Busted Halo

Busted Halo distributed Flip videocameras to undocumented individuals and agencies and asked them to start videoblogging. We hope Busted Borders gives a personal glimpse into the humanity of these strangers in our midst.

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July 16th, 2010

Miguel, an immigrant from Mexico who migrated illegally with his family when he was young, speaks about how he had to hide his undocumented status from those he was closest to growing up.

July 1st, 2010

Fr. McGarry discusses his years in the Holy Land and his extensive work on Jewish-Christian relations. The Los Angeles native also touches on the divisions he sees in both American politics and the Catholic Church in this country and how the fundamental question that drew him to the Paulists back in 1965, “Can a Priest be a Modern Man?” is still as relevant today as it was 45 years ago.

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June 24th, 2010

In this video, Irving, a Mexican immigrant who has been living in NYC since age 4, talks about his struggles being undocumented and interviews a coworker about her thoughts on immigration.

June 17th, 2010

In this video, Siby, from Mauritania in West Africa, discusses how he was caught by the authorities when trying to travel back to Mali to visit his sick parent.

In video one, Siby talks about why he left home to come to the United States

June 11th, 2010

The People vs. Helen Thomas

The overnight implosion of her sixty-year career is a metaphor for the changing media landscape.

Reporter Helen Thomas had been a fixture of the White House Press Corps since the Eisenhower administration, making the diminutive 89-year-old journalist a feminist pioneer.

In recent years, however, Thomas was also derided by her colleagues as a hostile and distracting presence in the briefing room; “They think I’m intrusive and they think that I shouldn’t have my opinions and so forth,” she acknowledged in a 2008 interview. “Well, that’s their problem.”

Fellow reporters resented the fact that Thomas was the only correspondent with her very own designated seat (in the front row, no less) even though she was an opinion columnist and not, as Time‘s Joe Klein put it, “a working reporter.”

Others were irritated by her abrasive personality

Thomas’ vitriolic expression of hatred toward the Jewish state touched a nerve… At the end of the day, Helen Thomas couldn’t escape the chorus of outrage from her colleagues in the media, and from ordinary TV news viewers, blog readers and talk radio callers.

and obvious bias. In a 2006 New Republic piece, Jonathan Chait accused Thomas of delivering “unhinged rants,” while CBS correspondent Mark Knoller acknowledged that “sometimes her questions were embarrassing to other reporters.”

Indeed, “colleagues sometimes rolled their eyes at her obvious biases,” said Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post. But, unlike the outspoken Helen, her colleagues mostly kept their feelings about her to themselves, out of deference to her seniority.

Longstanding resentments finally broke the surface this month, when a few seconds of video, captured on a tiny flip camera, sped around the Internet and ultimately cost Thomas her job.

No one was more surprised than the man who shot the film. Rabbi David Nesenoff of Long Island had visited the White House on May 27 to celebrate “American Jewish Heritage Celebration Day” with his teenage son and the boy’s friend. In the

June 10th, 2010

In this video, Giselle sets out across the country for her one woman play, The Deportee’s Wife, and shares her various thoughts and insights into immigration issues in the United States.

June 8th, 2010

eileen-hart-Island-flash

There is an island in the East River, within view of the glittering Manhattan skyline, where the homeless and indigent are buried: an island of the dead. There, amid tall grasses and the calls of seagulls, the poorest New Yorkers — those who had families that couldn’t afford to bury them or who had no family, those who died anonymous and homeless on city streets, and those whose bodies were never claimed from the city morgue — find their final repose.

While some of the people buried on Hart Island are nameless, they are not forgotten. Every second month a knot of people gathers on a windy pier on City Island in the Bronx and boards a ferry to the island. There they say prayers for the dead and stand in silence before the limestone grave markers.

Most of the visitors don’t know anyone on the island, but they say they don’t want anyone to be unmourned, to be returned to God without a prayer said on their behalf.

“Even if we didn’t know them, it’s important. Their lives mattered and we remember their lives,” said Drew Hendrickson, a student at Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan who visited the island in March.

For Owen Rogers, who has been part of the memorial services for three years, the mile-long island is a sacred place.

As he led prayers on a recent trip, Rogers asked God to grant the dead eternal rest, but for the living he prayed for a bit of agitation. “Perhaps it is best God, that our peace be a little disturbed,” so the living are reminded of their duty to the poor and outcast.

