At the Hillman Prizes. Tuesday evening. May 1, 2012. Actor Danny Glover presented the prize for Web Journalism to Seth Freed-Wessler for the story he reported for Colorlines, Thousands of Kids Lost From Parents in U.S. Deportation System.
The headline says it all. When undocumented immigrants are swept up and sent “home,” any members of their families who are U.S. citizens stay here, because the know-nothings haven’t yet been able to write a law that makes it illegal to be related to anyone they hate. They’re working on it. They’re targeting “anchor babies.” The point here is, though, that anchor babies can’t be deported along with their parents because they’re citizens from the moment they’re born.
Their parents are allowed to take them with them when they leave (or more usually sent after them after they’ve been deported), provided a court approves. But people aren’t just swept up and sent home. They are “detained” while their cases are evaluated. That can take months. In some instances, years. So what happens to their children while they’re waiting?
Many of them disappear into a foster care system that’s not at all equipped, funded, or motivated to do the job of reunifying families it’s supposed to do.
As Freed-Wessler reported:
…at least 5,100 children whose parents are detained or deported are currently in foster care around the United States. That number represents a conservative estimate of the total, based on extensive surveys of child welfare case workers and attorneys and analysis of national immigration and child welfare trends. Many of the kids may never see their parents again.
These children, many of whom should never have been separated from their parents in the first place, face often insurmountable obstacles to reunifying with their mothers and fathers. Though child welfare departments are required by federal law to reunify children with any parents who are able to provide for the basic safety of their children, detention makes this all but impossible. Then, once parents are deported, families are often separated for long periods. Ultimately, child welfare departments and juvenile courts too often move to terminate the parental rights of deportees and put children up for adoption, rather than attempt to unify the family as they would in other circumstances.
It’s a heartbreaking story. And it infuriates Danny Glover. That’s why it meant so much for him to be here tonight, he said as he introduced Freed-Wessler, that he rushed over to the Times Center from the set of the movie he’s filming here in New York still in his make-up.
Naturally, my first thought on hearing this was, What movie is that?
A quick visit to his entry at imdb.com showed listed as currently filming a film called Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight. But you never know how up to date the entries are. So I confirmed it with him at the reception after the ceremonies.
Yes, the whole point of this post is to tell you how I met Danny Glover.
He’s a very pleasant and mild-mannered guy and he seemed glad I asked him about the movie because he’s having a good time making it. He really likes working with the director, Stephen Frears.
I asked him who was playing Ali.
Ali doesn’t appear as a character.
His greatest fight, according to the movie, which is being made for HBO, was before the United States Supreme Court and in that ring he slugged it out by proxy, through his lawyers.
Facing the draft during the Vietnam War, Ali applied for conscientious objector status on religious grounds, although he sounded as if his reasons were as much political as moral. Didn’t matter. The federal government was having none of it. They arrested him for evading the draft instead. His case worked its way up to the Supreme Court where it was decided in his favor when conservative Justice John Harlan changed his vote, deadlocking the court, four to four. (The Court was down a justice at the time of the decision.) Harlan was set to write the majority opinion and I’m guessing the focus of the movie is on Harlan’s struggles with his conscience as he argues himself into changing his decision.
Harlan is being played by Christopher Plummer.
Frank Langella’s playing Warren Burger.
Glover is playing Thurgood Marshall.
Photo by yours truly.