Video: Countering Hate with Humor in the Immigration Debate

By Will Coley 4-18-2008

The "Haters" know how to use the Internet effectively, or at least that's what recent research by the Opportunity Agenda has shown in relation to immigration reform.

As an immigrant rights advocate, I was bothered by the recent results of a scan the New-York-based organization did of the immigration debate on the "Social Web" (i.e. social networks, YouTube, and the blogosphere). While I believe that many Americans "welcome strangers in their midst," the researchers at the Opportunity Agenda found that on the Web, anti-immigrant supporters and rhetoric outnumbered pro-immigrant activity by a ratio of two-to-one. This also found that most keyword searches produced more results for anti-immigrant than pro-immigrant activism.

You may have seen this in action: those making the most noise in the current national discussion about immigration often sound angry, indignant and outraged. Check out CNN or Fox News almost any day of the week and you'll see what I mean. So when the Opportunity Agenda and then the National Council of La Raza confirmed what I've seen in action on a daily basis, I knew I had to do my part.

One of the wonders of today's Social Web (or "Web 2.0 technology") is the infinite opportunity for collaboration. Through social networking online and off, I was able to gather talented folks with script-writing, filmmaking and acting skills and voila we pulled together a video. (Living in Los Angeles, where creative endeavor is in the air, didn't hurt either.) The result, "Thru the Plexiglass," is a humorous video short that follows a fictional documentary filmmaker/reporter on a visit to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office where he encounters a world lost in time. We chose the 1980s since that was the last time that the bulk of pro-immigrant reforms took place. By making it funny, I hoped that viewers would like it enough to share it with their friends and give it wings (or make it "viral" as they say). Now, more than 11,000 views later, it looks like we may be on to something:

We submitted the video to the Movement Vision Lab for their video contest on immigration and community values. They selected "Thru the Plexiglass" as their "breakthrough video." The overall winner of the contest "Arivaca: Life on the Border" shows a community that appreciates and values their immigrant neighbors. Perhaps the most touching part of the video is how one interviewee challenges us to ask, "What would Jesus do?" when meeting people crossing the desert from Mexico:

We encourage you to check out the videos, share them, and then make your own. As people of faith who respect the rights our immigrant neighbors, it's time to make our voices heard!

Will Coley is the founder of Aquifer Media, and has been an advocate and organizer with immigrants and refugees.

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