Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

SnagFilms + Valley of Tears

A few days ago I received a much welcomed email from Richard Matson of SnagFilms.  In his email Richard  brought my attention to the documentary film "Valley of Tears".  The film is about the lives of Mexican-American migrant farm workers in Raymondville, Texas.  In 1979, an onion strike broke out in Raymondville in which workers sought higher pay, but equal rights and representation.

The film uses footage of how farm labor organizers where deemed "agitators" by the farm owners and how local authorities colluded with famers to bring crimnal charges and incarcerate both striking farm workers and their organizers, effectively engaged in union busting.   

The film is a complex story spanning over 20 years in the continued struggle by Mexican-Americans in their fight for what is right.  It's a bitter tale of the constant fight for equal access to education, just labor rights and bears witness to many of the struggles that many Mexican-Americans and all migrants still face today. 

Raymondville today remains a separate and unequal society where mostly White farm owners live in prim houses while the Mexican-American community continues their economic struggles and experiences one of the highest drop out rates amongst the Hispanic and Latino students.  A reminder of the constant stuggle faced by a large segment of the Mexican-American and Latino immigrant communities to attain both an education and fair wages. 

In what some would term as "adding-insult-to-injury" Raymondville has become home to one of the largest  "immigrant detention centers", a $65 million jail which was built by the Management Training Corporation.  The jail will house some 2000 detainees at a cost of $78.00 a night per bed.

The town itself has not grown much.  As of the 2000 census, it had less than 10,000 people, including 86.63% of the population being Hispanic or Latino, with 36.2% of the total population living below the poverty line.

SnagFilms 300+ Film Collection

SnagFilms' has a 300+ collection the independent films on a multitude of topics.  The site is a must for any would be "Filmanthropist".  If as a "Philantropist" one donates money money, goods, time or effort to to support a charitable cause, then by supporting any of the many independent films hosted at SnagFilms would make you a Fimanthropist! 

The range of topics is quite broad and includes; international, health, history, womens issues, as well as life & culture.  Spend a bit of time browsing the collection of films on the site, you are sure to find an independent film that is sure to catch your attention.

A film that captured my attention was "Sentenced Home" a story about obscure provisions of a 1996 Immigration Law that has been responsible for the deportation of thousands of illegal immigrants.  Although the law was aimed at mostly illegal immigrants the law has also snared many Permananet Legal Residents who comitted low level drug related and theft crimes which led to them being stripped of their legal status and eligible for deportation. 

The film documents how many immigrants convicted of certain crimes, including shoplifting found themselves being deported to countries that they were often unfamiliar with and often did not even speak the language.

My next blog post

I've started to write my next a blog post and it will be on Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and the documentary film "Sentenced Home". 

It's a post about how the largely obscure provisions of the Act would lead to deportation of thousands of non-violent illegal immigrants and legal permanent residents.

A blog post about how the Act would come to be called a "cruel and harsh" law by U.S. Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA).  The cruelty and harshness of the law would later be featured in a episode of "This American Life".  The host of This American Life, Ira Glass narrates the "Away from Home" episode in which Jose William Huezo Soriano is deported to El Salvador. 

In fact the author of the legislation, the now former Congressman Bill McCollum (R-FL) would actually go as far and introduce an amendment to the law in an effor to repeal some of the harshest provisions of the law  he worked so hard to pass, yet those same provisions largely exist today.    

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