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9500 Liberty, a documentary film by Annabel Park and Eric Byler, premiered in San Francisco this past Thursday. Hosted by Citizen Hope, NDN and Netroots Nation, and attended by several city officials, it promised to pack a punch. After a three hour grueling commute with detours in the Bay Area, I made it to the screening just in time.
Named after the block on which one resilient immigrant resides, the award-winning documentary traces how imported anti-immigrant legislation in Prince William County in Virginia, tore apart the community, leading to a mass exodus of immigrants, which hurt even the biggest opponents of immigration. Curiously, the movie shows how a blogger (Greg Letiecq from BVBL) working with larger anti-immigration national organizations influenced the Board of County Supervisors in Prince Williams to enforce a legislation supporting immigration checks carried out by local law enforcement based on the shaky ground of ‘probable cause.’ Even as the immigrant community came out against the legislation, the board approved it unanimously. It was not till immigrants started to leave Prince Williams and devastated the local economy, that most people saw the error in the law and fought to repeal it.
9500 carries a message of hope, especially for new media. Eric and Annabel exposed the ongoing in Prince Williams through their Youtube Channel and became involved in overturning the law. A concerned Prince Williams resident decided to counter the hatred and vitriol spread by BVBL by forming Anti-BVBL.
However, the message for undocumented immigrants in 9500 Liberty is scary. Immigrants testified passionately in front of the city officials only to realize that the decision did not hinge on their public comments. Does that mean that no matter how passionately and intelligently we express ourselves, our voices do not matter? That does not bode well with students like Herta Llusho and Noe Guzman who just testified in Congress.
Do the most privileged need to feel the pain in order for things to change? In 9500 Liberty, it was not until Greg Letiecq from BVBL launched attacks on the popular Chief of Police Charlie T. Deane, that more non-immigrants started to question the sanity of the law. Exacting harm on immigrants was convenient until citizens saw their property values plummeting and businesses crashing. A friend commented later that in the national scheme of things, this would mean that the United States would have to spend billions in deporting all undocumented immigrants along with their legal immigrant families to realize the grave mistake of driving out immigrants, kicking out producers and consumers, only to entice them to come back. Is that the only way this country will heal and move forward on the question of immigration?
I hope not. Watch 9500 Liberty when it comes to your city. Let the healing begin.
Video Courtesy: 9500 Liberty