It seems like every decade has its political bogeyman, upon whom great numbers of Americans blame every societal ill the way the Chinese after the death of Chairman Mao blamed everything from famine to earthquakes on the Gang of Four. In my own youth during the Cold War, a Commie was presumed to be lurking in every woodpile, agitating the masses. More recently, since the ascendancy of certain right-wing radio and cable TV talk show hosts, a favorite culprit has been the Illegal Alien – usually referred to as just “Illegals.”
Unfortunately, not many of us get to hear the other side of the story. We’re happy to have that polite, quiet Central American immigrant bus our table at the diner or clean our tub at the motel, but we don’t bother to ask them about their work visa status or what their lives are really like. And we generally don’t stop to think about the parallels between the experiences of their children and of the children who were our own immigrant forebears in America.
On Tuesday, December 6, we’ll get an opportunity to learn more on this volatile subject, thanks to the Mid-Hudson Valley Amnesty Club (our local chapter of Amnesty International) and the Rosendale Theatre. At 7:15 the Theatre will host a screening of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Which Way Home? The event is intended to raise awareness about the human rights of immigrants, and especially about the DREAM Act, currently under discussion in Congress. The intent of the bill is make citizenship easier for undocumented minors who arrived here as children, grew up here and have not known any other homeland. Last year, the DREAM Act almost became law, but it was narrowly defeated in the Senate.
The documentary shows the personal side of immigration through the eyes of children as young as 9 years, who face harrowing dangers with enormous courage and resourcefulness as they endeavor to make it to the US from Mexico and countries south. The film was first shown as part of the HBO documentaries series and is distributed by Bullfrog Films, the leading US publisher of independently produced environmental videos.
The screening of Which Way Home? will be followed by a panel discussion on human rights issues related to immigration from the perspective of children and teenagers – both those wanting to stay in our country and those trying to enter across the border with Mexico. Panel members include SUNY-New Paltz professors Ilgu Ozler (Political Science) and Sunita Bose (Sociology), along with Betsy Palmieri, executive director of the Hudson Valley Community Coalition. There will be a question-and-answer session following the panel.