It’s no secret that the US immigration system can be deeply unjust, with one of its major flaws being the deportation of individuals who have already served their time for past offenses — or committed very minor/no crime at all (check out Sentenced Home to learn how this issue has impacted the Northwest Cambodian American community specifically). Usually, these individuals have deep roots in America and no familial, cultural, or language ties to the “home country” they are being deported to. These punitive immigration policies also go hand-in-hand with American’s expanding multi-billion dollar prison industry, which has a built-in incentive to pack jails with “criminal” immigrants in order to grow profits.
This contemporary human rights issue is well demonstrated in the case of Eddy Zheng, a beloved Bay Area youth advocate and leader who is under threat of deportation, after serving 19 years for a crime committed when he was 16. A documentary called BREATHIN’: The Eddy Zheng Story is being made to raise awareness not only of Eddy’s inspiring history, but around the larger issue of the criminalization of immigrants and people of color. According to the film’s Kickstarter page:
The U.S. currently imprisons over 2.3 million people, making it the world’s leading jailer. Contrary to notions of a “model minority,” the Asian and Pacific Islander American prison population grew 250% between 1990 and 2000. Unfortunately for many immigrants, all “non-citizen aliens” who commit an aggravated felony or crime of moral turpitude are mandatorily deportable, even if they immigrated to the U.S. legally or with refugee status. Between 1998 and 2006, there was a 61.6% rise in total deportations of people of Asian nationalities. Despite the growing trend of incarceration and deportation for many Asian Americans, these individuals have largely remained invisible in public policy, media, and in their own communities.
Recently released from prison after serving over 20 years for a robbery he committed at age 16, Eddy Zheng is now at risk of deportation to China. By exploring Eddy’s personal journey from incarcerated prisoner to a valued community leader in the Bay Area, BREATHIN’ seeks to uncover important social and political issues concerning the rising number of imprisoned Asian Americans, many of whom will be deported after completing their prison sentences. Using intimate interviews with Eddy and his family, friends and colleagues, the film aims to draw viewers into Eddy’s world and challenge assumptions they may have about immigrants, prisoners, and deportees.
Definitely a worthy project to support. The filmmaker and producers have only 12 days (until Oct 1st) and about $4,000 left to raise towards their goal of $15,000. The film will only be funded if this amount is pledged. Help them reach their goal and tell Eddy’s story here.