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Watch “A Better Life”- a powerful film about an undocumented family from the director of “Twilight”

From our b-listed blog-

We know you’ve been waiting for Harry Potter forever, but make sure you support the film A Better Life!

Undocumented stories are being told. Just recently, award-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas came out of the shadows.  For years, the Dreamers – the students actively fighting for the Dream Act – have been sharing their stories.  And now,  A Better Life is bringing the story of an undocumented family to mainstream theaters.

A Better Life is a beautifully told story about an undocumented Mexican gardener named Carlos Galindo (played by Demian Bichir) who does everything that he can to give his son, Luis (played by Jose Julian) a better life.  As an undocumented immigrant living in a rough East L.A. neighborhood, Carlos tries to stay invisible and struggles to work outside of the system while simultaneously trying to keep Luis in school and away from gangs.  The film captures how being undocumented may chip away at one’s inner being. “All he does is work,” director Chris Weitz said of the character Carlos. “He is invisible — and he prefers to remain invisible. Because to raise his head is to risk getting in trouble.” (LA Times.) To see a full trailer, click here.

In an interview with director Weitz, he calls A Better Life “the “biggest movie he has ever made,” considering he has directed hits such as “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”, “About a Boy,” and “The Golden Compass.”  However, Weitz explained that the subject matter is far more important than any other he has addressed as a filmmaker.

Click here to see a full list of cities showing A Better Life.  Enter your zipcode on Fandango here, or Movietickets.com here to find showtimes near you!

Check out A Better Life’s Facebook page here.

Click here to listen to an interview with Chris Weitz and Demian Bichir on their own thoughts on the film!

Photo courtesy of IMDB

ICE announces results for 2010, but are the numbers misleading?

In a press conference held on Wednesday to announce Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) results for 2010, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano declared that in 2010, 392,862 undocumented immigrants were deported from the United States, more than in any previous year. In an effort to highlight the Obama administration’s focus on deporting those who were guilty of crimes, Napolitano announced that about half of those deported (195,772) were convicted criminals. In addition to the surge in numbers reflecting ICE’s commitment to “removing those who pose public safety threats to our communities,” Napolitano attributed the figures to the expansion of the ‘Secure Communities’ program, a partnership between ICE and the Department of Justice that allows ICE access to information about every individual as soon as he/she is arrested by local or county law enforcement.

Napolitano announced on Wednesday that since it was initiated by DHS in 2008, the ‘Secure Communities’ program has expanded from 14 jurisdictions to 660 counties and cities around the country. The goal of the Obama administration is for the entire country to be participating in the program by 2013. It has become increasingly clear that this, and other immigration enforcement programs that involve ICE partnerships with local law enforcement, work to drive huge numbers of people into detention and deportation, incarcerating even those who have not been proven guilty of crimes, and completely break down the crucial separation between immigration enforcement (a federal issue) and law enforcement (that takes place on a local and state level).

For all these reasons, the program has come under attack from immigrant rights advocates who see it as a dangerous means bv which the DHS can drive huge numbers into the net of deportation so that they look tough on immigration, while breaking down the trust between communities and their local police. In addition to this is the danger that such partnerships give way to racial profiling of individuals who “appear to look undocumented,” by local law enforcement.

Due to these issues, as well as a glaring lack of information, transparency and accountability on the part of ICE, a number of counties have chosen to opt out of the Secure Communities program. Recently though, there has been a lot of controversy around whether or not it is indeed possible for local jurisdictions to opt out, as was originally indicated in a letter sent to Congress by Secretary Napolitano on September 7. While counties like San Francisco and Santa Clara, California opted out of the program, it is only when Arlington, VA and Washington DC recently attempted to withdraw from the program, that it became apparent that it is not, in reality, voluntary. As explained by a Washington Post article, the way the program works makes it impossible for counties to withdraw their participation-

