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Frank Sharry

Frank is a brilliant communications strategist-- he works the press, he writes talking points, he‘s on TV all the time, he finesses a phrase until it works as a “message“-- but he‘s not a gun for hire. Frank has devoted his entire career to fighting for immigrants and refugees.

While he was teaching in Singapore in the late 1970's, he began assisting with the rescue and relocation of boat people fleeing Vietnam and landing in Indonesia. Back in Boston, he ran Centro Presente, a local organization working with Central American refugees. Then with a move to DC, he followed the National Immigration Forum‘s founder, Rick Swartz, as Executive Director.

We filmed at the National Immigration Forum from the first day of this series. Over those six years, we watched Frank and his gang evolve into a real force in the national debate. The story of the 2007 bill, and why it failed, is still a sore subject for many in his field. Frank, and the ‘old Forum‘ have been at the center of that debate ever since.

These days, Frank has founded a new organization of his own. It‘s called America‘s Voice, and he created it in 2008 to focus on communications and media as part of a renewed effort to win comprehensive immigration reform.

It seems that people aren't always sure what to make of Frank -- he is, as he likes to say himself, “the white guy in the suit“. He looks every bit the Washington spin doctor and has a politician's social adaptability, but then you see him talk about the issue -- in English or in Spanish -- and a glint of his idealistic, rabble-rousing heart always shines through.

When we began filming in 2001, we intended to do our very best to get this story as completely as possible. We were extremely eager to film with Frank‘s opposition, especially the formidable Dan Stein, the director of F.A.I.R. Dan and Frank were constantly on TV together in those days, paired by lucky news producers who could count on a great, entertaining argument from two polished performers.

Our conversations began with Dan, and we were pretty hopeful that we‘d at least be able to start with him. We met a couple of times and finally, went to lunch together. But something was wrong. Dan may have wanted to let go, to let us in to tell his story too, but in our guts we knew it wasn‘t going to happen. With the subject finally on the table, we pressed him and he pressed back: “Why do you want to film with Frank Sharry? He‘s “….“ (whatever, it was a string of mumbles) and then with a piercing stare, finally asked us his real question, the one he seemed to have been pondering for a very long time, “He doesn‘t have to. Why -- why does Frank do this?“

Dan never spoke to us again. And the answer is in these films.

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