people and you will have 'A Better Life' in this great country you so desire to be a part of. We did away with slavery years ago. It's time now for immigration reform."
Of course, right wingers would cry foul and President Obama will be put down by lunatic fringe among our country's conservatives. But I would bet the Hispanic would come to his rescue. I would bet he would a hero bigger than life and more important than all the revolutionary heroes in Mexican history - well, maybe not Emiliano Zapata. I would bet that few would threaten him after they realized the Hispanic population was solidly behind him. I know. I'm dreaming, but it could happen.
The movie - "A Better Life" - will get him thinking about his current stance on immigration reform. It will get him moving. He needs to see it. It will definitely open his eyes and stir his conscience.
Oh, after Birchir's character - Carlos Galindo - is deported, the true message of the movie is revealed. The last time Galindo talked to his son Luis, Luis made him promise him he would come back. The last scene shows Galindo and other undocumented immigrants approaching the U.S./Mexico border in Arizona. As the coyote points and says the United States is just north of a certain landmark. Galindo looks up to the sky and says, "I'm going home."
Let's hope he made it and let's hope by the time another movie is made on this character President Barrack Obama would have seen the light and done the right thing. We are a nation of laws, Mr. President, but laws have changed in the past and it's time to make comprehensive immigration reform a reality. It's time to stop the undignified treatment of Hispanic, Latino, Mexican immigrants and help them have "A Better Life."