Sunday, April 18, 2021

From The Bookshelves: The Crate Escape by Brian Robson


The Crate Escape by Brian Robson is available in kindle format on Amazon. Here's the publisher's blurb:

In 1962, when air-travel was in its infancy, a nineteen-year-old boy who felt trapped in Melbourne, Australia, made up his mind that he was going to return to his homeland in the United Kingdom. He was prevented from doing so by both lack of documentation and the funds required.
Putting an idea to work without the thought of losing his life, he became the first person in history to fly for nearly five days in a crate across the Pacific Ocean.

The Washington Post offered a lengthy write-up on Robson's adventures in flying-as-freight a few days ago. Robson told WaPo that the reason he decided to write about his adventure now was because he's interested in tracking down the two Irish lads he convinced to nail him securely into the crate for shipping.

It's an interesting tale for immprofs across multiple dimensions: why the Welshman went to Australia in the first place (work), why he wanted to leave (working conditions), why he couldn't (work commitment/money/visa rules), and how he sought to bypass all of these problems in shipping himself home as freight instead of traveling as a passenger. Robson's plan went unfortunately awry -- he wasn't shipped directly back to Wales but instead detoured to Los Angeles. And, there, the immigration story gets even more interesting. As WaPo writes: "Robson could have faced charges of illegally entering the United States, he said, but officials instead chose to send him home to Wales, where he had wanted to go all along."

In what is undoubtedly a surprise to no one, Robson has already signed a contract to turn his story into a movie.


April 18, 2021 in Books, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 9, 2021

Humanizing Immigrants

Lee Isaac Chung is the director of the film Minari, which both Kevin and Ming have discussed on this blog previously. The film is about Korean-American immigrants who move to Arkansas to start a farm growing Korean fruits and vegetables.

Chung recently spoke to Trevor Noah on The Daily Show about his film-making:

In the above clip, Noah notes: "Films like this ... connect people to the humanity of others who they may not have ever met or even known as human beings."

Chung responds that his film, Minari, was "meant to be a story about human beings." This, he notes, is a task many communities, including the Asian-American community, must take on: "we have to humanize ourselves constantly, show, I mean, that we're really human beings." 

I was really struck by this exchange and thought it particularly relevant to our work as immprofs. That work is, I think, a big part of our jobs. We must humanize immigrants for our students. Sure, many who are drawn to immigration are immigrants themselves. But I've had numerous students who don't even know their family's immigrant origins; they've been in the U.S. for generations and have no idea where they came from. For this latter category of students, it's our job to humanize noncitizens in a real way. And thoughtful use of film clips can help us do that!


April 9, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Immigrant of the week: Senator Mazie Hirono

Harono Heart of Fire

Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) is the first immigrant to serve in the Senate. Senator Hirono was born to a family who lived modestly on a rice farm in Japan. Her mother sought out a better life for their family in Hawaii, where Hirono grew up and attended college. After getting her start in Hawaii state politics, she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives to fill the seat of her friend and mentor Representative Patsy Mink and then moved to the Senate with the retirement of Senator Daniel Akaka. This made her the first Asian American woman in the Senate 

Senator Hirono serves on the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, the Judiciary Committee, the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and the Committee on Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship among others. She chairs the Subcommittees on Energy and Seapower. During her time in Congress, she has become increasingly public in her critiques of the right's political stances.  She deplored the Muslim ban called for Trump's impeachment long before others in Congress considered it. She questioned Supreme Court nominees Brent Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. And her stances are not only partisan: she has called on President Biden to nominate more people of color for senior positions (before changing her stance) and pushed him to fill judicial seats in order to reverse the conservative tilt on the bench that flows from a torrent of Trump-appointed judges. 

The story of her emerging presence in Congress are told in Senator Hirono's memoir, Heart of Fire, will be published on April 20 and in Episode 3 of the PBS documentary Asian Americans (profiled by KitJ for ImmigrationProf Blog)


April 4, 2021 in Books, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Human Impacts of No Immigration Reform: Immigrant Families in Limbo


This PBS News segment tells of the impact of immigration uncertainty on a family.  Fifteen years ago, Josseline came to the United States left El Salvador just after her seventh birthday. With her aunt, she made it to the United States and across the border, joining her parents, who had crossed a few years earlier.  After securing DACA relief, Josseline earned a college degree and is a contact tracer during the pandemic.  She hopes for more permanent relief.  Josseline's undocumented parents are more vulnerable.


March 27, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 26, 2021

President Biden Talks Immigration at First Press Conference


President Biden discussed immigration yesterday at his first press conference of his presidency.  As reported by the Hill, he pushed back against claims perceptions that he is a “nice guy” is bringing migrants to the southern border, saying economics and seasonal patterns are.

