Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: Despite Sean Penn, plight of undocumented no joke

James W. Skotchdopole, from left, Sean Penn, Alejandro González Iñárritu and John Lesher pose in the press room with the awards for best picture and best director for “Birdman” at the Oscars.
James W. Skotchdopole, from left, Sean Penn, Alejandro González Iñárritu and John Lesher pose in the press room with the awards for best picture and best director for “Birdman” at the Oscars. Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Who gave this son-of-a-b---- a green card? — Actor Sean Penn’s idea of an Oscar-worthy, bro-love joke.

It doesn’t matter that the target of Sean Penn’s crass jab — Oscar-blessed and Mexican-born Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu — assures us that he wasn’t offended. It doesn’t matter that in the glow of Hollywood gold, the second Latino in a row to win an Oscar for film direction doesn’t see his own stereotyping, shrugging off Penn’s comment — delivered before some 40 million viewers in an awkward, off-script moment — as par for the course in their relationship.

“I found it hilarious,” González Iñárritu said backstage. “Sean and I have that kind of brutal [relationship] where only true friendship can survive.... When I was directing him in 21 Grams, he was always making jokes like that.”

You know, macho-men talk, and a Latino star takes the ribbing in a roomful of British and Australian actors whose immigration status seldom come into question, or are ever the butt of jokes.

What matters is that, to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, the lack of legal status is no joke, and neither is the trendy dearth of sympathy for what they endure in their quest for refuge, work, dreams.

Enough people felt the sting after Sunday’s Oscars to keep social media aflutter with “green card” talk — and in that at least, there’s something to applaud.

It’s tough to get the masses’ attention on immigration topics — crucial to the nation’s future, but not sexy enough for prime time — so I’d like to thank Penn’s historically foul mouth. His imbecilic behavior has brought to the forefront an issue that far too few people care about.

Good timing, too.

Last week, a federal judge in Texas obliterated President Barack Obama’s deferred action on deportations. Kind of ironic for a state that was formerly part of Mexico, and home to two of the presidents since Eisenhower who’ve taken executive action on immigration, Texan Republican royalty — the Bushes.

In Florida, the ruling affects about 250,000 undocumented immigrants who would have qualified for President Obama’s stay of deportation. That number is only 20 to 30 percent of the state’s undocumented, estimated to be between 730,000 to 1 million. The Obama administration is appealing the decision, which came in response to a lawsuit filed by attorneys general and governors in 25 states, including Florida’s Pam Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott.

The outrage then on social media was barely a hum — although frustration was evident for some. like Grammy-celebrated crooner Juanes, who tweeted: “No mas deportaciones. Ni una sola mas. #Not1More deportation.”

If only the Oscar viewers who had something to say about Penn would care enough about the fate of the vulnerable undocumented, and see what I see: armies of women who lovingly care in anonymity for the Alzheimer’s patient next door; young people who juggle manual labor and school, paying their own tuitions; unaccompanied minors who travel through several countries to cross the border and owe thousands to a smuggler who threatens to kill loved ones left behind if they don’t make payments.

All this, even as they live in fear every day that deportation will tear them away from U.S.-resident family.

To them, the lack of immigration status is no joke between friends.

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