It’s been desiccation junction everywhere in the nation of immigrants. Week-long fears of a government shutdown (averted nearly at the witching hour, midnight on April 8) seemed to suck the air and the attention spans out of official Washington. A volunteer army of lawyers, descending on the Capitol for a National Day of Action to fix America’s broken immigration system, heard most legislators, Administration officials, and their staffs dampen expectations: There would likely be no let-up in detentions, removals and worksite enforcement, and no legislative action or administrative relief on comprehensive immigration reform until after the 2012 elections.
To accentuate the point, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) served a notice to appear for a removal hearing on Prerna Lal, an outspoken DREAMer, just as she blogged that “Obama Issues A Gag Order On ‘Stop the Deportation’ Campaigns.” Heaven forfend that the President be called to account for his broken promises on immigration as he seeks Latino help to secure a new lease on the Oval Office. Ironically, the State Department in its release this week of its Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, although referring to the actions of foreign governtments, aptly described what happened to Prerna: “[H]uman rights defenders are singled out for particularly harsh treatment.”
The week also signaled continued frailty in the economy as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had received just over 10,000 H-1B visa petitions for foreign workers in specialty occupations (about 5,900 petitions counting toward the 65,000 cap, and roughly 4,500 petitions toward the 20,000 cap for holders of advanced U.S. degrees). The H-1B visa quota has been an accurate lodestar for the health of the economy, rapidly depleted when the good times would roll, and slow to run out when times are less robust. [See this Jan. 2011 GAO Report, Page 15, Figure 6: Time to Reach Annual Cap and Cap Level, Regular and Master’s Cap, FY 2000–FY 2010.] Apparently even an upsurge in high-tech hiring did little to move the H-1B needle.
Meantime, journalists reported that the nation’s immigration judges are facing burnout and compassion fatigue (with at least one judge on antidepressants and seeking psychological help) as the system of assembly-line injustice acts like a wood chipper on overdrive, grinding up citizens and immigrants with equal disdain.
Maybe it will take another way of understanding the facts. Perhaps a documentary film can touch the heart and the head when pleading and logic fail. Neither inflammatory nor melodramatic, or one-sided, this film Undocumented depicts real people whose lives are in torment by Washington’s failure to fix the eminently fixable immigration laws.
If not film, then possibly prayer from the psuedonymous patriarch in Undocumented:
My Lord, bring peace to this country.
They are putting [in] many strict laws.
Not just against Hispanics but against all.
My Father, I pray you soften the hearts of these lawmakers.
Soften their hearts and make them sensible, my Lord.
Make them see, we are human, just like them.
And they need not attack us, and destroy families.
The children are the future of this country.
Change their minds and transform them.
And one day they will come to know your true love.
We pray for Austin [Texas] my Lord.
We ask for you, Father, to transform them.
And we ask for your blessings and guidance.
Oh, and another noteworthy thing happened this week. On April 8, Sidney Lumet, film director with a social conscience, passed away. He immortalized the line, which just as well might have been referring to immigration, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” He also wrote:
[The] kind of film in which I believe goes one step further [than mere entertainment]. It compels the spectator to examine one facet or another of his own conscience. It stimulates thought and sets the mental juices flowing.
In the best Lumetian tradition, let’s hope that Undocumented does just that.