NDN Blog

9500 Liberty Opening Night: An Incredible Success

Last night was 9500 Liberty's Opening Night in the D.C. area - at the DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival - and the movie was entirely sold out.  It was not only a proud night for Annabel Park and Eric Byler, the filmmakers, but for all who lived through the terrible fight on immigration in Prince William County, and for those of us who are directly or indirectly affected by the anti-immigrant sentiments seen on screen.  As highlighted by Annabel in an interview with News 4, the film shows how, "There was a lot of misinformation - and at times it felt like it was a kind of hysteria." On that note, Eric Byler noted, "The same kind of politicized hysteria is now a national approach to issues like health care and climate change...it mirrors what we saw in Prince William County - in fact many of the same people are involved."  

Click here to check out the News 4 interview with Annabel and Eric prior to the show.

There is no doubt that the film's message speaks to debate that is happening nationally on a slew of issues, and it will resonate with communities all over the country.  If you'd like to see a very comprehensive 45 minute clip of the film and speak with the filmmakers at the next NDN screening, please contact me at: ztapia@ndn.org


9500 Liberty: Film on Immigration Battle Wins Best Documentary at the Charlotte Film Festival

This remarkable film about the debate over immigration reform received duly earned recognition at the Charlotte Film Festival as it won the award for Best Documentary.  NDN has had the pleasure of working with the filmmakers, Annabel Park and Eric Byler, as we hosted screenings for 9500 Liberty in Washington, DC and at Netroots Nation.  Annabel and Eric joined creators like Michael Moore and some other 60 filmmakers who showed 24 films in Charlotte, NC as part of the festival, which included international films.  

The film originated as footage shot by Annabel and Eric documenting the struggle of their own suburban community - Prince William County, VA - to deal with rapidly changing demographics and the issue of immigration at a local level.  Among the hundreds of visitors who viewed the films at the film festival, 9500 drew much attention in part because of the parallels that can be drawn between Charlotte, NC and Prince William; both have undergone dramatic growths in population and shifts in the local demography, both are suburban areas that have seen clashes between those in the community that have been there for decades or centuries and new immigrants (particularly Hispanic immigrants).  

Said Annabel, "The award means a lot to us because [we were competing with] some great films at the festival."  Moreover, the filmmakers were encouraged by how much moviegoers loved the film, "festival organizers and goers were mostly not from a political background, and their positive response indicates that the film is not just for the politically-minded."  Annabel reported, "I could sense the transformation happening in the audience after the screening.  The lessons [on the immigration debate] were very clear to people...Eric, Chris and I are really proud that the film has the potential to change opinions and lives."

We know that 9500 Liberty has the power to reach a wide audience, to inform, and to affect opinion on this issue.  Click here to see a trailer of the film.  You can catch the full-length feature as it officially premieres this Thursday, October 1 at the DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival, and stay tuned for additional screenings to be hosted by NDN.  


Zelaya's Return to Honduras

A piece in Time Magazine by Tim Padgett talks about this evolving situation in Tegucigalpa:

...But for all the audacity of Zelaya's gambit, it's still far from certain that he can win the larger contest: getting the coupsters to accept a negotiated settlement that would let him finish the four remaining months of his term. Calling himself "the President legitimately elected by the Honduran people," Zelaya said, "We're hoping Honduras now returns to calm."

...Contrary to media reports on Monday that indicated Zelaya had reversed course and rejected the Arias pact, Zelaya's Ministers insist he's as ready as ever to sign it. "It's the coup leaders who are unwilling to do so and are just trying to run out time," Zelaya's ambassador to the U.S., Enrique Reina, told TIME from New York. "That's the reason he's in Honduras now — to be with the people there and move this process forward so we can sign San José immediately." Arias and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while not endorsing Zelaya's theatrics, agreed that "this is the best opportunity, now that Zelaya is back in the country," to ink the accord, said Arias. Clinton called the moment "opportune" to restore Zelaya and "get on with the election that is currently scheduled for November, have a peaceful transition of presidential authority and get Honduras back to constitutional and democratic rule."


A Census worker was found dead earlier today, hanging, with the word "Fed" on his chest.  He was just a Census worker, a productive member of society, and NOT a minority. Thanks to the insane fear mongering causing disturbing levels of paranoia against "Obamacare" and "the government," we can add hate crimes against government workers to the list. 

Over the last few days, our campaign to DropDobbs.com has taken off, and the media has taken to covering campaigns against Dobbs and other "MadMen" of tv like him.  These men do not argue based on reason, one cannot have a debate with them, and when impartial data is brought up to disprove their theories, they dismiss it as an "attack" on their first amendment right. 

Many have asked us what they can do to help, you can Watch the video, Sign the petition, and Share the site!! 

Watch, Sign, Share. 

After having over 50,000 views to our video soon after launch, we are excited about what this campaign will accomplish once it's really in full gear.  Just this week, one mad man, Glenn Beck, was featured in Time magazine, and countless articles in media outlets and the HuffPo have covered our DropDobbs campaign. Additionally a story broke over Lou Dobbs' discussion of secession from the Union on his radio show.  

