NIRV Topic: Immigrants at Work
How do new immigrants and refugees adjust to work life in America and contribute to the economy and workforce? For many the image of the American dream that they came with is very different than the American economic and social reality they face once they arrive.
Here are three films from the New Immigrant and Refugee Visions (NIRV) collection – films by and about immigrants – that highlight immigrants at work. Before you watch them, please review the “Questions-to-consider…” below the films.
- Pulse of a Dream, by Mubarak Muwonge Nsamba, 11 min – Mubarak and his wife just arrived with their four children from Uganda and need work. Their Ugandan community helps them get jobs in health care but what about the professions they were trained in, IT and library sciences?
- Borrowing Fire, by Kebrewosen Densamo, 13 min – Yonas, a recent immigrant from Ethiopia, is a business man with a religious zeal. He is a evangelical pastor and the owner of a gas station and coffee shop – all put to the use of helping his community.
- The Arranger, by Wilson Thelimo Louis, 9 min – The Haitian community in the Mattapan and Hyde Park neighborhoods of Boston is almost completely self dependent, a condition common to many immigrant communities. The support they give each other helps families adjust and thrive. It also inhibits assimilation into the larger culture.
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Editor: Zayde Buti; Additional Editor: Heather Cassano
Emigrated from Uganda in 2017, lives in Lowell, MA
Mubarak studied forestry in Uganda, but worked in IT, website design and digital filmmaking. His wife, Zaamu, studied Library Sciences and worked as an academic librarian. They applied for and won the Diversity Green Card lottery, which allowed them to come with their four young children to the US.
About the issues raised in the film:
- The New American Economy, “Working Immigrants at Risk of COVID-19,” April 3, 2020 – Many immigrants serve as frontline medical and essential workers in our nation’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. These roles often put them at a much higher exposure to disease and a higher risk of infection.
- WGBH, “Current Immigration Laws Are Preventing Foreign Doctors From Helping During Pandemic, Expert Says,” by Arjun Singh, April 1, 2020
- The Guardian, “We Ugandans are used to lockdowns and poor healthcare. But we’re terrified,” by Patience Akumu, March 29, 2020
About Immigrants and Work in the US:
- Immigrants and the economy in the US (PDF)
- Immigrants and the American economy (New American Economy)
- Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions (Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy)
- Work in the United States, Introduction to Sociology (Lumin Learning)
Editor: Lydia Eccles; Additional Editor: Jorgy Cruz
Emigrated from Ethiopia in 2001, lives in Cambridge, MA
Kebrewosen has a degree in public health and works at Boston Children’s Hospital. Arriving in the United States in 2001 as a young girl, she has a special understanding of the challenges for youth in migration. She is actively involved with her local cable access station and hopes to use documentary filmmaking to integrate her love of film and her infectious desire to help people.
- Pew Research Lab, “Immigrants and Religion – data on the religious composition of immigrants”
- The Atlantic, “Tearing Down the Myth of the Rural White Voter,” by Emma Green, September 2, 2019
- Baptist News Global, “These pastors see rural America — and its churches — as a growing mission field,” by Jeff Brumley, January 18, 2020
Editor: Zayde Buti
Emigrated from Haiti in 2016, lives in Hyde Park, MA
Thelimo is a poet and activist immersed in Haitian literature, social issues and politics. He studied law in Haiti and had a paralegal fellowship in Boston. As he pursues further studies he continues to volunteer and use his skills in a variety of jobs.
About the issues raised in the film:
- WGBH, “Undocumented Immigrants Face Coronavirus, Job Loss With No Safety Net,” by Liz Neisloss, March 26, 2020
- Dorchester Reporter, “A scramble for shopkeepers to make do amidst crisis across Dot neighborhoods,” by Daniel Sheehan, March 25, 2020
- Bay State Banner, “Haitians face uncertainty with end to TPS,” by Maya Gacina & Michael Danescu, December 26, 2019
- Boston.com, “Stress and uncertainty are daily burden for Haitians in Boston with temporary protected status while courts weigh program’s future,” by Dialynn Dwyer, October 4, 2019
Questions to Consider While Watching These Films
- Do you work in the same industry as most of your friends and family or is this a unique and acceptable aspect of the immigrant experience?
- Are immigrants increasing or decreasing economic growth and opportunity in the United States and how does this impact you?
- What stood out to you? What will you tell your friends about?
- What did you relate to? What reminded you of things in your own life?
- What felt unfamiliar, new or surprising?
- What do you want to change in your community after “meeting” these immigrants and learning about their experiences? (e.g., Individual behaviors? Public policies? Local media perspectives of your immigrant neighbors?)