We've moved the Immigration Panel Discussion from the library to the Council Chambers in City Hall. The acoustics are better at this location, plus the disucssion will be videotaped and podcasted. If you can't make the discussion (Monday night, 7-9 PM), it will be broadcast live on Channel 10. Council Chambers are located at 221 E. Main Avenue, 1st floor.
I'm really looking forward to the panel! Rev. Dr. William Sappenfield will be moderating, and we will have 5 panelists present with members on both sides of the issue. The five panelists are: Curtis Collier--President of U.S. Border Watch, Terri English--Director of Immigration Counseling and Outreach Services, Leslie Helmcamp--Director of Catholic Charities of Central Texas Office of Immigrant Concerns, Edna Yang--General Counsel for Political Asylum Project of Austin, and Larry Youngblood--Texas Border Volunteers.
Monday night, the documentary film, Los Trabajadores/The Workers screened at the library. I was pleased with the attendance (28); clearly there are folks in Round Rock who care about the immigration issue and how it affects us here in central Texas. The film's director, Heather Courtney,was in attendance as well. For those of you who haven't seen the film, Los Trabajadores follows two Austin day laborers as they struggle to support their families living in other countries.
The film brought me to tears at points; Courtney has really put a human face on the issue of immigration. Both of these immigrants feel strongly about their "right" to be here in the U.S.: "What I did was to come here illegally and this is against the law of the United States. But it is not against the law of my family." --Ramon Castillo Aparicio. "I will be deported and I don't care... I will have to face the judge and... tell him that we are human beings, the same as his parents and other people who come to the United States as immigrants. We are doing the same thing." --Juan Ignacio Gutierrez.
Following the film, Courtney took questions from the audience. One woman asked Courtney if she thought one of the reasons why people are so angry at immigrants is because they are a drain on the healthcare system. Courtney answered that most immigrants would never go to the hospital or the doctor because they would be too afraid of being deported.
If you would like to see the film, you can check it out at the Round Rock Library.
The Dustin Inman
Society was featured on NPR this week. This grassroots group advocates securing America's borders and
enforcing deportation "in such a way that creates an inhospitable
climate so that illegal immigrants will leave, and employers won't hire
them," said president of the group, D.A. King. You can hear more or the interview here.
If you go to the Inman Society's website, you can read more about their views and their mission. They are "dedicated to
educating the public and our elected officials on the consequences of
illegal immigration, our un-secured borders and the breakdown of the
rule of law in our Republic."
The most interesting thing to me about the society is the reason that they got started. Mr. King explains their beginnings in an interview with Business Week in 2006: "It's named after my friend's son. Dustin Inman was in
the back seat of the family car in the year 2000 on Father's Day
weekend, on his way to go fishing in the mountains with his dad and his
mom. An illegal alien, who happened to be from Mexico, who held a valid
North Carolina driver's license...ran into the back of his car stopped
at a light at more than 70 miles per hour. [He] killed Dustin, put
both of his parents in a coma -- neither of whom were able to go to his
funeral, their only son -- and then put his mom, Kathy, in a wheelchair
for the rest of her life."
I heard on the news today that in a recent poll, most Americans didn't understand the terms of the Immigration Bill that went before Congress last week. That makes sense to me--so many of us have opinions about immigration, but few of us take the time to really learn and understand the issue in all its complexity.
Luis Alberto Urrea, the author of The Devil's Highway has started "Immigration Monday" on his blog--one day a week he'll explore the issue of immigration with his readers. Here's what he has to say:
"It's just a small acorn of an idea--let's see what happens. Maybe a scraggly tree will grow. I hope to post something about immigration/border issues here every week. Might be nothing--might be a book. I don't know. I have invited others to take part, so I hope to post essays, notes, letters, poems from other writers about the topic. For and against. I don't care what position people take, as long as they are informed. Lots of inflammation out there, but there's no information. Has anybody ever explained to you what "illegal immigration" means? By law? What law is being broken? What is the precise law: what does it say? Let's look into it. Are there any really informative new books about the subject? Let's see. Links to articles? Right here. Let's make a full-service immigration site. Just one day a week. The rest of the week, we can explore writing and soul and gardens and family together. But it might be amazing to see what we come up with. I don't mean the royal "we," either. I mean you and me. Send me somethin'." You can read more of his blog here: http://lavistaluisurrea.blogspot.com/
I think Mr. Urrea's idea is great--I'd like to do something similar on the Round Rock Reads! blog. I invite anyone to send me comments about their views on immigration, good articles, links, anything that will help us understand the issue better. I don't care what side you are on! In the meantime, I'll continue to write about articles, interviews, and websites that I see related to immigration and The Devil's Highway. Tomorrow I'm going to write about The Dustin Inman Society. Stay Tuned.
I was hoping to blog about the immigration bill before Congress in my future posts, but it looks like it might be too late: Immigration bill likely dead for the year, from today's Austin Statesman. Read what Mexico's President Felipe Calderon has to say about the Senate's action from Statesman blogger Jeremy Schwartz.
Here's what the New York Times has to say.
What did you all think about the bill?
Since I finished reading the book, I realize I really don't know a lot about the issue of immigration. This weekend, I set out to educate myself. For this post, I'll start with listing some good websites, links and facts about immigration. For my next post, I'll get into some resources and articles that will help us understand the different positions on the immigration debate.
First I started with a pop quiz from the Census Bureau's website to find out how ignorant I really am. I did lousy--five questions and I didn't get one right on my first guess. My score was 225. How did you all do?
So now it's Sunday night, and I'm a little more educated about the statistics. Here are some things I found out: there are approximately 11.5 to 12 million undocumented people currently living in the U.S., according to the PEW Hispanic Center. Most of these immigrants are from Mexico (56 percent), 22 percent are from other parts of Latin America, and the rest are mostly from South and East Asia. Immigrants in the USA sent $40 billion to their relatives and friends in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2005, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). You can read some more basic immigration statistics here.
At the end of The Devil's Highway, Mr. Urrea suggests some non-fiction books for further reading: Dead in Their Tracks by John Annerino, Down by the River by Charles Bowden, Coyotes by Ted Conover, Border by Lila Downs, Hard Line: Life and Death on the U.S.-Mexican Border by Ken Ellingwood. Most of these books are available at the Round Rock Library. I'm definitely going to check one out!
In May 2001, 26 men crossed the Mexican border into the desert of Southern Arizona and only 12 made it out alive.
Round Rock Reads! has begun!
On May 31, Mayor Nyle Maxwell announced the winning book for Round Rock's first community-wide book club.
The book is entitled The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea. Pick up a copy at the Round Rock Public Library and read it during the month of June and join in the discussion.
We want to hear what you think!
In July, the library will host a panel discussion, a film documentary, and a book club discussion that will tie into the book and its themes.
I read The Devil's Highway in just a few days. The topic of human suffering is always tough. However, the struggle to endure hardship for the potential of a better life can be pretty inspiring. And, it's an issue that affects everyone. Whatever "side" you are on in the immigration debate, after reading this book, you can't help but care about these men and their plight. It's easy to forget sometimes that real people are involved in the news stories we hear on TV. This book offers a fresh perspective on a hot button issue.
During the next few weeks, I'll write posts about The Devil's Highway and I would love to hear your comments about the book. Did it inspire you? Did it make you think differently about the Immigration issue? How so?
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