"I'd like to think it's because I'm a nice guy, but it's not," Biden said. “The truth of the matter is, nothing has changed,” he said. “The reason they're coming is that it's the time they can travel with the least likelihood of dying on the way because of the heat in the desert, No 1. No. 2, they're coming because of the circumstances in their country.”  Biden also blamed natural disasters, food insecurity, gang violence and overall economic conditions for pushing Central American migrants north

Republicans have consistently blamed Biden’s policies for the "border crisis." 

President Biden also stressed that the majority of those crossing the border, including families, are being sent back under a Trump-era law that allows for swift expulsion due to COVID-19. “If you take a look at the number of people that are coming, the vast majority, the overwhelming majority of people coming to the border and crossing are being sent back,” he said.

USA Today further elaborated that President Biden defended his immigration policy in response to a question about whether  he may be sending a message to migrants that they can cross the border.

Told about a 9-year-old boy from Honduras whose mother sent him to the United States because she believed Biden would not deport unaccompanied minors, the President said he would never tell an unaccompanied child that “we’re just gonna let him starve to death and stand on the other side" of the border. 

“No previous administrations did that either except Trump,” he said, referring to former President Donald Trump. “I'm not going to do it.”


March 26, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Sesame Street: The ABCs of Racial Literacy


Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, is releasing new resources to support families in talking to their children about race and racism. The “ABCs of Racial Literacy” is part of Coming Together, Sesame Workshop’s ongoing commitment to racial justice. Designed to provide families with the tools they need to build racial literacy, to have open conversations with young children, to engage allies and advocates to become upstanders against racism, and more, Coming Together includes a racial justice educational framework, ongoing research, and a rolling release of new content here.


March 25, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Art of Power Podcast features Gaby Pacheco

Gaby Pacheco

Today is the launch of a new podcast, Art of Power, at WBEZ Chicago. In episode 1, host and creator, Aarti Shahani (@aarti411) dives into conversation with DREAMer and activist Gaby Pacheco (@gabypacheco1) to uncover her inspiring journey and impact on the world as an immigrant rights leader.

Listen today: #artofpowerpodcast


March 25, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

At the Movies: Coming 2 America (2021)


The movie classic, Coming to America (1988), directed by the famous John Landis, stars Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall James Earl Jones. and John Amos.  It is a romantic comedy. Eddie Murphy plays Akeem Joffer, the crown prince of the fictional African nation of Zamunda, who travels to the United States in the hopes of finding a woman to marry.  As described by IMDb, "[a]n extremely pampered African Prince travels to Queens, New York, and goes undercover to find a wife that he can respect for her intelligence and will." 

Decades later, the sequel, Coming 2 America is out.  The plot from IMDb:  "The African monarch Akeem learns he has a long-lost son in the United States and must return to America to meet this unexpected heir and build a relationship with his son."  The sequel stars Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.

Coming 2 America has received mixed reviews.


March 16, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Films on Immigrants Nominated for Oscars

The Academy Awards have released its nominations.  Two films on immigrants received nominations.


For international features, White Eye, an Israeli film, was nominated.  The film tackles prejudice in Israel by much of the population and police against nonwhite inhabitants, especially immigrants.


A Korean American immigrant story, Minari, previously highlighted on this blog, received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Musical Score.


March 16, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 12, 2021

Children Translating for Parents

A while back, I wrote about the difficulties of children serving as translators for their parents. My post included such examples as the deaf man who died of treatable syphilis because he was too embarrassed to talk about his condition with his child serving as a translator for his doctor.

I find that sometimes it's good to have a humorous introduction to a heady topic. In that vein, I offer you this quick (3 minute) sample a child translating for their parent:

While the translation in this clip from the BBC is quite funny, it's a great jumping off point for talking about more serious issues with using children as translators for their parents.


March 12, 2021 in Film & Television, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 8, 2021

Scholars at Risk: Launch of the podcast, Free to Think



Scholars at Risk announces the launch of a new podcast, Free to Think, featuring conversations with interesting, thoughtful, and inspiring individuals whose work falls at the always sensitive intersection of power and ideas.

Episode 1, “Women’s Rights, Whatever the Cost,” launched March 8th in honor of International Women’s Day. It features a conversation with Marcia Ross and Jeff Kaufman, the team behind NASRIN, a beautiful and inspiring new film about Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh. 

Sotoudeh has been called "Iran's Nelson Mandela." The filmmakers show her as she is: a lawyer, activist, feminist, wife, mother, friend, and a central figure in an extraordinary generation of Iranian women who simply refuse to accept anything less than full and equal rights. 

