“My Asian Americana” features young men and women wrapped in or flanked by the American flag, recounting memories about home, such as leaves changing color in New Hampshire, baseball games at Fenway Park and fireworks on the Fourth of July. Some were born in refugee camps and had never been to Cambodia before.
All of the deportees featured in the video were removed because they had criminal records. Many were deported years after serving their sentences, they said. The Obama administration sought to focus deportations on migrants with criminal records but has been criticized for casting a wide net. In recent months, administration officials announced efforts to ease deportations for those who meet certain criteria; the scope of those efforts is still unclear.
In the video, the deportees recite things they miss about the U.S.: Thanksgiving, apple pie, “my La-Z-Boy recliner,” “sitting there watching the game … with all the guys while my sisters and mom cook in the kitchen.”
“I am an exiled American, and I can’t go home,” they say.
The film, among more than 200 submitted, was picked as a finalist by a selection committee that included people with a background in film. After the finalists were announced, the White House said in a video on its website that viewers would help pick winners by watching the videos and voting. But which videos received the most votes was never made clear, Ali, Sugano and others who participated in the contest said.
Ali and Sugano kept track of YouTube hits to gauge the popularity of their video. Before the contest ended, “My Asian Americana” had 12,000 views, they said.
The pair received an e-mail in March, informing them and other finalists that the voting period had concluded and promising an assessment of the count by the following week, Ali and Sugano said. A few days later, they received a short e-mail informing them they had not won. Out of the 11 finalists, the makers of six videos were invited to the White House.
The White House honored the winners earlier this month at an event called “Champions of Change,” one in a series of such events meant to honor people making a difference in their communities. Winners included Kim, a spoken word artist, organizers of a Philadelphia sports program, a teacher and her immigrant students, gay and lesbian outreach workers, and an illustrator.
What do you think?