Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Immigrant experience: In their own words

Currently there are approximately 36million immigrants living in the United States. They make up 12.4% of the total population yet many native born Americans know little of their lives and experiences. Recently, as political debate has raged over reforming our current immigration laws, much of the focus has been placed on the approximately 12mil immigrants who currently live here without proper documentation. While this debate has been emotional and divisive, often ripe with misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric from both sides, one group that has been left out of the discussion is the immigrant. We have not heard much from the 36million living in our mist. We know little of their daily lives, the problems they face and how they have worked to overcome them. Yet their voice is an important one that needs to be heard when discussing this issue.

In an effort to bring these voices into the debate, KQED Public Broadcasting has produced the documentary, "Immigrant Voices-American Stories" that will be airing Friday November 24th at 7:30PM. Featuring the stories of eight diverse individuals, the half hour documentary attempts to paint a more complex portrait of the immigrant experience.

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As part of KQED's new eighteen month initiative to examine immigration through a series of programs, special reports and events surrounding the complex issue, "Immigrant Voices" is the first in a series of documentaries to be featured in the "Immigration in Focus" series.

Using all of the various media platforms available to them, including television, radio, the internet and their educational network, KQED is hoping that the "Immigration in Focus" programming will encourage their viewers and listeners to broaden their perspectives on immigration issues and engage individuals who are often left out of the discussion.

"Immigrant Voices- American Stories" features the stories of eight different immigrants, all from different countries and cultures. They represent various states of legal status, from the undocumented to Legal Permanent Residents and those with temporary work visas to those who have become citizens. Yet each one of these immigrants faces their own unique set of challenges and obstacles as they try to maneuver through the complex maze of the US immigration system. They also deal with other problems inherent to new arrivals; finding safe and affordable housing, trying to maintain cultural and social ties within their communities while making the transition to a new environment, or fighting for their rights in the workplace. Told in their own words, their stories are compelling and thought provoking, revealing aspects and issues often left out of the greater political debate over immigration and immigration reform.

The "Immigration in Focus" programming will not be the first time KQED has addressed the issue of immigration, but it will be the first time the public broadcaster will be utilizing all its various media platforms to work together in hopes shedding light on a single topic.

In addition to its documentaries, KQED will be featuring other TV programming such as regular roundtable discussions about immigration and analysis of the latest immigration news. Its radio stations, which include 88.5FM in San Francisco and 89.3FM in Sacramento, will be airing special programming covering the process of becoming a US citizen and what citizenship means, audio essays allowing individuals in the immigrant community to tell their personal stories, and expanded news coverage of immigration issues.

This will all be accompanied by a simultaneous outreach effort of their education network. They will be partnering with community coalitions, immigrant organizations, policy makers, employers and educational groups to foster understanding of the immigration issue through public screenings and discussion guides. They will also have standards-based educational materials for classroom use by 2007.

Their website, will feature on-demand streaming of all of their programming from the various media sources along with original interactive content.

This effort represents one of the first times a major broadcaster will be committing this kind of effort and resources to the issue of immigration and immigration reform. Over the eighteen month period they will be presenting a wide spectrum of views on the topic from the voices of individual immigrants to discussions with experts and activists on both sides of the debate. Given the quality and objectivity of current offerings we've seen on the subject from other broadcasters, KQED's work represents a welcome change. Hopefully others will follow their lead and start offering their viewers and listeners more meaningful information and discussion of this important issue.

"Immigrant Voices – American Stories" will air Friday November 24th at 7:30PM. It will be available for viewing via on-demand stream at www.kqed.or/immigrationinfocus immediately following the show. Archives of past immigration programming are also available at the site

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