By Joe Guzzardi
February 27, 2012
The recent Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ award ceremony provided some subtle, annoying pro-immigration advocacy. We’re talking about Hollywood so it came as no surprise when presenter Natalie Portman introduced Demián Bichir Nájera, best actor nominee for his role as an East Los Angeles gardener in A Better Life, a film about an “undocumented immigrant.”
Several years ago, the words “undocumented immigrant” became the term of choice among liberal journalists and open borders lobbyists who favor amnesty. But it’s incorrect. They’re neither “undocumented” nor “immigrants.” Immigrants come to the United States through ports of entry and in possession of valid visas. Individuals living illegally in the United States are “aliens.” Carlos, the movie’s central character, had neither.
Even the New York Times, an avid advocate for alien entitlements including amnesty, warns in its Manual of Style and Usage: “Do not use the euphemism ‘undocumented.”
The bigger concern however is the politicized film and the forces behind it. While making A Better Life, director Chris Weitz and Bichir immersed themselves into Los Angeles’ illegal immigration culture, hung out with them and eventually spoke with their lawyers. With research based on those sources, a favorable portrait of immigrants will certainly emerge.
During Weitz’s early interviews, the national immigration debate heated up. Several prominent Republicans urged enforcement, a suggestion that revolted Weitz and his crew. Although Weitz had originally told NPR that “We really don’t have a political agenda,” he changed his mind and later told Rolling Stone that the Oscar campaign had morphed into “combating the slanders of the Republican primary race.”
Weitz stepped up his activism. He contacted the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress, a well known amnesty proponent. One of the Center’s leaders, Angela Kelley, reinforced Weitz’s perception of his film’s potential importance. She told him: “It’s totally about politics.” In Kelley’s mind, A Better Life could become a vehicle to take the comprehensive immigration reform message outside the Beltway and into Middle America where it could “unstick” the policy debate.
Kelley introduced Weitz to her highly placed friends, namely President Obama’s chief immigration aide, Cecelia Munoz, formerly a Vice President at the ultra-radical National Council of La Raza. Munoz’s job was to ensure that President Obama and First Lady Michelle watched the film. Kelley’s goal: to embed the more compassionate, humane concept of what the immigrant community looks like—loving, hard working and deeply rooted in the American way.
I realize that I’m writing about a movie; a fictionalized account of a non-existent gardener’s life. And, to be sure, there are well intentioned aliens like Carlos who want the best for their families.
The problem is that Carlos’s story is only half the immigration tale. The film almost completely overlooks how hard it is for young Hispanics to avoid gang involvement by ignoring the harsh realities of an alien’s life in East Los Angeles. Staying out of gangs, even with a parent devoted to his child’s well being, is nearly impossible. The Los Angeles Police Department counts 1,400 gangs in the county alone, most of them violent like MS-13. Getting an education for many young Hispanics isn’t a priority no matter how much prodding they may get from adult role models. Hispanic high school dropout rates among both native and foreign-born are the nation’s highest.
These cruel but accurate realities should be included in immigration debates. The problem with introducing them to Hollywood elites is that everyone in the movie industry has a gardener, a housekeeper or a pool man who reflects the ideals A Better Life presents. But that’s a narrow, select portrait of the overall immigration picture.
Joe Guzzardi is a Senior Writing Fellow at Californians for Population Stabilization. His columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]