I enjoyed this excerpt of a posting by Roberto Lovato in HuffPo:

Not surprisingly, Dobbs is waving the First Amendment flag to change the subject, which is not about disagreement on immigration policy, and has nothing to do with free speech. Dobbs has the right to his opinions; but there's nothing in the Constitution that says he deserves a "news" platform to disseminate hurtful and dangerous myths about immigrants.

Dobbs' suggestion...is both sad and comical given what passes for facts and ideas on his show. For Dobbs, immigrants are "invaders," and he regularly uses debunked statistics to paint them as disease-carrying criminals. He reports on conspiracy theories like the "Reconquista" and the "Birthers" as if they were legitimate topics of discussion. And worst of all, he provides a regular platform to the most extreme anti-immigrant groups like FAIR and the Minutemen, trotting them out as experts.

Weekly Immigration Update: Major Developments on CIR and Health Care (again)

If last week's health care debate highlighted anything, it is the urgent need to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. This week, Rep. Luis Gutierrez announced his intention to introduce Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation in October. Stay tuned for more details.

Also, this Sunday marked President Obama's third or fourth interview as President with Jorge Ramos, news anchor for Univision.  During his Sunday morning show, Al Punto, Jorge Ramos asked Pres. Obama about mixed-status families and coverage under health care bill, and he asked the President if his change in language from describing undocumenteds as "undocumented immigrants" during his Presidential campaign to "illegal immigrants" more recently.  The President explained that when using the latter term, he is merely repeating in his answers the term employed in questions. 

In May 2008, in another Al Punto interview, President Obama committed himself to passing "immigration reform in my first year in office."  Yesterday Jorge Ramos cited that interview and asked if we'll have reform by January 20, to which the President responded that immigration reform remains a priority:

In other news, this week the U.S. GAO (Government Accountability Office), released a report on SBInet, the current program aimed at securing U.S. borders.  GAO found that SBInet technology capabilities have not yet been deployed, and the impact of border fencing has not been sufficiently assessed by USCBP.

Last week we touched upon the senseless arguments against immigrants in the midst of the health care debate. This week Dylan Ratigan unraveled some of the confusion and made sense of the craziness that permeated the debate on Morning Meeting as he interviewed Andrew Romano of Newsweek. Romano presented the arguments we discussed before as to why it would make policy sense to allow undocumenteds into the exchange:
1. Immigrants are younger and healthier
2. Goal should be to minimize the difference in labor costs between different types of workers, not increase them.  When you withhold benefits from some workers and not others, that only hurts native workers.
3. Because immigrants are healthier for the most part, their use of emergency room care (which taxpayers pay for) would decrease if they had health insurance. For more, here is the clip:

Weekly Immigration Update: What Will the President Say Tonight? CHCI Policy Conference In the Midst of Health Care Debate

It will be interesting to see what President Obama says this evening given the tension and confusion surrounding the health care debate, turned immigration debate.  At the policy plenary discussion that launched the CHCI conference, on immigration reform, Sen. Bob Menendez hit the nail on the head when he said, "if we had passed immigration reform first, all these would have been moot points," referring to Mr. Joe Wilson's recent outburst and the anti-immigrant campaign that has taken the health care debate as their most recent tool through which to spew anti-immigrant propaganda.  NDN has long talked about these "immigration proxy wars" and made the case that immigration reform would have left a clear playing field for the rest of the items on the domestic agenda. 

Factually, what is included in the Senate health care bill in regards to immigrants is that a verification for eligibility for the exchange and other benefits would essentially be the same as those in existing law, i.e., proof of legal status, not citizenship (although even legal immigrants do have restrictions for certain programs, like Medicaid).  There has been much confusion on this by the employment of the term "citizenship" verification. As you all probably know there is an ocean of LEGAL status possibilities that lie between "illegals" and "U.S. citizens."  Sadly, these differences are not always understood, as we saw this week by the absence of an acknowledgement of legal immigrants during a White House press briefing, and even on news shows like that of Dylan Ratigan, who qualified those eligible as "American citizens," when in fact, "legal immigrants" who are not yet citizens are also eligible.  

But these are all semantics.  The bottom line about what has happened this week is that regardless of whether we want to be defined by race or by the issue of immigration on policy issues, we will be.  Those who seek to divide the country and foster hate against a certain sociological other will not go away, so they must be preempted and defeated.  As Sen. Menendez also stated at CHCI this week, "make no mistake about it, when they talk about 'those people', they are talking about you, about us."  And until we recognize this, we will have no progress.  For example, in the case of health care, from strictly a policy standpoint (not humanitarian or liberal, etc.) what if we DID cover the "illegals"?  What if we suddently acknowledged that "those people" are actually part of all of us? That their kids go to school with our kids and get sick the same as our children?  That they live next door? That they work in our offices?  Please read this analysis in Newsweek of what could actually be achieved if we made a conscious decision on the basis of a strategic, policy-oriented argument and covered "those people." 

