Picture Justice Tackles Immigration at Emotional Event
Picture Justice Tackles Immigration at Emotional Event

In the aftermath of the recent election, and with 41 million immigrants calling America home, issues dealing with immigration are more pressing than ever. To help people understand this important topic in more detail UNIS hosted "(un) Documented: A One-Day Symposium on Immigration and Human Rights in the U.S." on November 12, 2016.

The day began with a keynote speech by Angy Rivera of the New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC). Angy spoke on her experience of growing up as an undocumented immigrant in this country and her activism on immigration. Following Rivera's remarks, Ravi Ragbir of the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC powerfully spoke on the need for people to stand up against hatred and injustice at this critical moment.

After the speeches by Rivera and Ragbir, which were greeted by standing ovations, attendees went to workshops on topics such as:

  • Crossing on my Own: Unaccompanied Children - Safe Passage Project
  • Fast Track to Deportation: Criminalization of Immigrants - Families for Freedom
  • Displaced by Violence: Asylum Seekers - New Sanctuary Coalition
  • Reproductive Justice - National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
  • "Do I look dangerous to you?": Muslim Immigrant Experiences
  • LGBTQ+ Immigrant Experiences
  • Forced Migration and Trauma - NYSYLC
  • Undocumented, Unafraid and Unapologetic: Youth Activism Shaping Immigration Reform - New York State Youth Leadership Council
  • Black Immigrant Experiences - Black Alliance for Just Immigration
  • People Power: Students Organizing for Immigration Reform - NYSYLC

According to the Picture Justice director, Abby MacPhail, the day was very emotional but the topic could not be more timely or important, "for many at UNIS, this was the first time they had the chance to hear the personal stories of undocumented immigrants in the NYC and learn about their struggles and their victories. One parent told me that the day had helped her answer the 'what can I do' question that has been on all of our minds for the past few days."

Later in the day, attendees watched the performance of a play, based on the transcripts of interviews collected over the summer that told the real-life stories of individuals students had previously met with. Through the use of physical theater, the actors used movement to convey the emotion and moments within the stories of immigrants. For the actors the play was the culmination of a process that began with a three-day residency with internationally-acclaimed group Frantic Assembly.

The event was organized by Picture Justice 2016, which was a partnership between the UNIS, PROOF: Media for Social Justice, and the New York State Youth Leadership Council. Through their involvement in Picture Justice, students trained with photographers and met with lawyers and activists working on immigration reform. Participants in the program listened to and transcribed the stories of immigrants and took their portraits. They created a photo exhibit which was on display and their transcripts formed the basis of the play students performed.