October 13, 2000


We live in a big enough country that there are lots of laws too obscure for most of us to have heard of...but which actually affect tens of thousands of lives in huge ways. This show deals with one of them: A 1996 immigration law that the Immigration Service itself says is unfair. Most of the law's original sponsors in Congress now say they went too far, and that they were too harsh when they passed the law. And yet most of the law's key provisions still stand unchanged.


Host Ira Glass goes to jail in Bristol County, Massachussetts, where there's a large Portuguese community, and where even a law-and-order sheriff named Tom Hodgson opposes this particular immigration law. He also talks with inmate Jorge Aruda, who's being deported for a crime he already served his sentence for. (8 minutes)
Act One

Where Goes The Neighborhood

Producer Blue Chevigny tells more of the story from Bristol County, where the immigration law of 1996 has a community of non-political people reluctantly going to protests, attending meetings at night, talking to politicians, and doing all sorts of other things most of us would do anything to avoid. (16 minutes)
Act Two

Whose Idea Was This Anyway?

Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesman Bill Strassberger explains why INS opposes parts of the 1996 immigration law, even while it enforces it. Congressman Barney Frank—whose district includes Bristol County—argues that most of his colleagues in Congress had no idea what they were voting for when they voted for key portions of the law. And an advocate for the law, John Martin from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, explains why we actually should want to deport more people. (12 minutes)


“I'm Just A Bill” by Schoolhouse Rock
Act Three

Man Without A Country

What happens if the immigration service wants to deport you, but the country you came from won't take you back? Under current law, usually, you stay in jail...indefinitely. Writer Alex Kotlowitz tells the story of one legal alien from Vietnam, Trung Tran, and the unusually close and friendly relationships he and his fellow deportees have with their captors in a jail in Victoria, Texas. (18 minutes)