abUSed in the US, immigration with a face

Feb 25, 2011 by

abUSed in the US, immigration with a face

“abUSed, the Postville Raid” is an illustration of words that we often hear but do not see the reality behind: “deportation”, “undocumented worker”, “immigration law”. The first one – a procedure, the second – a legal term, the third – a protection mechanism, to avoid the infloods and demographic macroimbalances, to keep us (Americans? Europeans?) safe. The first one – a parting, the second – a human, the third one – an obstacle to a better life, and criminalization of hope and will to work.

The film shows the other side of these words, and the Southern side of the American continent. By giving faces and voice to the undocumented workers, it points out to the cases of the abuse of power by American prosecutors, by the government, and of the vulnerable immigrants. This is a film of the weak ones with powerful claims but little means to justice.  After the disgraceful acts of violation of human rights, none of the culprits was brought to court. “It’s not easy to sue the government” says the director, to the auditorium of Yale Law School, breeding the next generation of this country’s top officials.

Luis Argueta has worked on the film for three years – with breaks, to raise funding. Alternative cinema, and even more so the ‘alternative problematic documentary cinema’ does not get many sponsors.  This is not about entertainment, not about profit, not even about an introspective and reflective film that tickles your sensitive self. This is a compilation of situations that many people would never suspect could happen in XXI century.

One image that I still have in mind is that of a woman from Guatemala walking around in a GPS tightly clinging to her bruised ankle. “They have to spend two hours a day plugged to the wall, to charge the GPS. They cannot move and take care of their children in this time.” explains the director. They can walk in certain districts, ghettos shall we say?, in this country of freedom, equality and… technological progress.

Indeed, the GPS are high-tech. At the moment the technology, especially its younger sprouts: the social networking sites, is enjoying a certain moral triumph on the international arena.  With the dictators falling down and Twitter registering the brutalities to the outside world, people have started to associate technology with democratic change. L. Argueta’s film shows that this is only one way technology can be used. Another one – is to enslave, humiliate and control people. Technology at the beginning of the XXth century has led to the most heinou s and …technologically sophisticated war. It is worth remembering that by itself technology is neutral, with people – it can be both liberating and enslaving. Depending on policy, and human nature.

When asked about the concrete results  of his film, the director spoke of a 20 year old who, after the screening, came up to him once and said, with tears in his eyes, : Thank you for telling our story.The boy was at the school in Postville that was raided by the immigration forces, when his friend were taken away. Making people aware of the abuses happening in America, of the illegal and inhuman treatment of immigrants, of the lack of accountability of people in power is the first step to make a change. The second would probably be to disentagle the powerful knot of vested interests: corporations making profit on illegal workers, government gaining votes on the security policies, judges depending on both of the former ones. There must be a better way to handle the huge inequalities of our age – there cannot be a worse one that that shown in this moving and terrirying testimony.

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