Immigration Is Not in the Script For Hollywood's Cause Celebs

By Darragh Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 20, 2006

Here's how it goes, pretty much: Controversy hits. Celebrities chime in.

You've got your Kanyes trash-talking Bush after Katrina, and your Martin Sheens railing against the war in Iraq. You've got Susan Sarandons and Tim Robbinses agitating for Haitian refugees at the Academy Awards, and your Marlon Brandos no-showing for his "Godfather" Oscar to protest treatment of Native Americans. You've got Hanoi Jane. (And, on a really good day, you've got Gulf Coast Savior Sean Penn on TV, commandeering a small boat, not just talking the talk, but rowing the row.)

Now the immigration debate is hot. But the celebrity squawk is, well, not.

Where are the celebrities?

Hello, Hollywood? Hellooo?

Okay, Salma is on board. Last week, Salma Hayek became the first Big Name to Speak Out. She told the New York Daily News:

"As a human being, I find this situation intolerable. As an immigrant, I find it offensive. And as an American citizen, I find it disheartening. The work that these immigrants do directly affects the health of the U.S. economy." She closed her production company last week "in solidarity with the immigrants" and will close it again May 1, "in observance of the protests."

And Eva Longoria, who's traveling the country promoting her new movie, has been speaking -- carefully -- about the debate:

"We're a land of immigrants and nobody is from here," she told the Houston Chronicle this week. "I do understand the economic value of illegal workers. If you deport all the Mexicans at once, there'd be a serious dent to our society and economic structure," she said, on the one hand. But then there was her other hand: ". . . I understand the need for stricter borders because of bigger issues like terrorism. So, I don't think our administration can afford for this to end badly." (Maybe she's an adviser to Celebrity Governor Schwarzenegger, whose statements sound strikingly similar.)

Many famous lips have remained zipped. It's not that Latino entertainers are not interested in the subject, their publicists said. What they are is: unavailable in Maui (Carlos Santana), or mid-divorce (director Robert Rodriguez), or "so busy . . . her mind is on other things" (Lynda Carter), or "just busy doing other things and isn't paying too much attention" (Jimmy Smits).

"Nobody is speaking out on their behalf, including myself," says Esai Morales of "NYPD Blue," "and I feel guilty."

But the only reason he's now talking is: "You called to ask me a question." But, he adds quickly, "I've been actively supporting immigrants." He explains: "It's almost like . . . I'm constantly speaking out on Latino issues . . . and I get a little tired of hearing myself talk."


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