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Birdman’s director uses the Oscar stage to defend immigrants’ rights in the United States
Translated by Carolina Van Moorsel
Published on February 25, 2015
In the very last part of the 2015 edition of the Oscars, Mexican national Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
He became the most influential Spanish speaking movie director Upon receiving four Oscars for the
movie Birdman in the ceremony. While making his speech in the stage of the most important prize in
the movie industry, Inarritu used in his favor the wide range of the event and dedicated his speech to
defending the rights of his fellow countrymen who live under bad circumstances in the United States.
“And the ones that live in this country who are part of the latest generation of immigrants in this
country, I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came
before and build this incredible immigrant nation”, he said. He hit a grand slam. The immigration issue is
one of the main concerns of the Obama administration.
In November 2014, the American president announced a plan of immigration reform that will protect
around 5 million foreigners without proper documentation in the country, allowing them to study or to
work in the country, without risking deportation. The applicant cannot have previous criminal
convictions, has to live in the United States for more than five years and has to have a child who is an
American citizen. For the young immigrants, they have live in the country since before they completed
16 years old. A research made by The Wall street Journal showed that 57% of the American population
is in favor of a path for citizenship for undocumented immigrants. This number goes up to 74% if the
immigrants will be held accountable to the taxes they owe.
These new rules, which were about to respond to some important concerns raised by undocumented
immigrants in the past years, were temporarily suspended on January 26 by a federal judge in Texas. The
judge ruled that Obama could not change immigration law using an executive action without consulting
the American Congress. The presidency responded by appealing this decision. “I believe that the law and
history are in our favor”, said Obama.
The Pew Research Center estimates that 11 million people live without proper immigration
documentation in the United States, the vast majority being Latin-American – including many Brazilians.
At least 60% of them live in six states: California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas. Almost half of
them are from Mexico and work low-pay jobs, which Americans don’t want.
Since Obama became president in 2008, almost two million undocumented immigrants were deported.
A big parcel of this number is due to the arrest of many people that committed crimes and that are
considered “national security threats”. In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security deported 438
thousand people – a new record. While the appeal is pending, the president intends to reprioritize
deportations, protecting kids, youth and families.
It is interesting to see that while Obama is fighting in Congress and in the Senate to get the support of
republicans – who are conservative on immigration issues to allegedly protect the job market and of the
“proper” American culture – to pass an immigration law, a movie director as Inarritu is using his own
“megaphone” to raise awareness to the issue. This is not to say that artists are obligated to engage in
humanitarian causes. However, people as Alejandro do have a guaranteed space in the media and it is
very valuable when they use this space to speak about homosexuality, gender inequality, racism and
bullying, for example.
Events like the Oscars (watched and overly commentated in more than 100 countries) win social and
political attention when the focus migrates from the actresses’ dresses and the unfortunate jokes made
by presenters. They can then become a space that helps creating a powerful dialogue that demands
answers from politics and defends basic rights of human beings.