Greater New Haven scenes play role in new video that appeals to Obama to halt deportations

The New Haven Register reported the following:

A video showing immigrants at work and with their families, part of an appeal to the Obama administration to halt deportations, features scenes and faces that will be familiar to residents of Greater New Haven. Kica Matos, director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Community Change, and media consultant Frank Chi, put the piece together originally to counter the harsh references to immigrants made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

She said Chi’s video will now serve the purpose of rallying advocates to stop the administration from targeting the last big wave of immigrants, many of them women and children, who came here in summer of2014 to escape the violence in Central America.

In “Felipe’s Letter,” U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Chicago, can be heard reciting parts of a letter written by Felipe Montes to his three young sons, who were left behind when he was picked up by Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials in North Carolina on traffic violations and deported in 2010.
“The best memory that I have in my life is being with you and your mother,” Montes wrote to them. “I never wanted to leave you,” he said, explaining what happens when you don’t have the correct immigration papers. As the narrative continues there are scenes of immigrants in New Haven at Diner 91 on Middletown Avenue, at a bus stop at Grand Avenue and Ferry Street; wiring money home at a mom and pop store on Ferry Street, as well as children playing at a Wilbur Cross High School basketball court.

The day care sequence was shot at El Buen Camino in West Haven, while the workers in a restaurant were at Lao Sze Chuan in Milford. “I want to see you become good men, good people. That’s what I want for you — the best in the world,” Montes wrote. “I love you and my family before and after anything else. My family is my life.”

There was much press coverage of Montes’ case when his wife was unable to care for the children and North Carolina moved to take away Montes’ parental rights and keep his American citizen children in foster care. Montes didn’t see his children for two years, but a judge ultimately granted him custody and the children, ages 7, 5 and 4, now live with him in Mexico. Matos said more than 2 million undocumented immigrants have been deported since 2009. “Deportation has a devastating impact on kids who end up in foster care situations,” she said. The civil rights activist said Montes’ case “speaks to the real pain of family separation.”

Matos said the scenes in the video are of real people living their lives here who agreed to be filmed when approached by Matos, Chi and John Lugo of Unidad Latina en Accion, who heads a local advocacy organization. “We are using it (Montes’ story) as a portal to show what immigrants lives are like. There is no unique concept,” Chi said. He said the media will often talk in abstractions, while he criticized Trump for “demonizing” immigrants. “We are responding to hate with love,” Chi said.

The film maker was critical of President Barack Obama for failing to advance immigration reform generally and “for going through his seven years in office and barely mentioning immigration,” referring to his State of the Union address. He said they wanted to bring the lives of immigrants back into focus. “Felipe’s Letter” will appear in English and Spanish in the Reform Immigration for America Facebook page on Thursday. Viewers will be asked to call the White House to urge the president to change his latest deportation push.

Matos has been outspoken in her criticism of lack of immigration reform, and in a recent piece in The Hill, wrote about immigrants who were murdered when they were deported back to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The Guardian has put that figure at 83 immigrants killed since January 2014 after they were returned to Central America. She compared the federal policy to the refusal of the U.S. government in 1939 to accept over 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany aboard the ship SS St. Louis.

Matos has lived in New Haven for more than a decade, leading Junta for Progressive Action for five years and working in city government as deputy mayor for community service for two years before holding a host of positions in philanthropic and civil rights organizations. She is also the spokeswoman for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement. Chi immigrated to New Haven from China with his parents and went to school here from age 7 to 18. His video for Black Lives Matter, which features Langston Hughes’ 1938 poem, “Kids Who Die,” and is narrated by actor Danny Glover, has had almost 2.5 million hits. Chi said he has been in D.C. for eight years working on progressive media.