The tone taken by the debate this week is - to say the least - disappointing considering that the election of President Obama was supposed to be a sign of progress in America's attitudes towards race. But, we saw this coming. We saw it in the old woman who expressed how "afraid" she was because Obama looked likely to become president.  And in the man who said he feared for his unborn children if Obama became president. We had a preview of this with the people who linked Obama to terrorism and terrorists, and in the suggestion that he was a foreigner and that he wasn't one of "us." All this did not suddenly disappear on November 4th last year, nor will it in a near future.  No doubt, there are some who genuinely disagree with some government policies, the problem is that in light of the tone taken by the debate right now, it is hard to know who is who. Those who genuinely do disagree with the president should discuss their opinions based on policy, not on codes that appear to carry racist implications. But there is certainly something ugly going on. And that needs to be discussed - and most importantly, confronted.  And the first major stand we can take on this front is to pass comprehensive immigration reform and take much of the air our of this balloon of hate.  

I close by highlighting that these negative attitudes do not discriminate on the basis of party - hate and fear mongerers are both Democrat and Republican.  On that note, I congratulate Sen. Judd Gregg who called this debate of immigration in the context of health care what it is - a "sideshow."  And acknowledged that doctors will treat whoever walks into an emergency room, regardless of legal status (which, by the way, taxpayers are paying for - and thanks to not including "illegals" in reform, will continue to pay for).  

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Hispanics Hardest Hit by Economic Downturn

Yesterday morning NPR featured a segment on a study highlighted by The New Republic that shows that the poverty rate among Hispanics/Latinos has jumped at a rate much higher than for any other demographic.  The number of Hispanic children now living in poverty has swelled by 12%, while that number actually fell among other minorities.  Income has also gone down for Latinos more than for any other group - decreasing by an average of 5.6% for Latinos, while income only decreased about 2.3% for non-Hispanic whites and among blacks.  This data suggests serious demographic concern. 

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote about the economic plight of Latinos in honor of Hispanic Heritage month.  As this month begins anew, it is evident that things have not gotten any better for Latinos, rather the economic situation among this demographic has worsened, which in turn will have a ripple effect on all communities. 

U.S. Mexico Sign New Border Safety Partnership; Gov. Perry Sends Rangers to the Border

This past week, DHS announced that the United States and Mexico will establish a new cross-border communications network including voice, data and video channels to support their law enforcement and public safety agencies, officials announced.  The Homeland Security Department and the Secretariat of Public Security of Mexico will coordinate the installation and operation of the network, according to DHS. DHS, the State department and Mexican officials signed the agreement, which also provides for joint protection from radio interference and jamming.

In other news, today Gov. Rick Perry announced that special teams of Texas Rangers will be deployed to the Texas-Mexico border to deal with increasing violence because "the federal government has failed to address growing problems there."  "It is an expansive effort with the Rangers playing a more high-profile role than they've ever played before," Perry said of the Department of Public Safety's elite investigative unit.

And yet, I wonder if anyone has asked Gov. Perry if he is equally enthusiastic about revisiting Texas gun laws and/or criminal punishment for illicit weapons.  

2010 AZ Ballot Could Include Anti-Immigrant Slate

Anti-immigrant bigots at a national level are scary, at a local level, even more disconcerting; Phoenix Buniess Journal reports: 

There could be an anti-immigration slate of candidates running for key elected posts in the 2010 elections.

State Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said he would be interested in running for Maricopa County Sheriff if Joe Arpaio opts to run for governor next year.

Pearce has been a main advocate of hard-line immigration policies, including punishing businesses that hire undocumented workers and denying state services to illegal immigrants.

Weekly Immigration Update: Airport Workers Smuggle Immigrants; Latino Lawyers Can Do Much To Help; Antis Have Their Game On

Over Labor Day Weekend, news broke covering a series of airport workers in Puerto Rico who were helping undocumented immigrants enter the United States.  This once again highlights the flaws in an "enforcement-only" system, and showcases the need for a comprehensive strategy to fix the current broken immigration system.    

In other news, with E-verify becoming mandatory for all government contractors this week, Congress will have to decide on how it takes up this issue again as the program is scheduled to expire on September 30.  By dealing with this sub-issue through comprehensive immigration reform legislation, we could finally take this debate off the table.

Several outlets also covered the Hispanic National Bar Association's annual convention in Albuquerque, NM this past week.  I attended as a panelist to discuss immigrant rights.  Many judges, including Chief Judge for the U.S. Circuit in NM, Martha Vazquez, agree that the current broken immigration system is one of "de facto criminalization" of immigrants.  

Latino lawyers can do much to help advise immigrants of their rights, and they can do much to help advocate for reform. However, we have serious obstacles to overcome in having more Latinos - particularly Latinas - represented in the profession, as illustrated by an HNBA study. 

And today Simon highlights a very disturbing and concerted anti-immigrant campaign.  These videos are extremely well done; while the arguments are factually incorrect and based on no empirical evidence, the ads are incredibly effective.  Clearly these guys are elevating their game in preparation for a fight.  What are you doing to prepare?

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