“It is a place where people return to the God who made us all,” said Rogers, a member of Picture the Homeless, an activist group run by people who are homeless or were in the past. “There is a peace there, but it is an uneasy peace, because these were people who were forgotten in life, who were disrespected, abused and

June 3rd, 2010

In this video, Giselle reunites with her husband, Roberto, and interviews him about growing up in Mexico and how and why he came to live in the United States.

In video one, Giselle discusses the incident that forced her to look at the immigration issue.

In video two, Giselle prepares for her departure to Mexico where she will reunite with her husband and continue to video blog about their life together and strive to break down stereotypes about illegal immigrants and their families.

May 26th, 2010

In this video, Giselle prepares for her departure to Mexico where she will reunite with her husband and continue to video blog about their life together and strive to break down stereotypes about illegal immigrants and their families.

In video one, Giselle discusses the incident that forced her to look at the immigration issue.

May 19th, 2010

In this video, Benita shares some of the skills she has acquired while trying to support herself as an undocumented worker. 

In episode one, Benita discusses her background and the difficulties she faced growing up.

In episode two, Benita describes how a routine traffic stop has turned her life upside down.

In episode three, Benita talks about the story of Esther and God’s plan.

In episode four, Benita talks about her hopes and dreams for attending law school.

May 13th, 2010

Meet Siby from Mauritania in West Africa. In this, his first video, Mirlande Jean-Louis finds out why Siby left home to come to the United States.

Stay tuned for his next installment when he’ll talk about what it has been like living undocumented.

May 10th, 2010

david-spotanski-flash

When I met David Spotanski at a conference on leadership in the Catholic Church in 2007, my first impression of the Belleville, Ill., native was that he was like so many of the Midwesterners whom I’ve known and worked with over the years: friendly, approachable, and not in the habit of taking himself too seriously. The fact that, as a layman, Spotanski also happened to be the chancellor for the Belleville diocese — just outside of St. Louis — for all matters except canonical issues requiring a priest seemed a little unusual. But after a number of conversations over the course of the gathering it became clear to me that if this married father of three was indicative of the sort of leadership in the Catholic Church’s future, the Church was in very capable hands.

I wasn’t prepared, however, for the information Spotanski decided to share with me at the end of our meeting. Before returning home, he left me with a 10-page photocopied document that contained what was easily the most personal, honest and moving commentary I had yet to read on the sex abuse scandal. It was blunt, unsparing and deeply challenging language from someone who worked for the Church, clearly loved his Catholic faith and was deeply concerned that the Church’s leadership wasn’t able to comprehend how badly its credibility had been damaged.

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May 6th, 2010

One of the strongest proponents for comprehensive immigration reform in the Catholic Church over the last quarter century has been Cardinal Roger Mahony, the Archbishop of Los Angeles.  Busted Halo’s Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP, had the chance to speak with Cardinal Mahony while The Busted Halo Show on Sirius XM radio was broadcasting on location in L.A. in March 2010.

As archbishop of the largest Catholic diocese in the U.S. for 25 years, Cardinal Mahony has presided over some very significant milestones, and has also seen his fair share of controversy. And yet, his work with and for migrants has become the hallmark of Cardinal Mahony’s time as bishop. It was this topic that he was most passionate about and most conversant with during this candid and personal conversation that took place in a meeting room on the grounds of the impressive new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

May 6th, 2010

lalupe-flash
I guess I wasn’t all that different from most college freshman who get swept off their feet. Every year, scores of first-year collegians return home for Christmas break itching to try out all of their newfound wisdom on the folks back home: psychology majors suddenly become experts in diagnosing their families’ dysfunction, philosophy majors proselytize about existentialism with a new convert’s zeal. 

After finishing my first semester as a theology major at Notre Dame I returned home to my Mexican-American family in El Paso, Texas, poised and ready to judge the religiosity and spirituality of any relative I came into contact with.  Armed with words like hermeneutics, eschatology and praxis, my first target was an easy choice, my grandmother.

Grandma — whose name is Guadalupe but whom I affectionately refer to as La Lupe — is a feisty jorobada (crooked-backed) woman who stands 5 feet tall, and weighs no more than 90 pounds.  She grew up very, very poor in Chihuahua, Mexico, got married at 22, and gave birth to eight children. When her second child (my dad) was just 3, she moved her young family to El Paso and has lived there since.  She raised eight kids on next to nothing and then raised me and my 18 cousins (not to mention a lot of my cousins’ kids). 

La Lupe takes her role as the matriarch of the family very seriously, especially the “educator of the faith” part.  She never lets an opportunity pass to lecture about morality, work ethic or God.

