Thursday, January 21, 2016

At the Movies: Refuge: Caring for Survivors of Torture


Refuge:  Caring for Survivors of Torture

Refugees, asylees and caregivers share their stories to help professionals and volunteers understand the needs of the more than a million survivors of torture rebuilding lives in the US.

It's estimated that more than a million refugees, asylum-seekers and other immigrants to the United States have been victims of politically motivated torture. They come here from all parts of the world -- some legally, some undocumented, some with families and some very much alone. They live in major American cities and in small towns. Some survivors bear visible scars, but many more have been wounded in ways that remain hidden.

Advocates for torture survivors, dedicated healthcare and social service professionals, and hundreds of citizen volunteers have united to create programs throughout the country that provide care and support to survivors who have come here to make new lives.

This documentary highlights five treatment and support programs in Minneapolis, Atlanta, the Boston Area, and Washington, DC. Based on interviews with dozens of survivors and with the professionals and volunteers who are helping them to heal, this film is a tribute to their courage and dedication, and a call to action.

Directed by Ben Achtenberg
Produced by Ben Achtenberg
Editor: Ben Achtenberg
Cinematographer, Online Editor: Bruce Petschek
Associate Producer: Roz Dzelzitis
Music: John Kusiak
Editorial Consultants: Ann Carol Grossman, Chi-Ho Lee
A production of The Refuge Media Project


January 21, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Ted Cruz's Immigration Ad

Ted Cruz's immigration ad features men and women in suits crossing the Rio Grande as Cruz says:

"I understand that when mainstream media covers immigration it doesn't often see it as an economic issue. But I can tell you it is a very personal economic issue. And I will say the politics of it would be very, very different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande. Or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down wages in the press. Then we would see stories about the economic calamity that is befalling our nation."



January 5, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Migrant Women As "Prey"

This is likely shocking to none of our readers, but from the NYT: On Perilous Migrant Trail, Women Often Become Prey to Sexual Abuse.

The article notes that all migrants to Europe face a perilous journey. "But at each step of the way, the dangers are amplified for women."

As one migrant said: “Everybody knows there are two ways of paying the smugglers,” she said. “With money or with your body.”

The dangers facing migrants in Europe are no different from those facing Central Americans coming to the United States. I'm still haunted by the scene in Which Way Home where one of the young boys recounts seeing the gang rape of a mother and her young daughter inside of a rail car.


January 3, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Legendary Teacher Jaime Escalante, Immigrant from Bolivia, to Be on U.S. Postage Stamp


The U.S. Postal Service has previewed its new 2016 stamps. One of the new stamps will picture a famous immigrant and previous Immigrant of the Day

Born in Bolivia, Jaime Escalante was a legendary math teacher of inner city Chicano students at an East Los Angeles high school.  Escalante used unconventional methods to inspire his students not only to learn calculus but also to pass Advanced Placement tests in the subject. With his colleagues at Garfield High School, he proved that students judged to be “unteachable” could master even the most difficult subject.

The stamp art features Escalante in a digital illustration that resembles an oil painting. The illustration is based on a 2005 photograph taken by Jaime W. Escalante, in a classroom where his father formerly taught.

Escalante was played by actor Edward James Olmos in the feature film Stand and Deliver.


January 1, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

A comedy televison show called "Bordertown"? Comedy Raises Awareness About Immigration, U.S./Mexico Border


What?  A FOX television show called Bordertown.  Yes, it is true and the news story here has the details.

The show is described on the official website as follows:

"From FAMILY GUY’s Mark Hentemann comes BORDERTOWN, a new animated comedy about two families living in a Southwest desert town on the U.S. - Mexico border. The series takes a satirical look at the cultural shifts occurring in America, where the U.S. Census forecasts that by 2017, ethnic minorities will become the majority. Set against this increasingly diverse backdrop, the comedy explores family, politics and everything in between with a cross-cultural wink.

