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’Documented’ prompts immigration talk

Documented panel

A panel discussion about immigration took place after the screening of Documented on September 30. From left: Kelly Bates of the Elma Lewis Center, immigration attorney Matthew Cameron; Justin Nguyen Phuoc of the Student Immigration Movement; and Journalism faculty member Cindy Rodriguez. (Photo by Michelle Kwong '15)

As a part of the Bright Lights Series, Emerson College hosted a screening and discussion on September 30 of the 2013 documentary film Documented, which chronicles the life of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who publicly revealed that he is an undocumented immigrant.

The film brings to life the daily obstacles and discrimination faced by undocumented people in America. 

documented poster

Following the screening was an intense panel discussion concerning immigration rights and work. The panelists were Matt Cameron, a Boston immigration attorney; Justin Nguyen Phuoc of the Student Immigration Movement; and Cindy Rodriguez, senior journalist-in-residence in Emerson’s Journalism program. The moderator was Kelly Bates, executive director of Emerson’s Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement, Learning, and Research.

Phuoc, an undocumented immigrant who was born in Vietnam, explained that like many others who migrate to America, he came in search of more opportunities to secure a brighter future.


Justin Nguyen Phuoc (Photo by Michelle Kwong '15)

“When I came to the U.S., I had a lot of big dreams and big hopes. Like Jose, I dropped everything that is Viet and absorbed all that is American,” said Phuoc.  Currently a senior at the Community Academy of Science and Health, a public high school in Boston, Phuoc faces the challenge of not being able to attend college and secure the future he aspires to have.  

“I am undocumented and I can’t really go to college and I can’t really pay for that,” he said.

The obstacles that undocumented immigrants such as Vargas, Phuoc, and others face are one reason why Rodriguez says we should “care about people who are marginalized.”

As a journalist who covers various issues pertaining to immigration rights, Rodriguez said, “I’ve always been drawn to issues related to people who deserve better.”

Cameron, the immigration lawyer, said he realized right out of law school the need for immigrant services in the East Boston community, which he says consists of a population that is approximately 50 percent foreign born.

“I was watching people get deported. I was seeing inequity that I couldn’t believe,” he said.


Matt Cameron, a Boston immigration attorney. (Photo by Michelle Kwong '15)

While Cameron admits that the system is getting better, he still recognizes that there is a need for “real reform.”

The panelists agree there is a need to change the narrative of immigration so that this large population of people can receive the benefits and opportunities that they came seeking in the United States. 

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