Ira tells the story of how Oscar Ramirez, a Guatemalan immigrant living near Boston, got a phone call with some very strange news about his past. A public prosecutor from Guatemala told Oscar that when he was three years old, he may have been abducted from a massacre at a village called Dos Erres.
Last Summer, Alabama passed HB56, the most sweeping immigration bill in the country. It's an example of a strategy called "attrition through enforcement" or, more colloquially, "self-deportation"--making life so hard on undocumented immigrants that they choose to leave the country.
Foreigners arrive in the United States believing all kinds of misinformation about us...misinformation that turns out to be true. Mary Wiltenburg tells the story.
Reporter Mary Wiltenburg tells the story of a little boy stymied by the question "Where do you come from?" (8 minutes)
This American Life contributor Jack Hitt uncovers a strange practice within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
Host Ira Glass talks to reporter John Bowe about the story of John Nash Pickle, who ran a company in Tulsa, Oklahoma that made steel tanks used in the oil industry. According to 52 Indian men whom Pickle hired and brought to America, Pickle was trying to compete with foreign companies, doing something most companies never try.
We continue the story of John Pickle. He hires skilled, experienced welders in India and brings them to the United States.
Reporter Douglas McGray interviews a college student in California with good grades, an excellent work ethic, but no possible way to get a legal job. She's lived in the U.S. since she was little, but her parents are undocumented; and she is, too.
Just near the US-Mexico border, a group of self described "pissed off patriots" called the Minutemen stake out illegal immigrants trying to cross the border. They've got call-signs and walkie-talkies and guns.
It took almost a month for Eli Ramirez to make it to this country. A native of Guatemala, he was smuggled through Mexico in the transport tank of a fuel truck, he was stranded in the desert, and forced to drink his own urine to survive.
When Muhammad Kamran's Pakistani parents sent him off to college in Philadelphia, it was understood that he'd come back to Karachi after four years. But now that graduation is almost here, Muhammad thinks he might want to stay in America.
Host Ira Glass tells the story of Marisela and Yadira, who were honors students in high school. They wanted to go to the best colleges, but they couldn't get federally-funded scholarships because they weren't U.S. citizens; they had come from Mexico when they were little.
When she was three years old, Georgia was caught by immigration officials when a Milwaukee woman tried to bring her into the country illegally from Jamaica. She ended up at a residential detention center in Chicago.
In the war on terror, the government is rounding up foreigners, checking their immigration status, and then, sometimes, deporting them. It won't give out their names.
Al Jurczynski is the mayor of Schenectady, New York. For the past year, he's embarked on a strange recruitment campaign, to convince Guyanese immigrants living in Queens, New York, to move upstate to Schenectady.
Ira talks with Lee Qi, who came to America from China. He worked in Chinese restaurants in small towns, live in tiny apartments with other illegal immigrants who worked there as well—apartments that were sometimes in the back of the restaurants.
Sylvia becomes the first person in her Mexican-American family to go away to college, at a predominantly white school in upstate New York.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Keith Gessen, a young Russian emigre, revisits the heroes of his youth: the brave Soviet dissidents who risked their lives at the height of the Cold War. Many of them resettled into comfortable suburban lives in America.
How California Governor Pete Wilson's anti-immigrant policies found some supporters among immigrants themselves. We hear an explanation of the profoundly idealistic notion of "self-deportation" from its main proponent, Daniel D.
Writer Achy Obejas reads a piece of short fiction from her book, We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? (11 minutes)