Documented

Documented is a new film by Jose Antonio Vargas

The film had its world premier at the AFI Docs Festival last night to a sold out crowd at the National Portrait Gallery.

It chronicles the struggles and efforts of the Pulitzer Prize-winning former journalist, both before and after he outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in the New York Times Magazine. “Documented” chronicles his decision to transform his life. At some point, he could no longer keep his secret. He had become a successful journalist covering political campaigns and appearing on television. He had all the trappings of the American success story, but he lacked permission to be in the United States. He had been brought to the U.S. as a child and had no way to obtain a valid immigration status. And after seeing and speaking with thousands of immigrants in the same situation, he decided to “let the world in” to his secret and decided to become an immigration reform activist/provocateur.

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Mr. Vargas has made a compelling film that brings into focus what it really means to be an American. It is not a piece of paper, a birth certificate, a passport, or the luck of being born here. It is a love of country, which Mr. Vargas has in abundance. It is also about hard work and struggle. My Vargas’ grandparents were U.S. citizens and brought him to the USA when he was 12. He became an outstanding student and with the help of dozens of friends, mentors, and surrogate parents, he achieved the American dream. However, the cost of this dream were high, and not being able to be open about his status exacted a toll on his psyche. Seeing other young immigrants struggling to keep their families together and lobby Congress to pass the Dream Act., made him realize that he could use his talents as a writer to help America to peel back the layers and understand the complicated issue of immigration reform. The complexity of the topic has been lost in the political bickering and punditry that characterizes our political system and our society. Sound-bites are particularly inappropriate to understand this complex topic. The film sheds a bright and focused light, like very few other films on this topic. It also highlights his struggle to repair his relationship with his mother, who for twenty years had been trapped half way across the world (in the Philippines) with no way to see her son. The film shows that there are thousands of young adults from all over the world who face the same situation. At one moment towards the end of the film, Mr. Vargas is invited to testify before the Senate. His words are profound and he leaves the Senators with the following question that I think we all must consider thoroughly: “What are you going to do with people like me?” There is not one person who does not recognize how dysfunctional our current immigration system has become. Almost as dysfunctional as our political system. It cannot be acceptable in 21st Century America to have some individuals relegated to the back of the bus, or thrown off the bus after having established such strong roots and allegiances to this country. As Mr. Vargas stated, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions, “but not their own facts.” Before making a decision, one should see this film and lean the facts.

H-2B Workers Launch Hunger Strike

Workers allege they were lured to the U.S. under false pretenses.

From ImmigrationProf Blog

May 12, 2008

[Indian Guest Workers, Survivors of Labor Trafficking Launching
Hunger Strike in Front of White House to Demand Protection Under the
Trafficking Victims Protection Act]

On Wednesday, May 14th, a group of Indian guest workers
who broke an 18-month US-Indian labor trafficking chain earlier this
year launched a hunger strike to demand that the US government grant
them Continued Presence in the United States under the Trafficking
Victims Protection Act to participate in an ongoing Department of
Justice investigation into alleged labor trafficking by Northrop
Grumman subcontractor Signal International and US and Indian recruiters.

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[blip.tv ?posts_id=918073&dest=-1]
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More details at

http://www.mangalorean.com/news.php?newstype=local&newsid=77948

A group of five Indian workers have launched a hunger strike in
front of the White House demanding a US Congressional investigation
into their “exploitation” by American companies.

The five workers who began the “water only” protest at Lafayette
Park opposite the US presidential mansion Wednesday were among more
than 500 Indian welders and pipe fitters who allegedly paid up to
$20,000 apiece for false promises of green cards and work-based
permanent residency in the US.

Seeking “justice from their former employer Signal International and
Indian and US recruiters”, the workers union claimed the support of the
American Federation of Labourers-Congress of Industrial Organizations
(AFL-CIO).

“The AFL-CIO and its 10 million members are proud to support the
hunger strike by these Signal workers, and their campaign to shed light
on the abuses of the US Government’s H2B guest worker programme,” Jon
Hiatt, general counsel for the AFL-CIO, was quoted as saying.

“We know the US is a powerful country, and we know that Signal is a
powerful company. That is why we are asking the Indian government to
support us as we stand here with our lives shattered,” said hunger
striker Muruganantham Kandhasami.

The protesters will move to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in front of
the Indian Embassy here Saturday. On May 21, 15 more hunger strikers
will join the fast, followed by another 15 on May 28, the organisers
said.

“If we, the workers of India, can have the courage to talk to US
Congressmen and US federal authorities, then surely the Indian
government can do the same so that no other Indian worker suffers as we
did,” the workers’ statement said.

“The Indian government needs to show the kind of courage with the US
that it showed in labour talks with Malaysia and Bahrain,” said Sony
Sulekha, who is on hunger strike. “If we could sit down and talk with
the US Congressmen, we believe our leaders can too.”

“This hunger strike is a last resort,” said Saket Soni, a worker’s
advocate who directs the New Orleans Workers’ Centre for Racial Justice.

The workers are demanding that Indian parliamentarians press their
US counterparts for a Congressional investigation into abuses in the US
guest worker visa programme.

They also want the ministries of foreign affairs and overseas Indian
affairs to press the US State Department to secure the workers’ right
to participate in a human trafficking investigation into Signal
International and its American and Indian recruiters.

“Indian envoy to the US Ronen Sen offered the workers only symbolic
reassurances and apologies for protocol. Now they are risking their
lives in the hope that the Indian government will find the courage to
pressure the US government to grant them dignity, and protect future
workers,” Soni said referring to a meeting with the envoy in March.

They had among other things demanded a Central Bureau of
Investigation (CBI) probe into their case. Sen gave the workers a
patient hearing and promised to take up their grievances but only
though appropriate and established channels.

Coming to Washington, after a nine-day satyagraha, or “journey for
justice” from New Orleans, the workers had in March taken their protest
to the White House where they raised slogans and tore up photocopies of
their H-2B visas in a symbolic rejection of the guest worker programme.

IANS

Trafficking Victims Launch Hunger Strike

Workers allege they were lured to the U.S. under false pretenses.

From ImmigrationProf Blog

May 12, 2008

[Indian Guest Workers, Survivors of Labor Trafficking Launching
Hunger Strike in Front of White House to Demand Protection Under the
Trafficking Victims Protection Act]

CONTACT:
Stephen Boykewich, Media Director, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice: (504) 655-0876, spboykewich@gmail.com

On Wednesday, May 14th, at 10 a.m., a group of Indian guest workers
who broke an 18-month US-Indian labor trafficking chain earlier this
year will launch a hunger strike to demand that the US government grant
them Continued Presence in the United States under the Trafficking
Vicitims Protection Act to participate in an ongoing Department of
Justice investigation into alleged labor trafficking by Northrop
Grumman subcontractor Signal International and US and Indian recruiters.

Six of the more than 500 workers will launch a water-only hunger
strike in Lafayette Park in view of the White House on Wednesday with a
press event including allies from US labor unions and civil rights
organizations. Approximately 30 more workers will be joining the hunger
strike over the next two weeks. The workers are members of the Alliance
of Guest Workers for Dignity, a grassroots project of the New Orleans
Workers’ Center for Racial Justice [NOWCRJ]
(www.neworleansworkerjustice.org).

WHAT: Launch of hunger strike by Indian labor trafficking survivors
WHEN: 10 a.m., Wednesday, May 14th, 2008
WHERE: Lafayette Park, 16th Street and Pennsylvania Ave, north of White House

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