I guess it’s not surprising. I didn’t think that the White House would actually invite this group to present their concerns about the issue of deportation to officials in the Obama Administration. Our government isn’t that open to discussing topics that it would rather ignore. Especially since it’s election year, ya know.
Well, the fact that it’s a decisive year for Obama was actually recently doing some good with regards to the issue of deportation – at least, compared to his first three years, in which his administration deported a record-number of undocumented immigrants. About 1.2 million, in fact. But apparently the administration realized that they could lose the votes of communities of color if this continued. According to Syracuse University, deportation cases between October and December 2011 fell by 33 percent compared to the previous quarter.
So when the video, My Asian Americana (which tells the stories of Khmer Exiled Americans who were deported from the US to a country they had never seen), was selected as the top 11 finalists in the White House’s “What’s Your Story?” Video Challenge back in February, I thought, maybe the White House is finally ready to start talking about this issue. The Video Challenge invited the public to vote for their favorite video to determine which of the finalists will be invited to the White House to “share their stories in person with officials from President Obama’s administration.” And according to Colorlines, My Asian Americana earned the most votes “by a landslide.” So the creators (and organization called Studio Revolt) excitedly waited for the invitation to the White House. But it never came. In fact, the video has disappeared from the White House’s website altogether.
In response, Studio Revolt has written a Memo of Mishandling:
Our communities will not be silenced on this issue. We have all suffered tremendously since the first deportation to Cambodia took place in 2002. It is nearly 10 years now and thousands of Cambodian, Vietnamese, Laotian, and Hmong families suffer from fractured homes and lives as a result of continued deportation of their loved ones, categorized as “criminal aliens” by the government… We also know that you have completely disregarded the public vote in selecting the final winners, which was not in the original contest guidelines. “My Asian Americana” won the public vote. This entire contest has been mishandled without transparency or regard for a democratic process, ideas usually cherished by the Obama administration and most Americans.
I wonder if the White House will respond? It’s a pity that this had to happen, because I think that the White House’s Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is AWESOME. And I’m super excited for the groups who did receive the invitations to speak to the Obama administration. I’ve watched all the videos – and every one of them represent a voice from the APIA community that needs to be taken into account by our government.
Just so you know, this post isn’t meant to downplay the importance of the other videos; just to point out the silencing that still exists in our political system.