Secure Communities…relies on the fingerprints collected by local authorities when a person is charged with anything from a traffic violation to murder. The fingerprints are sent to state police, and then to the FBI, for criminal background checks. Under the two-year-old program, ICE is able to access the information sent to the FBI…The only way a local jurisdiction could opt out of the program is if a state refused to send fingerprints to the FBI. Since police and prosecutors need to know the criminal histories of people they arrest, it is not realistic for states to withhold fingerprints from the FBI – which means it is impossible to withhold them from ICE.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham, who voted to opt out of the program expressed his frustration at ICE-

…It is extremely disappointing because it means the District of Columbia now has a blurred rather than a bright line between what the Metropolitan Police Department is doing and what immigration officers are doing. e had a bright line, and that has increased trust and confidence in our police among immigrant communities. That will now vanish.

A coalition of immigrant rights groups including the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Day Laborer Organization Network have criticized ICE for its conflicting information and misleading numbers. They hold that based on statistics obtained from ICE, nearly 80% of people who were detained as a result of Secure Communities were either convicted of very minor offenses such as traffic violations, or not criminals at all.

Secretary Janet Napolitano ended her speech by calling on Congress to reform the existing immigration laws in ways that they are concurrent with the needs of the country. Moreover, it is imperative that we have an overhaul of the immigration system in a way that includes fair and just enforcement policy and human rights for all.

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

Domestic violence survivors first to be affected by Arizona law

The starting day for Arizona’s controversial new anti-immigrant law SB1070 is fast approaching. July 29th is around the corner and the country waits with bated breath as the Obama administration argues for an injunction to stop the law from being implemented. A Reuters article discusses the four scenarios that could occur. The injunction could be successful, or unsuccessful, in which case both parties have a choice to appeal the decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Another outcome could be a partial injunction which would only stop some sections of the law from going into effect. And finally, the state legislature could try to alter the law so that its constitutionality cannot be challenged.

But a pattern of states taking up the issue of immigration has emerged strongly. According to the L.A. Times, that’s nothing new.

Many states have their own regulations governing illegal immigrants. And five states have introduced bills similar to Arizona’s SB 1070, which is the target of a federal lawsuit.

Even though Arizona’s law has generated the most amount of controversy, there are many state laws that fall into the federal subject of immigration.

Colorado restricts illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition. Nebraska requires verification of immigration status to obtain public benefits. In Tennessee, knowingly presenting a false ID card to get a job is a misdemeanor…Not all of the laws are anti-immigrant…Ten states have passed laws to allow undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition, and several have expanded access to state-funded health benefits and improved enforcement of wage and hour laws.

All this points to the increasing need for federal comprehensive immigration reform plan that will prevent more Arizona’s from taking place and help fix the broken immigration system.

The impact of SB1070 can be devastating as it destroys the trust between communities and the police that help keep those communities safe. It’s already happening as a New American Media article reports about women affected by domestic violence and silenced by SB1070. Like Lourdes (name changed), a survivor of domestic abuse whose husband reminded her that Arizona’s new law made undocumented women like her liable to deportation. She finally called the police after reaching a shelter eight months pregnant.

Hidalgo, executive director of Chicanos por la Causa (CPLC), a nonprofit that runs the shelter, says that in the past, police officers have been very helpful in protecting victims. But he believes they are now finding themselves between a rock and a hard place. This is because SB 1070 allows Arizonans to file suit against any police department they believe is not enforcing the new law correctly. A department found to be out of compliance could be fined up to $5,000 per day.

Moreover, even the shelter could get in trouble if proved to be helping undocumented immigrants, though there are some exceptions for social workers and first respondents. The law will continue to bring up grey areas where people are unclear what action should be taken, leaving a space for violations, racial profiling, and much of the dangers that many opponents of the law have outlined.

As more and more stories like Lourdes come out into the open, SB1070 is teaching us a lesson that immigration reform cannot wait. Take action now.

Photo courtesy newamericamedia.org