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Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride (IWFR) Documentary Project Collection

Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride

Download an informal list of holdings in the IWFR Collection as a PDF document.

The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride (IWFR) Documentary Project represents an important document of the state of the immigrant rights movement just two years after the September 11 terrorist attacks altered momentum in Washington toward immigration reform. During the last two weeks of September 2003, buses carrying 900 immigrant Workers and their allies set out from nine different locations in the United States.  They traveled first to Washington DC for rallies and lobbying efforts, and then on to New York for one of the largest rallies for immigrant rights in U.S. history. They stopped at more than 100 towns and cities to meet local immigrant and civil rights activists and to hold rallies. IWFR Documentary Project film crews accompanied the Workers from each originating location and at every stop along the way.

The result was more than 450 hours of footage shot within a two week period. Included in those hours are hundreds of stories and interviews with the Workers, who came from all over the world, as well as documentation of the hundreds of rallies and events that took place. The Houston and Miami buses, for example, stopped at some of the key historical sites in the civil rights movement, as did the buses from the West Coast (e.g. Little Rock, Memphis, Montgomery, Birmingham, Atlanta). The footage from the rallies, meetings, prayer services and other events offers a snapshot of American life that is national in scope.

The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride was an initiative of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HEREIU), with the close collaboration and assistance of other unions, the AFL-CIO, immigrant and civil rights organizations, faith-based and community organizations throughout the United States. The Documentary Project was supported by the union as well as by contributions in kind from many organizations and individuals.  

At the conclusion of the Freedom Ride, duplicate masters and time-coded VHS copies were made for editing purposes.  The filmmakers who had documented the Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Bay Area rides were able to edit full-length films of their journeys, with the support of the local IWFR organizing committees. This collection includes the duplicate masters of all nine of the journeys, as well as examples of the completed, full-length documentaries. The collection was provided by David R. Koff, Executive Producer of the IWFR Documentary Project.  

For more information, or to arrange research viewing, please contact the Archive Research and Study Center (ARSC) at 310.206.5388 or by e-mail:

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