BORDERTOWN centers on two clans: the Buckwalds and the Gonzalezes. BUD BUCKWALD (Hank Azaria, THE SIMPSONS) is a married father of three and a Border Patrol agent who is just a tad behind the times and feels slightly threatened by the cultural changes transforming his neighborhood. He lives next door to ERNESTO GONZALEZ (Nicholas Gonzalez, SLEEPY HOLLOW), an ambitious family man, who has been in the country less than 10 years, but is already doing better than Bud – which, it turns out, is a bit of an issue for Bud."

No, "Bordertown"  is not the idea of Donald Trump.  It in fact has been in development since 2007, long before the immigration furor sparked by Trump's fiery comments about Mexican immigrants.

The series' premiere is on Sunday and deals with a toughest-in-the-nation anti-immigration bill passed by Mexifornia, the U.S. desert community where "Bordertown" is set.  The second episode airs January 10 looks at construction of a border wall.

Variety provides a review of the new series here.


January 1, 2016 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Colbert on Syrian Refugees

I missed this piece from back in November. Colbert takes on Republican candidates looking to restrict or eliminate refugee flows from Syria or Iraq.

He notes that Trump has suggested that relocating refugees to a place like Minnesota would be against their interests because of the extreme difference in the weather from Syria. Colbert agrees: "It's a tough call for the refugees. I mean, do I want to stay in a war zone where my family faces almost certain death or I want to go somewhere where I have to put on a jacket before I go to the mall?"

It's a great two minutes for sparking classroom conversation (check out 1:20-2:03).


And here's a still image from the show that could also work well in the classroom.



December 30, 2015 in Film & Television, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Immigrant of the Day: Billy Wilder, Filmmaker (Austria)


Billy Wilder (1906–2002) was an Austrian-born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist and journalist, whose career spanned more than fifty years and sixty films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood's golden age.  With The Apartment, Wilder became the first person to win Academy Awards as producer, director and screenwriter for the same film.

Wilder became a screenwriter in the late 1920s while living in Berlin. After the rise of the Nazi Party, Wilder, who was Jewish, left for Paris, where he made his directorial debut. He moved to Hollywood in 1933, and in 1939 he had a hit when he co-wrote the screenplay for the screwball comedy Ninotchka.

Wilder established his directorial reputation with Double Indemnity (1944), a film noir he co-wrote with crime novelist Raymond Chandler. Wilder earned the Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards for the adaptation of a Charles R. Jackson story The Lost Weekend (1945), about alcoholism. In 1950, Wilder co-wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Sunset Boulevard.

Wilder directed fourteen different actors in Oscar-nominated performances. He was recognized with the American Film Institute (AFI) Life Achievement Award in 1986.



December 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Feliz Navidad



December 25, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Modern Love Story? Love in a Time of Deportation


 David Noriega on Buzzfeed tells an unlikely love story that he calls "Love in a Time of Deportation."  Here is the teaser:  "He was an inmate, facing deportation over a minor arrest. She was a guard, fed up with her job at a for-profit prison. They fell in love, but living happily ever after was not going to happen."  Click the link above to read more.




December 18, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television, Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Donald Trump on Terrorists: 'Take out their families'


CNN reports on Donald Trump's latest controversial statement, this one on fighting ISIS.   said Wednesday that he would kill the families of terrorists in order to win the fight against ISIS. The businessman was asked by the hosts of Fox News' "Fox and Friends" how to fight ISIS:  "The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don't kid yourself. When they say they don't care about their lives, you have to take out their families," Trump said. Trump said he would "knock the hell out of" ISIS, and criticized the U.S. for "fighting a very politically correct war."


