Thursday, April 1, 2010

A movie, a fundraiser, and a discussion about immigration and refugees

IRC Refugee/Refuge Ad

Last week I went to an super cool event with the International Rescue Committee.  I volunteer with them and that's how I got connected me with with the refugee family from Burma. The event was held at my favorite local theater, the Angelika, and they showed the movie The Visitor. Afterwards they had an open panel with a human rights expert and professor at SMU, an immigration lawyer, and a refugee that was kicked out of Burma for her human rights work.

It was such a FUN thing to go to. First of all, great atmosphere because the theater is great and lets you bring in beer or coffee.

Mockingbird [064/365]

AND I was surrounded by refugees and people that are at least interested in the needs of the refugee community and at most pouring their time and/or money into that cause. Because it was a pretty ritzy event I expected the crowd to be older and with deeper pockets, but the social passion of my generation came through and we comprised probably 80% of the crowd. There were a handful of older folks, but just a handful.

In the discussion afterwards I realized just how closely the issue of immigration was to this crowd. Yes, there were refugees, and probably first or second generation Hispanic immigrants. Beyond that, though, more and more people kept mentioning their own experience with immigration. The old white man behind me without a trace of an accent said he was a first-generation immigrant. The immigration lawyer up front said his father was first generation from Hungaria.

I like that. That is one of my very favorite things about America, and I love feeling like I'm surrounded by it.

USA A Nation of Immigrants

The movie was fantastic, I highly recommend it. It dealt with the life of an immigrant, detainment, and deportation. AND it was just beautiful.

The visitor poster movie

In the discussion afterward the crowd seemed to be really struggling with how we can actually make any difference in US immigration policies. The immigration lawyer told us that the portrait of detainment and deportation in the movie is very accurate, and that just a few hours west of Dallas is a major state detainment facility. He said in 2006 the treatment and policies were the worst he'd ever seen, with whole families being held for years in what is essentially a jail. Other times someone will be deported without warning, without notifying family. He said the trials are often done by live video feed, with the judge seeing the defendant on the screen and not usually knowing the situation in their home country. The lawyer and human rights expert said that though the US tries not to send people back into bad situations, we have send people back into the arms of torturers and sometimes execution.

I was so proud to hear that under Obama conditions have improved, though the laws haven't. The human rights guy told us that it's unlikely that immigration questions will be brought before congress sometime this year, mostly because conventional wisdom says that after passing an unpopular health care bill, working on unpopular immigration reform would sink the Democrats and so they are picking their battles. This infuriates me for a few reasons, one being that the Republicans are so steadfastly against immigration reform, and secondly that the question of immigration is treated as a partisan issue. *shakes head*. They encouraged us to call our representatives but said really the best we can do here in our red state is to let them know that we won't be pleased by harsh dialogue against immigration.... there's apparently no chance of them being positive about it, though.

I asked who we can talk to to advocate larger quotas for incoming refugees. The numbers of refugees that are allowed into the US is regulated by country and the quotas are set yearly in congress, I believe. I actually stumped the panel, they didn't know.

I was so proud to be connected to this organization. They have a history of humanitarian aid in crisis situations around the world, and they resettle refugees around the country. Tee Reh, the guy we meet with weekly from Burma, goes to them for help with everything. They sent him a translator when his wife was having a baby and needed to go to the hospital. They walk them through their paperwork and keep track of when they need to file for things like green cards. They find them housing, jobs, and basic language and cultural training.

Thailand - Classroom

Central African Republic - IRC Nurse Practitioner Charles Muganda Tests for Malnutrition

For me, as a Christian, being involved with this is directly related to what I've seen of the heart of God for the "alien and stranger". I'm currently reading Deuteronomy and this is mentioned repeatedly.

‘For the Lord your God is God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.’ (Dr 10:17-18)

San Diego: Financial Literacy


Mason said...

Brilliant post Kacie, as per usual.
I've had the issues around immigration on my mind more than normal recently as my sister is in a very serious relationship with a truly great guy who happens to not be here legally. He came over with his parents at a very young age, and is just as naturalized as I am, but I worry about what would happen to him and especially to my sister if he was deported (which is a real possibility).

Kacie said...

What a tough situation, Mason. I think we desperately need a way to evaluate illegal immigrants on a case by case basis. Sure, some people will need to leave the country. A great many, though, should be allowed to enter the usual immigration process