Presents the devastating effects of US Enforcement Immigration policies on communities, families and children. The film tells the gripping personal stories of the individuals, the families and the town that survived the most brutal, most expensive and largest immigration raid in the history of the United States and serves as a cautionary tale of government abuses.
the last three years I have sent you several missives, taking you along on this
meaningful journey that began back in May 2008 with the raid in Postville, Iowa.
2011 was spent giving 76 presentations of the documentary at community colleges,
high schools, ivy league law schools, academic, immigration and labor
conferences, churches, synagogues, community centers and 12 international film
festivals. All of these showings and talks included a lot of coordination and I
would not have been able to accomplish it without the help of Brenda Castillo,
Jon-Carlos Evans, Bea Gallardo, Nicholas José Rubio and the love and support of
Jennifer D. Argueta. Many thanks to all of them for their dedication, hard work,
and sense of humor.
are many reasons why I continue to give presentations three years down the road.
But one of the most important is the impact the film and the subsequent question
and answer session has on each audience. I feel the energy, hope, anger, and
desire to effect change no matter the size of the turnout. This past fall I
showed the film on the campus of Michigan State University. Of the Q&A
session afterwards, my friend Bruce Baker said, "I felt my eyes
tearing up at the words of two of the young men, in particular, who spoke so
strongly about what the film meant to them. I have no doubt that your actions in
making sure that this story is told will have a lasting beneficial impact on
young people in this and other audiences. Your personal presence at the
screening and direct engagement with the audience serves as a real inspiration
to young people who need inspiration." Thank you, Bruce, I appreciate
your comments and am thankful to all who have taken the time to come see the
film -- sometimes more than once.
month, I got to experience first-hand how abUSed: The
Postville Raid engaged a group to produce concrete social
change and it was indeed a highly magical moment. Before I go any further into
what is truly a heartwarming holiday story, I need to make sure you understand
one of the key components of it. The U
Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 created two new
nonimmigrant visas for noncitizen victims of crimes, the T visa and the U visa.
Both visas are designed to provide immigration status to noncitizens who are
assisting or are willing to assist authorities investigating crimes.
U visa is designed for noncitizen crime victims who (1) have suffered
substantial physical or mental abuse from criminal activity; (2) have
information regarding the criminal activity; (3) assist government officials in
the investigation or prosecution of such criminal activity; and (4) the criminal
activity violated US law or occurred in the United States.
members may also be included on the petition including spouses, children,
unmarried sisters and brothers under 18, mothers, fathers, as well as
stepparents and adoptive parents.
visas last for four years. After three years, U-visa holders may apply for
lawful permanent residence. U-visa holders automatically qualify for employment
in April 2010, the state of Iowa asked me to escort six under-age Guatemalans
(who had been arrested in the raid and deported) back to Iowa to appear as
material witnesses in a case against the general manager of the plant in
Postville. I had already gotten to know them through interviews, but our
friendships deepened during the three months they spent in Iowa. I had helped
raise funds to pay for part of attorney Sonia Parras-Konrad's fees who began the
process to submit U visa requests for all of the kids. The manager was
acquitted, but as a result of this case the state of Iowa changed the labor laws
to better protect children. By the time I took the Guatemalan young people back
home in July, their visa applications had all been submitted for
H. Miller, Deputy Attorney General of Iowa, Agustin Obispo,
Tom Miller,Attorney General of Iowa, Jimy Gómez & Luis
months of hard work by people in Guatemala and in Iowa, including countless
pro-bono hours by attorney Parras-Konrad, four U visa applications were approved
in September 2011. While there was great joy and satisfaction, I felt a growing
anxiety about what would become of not just these four young men who would be
coming back to the US, but now they would be bringing parents, wives, children,
and siblings -- all of whom did not yet have their work permits. Where would
they live? Housing one person is different than 3 or 4. How would they eat? How
would they get around? With all of this nervous energy, I sent an email to
everyone in Iowa who I had gotten to know in the course of my talks and 38
visits to the state. I voiced my concerns to them.
a result of that email, the Iowa Immigration Task Force of the NE Peace and
Justice Committee in Decorah created the U Visa Resettlement
Project. Building on some of my suggestions from the initial
email, they took on the mammoth task of providing and coordinating help for the
four young men and 11 family members for up to three months, including but not
limited to locating and paying for housing, utilities and food; helping with ESL
and GED lessons, and school registration of the school-age children; and
providing blankets, towels, washcloths, and winter jackets and coats. The young
people and their families arrived in the US on the 15th of December.
of the film's visibility and credibility, I was able to coordinate air
transportation from Guatemala to Chicago, and ground transportation to bring the
families to St. Bridget's Catholic church in Postville from Chicago, with the
Consul General of Guatemala in Chicago, Hugo Hun. All paid for by the Guatemalan
government. It does indeed take a village, rather, it takes two countries! Thank
you to everyone at the Consular Office and Richard Avena in Guatemala and,
especially, Sonia Parras-Konrad in Des Moines, IA, for making such a difference
in the lives of Jimy, Agustin, Osbeli and Marcos, and their families.
have started a new project: documenting the story of these young men and their
families. My hope is that this next film, The
U-Turn, contributes to the understanding of the U-Visa, one
of the most effective and less-known immigration relief avenues available to
abused immigrants in the United States.
would like to continue to effect change for these young people and ask that you
join me in helping support these families during this time of
transition. During the next three months, a portion of any
tax-deductible contribution made to The New York Immigration
Coalition earmarked for the abUSed: The Postville
Raid fund will go to the
U Visa Resettlement Project.