FWD.us, Immigration Reform, and the Power of Video

On Tuesday, April 15th, ZEFR opened up its headquarters to host an event for FWD.us, an organization “started by key leaders in the tech community to promote policies to keep the United States and its citizens competitive in a global economy.”

The event marked the launch of their Los Angeles chapter and featured a panel discussing whether tech can rebuild the middle class and the American dream in the 21st century, with an emphasis on how immigration reform could be a part of the solution.

FWDus immigration video storytelling

The discussion was moderated by FWD.us founder and president Joe Green, who sat down with me before the event to talk about the importance of video in getting their message across:

“We do a ton of video. One of the things we’re really focused on is telling the individual human stories around immigration reform. So, we have a full time videographer, who’s awesome, named Lucas Waldron, and we’re constantly getting referred really interesting immigrant stories, including entrepreneurs, people who have been kicked out of the country… and with any of these issues, the more you understand the individual faces in the stories, the better. So video is a super important part of what we do.”

Green went on to tell the story of Alejandro Morales, a young undocumented immigrant who was brought to the United States when he was only seven months old. While I could easily enough tell you in text why Alejandro’s story is so incredible, I’ll let Alejandro tell you himself through this video from FWD.us’ YouTube channel:

“I just want an opportunity. I just want a chance to show everyone out there that I am American, and I will honorably serve this county wearing a Marine Corps uniform.”

Sure – the quote I highlighted is powerful enough in its own right. Yet, when you actually get to hear those words from Alejandro’s mouth, and look into his eyes as he says them, the greater impact of his message thanks to video is something few could deny.

Moreover, when you consider the context of Alejandro’s status as an undocumented immigrant, the visual impact of his story is amplified by his willingness to stand in front of a camera and announce his presence to the world, an act that potentially puts him at risk of being deported. When I asked Joe Green about how FWD.us has dealt with this issue when trying to tell stories of people often hidden in the shadows, he pointed to the effects of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a program that began in 2012 by an executive order from President Obama. DACA’s immediate consequence is meant to offer some form of relief to children that came to America at a young age, but Green reveals another consequence:

“The other, maybe less deliberate consequence of DACA has been that it has enabled Dreamers to be activists … It has been this amazing thing to enable storytelling.”

Thus, DACA represents an interesting example of government policy that has enabled more people to tell their own, personal stories, particularly in video form. In other words, you can imagine a whole class of videos on the Internet that wouldn’t exist but for the protection that comes from DACA.

Though, it’s also important to note that not everyone who is undocumented is eligible for relief under DACA, due to the very specific requirements that must be met. With that in mind, one of the most powerful stories of someone willing to “come out” as undocumented and to put themselves at great personal risk is the story of Jose Antonio Vargas. You can watch his story, in his own words, right here:

Again, just reading about Jose’s story is one thing – hearing the emotion in is voice and on his face through the power of video is something else entirely. It serves as a perfect example of why video is the future of social media, and why video is crucial for delivering a strong, powerful message in the digital age.

Ultimately, video is more powerful as a medium of communication because it is more revealing, more engaging, and more human, allowing us to connect with stories in a way that only video can achieve.


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