December 3, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Immigration Article of the Day: Human Trafficking and Film: How Popular Portrayals Influence Law and Public Perception by Jonathan Todres


Human Trafficking and Film: How Popular Portrayals Influence Law and Public Perception by Jonathan Todres, Georgia State University College of Law November 20, 2015, Cornell Law Review Online, Vol. 101, pp 38-61 2015

Abstract: Popular portrayals of human trafficking matter. They shape the prevailing understanding of the issue, which in turn influences the law and policy developed to address human trafficking. This essay examines the interplay between law and culture, specifically cinematic expressions. It reviews three well-known films on human trafficking and explores some of the key misconceptions in each movie. The essay then shows how these misconceptions are prevalent in many law and policy responses to human trafficking. Finally, the author suggests how scholars and advocates might respond more effectively to cinematic (and other media) portrayals of human trafficking.




December 3, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

At the Movies: EXILED: America's Deported Veterans


Here is an interesting documentary in the works.  Exiled follows the stories of veterans from the US to Mexico and Jamaica to examine these questions through a poetic combination of observational filmmaking and in-depth interviews. The film documents the realities of living with PTSD and other health issues far from adequate access to care, as well as the isolation these men face living separated from their families. We will also explain the laws and regulations that allow for vets to be deported, so that viewers can begin a more informed dialogue on the issue.

Click the link above if you are interested in providing support for completion of the film.


December 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

China Bars Anastasia Lin, Miss World Canada (and Rights Advocate)



Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times reports on a high-profile visa denial.   Contestants from around the world descended on China this week for the 65th annual Miss World contest. One contestant was absent from the opening ceremony: Miss CanadaAnastasia Lin, a 25-year-old actress and classically trained pianist.  Lin was denied a Chinese visa to attend the pageant.  It is suspected that the visa was denied because of Lin's outspoken advocacy for human rights and religious freedom in China. 


November 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

At the Movies: Ellis, a film directed by JR


For millions of immigrants entering the United States in the early twentieth century, Ellis Island was the gateway to a new life. Upon arrival, some travelers were approved, but many, due to illness or simply fatigue, were denied access and hospitalized. Ellis, a fourteen-minute film directed by JR and written by Academy Award winner Eric Roth, tells the elusive story of countless immigrants whose pursuit of a new life led them to the now-shuttered Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital.

Following its opening in 1902, approximately 1.2 million people passed through the facility, where the Statue of Liberty can be seen from the windows. Languishing in a sort of purgatory awaiting their fate, many were never discharged.

Academy Award winner Robert De Niro stars as an immigrant whose pursuit of a new life expired at Ellis Island. Shot on location, the film shows De Niro deliberately traversing the abandoned hospital complex. He is accompanied by fellow ghosts of Ellis Island, which exist in the form of portraits pasted to the walls, windows and doors of the facility in JR’s signature black-and-white style.

For more on the film, click here.


November 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Déjà vu all over again: Donald Trump’s National Muslim Database


Somehow, I feel like the debates over immigration regularly feel as if, to quote the late Yogi Berra, déjà vu all over again all over again. Donald Trump has returned to the headlines with the proposal that, in the name of protecting national security, the government create a national database that includes all Muslims, citizens and noncitizens alike, in the United States.  (After attacked for the proposal, he later retreated a bit from it.).  I am not sure how such a database would come in handy. Would we question all Muslims in the event of a terrorist act? As the famous movie Casablanca ended, we could “round up the usual suspects.” Besides its patent unconstitutionality, such a dragnet does not sound like it would be particularly effective from a law enforcement and national security standpoint.  


Unfortunately, this kind of extreme measure directed at a discrete and insular minority would not be unprecedented in American history.  Most recently, as part of the “war on terror,” the U.S government in the wake of September 11, 2001 invoked its plenary power over immigration and created the “special registration” program, requiring noncitizens from certain countries, mostly the Middle East and other predominantly Muslim nations.  Well before that program, the U.S. government had subjected Muslim noncitizens to surveillance and related activities.