Listen, share, review…

You can listen to Free to Think in your web browser or on the following podcast platforms, where you can subscribe to re


March 8, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 5, 2021

Fighting to reunite refugee children, 7-year-old Texas girl protests immigrant detention in a tent on her lawn, makes room in her own home


"I’m just gonna sit here and protest." That’s how seven-year-old Paisley Elliot described her decision to sleep in a tent in her front yard until the hundreds of children separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border are reunited,  Sean Giggy reports for WFAA Dallas. Paisley has been sleeping in the tent every Tuesday since October, and has sent letters to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and President Biden demanding action. Paisley’s mother explained how her daughter’s requests led to the family becoming licensed foster parents and  welcoming a 16-year-old Guatemalan refugee into their home last fall: "She said, ‘we have the room, in our house and in our hearts. Why not now … kids need our love. They need our love now. Not when you want to do it.’" 


March 5, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Immigrant of the week: Diana Trujillo, NASA Aerospace Engineer


Diana Trujillo is a flight director for NASA's Mars Perseverance. This is a remarkable achievement for any scientist or aerospace engineer. Even more remarkable is that Ms. Trujillo overcome significant trials to come to the United States and gain the education and experiences that led her to this historic leadership position. CBS News provides an inspiring profile of her story.

Trujillo credits her immigrant heritage with motivating her to seek opportunities that would not have been available in her home country. She migrated to the U.S. from Colombia as a teenager with only $300 in her pocket and no knowledge of the English language. She initially worked as a housekeeper to pay for college and says of the experience that she was grateful for a job that let her buy food and find shelter -- all opportunities that would have been scarce in her home country.  At the University of Florida, she excelled in math and found inspiration in a magazine article about female astronauts and chose to major in aerospace engineering. She was the first Hispanic immigrant woman to be accepted to the NASA Academy. She finished her undergraduate education at the University of Maryland, where she was part of a team focused on robots in space operations. She then became one of the few women and only Latinas to join NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab that collaborated on the robotic arm that will collect rock samples on Mars. In 2014, she was appointed Mission Lead and featured in the 20 most influential Latinos in the Technology Industry.

Outside of her planetary missions, Trujillo says her personal mission is to increase the number and visibility of Latinos in STEM. She believes this will change perceptions amid scientists and traditional families that limit the career ambitions of their daughters. This personal mission influenced her decision to participate in a discussion of the movie Hidden Figures and to be host of NASA's first-ever Spanish language broadcast for a planetary landing on a show "Juntos perseveramos" or "Together we persevere" on YouTube (February 18, 2021).  

MHC (H/T Dan Kowalski)


March 2, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 27, 2021

At the Movies: Minari (2020)


Minari is a film about a Korean family that moves the the Ozarks.  Stephanie Zacharek for Time describes the film as follows:

"Most stories about immigrants adjusting to America take place in cities, environs where a newcomer may already have family or friends, or at least be able to find a community. The family in writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari takes a different route: Jacob and Monica (Steven Yeun and Yeri Han) have come to America from Korea to seek better opportunities—we don’t know much more than that. But we do learn that Jacob has a dream of growing things, of being a farmer. Jacob, Monica and their two young children, David and Anne (Alan Kim and Noel Cho), have lived for a time in California, but as the movie opens, we see them driving to what will be their new home: A blocky rectangle of a house propped on cinderblocks, adjacent to a stretch of land that looks like paradise to Jacob—but not to Monica. She says little at first, but her stern silence tells us what she’s thinking: Why have you brought us here? This is 1980s Arkansas; there may be a few Koreans here and there, but there’s not much of a community."


February 27, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 26, 2021

At the Movies: The Marksman (2021)


A new film, The Marksman, starring action star Liam Neeson, has an immigration plot line:  A rancher on the Arizona border becomes the unlikely defender of a young Mexican boy desperately fleeing the cartel assassins who've pursued him into the U.S.


Robert Lorenz
Here is a review of The Marksman.

February 26, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

At the Movies: Alien Terminology and Change the Subject, a 2019 Documentary


The terminology of immigration law has been on my mind this week.  A piece that I did on The Conversation has spurred some commentary, from claims that I am advocating "open borders" (I have argued for more liberal admissions elsewhere) to engaging in Orwellian speak (actually, I think that "alien" is the Orwellian term)  to endorsing crime, poverty, and "slave"" labor. 

In writing the piece, I did not know about a film on immigration terminology.  Change the Subject (2019) is a 54-minute documentary film about a group of Dartmouth students who challenged anti-immigrant language in the Library of Congress subject headings. 

Charlotte Albright for the Dartmouth News describes the student activism that was the subject of the film:

"Nearly five years ago, a group of Dartmouth students, working with Dartmouth librarians, started waging a daunting battle at the highest levels of government—and almost won.

Outraged by the fact that the Library of Congress uses the phrase `illegal aliens' to describe works about noncitizens who have entered the United States without authorization, they petitioned the LOC to replace the subject heading. Their activism grabbed headlines and spurred speech-making in Congress, but, ensnared in a political debate, the controversial heading has still not been changed."

