MSU documentary ends deportations of ex-combatants | MSU Today


Groundbreaking documentary on the deportation of veterans from the United States directed by professors at Michigan State University John J. Valadez and Carleen L. Hsu will air nationally in prime time on PBS on Tuesday, November 16, 2021. Filmed over the course of seven years, American Exile is the story of two unlikely war hero brothers who became veterans’ rights activists fighters after being threatened with deportation – and learning that thousands of ex-combatants have faced the same crisis.

American Exile is the first in MSU’s history to be released nationally and has been instrumental in changing policy to stop the deportation of veterans.

Fifty years ago, Valente and Manuel Valenzuela both volunteered and fought in the Vietnam War, and returned to the United States decorated and disabled. As they approach their sixties, they decide to put on their uniforms for one last fight in order to bring the deported veterans and their families home. It is a mission that will leave one brother exiled in a foreign land while the other will go to the White House. Their fight would ultimately help change national politics and, with it, the lives of veterans across the country.

“Nowhere in America is the path to citizenship more worked out for immigrant veterans,” Valadez said. “There are thousands of immigrants who served in the American armed forces and fought in wars to defend America who were deported. Their lives are in danger after losing access to Veterans Affairs benefits; seven known veterans died after the deportation in the time it took us to make the film.

While Professors Hsu and Valadez created their film, they also helped lead a Congressional briefing on deported veterans. Working in Washington, DC with the American Civil Liberties Union and Lt. Col. Margaret Stock (MacArthur “Genius Fellow”), Hsu and Valadez showed clips of the upcoming film and spoke with lawmakers and staff at the impact of deportation on ex-combatants. and their families.

They then worked with legislative staff, including those working for Senator Elizabeth Warren, who appears in the documentary.

Olivia and Manuel remembering their fallen daughter at the tombstone

“We hoped that the research resulting from the making of the film would help educate elected officials and the legislative process impacting thousands of veterans, and in so doing, help rebuild American families and communities devastated by deportation. “said Valadez.

On July 2, 2021, the Biden administration suspended deportations of veterans and ordered the Department of Homeland Security to track down those who have been deported and create a process for deported veterans and their families to return home. them in the United States as part of an effort to provide a pathway to citizenship.

“American Exile is a hard-hitting film that shaped national politics and, more importantly, saved lives,” Hsu said. “Together [as a college campus], we have played a central role in bringing thoughtful and factual journalism to the national public discourse.

Valadez and Hsu are practice professors at the School of Journalism and Film Studies at MSU. American Exile is a co-production of WKAR Television and Latino Public Broadcasting and was created in conjunction with MSU faculty, staff, and students at numerous colleges and programs, including:

• College of Communication Arts and Sciences
• College of Arts and Letters
• Journalism school
• Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives
• Department of Media and Information
• Chicano / Latino Studies Program
• Film studies program
• MSU Immigration Law Clinic
• Documentary film program (The Doc Lab)

“It is a remarkable achievement that American Exile has been produced by professors and students at MSU and is broadcast in communities across the country,” said Susi Elkins, Broadcast Director and General Manager. by WKAR. “This film tells an important story of courage and resilience, and WKAR is proud to present this work, ensuring that these stories are told through the PBS network.”

WKAR and community partners invite the audience to join the conversation at a special Veterans Day preview of the film on November 11 at 7 p.m. ahead of the national PBS airing.

Elkins will host the event in person, which will feature commentary from MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, the hour-long film presentation, and a panel discussion with filmmakers Valadez and Hsu. Manuel Valenzuela and Olivia Segura will join them, both of whom appear in the film. The discussion will be moderated by Prabu David, Dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at MSU.

The in-person event will be held at the WKAR studios on the MSU campus and will also be broadcast live. Free registration is required for a limited number of in-person places. For more information and to confirm your attendance, visit American exile | Preview at WKAR.

American Exile will premiere as part of Latino Public Broadcasting’s VOCES series on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS as part of the commemoration of Women’s Day. veterans by PBS. For more information on the film, visit

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