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Discuss the state of the US immigration system’

The US immigration system is broken, and among those impacted the most are the highly skilled workers – both individuals and families – who are stranded in it.

How do we fix it?

On Thursday, March 9, join the non-profit Forever Welcome for a special event – “Fairness & Belonging: Discussing the State of the American Immigration System” – including the world premiere of the documentary film “Alien” followed by a panel discussion and a Q&A community. This momentous evening will take place at the Glenwood Arts Theatre, 3707 W. 95th St., Overland Park, Kansas. Check-in starts at 5.30pm with the film screening starting promptly at 6.15pm followed by the panel discussion.

Sponsored by Forever Welcome in partnership with Welcoming KC, a program of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the March 9 event is free, but registration is required at ForeverWelcome.org.

Forever Welcome’s mission is to advance the American dream by fostering welcoming and inclusive communities through awareness, advocacy and action.

‘Welcoming KC and Forever Welcome are perfectly aligned to make Kansas City a place where everyone feels at home. That’s why we proudly partner with and support their work,” said Greg Valdovino, vice chair for diversity, equity and inclusion in the House. “This film matters to those who are personally impacted by the current immigration system But equally important, it’s also important to those who want to understand how they can help and support our new neighbors.”

Nationally syndicated columnist Mary Sanchez will serve as panel facilitator. A native Kansas citizen, Sanchez is a senior reporter for Kansas City-PBS/Flatland and a former columnist for The Kansas City Star and a member of its editorial board. Sanchez has spent years reporting on race, class, criminal justice and educational issues.

The film “Alien” exposes the human toll of America’s dependence on highly skilled legal immigrants and how the Indian immigrant community bears the heaviest burden. The film intimately follows five highly skilled Indian immigrants and their families – including Forever Welcome founder Sunayana Dumala – as they build lives and families in this country in an uphill battle towards their American dream.

“The US media focus on undocumented immigrants means that many Americans know little about highly skilled legal immigrants** and their inhumane struggles,” Latay said. “My film seeks to stimulate and contribute to public discourse on this neglected issue and contribute to meaningful political reform.”

The evening’s panel includes three people who have walked the tightrope of immigration:

  • Sunayana Dumala, originally from India and founder of Forever Welcome. Dumala’s immigrant status was thrown into her stream following the hate crime murder of her husband Srinivas Kuchibhotla in 2017 at Austin’s Grille in Olathe. Dumala is one of the immigrant stories presented in the movie ‘Alien’ and the first one coincides with what would have been Srinu’s 39th birthday.

  • Vidyut Latay, a native of India and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. His groundbreaking debut film, ‘Beyond Silence’ has been shown twice on PBS and is one of the first Deaf documentaries in India.

  • Rekha Sharma-Crawford, a nationally recognized immigration attorney based in Kansas City. He represents clients across the country. She is also the author of “Alaliyah the Brave,” which follows the emotions of a child going through immigration control and its aftermath.

The purpose of the evening is to reflect on the current state of the U.S. immigration system and, as a community, to engage in a much-needed healthy dialogue around one of the most critical and challenging issues we face. The Immigration and Nationality Act enacted in 1965 was the last time the United States passed significant immigration reform. The fundamental change paved the way for today’s immigration system, providing every immigrant with the opportunity to achieve their American dream.

It’s no secret that America needs comprehensive immigration reform. Missing from many public debates is how highly skilled workers, who are often exploited and humiliated, fit into comprehensive immigration reform. Through the nationwide release of “Alien,” that will hopefully change.

“Six years ago, when tragedy knocked on my door, I received overwhelming support from all corners that made me believe that this was indeed my home,” Dumala said. “Today I’m able to stand up, continue to fulfill those dreams perhaps with a new purpose and mission. By bringing this film to Kansas City, I hope we can turn conversation into action for change.”

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