Change the Subject tells the story of the Dartmouth students who challenged anti-immigrant language in the Library of Congress subject headings. Their advocacy took them to the halls of Congress, showing how an instance of campus activism entered the national spotlight, and how a cataloging term became a flashpoint in the immigration debate on Capitol Hill. In partnership with staff at Dartmouth, these students – now alumni – produced a film to document this story.  

I heard about the film from Elizabeth Webster, who dropped me an e-mail about my piece in The Conversation.  Elizabeth is a teacher at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, Illinois, north of Chicago.  She wrote that "[o]ne of our alums, Mr. Oscar Ruben Cornejo Casares, went to Dartmouth after leaving Warren and helped make the 2019 documentary film Changing the Subject."

The Dartmouth Library provides free streaming access to Change the Subject (2019), and to a digital collection of materials related to the original action and to the production of the film.


February 26, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 25, 2021

#WeCanWelcome​ Asylum Seekers: Meet Mirna Linares de Batres

Ftom Refugees International:

n the prior presidential administration, policy-makers stoked a “border crisis” narrative that willfully ignored both the capacity and the will of Americans to welcome people seeking safety from persecution and gross violations of their human rights. Non-profits, faith groups, and local officials are eager to coordinate with the federal government to receive with dignity those seeking refuge at the border. And with smart and humane policies, these noble objectives can and must be secured.

As part of our ongoing Voices from the Border campaign, over the next few weeks, Refugees International will be sharing the stories of individuals—including asylum seekers, public officials, volunteers, and faith leaders—who are on the frontlines of creating and contributing to welcoming communities across the country.

These stories illustrate an important message: that #WeCanWelcome asylum seekers.

The first video in the series follows the journey of Mirna Linares de Batres, a mother and asylum seeker who fled from El Salvador and has rebuilt her life in Colorado.

“I can finally feel safe. I can finally talk. My daughters can finally play,” said Mirna. “I would really like to become a nurse. And my dream is to help my daughters strive forward and fulfill their dreams.”

Read her full story here and watch her video below.




February 25, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 19, 2021

Ted Cruz Flees Country With Children, Seeking A Better Life

Things in Texas are bad. Many have been without electricity, gas, and water for days. One affected resident, Senator Ted Cruz, cold and worried about his family (but not his dog), decided to flee across the border to seek a better life at the Ritz Carlton in Cancún. Needless to say, his constituents have supported this decision about as much as Cruz himself supports fellow migrants seeking a better life in the United States (that is, not at all).

Here's The Daily Show's take on his ill-timed vacay:

Jimmy Kimmel also got on the flame train:


February 19, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Daily Show covers Rise in Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans

Trevor Noah #DailyShow reports on an 867% rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. These incidents have included unprovoked attacks on a 91-year old Asian American in Oakland's Chinatown (hospitalized with serious injuries after being shoved), a 84-year old man in San Francisco (died of injuries after being knocked over), and a 64-year old grandmother in San Jose (assaulted and robbed after withdrawing cash from an ATM for the lunar New Year). Suggestions on how to help with chaperoning and making donations to community serve groups appear in the video at 6:00. 

Additional information about efforts to support safety and show solidarity for elderly Asian Americans appear here. Some of the efforts focus especially on community-based safety and highlight ways to promote safety without doubling down on punitive policing in urban neighborhoods, including  the Chinatown Ambassador Program in Oakland, New York City, San Francisco. Instagram user Amy Lee is also starting a grocery shopping buddy system. I've also appreciated the Hollaback-AAJC bystander intervention trainings.

A broader perspective on the need for racial solidarity in combatting anti-Asian from Kelsey Liu and Monica Hahn of Truthout points out that the roots of this phenomenon extend beyond COVID-19 and Chinese Exclusion to many racially disempowered groups.

Asians can and should take time to grieve and process the trauma of what we’re experiencing. But it’s also time to push our collective racial consciousness forward, past insular self-awareness and toward cross-racial solidarity. We need to contextualize this current moment as part of the larger story of American racial oppression. The tactics used against us today are familiar ones, wielded throughout history against people from all racial backgrounds.


February 18, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 15, 2021

At the Movies: Tazmanian Devil (2021)

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Tazmanian Devil is a 2021 film that might interest some readers of this blog.  Here is the synopsis:  "After moving to the United States, Nigerian immigrant Dayo (Attah) struggles to find a balance between his desire to join a college fraternity and bonding with his estranged father who is a strict pastor at a local church."

Roger Moore on Movie Nation summarizes the movie as follows:  "`Tazmanian Devil' is a Nigerian-American morality fable that might more accurately have been titled `How I Learned to Stop Preaching and Love the Frat.'”


February 15, 2021 in Current Affairs, Film & Television | Permalink | Comments (0)