How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Because it's Friday: 'Machete'

I'm not a fan of gore by any means, but I can't wait to see this film. Any movie that is supposedly going to start a race war, according to one radio talk-show host, is something I have to see.

The film, which opens nationwide today, stars veteran Danny Trejo, he of the deeply etched facial skin and stringy long hair, as former Mexican cop who fled the cartels and now works as a day laborer in Texas. He is hired to assassinate a brazenly anti-immigrant senator (played by Robert De Niro), but the assassination goes awry and all hell breaks loose.

It has been lovingly labeled as "Mexploitation" by its director, Robert Rodriguez, a spinoff of a fake trailer in Rodriguez's earlier film "Grindhouse" that promises to be equally liberal with the blood and guts (at one point, the hero is said to escape from a hospital using tripas - yes, intestines - for rope). And while all I've seen are the trailers, the film appears to laugh at itself the entire way through.


Quote of the moment: A deported teenager, writing from Bangladesh

Photo by joiseyshowaa/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A traffic jam in Dhaka, Bangladesh, March 2008

"I do not know the language and I fear going outside because I am different from everyone else. Speaking in English is an easy way to be targeted here. We cannot afford to live in a safer area. I have not left the apartment for 8 months. It simply is too dangerous for me to leave the apartment unless my parents go with me. I cannot attend school due to the language barrier. I do not know anyone in Bangladesh.

"...Mr. President, you are the most powerful man in the world, all I ask from you is to bring me home."

- Saad Nabeel, arrived in the United States at age 3, recently deported at 18

Nabeel was removed to Bangladesh in November, along with his parents, who were trying to obtain green cards. His personal story appeared this week on the social-justice blog Citizen Orange as part of a series of posts written by undocumented students, titled "DREAM Now: Letters to Barack Obama."


Oral histories of Ellis Island go online

Photo courtesy of Erica Marshall/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A "buttonhook eye inspection" for infection eye diseases at Ellis Island

A collection of the oral histories of more than 1,700 immigrants who arrived through Ellis Island that was previously only available to visitors has gone online.

The collection has been up since yesterday at It's a collaboration with the National Park Service, which began recording the oral histories in the early 1970s and housing them at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. The interviewees were from numerous countries and ranged in age from 46 to 106 when they participated, relating memories about their immigrant experience and their adjustment to life in the United States.

More than 12 million immigrants were processed at the Ellis Island station, which was open between 1892 and 1954. The vast majority made it into the country, though some didn't.

Searches of's U.S. Immigration Collection, which also includes passenger and naturalization lists, will be free through Sept. 6. New York's WNYC featured clips from a couple of sample histories today.


In the immigrant detention system, female detainees face risks

Photo by Brennan Cavanaugh/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A participant in a rally outside a contractor-run immigrant detention center in New Jersey, March 2009

Earlier this month, I linked to a story out of Texas about a guard from an immigration detention facility being arrested for allegedly fondling female detainees. The only unusual thing about it was that he was arrested; the type of allegations made were not. Having reported on immigration for several years now, these kinds of stories are, unfortunately, not that uncommon.

In a report issued last week, Human Rights Watch compiled a list of sexual assault incidents, known and alleged, within the extensive network of immigration detention facilities under the auspices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the vast majority of the facilities operated by contractors.

The report points out how vulnerable female detainees are in what by and large remains a prison-like environment, despite federal government plans for reform. As has been pointed out when other problems have occurred in the detention system, i.e. poor medical care or overcrowding, oversight continues to be an issue. The Obama administration has made some changes after promising to overhaul the detention system, but the report maintains that oversight and accountability are still lacking.