The truth of the matter is that racial discrimination historically has not had boundaries based on the technicalities of immigration status.  During World War II, the Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States upheld the internment of persons of Japanese ancestry, including U.S. citizens as well as immigrants.  During an earlier national economic calamity known as the Great Depression, state and local governments, with federal assistance and encouragement, sought to reduce the welfare rolls by “repatriating,” voluntarily and otherwise, persons of Mexican ancestry, including U.S. citizens and immigrants.  During the Cold War, President Eisenhower directed “Operation Wetback,” the equivalent of a military operation to remove persons of Mexican ancestry, including U.S. citizens as well as immigrants.  Although thoroughly discredited as an infamous widespread civil rights violation, Donald Trump has called for an encore.

Obviously, the unconstitutionality of a national Muslim database is crystal clear. Nor is there any need to, as a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would do, adopt special refugee admissions procedures in an effort to effectively eliminate the admission of refugees from Syria and Iraq.  The current security checks for refugee admissions are rigorous and thorough.  The State Department can be expected to thoroughly vet any potential terrorists in these times.

It is time for the nation to take a collective deep breath.  The tragic events in Paris were just that – tragic.  We should take necessary measures but not overreact.  Many observers look back on the excesses of the measures taken after September 11, including mass arrests and detentions, racial and religious profiling, and much more.  We should learn from our history and not repeat its worst moments.


November 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

At the Movies: The Uncondemned

In 1997, an underdog group of lawyers and activists prosecuted rape as a crime against humanity. The Uncondemned is the against-the-odds story of their fight for the first conviction—and of the women who braved witness assassinations to testify.

In 1994, Pierre Prosper had 22 triple-murder cases on his desk at the Los Angeles District Attorney's hard-core gang unit. Sara Darehshori was about to start her first job at a law firm. Former Philadelphia public defender Patricia Sellers had just moved to Brussels to be with her new husband. Human rights activist Binaifer Nowrojee was working on her thesis. Lisa Pruitt was finishing her PhD. And then, two simultaneous genocides shocked the world.

Bosnia and Rwanda were resounding failures of UN doctrine. But the perpetrators had every reason to think they had gotten away with war crimes--none had been prosecuted since 1946. However, they hadn’t counted on the overwhelming power of Western guilt. 

Two tribunals were set—sort of. When Sara Darehshori landed in Kigali, Rwanda in September 1995 to begin her job as an investigator, there was no one at the airport to greet her—she didn’t even know where she was staying, let alone working. She hitched a ride with a NGO to the nearest hotel.    

In Brussels, Patricia Sellers thought she’d work as a “normal trial attorney” with the tribunals. But the chief prosecutor had another idea. He handed her the dossier on sexual assault. Although rape had been declared a war crime since 1919, it had never been prosecuted. That was going to be her job.

Binaifer Nowrojee was a researcher at Human Rights Watch, working in the women’s rights division. There were a lot of rumors about sexual violence during the genocide, but no firm numbers. Binaifer pushed HRW to send her to Rwanda, where she would end up writing the report-heard-around-the-world.

Pierre Prosper showed up just in time to build the case. And then suddenly the 31-year-old found himself in charge.

 And Lisa Pruitt, age 32, was sent to do a special report for the tribunal about the possibility of pursing charges of rape as a war crime. She was devastated when the report was buried.

These were the leads who intersected on the way to making judicial history. They were between 27 and 34, making up international criminal law as they went along. They probably had absolutely no business being the leads on the first genocide trial in history, but there was no one else to do it. And as for tying sexual violence into the charges—no one was sure they could make it stick. The case at hand was a small-potatoes mayor who hadn’t raped anyone himself. 

But then, three women came forward…and the world of criminal justice changed forever.


Q&A on "The Uncondemned" at the Cameo Cinema from Film@11 on Vimeo.

My colleague Professor Lisa Pruitt played an important role in the first successful prosecution for rape as a war crime in Rwanda and appears in the film. 


November 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Human trafficking survivor: I was raped 43,200 times

CNN reportys on a horrendous case of a human trafficking victim from Mexico.  Karla Jacinto told the reporter that, by her own estimate, 43,200 is the number of times she was raped after falling into the hands of human traffickers. She says up to 30 men a day, seven days a week, for the best part of four years.  Her story highlights the brutal realities of human trafficking in Mexico and the United States, an underworld that has destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of Mexican girls like Karla.

