Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar nod honors the undocumented - CNN

Oscar nod honors the undocumented - CNN

Demián's nomination came for his portrayal of Carlos Galindo, an undocumented worker in our film "A Better Life." But he will not, needless to say, be wearing the work boots and shearling of an immigrant gardener. He will be in the uniform of the Hollywood elite at play and, some would say, in the act of self-congratulation.

Yet, I think there is something to be congratulated in this case. While I believe the Academy gave Demián a tap on the shoulder for all the right reasons -- mainly the strength of his performance -- there is an effect beyond Hollywood of which it may not be aware.

I saw it on the front pages of Spanish language newspapers around the country, which greeted Demián's nomination as a stirring validation of the humanity of the character he played and a source of great pride. And I heard it at the screening we did for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, where 200 hard-working people, some who had traveled at the risk of being apprehended and deported, felt that they had been treated as first-class human beings rather than parasites.

The battle over immigration reform is fought with numbers, but the ground of the battle is an emotional landscape. Over the past few months we've seen the Republican candidates use undocumented immigrants as a rhetorical punching bag, secure in the knowledge that they can't fight back.

Why? Because an undocumented immigrant is afraid to draw attention to himself. Although they are, on the whole, tremendously industrious, family-oriented, God-fearing and deeply invested in this country through familial ties, they are living on a razor's edge. The edge is, if anything, made sharper by draconian and politically self-serving laws like Alabama's HB56 and its cousins in Arizona and Georgia.

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