On that first day home from college as I sat on her couch drinking the atole (oatmeal water with cinnamon and milk) she made for me, I looked around her home and decided that La Lupe was superstitious and her spirituality was too Mary-centric. Every room in the house had an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  She has an unending number of little medals of La Milagrosa that she pins on us if we are going out of town.  She always tells us that we should honor Mary …

May 4th, 2010

bborders-1year-flash

Recent passage of new legislation in Arizona has brought the divisive issue of immigration to the forefront of the national consciousness once again. This latest salvo comes on the one-year anniversary of the debut of our Busted Borders video series, in which BustedHalo.com — along with the help of a grant from the Carnegie Corporation — began covering the issue of immigration in a unique way.

Busted Borders is an attempt to use the web’s unfiltered nature to move the immigration debate away from abstractions and statistics to reveal the deeply human dimension of the issue. Instead of contributing to the glut of coverage about immigration, Busted Halo decided to feature stories by immigrants themselves about their experience. We distributed Flip video cameras to undocumented individuals and agencies across the country and asked them to start video blogging for a period of at least three months.

Over the past year we have published a total of twenty-four segments that have been viewed by thousands of visitors to BustedHalo.com. In addition, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today have taken note of the unique way Busted Halo covers the intersection of culture, politics and faith by featuring Busted Borders in their pages.

We’ve featured the lives of nine individuals thus far, specifically highlighting the stories of:

Walter, from Argentina
Prerna, from Fiji
Benita, from Mexico
Rishi, from Trinidad

Additionally we have followed American citizens Nicole, from Ohio, and Giselle, from New York, whose husbands were deported to Mexico, in their struggles to reunite with their spouses. Throughout this journey many others have shared their stories with us, including Fatoumata, from Senegal, Roxroy, from Jamaica, and Facundo, from Argentina.

The following video compilation is an overview of the segments and stories we’ve featured over the past year:

April 28th, 2010

In this episode, Benita talks about her hopes and dreams for attending law school.

In episode one, Benita discusses her background and the difficulties she faced growing up.

In episode two, Benita describes how a routine traffic stop has turned her life upside down.

In episode three, Benita talks about the story of Esther and God’s plan.

April 26th, 2010

blindproject-inside

When Anthony Dodero and two of his church friends decided to quit their jobs and head out to Thailand, it wasn’t a thrill ride they were looking for, but the truth about a very horrific modern-day crime — human trafficking.

It is estimated by the United Nations that at least 1.3 million young girls and women are sold into sex slavery worldwide. When Anthony read about this issue, he wanted to see it for himself, so he and his two best friends, Liem and Chad, set out to investigate, documenting the trip along the way. They called it The Blind Project.

“We called it The Blind Project because we were very blinded to the issue, and were hoping this trip would ‘unblind’ us,” Anthony said about their first trip to Thailand. “We were going into this blinded. We were sponges, just absorbing information.”

The three guys, who all belonged to the Journey Church in New York City, spent time in Thailand’s orphanages, AIDS organizations, and later, made an unexpected stop in Cambodia. Cambodia, as Anthony explains, was much more apt than Thailand to unveil what was really going on because they are more desperate for help. But the worst wasn’t over until Anthony and his friends decided to go undercover in a Cambodian brothel. There they found the youngest girls herded like cattle, flirting and encouraging the guys to buy them for sex.

“That was the most visceral life-changing experience for me personally,” Anthony said. “Our attempt was to purchase one of the girls to take back to a shelter. I realize now it’s not a good thing to do. If you do purchase one of the girls, you’re essentially funding the brothel for them to buy more.”

When they walked back to the hotel, Anthony reported feeling an emptiness. He contrasts it with walking past a person who is homeless and having the choice to help, whereas here he felt entirely helpless; nothing they could do.

Creative answers

That’s when Anthony, Liem and Chad returned home and officially started The Blind

April 22nd, 2010

the_integrity_of_creation-inside

One of the first and key places I encountered the spiritual ideas that eventually led to my baptism was Estes Park, high in the Rockies, amidst Birkenstock-wearing radical environmentalists. It was an interesting time for politics in the late 80s and early 90s and I was looking for new ideas. So were lots of people, and they were talking with each other and reading each other’s books despite divergent backgrounds. Some were grassroots activists, some academics; some were pragmatic, some utopian. There were communitarians and Greens, libertarians and socialists.

