BY CHRIS O’BRIEN for the Los Angeles Times
REPORTING FROM BERKELEY
Sept. 2, 2013
Kyle Kuwahara, left, and Jude Kratzer use the video game Minecraft to stay in touch with classmate Rodrigo Guzman, 10, who was deported along with his family to Mexico. (Craig Kuwahara)
To save their classmate who was deported to Mexico, the fourth-graders devised an epic plan.
That Rodrigo Guzman, 10, could no longer be with his friends and attend Jefferson Elementary seemed so obviously unfair to these students. So they started an online petition that got 2,788 signatures. They created a Facebook page and posted videos to YouTube.
They petitioned the Berkeley City Council and school district, which passed resolutions supporting their cause. They met with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) to ask whether she could intervene.
“We have to fight for Rodrigo’s rights because he is not able to do it himself!” Kyle Kuwahara said in a letter to President Obama. “Today I’m writing to you on Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday to do the right thing. To allow Rodrigo and his family to return to their home, school and friends in Berkeley.”
Even as the children’s “Bring Rodrigo Home” campaign built momentum, it became clear that things would not move fast. The immigration system is complicated, the students were told. There were too many agencies and politicians with rules that didn’t seem to share their urgency.
“Thousands of young people throughout California can only dream about health care. They want to live healthy responsible lives. But that’s hard to do when you can’t see a doctor or you don’t have health insurance.
Check out this 60 second video, “Dreaming of Healthcare.” We made it in partnerships with a group of young Californians. They’re all undocumented. Technically that means they’re not US citizens. But we think they couldn’t be more Californian.
California should not be a place that says some young people deserve health care and some don’t. Access to screenings and checkups helps people prevent problems before they start. When health care includes everyone, and we mean everyone, that keeps us all healthy. We’re in this together.
Check out #Health4all and help us spread the word that California’s health depends on everyone. Everyone. Learn more about us at http://www.calendow.org”
Don Bartletti wants to be invisible. He wants you to see through him and his art, to fix upon the images he has created and to ask: “How can such things be?” He credits this vision of photography to the late documentary photographer, Dorothea Lange. “I don’t want readers to necessarily dwell on how I did it,” he says. “In documentary photojournalism, I believe the subject, not the photographer, should be the number one author of the photo.”
Nowhere is this vision clearer than in Bartletti’s photos for “Bound To El Norte.” A boy loses his mother and sets out on a perilous journey to find her. In the vast movement of people from Central America and Mexico, Enrique is one of 48,000 children who come to the United States alone each year. Many are looking for their mothers, who went north seeking work.
Bartletti’s opening picture cries out: How can this be—–a lone boy on top of a rolling freight train? It is dangerous and a little eerie. All lines of sight—the train, the tracks, the power lines, the youngster’s vision, and Bartletti’s camera—are focused on a single perspective: the future. What does the future hold? It’s not at all clear. There is fog ahead and a curve.
“Whose parents are living in Italy?” asked the teacher as she stood in front of a first grade class in Cirpesti, a small village in southeast Moldova. With a mixture of pride and embarrassment about 20 of the 30 children raised their hands. I was shocked. I knew the statistics on labor migration and remittances. But the lives behind the numbers were staring me in the face as I stood in a cold, leaky classroom and learned that it had been years since most of these six-year-olds had seen their parents who were working 2,000 kilometers away as cleaning ladies or harvest helpers. This experience and others inspired me to continue my photography in Moldova. My images aim to look behind the statistics to reveal the impact of migration on families and society and ask how high a price parents and children pay for it.
Moldova is the poorest country in Europe. Forty percent of the people live below the poverty line. Meanwhile, more than one-third of the adult working population has left the country. According to official estimates, at least 690,000 of the 4.3 million Moldovans are living and working abroad—mostly in EU countries and in Russia—although the actual number varies according to different sources and probably exceeds one million. That makes Moldova one of Europe’s leading countries in labor migration.
The remittances that the migrant workers send home are a major factor in preventing the economy from collapsing. Yet labor migration has many downsides, including a “brain drain,” in which Moldova’s most active and educated people search for better economic opportunities abroad. Although many wind up working as unskilled laborers for low pay, this work still brings more than what they could earn at home. Migration also contributes to the disintegration of families and has torn the social fabric of Moldovan society. Whether in cities or the country, there is hardly a family in which at least one parent is not working abroad. In many cases, the children remain in Moldova and live with relatives, acquaintances, or even on their own. They often don’t see their parents for months, or years.
Winner of a Student Academy Award, Sin País (Without Country) explores one family’s complex and emotional journey involving deportation. A co-presentation with Latino Public Broadcasting.
watch the 20 minute video here: http://www.pbs.org/pov/sinpais/full.php#.UbPPt_ZAQfw
more resources: http://sinpaisfilm.com/resources/
If you tune into PBS’s P.O.V. on Thursday (as you should), you will see Short Cuts, a collection of short films, including 3 animated shorts from StoryCorps and the Academy Award-nominated The Barber of Birmingham. You will also see a film that hits close to home: Sin País, the story of the Mejia family, a mixed-immigration status family in San Francisco, trying to stay together after the parents are deported back to Guatemala. The film started as a thesis project at Stanford and has already won a Student Academy Award. The young director of the film, Theo Rigby, lives in San Francisco. In July, Theo, who is, not surprisingly a really nice guy, invited me to his studio in Dogpatch to discuss the film and what drew him to explore the human side of the immigration debate.
When Theo entered Stanford’s film program in 2008, he was already interested in the lives of immigrants. As a documentary photographer, he had traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border and immersed himself in the culture, learning about mixed-status families and the liminal lives they lead there. Theo became deeply involved in the stories of the people he was photographing, even helping one woman and her daughter raise money to get out of jail when they were caught by Border Patrol. His connection with that family went from being scientific to personal and Theo says: “After that whole experience, all these immigration issues that we read about and see in the news, kind of like talking point issues, became super real.”