Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Drop Dead Diva, Deportation, and a Dream

Click here to watch the clip at mylifetime.com.

Drop Dead Diva, an original Lifetime program, is a scripted show about a young fashion model named Deb who dies in a car accident and comes back to life as Jane, an older, wiser, plumper attorney. The latest episode had a storyline about Jane's assistant, Terry (played by comedian Margret Cho), whose cousin, a young man that she and her mother raised from infancy, is arrested on a minor charge, found guilty of a misdemeanor, and ordered to return to South Korea, although he has lived in the U.S. his entire life and, until his arrest, did not know he was an illegal immigrant.

Because this is an uplifting show about human experience, the storyline has a happy ending when Jane, the young man's defender, finds a loophole discovering that her client's biological father was a North Korean and argues asylum. But reality is not as kind as prime time programming. In our real court system this young man would have been deported, or--if he had the means--been held in a detention center for an unknown amount of time as he fought for asylum. In our real court system, immigration hearings are never so neatly and happily tied up.

It is sad to think how many real stories begin much like this fictionalized one, but end very differently. There are infants and children brought into this country every day, without say or explanation. My own mother was brought into the country illegally as an infant by her parents, and she never understood why her father would leave her behind in L.A. every time he took her younger sister and brothers to visit family in Baja California. (She began to believe she wasn’t his daughter.) These things do happen, but unfortunately they happen to people who don’t have the luck of fictional T.V. characters who can afford high class lawyers. No, the real world is much much harsher.

Perhaps the result of Drop Dead Diva’s immigration storyline is unbelievable, but it is good to see a prime time show presenting a story on immigrant rights through a recurring character (Cho) that the audience has connected with. And also, that the story focused on a Korean American family because we are all connected in these stories.

If you are interested in immigrant rights for children of immigrants you can check out the Dream Act and sign a petition here, or get active here.

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