Recently, PBS produced an hour long documentary called Lost in Detention, which is freely available online. The film takes a critical look at the Obama Administration’s increased and aggressive enforcement of immigration policy, specifically through the lens of the Secure Communities Act and the system of detention centers. Under this administration, some 400,000 people have been deported this year, with more than one million deportations since 2008. These deportations often involve taking migrants to a network of more than 250 detention centers where they are often not afforded access to attorneys, and sometimes met with racial, physical, and sexual abuse that is often given no voice.
A visit to the US border sparked an interest in immigration which has driven me to learn more. I know about secure communities and about the detention centers. I know vaguely of the stories of people affected by both, and know that, with just a little effort on my part, I could find a multitude of impacts here in Omaha as well. But sometimes college and work and life get in the way of my knowing these stories – of taking seriously the suffering of my neighbors just a mile or two south on 24th street and all around me. The policies put in place by officials in my, in our name and the name create an environment of fear and objectification of people should be something which gives rise to a sacred indignation.
In an election year, especially one set in the backdrop of an upwelling and divergent political consciousness spurred by the occupy movement and other social factors, real discourse about policy – including immigration – must be taken seriously. Dr. Gary Segura, a professor of political science as Stanford University, says in the film that “there is no chance of comprehensive immigration reform in the current environment. Part of our responsibility as voters and citizens is to shape our environment towards a more just reality; part of our responsibility is to make reform a real part of our government’s agenda.
The immigration issue is largely one of misinformation – both innocuously and intentionally – and so knowing what our elected officials and our own government is doing is critical in ensuring justice for all people – justice for our neighbors. This film is an important step in this personal conscientization, in this awareness of the reality of our own context and in the ability to name that reality. Justice involves not only personal service and remediation of injustice at the level of the individual – it also requires us to see the reality of the world as it is, and judge that reality in the light of ethics and the Gospel. That drives us to act, to change the structures which create the suffering and denies people their dignity. That action must flow from a continuum of awareness and reflection, and this film can play an important role in elucidating some of the structural injustice present in our own context in our own time. Take the hour to watch this. Then take the time to ground what it says in what you believe.