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"Immigration Reform: Past, Present and Future" Theme of Film and Panel at Pomona College, April 18-19

Film still from "The Senate Speaks"

Film still from "The Senate Speaks"

Pomona College will host a sneak preview film screening and a panel on “Immigration Reform: Past, Present and Future,” on April 18 and 19, at the College’s Smith Campus Center (170 E. Sixth St., Claremont).  The events are sponsored by the Faculty Executive Committee.

On Wednesday, April 18, the College will screen The Senate Speaks, the yet-to-be released 11th film in the How Democracy Works series by director/producers Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson. The setting for The Senate Speaks is January 2006. The House had just passed the toughest anti-amnesty, enforcement-only immigration bill in history. Immigrants felt targeted, and "Sensenbrenner" (Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner, the bill's sponsor) became a household word for Latinos. Then the Senate tackled immigration reform. Millions of people across the country took to the streets, marching until a bipartisan compromise went to the Senate floor. In Los Angeles, the crowd was estimated to be more than 500,000 people. But leaders in both parties seemed to want an election issue, not a bill. A compromise bill finally came together in the Senate and passed, but the clock ran out for a conference committee. The film screening will begin at 8:30 p.m. and be held in the Rose Hills Theatre (lower level of the Smith Campus Center).

On Thursday, April 19, the Faculty Executive Committee presents a panel on “Immigration Reform: Past, Present and Future,” beginning at 4:15 p.m. in Room 208 of the Campus Center. The panelists are:

Esther Olavarria - a counselor at the Department of Homeland Security, advising the Administration on immigration policy matters. She previously served as deputy assistant secretary for policy at DHS, a senior advisor at the UNHRC–the UN Refugee Agency, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and, from 1998 to 2007, she was chief immigration counsel to Sen. Edward Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, advising him on immigration law and policy matters before the Immigration Subcommittee. Born in Havana and raised in Florida, she began her career as an immigration attorney in Miami, FL, co-founded the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (now Americans for Immigrant Justice) and worked at Legal Services of Greater Miami, directing the American Immigration Lawyers Association Pro Bono Project, and at the Haitian Refugee Center.

Stuart Anderson - executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan public policy research organization focusing on trade, immigration and related issues. He previously served as executive associate commissioner for policy and planning and counselor to the Commissioner at the Immigration and Naturalization Service; spent four and a half years on Capitol Hill on the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, first for Sen. Spencer Abraham and then as staff director of the subcommittee for Sen. Sam Brownback. Prior to that, Stuart was director of trade and immigration studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., where he produced reports on the military contributions of immigrants and the role of immigrants in high technology. He is the author of the book Immigration (Greenwood, 2010).

• Filmmakers Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini – director/producers of the 12-film series How Democracy Works. The veteran filmmakers, who had recently completed Well-Founded Fear, about political asylum in the U.S., was looking for a new project when the news started to focus on the possibility of a big, almost revolutionary reform of America’s entire immigration system. “The new President wanted it, and so did a surprising group of other powerful people,” says Robertson. “There was a sense…that the growing immigrants rights movement, like the civil rights movement 40 years earlier, might again transform the country.” Their goal with the film, because at the time they thought it would be just one, was to “create a window into the process of creating social change and how it meshed with the machinery of politics in the United States.” So, in summer 2001, they started work on a story about how a great think tank idea becomes a law. The result was a series of 12 discrete films about several dozen people in all kinds of places, each connected by a commitment to change the way the United States handles the issue of immigration. An excerpt or short excerpts from The Senate Speaks will be included during the panel presentation.

Following the two-hour panel, the College will host a dinner to continue the conversation more informally. People who wish to attend the dinner must RSVP to (909) 621-8137 or email The dinner will be held in the Smith Campus Center Edmunds Ballroom.

All three events are open to the faculty, staff and students of The Claremont Colleges and members of the public. There is no cost to attend any of the three events. Numbers are limited by the size of the rooms.