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."


  1. This blog is beautifully written. I find myself agreeing with everything that is stated. The story is the student at TAMUK is very upsetting, and itbsaddens me to know that this sort of thing happens more than I would like to admit.

    Stacy Saenz

  2. Dr. Flores let me start by saying that this is a wonderful blog page that you have. I have never been one much for blogging or reading blogs, but I think your page might have changed that... Now, as for the Movie....

    Unfortunately I was not able to make it to see the movie, but I watched the trailer in class and found it again online. The story seems so touching, and it is so true. The title of the movie could not have fit more perfectly. I think that the immigration laws should be changed a little bit. I understand how some people are upset because immigrants will come and work for less, but at the same time they aren't harming anyone... they really and truly just want a better life. A family member of mine is a farmer and he had one worker who was an illegal immigrant, (lets call him Juan) he did not know it at the time he hired him. My uncle later found out, but did not have the heart to tell him to leave, nor the desire. Juan was one of the best workers my uncle ever had. He was always on time, did what he was told, and made sure everything he did was done right. One day Juan didn't show up for work, then again and again. A few days had gone by without even a phone call so my uncle went by his house to find everything gone. They had taken him to a detention center and his two daughters were taking into custody. My uncle tried everything he could to defend one of his best workers but it was no use. Although this experience was over 10 years ago, I was a young girl, I still remember how upsetting it was to the family. All *Juan wanted was a better life for him and his family. One day I will watch "A Better Life" and I will tell everyone that I know about it. I think that it would be wonderful if children at a young age were required to watch it in school for a class. I think that it would give young children a better understanding of what is going on and their surroundings. In addition, I think that they should see the statistics that you have written in your blog about immigrants. They really put things in a bigger perspective.

    Lindsay P.
    July 18, 2011

  3. Dr. Flores,

    As a young Latino in the United States, I have grown to understand the necessity for immigration reform in the United States. A sufficient example is provided in the film "A Better Life." The film provides the personal, humane side to the immigration battle that many people across the country seem to forget. Several of these immigrants are simply crossing in to this country to seek "A Better Life."
    What I also understand, however, is the political turmoil that our nation is currently in. While a perfect, utopian world would allow for the immigrants to enter the nation that are simply seeking a better lifestyle, the matter of the illegal drug trade continues to grow across the borders. Immigration Reform is definitely an issue I feel that President Obama will have to face while seeking re-election this upcoming year, but I also believe that the struggle to find an equitable agreement for Mexican immigrants will take time and cooperation from both Republicans and Democrats in the United States.
    The place of my generation of Latinos is to continue to tear down boundaries, and provide a revived, educated perspective of the Mexican-American culture in the United States. Perhaps if ALL American citizens can understand the humanity behind certain illegal immigrants, such laws as SB 1070 in Arizona would no longer exist. Although I mainly sympathize with the illegal immigrants who are choosing to live a better life in our country because my grandfather crossed the Rio Grande by himself, I can also understand the misconception that is occurring in our nation. It is up to the youngest generation of Latinos, and every generation thereafter, to continue a pivotal growth and sustainability in the United States culture so that people of other ethnicities and racial backgrounds can understand the importance of acceptance.

    -Marcus Perez

  4. Thank you for your comments. Marcus and Anonymous, your posts were excellent. But, even in a post, make sure you edit your material. Starfire, posts are the new form of journalism, a type of participatory writing that allows well-intentioned people to get their message out and perhaps inspire others. Every good journalist now must have a blog, I believe. Hopefully, all of you will take more communications courses and get the gist of my message. And, oh, the assignment on "A Better Life" was part of an exercise to show how movies sometimes have very poignant messages. I think you got it. Thanks again for post.

  5. The message is positive and a guidance to all those who come to this country in search of better living conditions because many people come here to work and help his family; yes, it’s what the title says: A Better Life. This film identifies any immigrant who comes to this country. Seeing this message, do not live a life in the shadows, but creates social awareness of this tragedy that many families live. This message gets to the heart to see all the situations that go across borders. It's good to do more stories like this, so this does not keep in the past, if not that this can be of inspiration to the overcoming. We should not see this movie with compassion, but with condescension.
    The film has a message about immigration cases and the message seems to be directed to the government. This film shows the real situation and has a very strong message to the President. Immigrants are being treated as lower social class and their rights are being put aside. This fact opens a path that must not be opened. The important thing is to respect the rights of all people as human beings.
    Latinos need a new generation to work for equal rights of mankind. Young people need the support of older people with experience for both young and old together, can build a fairer world and make this world a better place to live.
    The person spoken of, who was in deportation proceedings, seems to have been mistreated. This is not a good experience for someone to have to go through this time. Latinos seem to lend political support and not really look at the full story of Latinos. (Lydia y Luzmila)