Human trafficking has become a trade so lucrative and prevalent, that it knows no borders and links towns in central Mexico with cities like Atlanta and New York.


November 12, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

At the Movies: East of Salinas (PBS)


Airing on PBS on December 28, East of Salinas takes us to the heart of California’s “Steinbeck Country,” the Salinas Valley, to meet a bright boy and his dedicated teacher — both sons of migrant farm workers.

With parents who are busy working long hours in the fields, third grader Jose Ansaldo often turns to his teacher, Oscar Ramos, for guidance. But Jose is undocumented; he was born in Mexico,. Like many other migrant children, he is beginning to understand the situation— and the opportunities that may be lost to him through no fault of his own.

East of Salinas follows Jose and Oscar over three years: the boy is full of energy, smarts, and potential, while his teacher is determined to give back to a new generation of migrant children. Many of the students that enter Oscar's third grade class at Sherwood Elementary School in Salinas have never been to the beach, even though it’s only twenty miles away. Their parents work from sunup to sundown. They live in cramped apartments in neighborhoods plagued by gang violence. The kids take on the day- to-day stresses of their parents: making ends meet, dealing with acute health issues, fearing deportation. In the face of these challenges, Oscar gives his student’s access to a world that often seems beyond their reach.

Jose is one of Oscar’s most gifted students. Despite having moved between seven different schools in three years he still excels in math. But Oscar can only do so much. For Jose, a student with such promise, East of Salinas demonstrates the cruelty of circumstance — a cruelty that touches on the futures of millions of undocumented kids in America.


November 11, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

America hasn’t always lived the values celebrated in ‘Bridge of Spies’

Tom Hanks' latest movie Bridge of Spies is good entertainment.  I saw it yesterday.  The film also has an interesting immigration angle with the immigration removal process used as a tool in the criminal justice system. 

Professor Jeffrey Kahn in the Washington Post explains some lessons from the case of Rudolf Abel

The movie is based on the sensational arrest of Abel, a KGB colonel and the Soviet Union’s top spy in North America. FBI agents pushed their way into his hotel room in Manhattan on June 21, 1957. Because the FBI wanted Abel to turn double-agent against the Soviet Union, publicity about his capture was not desired. The problem was that a public appearance before a judge is required shortly after any arrest and the courtroom is open to the public. To keep things quiet, the FBI turned to Immigration and Naturalization Service officials to pick up Abel on a pretextual violation while federal agents waited to search his vacated room. Instead of pursuing a deportation hearing, able was taken far away;  "There was no public appearance before a magistrate. No charge. No lawyer. In the words of Justice William Brennan, dissenting from the Supreme Court opinion that ultimately resolved the case, `As far as the world knew, he had vanished.'”

After Abel's capture, he was flown 13 hours and 2,000 miles away to McAllen, Texas. For almost seven weeks, the FBI interrogated Abel and sought to turn Abel or break him.  It failed and Abel was charged and Jim Donovan, played by Hanks.  

Professor Kahn nicely ties the movie and its plot into the modern "war on terror," with the attendant pressures to forego the protections of persons accused of being enemies of the United States and the American people.


November 8, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 2, 2015

What migrants left behind


Photo courtesy of CNN

CNN's website posted some photos of items left by refugees that will make you think.  One of the pictures is above.  The story by Kyle Almond explains that, after arriving in Lesbos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, Anna Pantelia lined up with other photographers as they waited for another boat wave of migrants. "I was looking down (at the beach) and I started noticing many objects -- baby clothes, passports," Pantelia said.  Strewn across the sand were all items that had been left behind: teddy bears, pacifiers, shoes, flotation devices, cell phones, photos, cigarettes. They belonged to migrants in search of a better life in Europe.


November 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)