I came upon something new (to me) there, something I’d never heard of before with my atheist/Protestant upbringing: natural law. Most didn’t use the term. But the edges of the environmental movement were abuzz with fresh ideas, and two of the freshest were “deep ecology” and “ecofeminism.” (One of deep ecology’s leading lights was Fr. Thomas Berry, CP, whose The Dream of the Earth was required reading.)

It was at that conference in the Rockies that I first heard a woman argue that a pro-abortion stance was anti-woman. And though I didn’t hear the term “seamless garment,” there was a quiet respect for those Catholics and Buddhists who adhered to defense of life across the board, from anti-war and anti-death-penalty to anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia to environmental protection and reducing unnecessary deaths from starvation.

Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation

One of the first and key places I encountered the spiritual ideas that eventually led to my baptism was Estes Park, high in the Rockies, amidst Birkenstock-wearing radical environmentalists. I came upon something new (to me) there, something I’d never heard of before with my atheist/Protestant upbringing: natural law.

It was in this same time period and setting that I encountered the phrase and concept, “Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation” or JPIC. (My recollection from those times is that this was a Catholic movement and, at least within the Church, it’s an outgrowth of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, though the phrase is used by others too.) In

April 20th, 2010

abortion-and-health-care-reform-flash

Gratitude and gloom colored my view of the debate over health care reform.

On St. Patrick’s Day 2009, I learned that my chronic leukemia had morphed into a much more formidable lymphoma. It was not, statistically speaking, the cancer one would choose, especially as a husband and a father with two teenaged sons and a 20-year-old daughter. But I had sound health insurance, which allowed me the best treatment at one of the nation’s best hospitals. I was, therefore, especially grateful when reminded about the tens of millions of other Americans who lack medical insurance altogether.

The gloom descended when legislative dynamics seemed to pit the demands of Social Justice against the rights of the Unborn. The conflict was no surprise. Years ago, in sadness and frustration, I left the Democratic Party, unable to abide any longer its mindless pro-choice orthodoxy. At the same time, I had no illusions about the Republican Party’s building the “Culture of Life” which George W. Bush talked about (after electorally exploiting his Texas record of capital executions but before misleading us into Iraq). And politics is politics.

No, the conflict brought no surprise. But the Uninsured vs. the Unborn had the makings of especially stark tragedy.

My sense of tragedy, I confess, was heightened at times by a laughably self-centered fear as to what major political event I would last witness (earthside). Specifically, I feared departing while watching a major affront to the seamless garment — the commitment to a consistent pro-life philosophy.

I held and hold the seamless garment precious. It sustained me during my seventeen years defending death row inmates and capital defendants in Alabama and New York. It animated my writing. It accompanied me into any voting booth I entered. It has served as my tent, my flag and my sail.

Given the depth of voter opposition to publicly funded abortion, how difficult would it have been for a unified pro-life community to lock in, as part of a universal coverage agreement, the kind of steel-trap language the Stupak

April 13th, 2010

Strolling along a quiet farm road, flanked by 19th-century white clapboard buildings, Frances Carr is an endangered species in a threatened habitat.

She is one of the world’s last Shakers, a member of a pious separatist community that boasted 6,000 members and 19 settlements in the 1800s. But today only three believers remain at the last active settlement, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, nestled in a wooded, lake-fringed and white pine-perfumed swath of southern Maine.

Though she rarely grants interviews, the oldest living Shaker speaks now.

Easing her cushioned frame onto an antique bench in the waiting room of the 125-year-old brick Dwelling House, the soft-faced Carr, 82, tenderly sings an old Shaker song.

“‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be…”

After finishing, she smoothes out her long, plain blue dress and beams, remembering when she was 10 years old and how the now-almost-empty Dwelling House and 17 other buildings of the Shaker village — surrounded by 1,800 acres of verdant forests, pastures and farmland — pulsated with the vigor of 50 laughing, singing and hard-working Shaker adults and children.

Carr, 82, remembers when she was 10 years old and how the now-almost-empty Shaker village pulsated with the vigor of 50 laughing, singing and hard-working Shaker adults and children. “I miss the people the most,” she says.

“I miss the people the most,” she says, fending off a moistening of the eyes with a smile.

Since the age of 16, Carr has seen a lot of chairs once filled with old friends in the dining hall become empty, and has comforted many beloved Shakers in their last moments.

Yet, the last of the Shakers — with a mean age of 65 — aren’t feeling sorry. Like the sturdy wooden structures that surround them, which have weathered countless Maine blizzards and scorching summer days, the Shakers of Sabbathday soldier on — continuing to defend the faith, work the farm, seek recruits, honor their

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