Speakers and Collaborations

The INDOCUMENTALES / UNDOCUMENTARIES film series aims to build partnerships with individuals, organizations, schools, universities and others interested in discussing themes of immigration and building an informed and engaged community around this timely issue.

We’ve been fortunate to count on the participation of diverse speakers in our panel discussions including community activists, filmmakers, journalists, policy-makers, researchers, international advocates, faith-based leaders, the private sector.

INDOCUMENTALES SPEAKERS include (affiliations at time of participation):

Josh Alexander, Director / Producer / Writer

Virginia Alvarado, Senior Correspondent, El Diario de México, USA Edition

Nina Álvarez, Artistic Director, Teatro SEA

Richard André, Policy manager, co-director, Immigration and Integration Initiative, Americas Society/Council of the Americas

Luis Argueta, Director, abUSed: THE POSTVILLE RAID

Trina Bardusco, American-Venezuelan producer

Kyle Elizabeth Barron, New York University Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Robin Blotnick,  Co-Director, THE HAND THAT FEEDS

Rebecca Cammisa, Director, WHICH WAY HOME

Marisa Céspedes, Bureau Chief & Correspondent, Televisa New York News Bureau

Muzaffar Chishti,  Director, Migration Policy Institute Office at the NYU School of Law

Nell Constantinople, Occupy Cinema, National Geographic Films

Lindsey Cordero, Filmmaker

Amalia Córdova, Indigenous Film Scholar

Armando Croda, Director / Producer/ Editor

Irvi Cruz, Community Member

Omar Dauhajre, Assistant Director, NYU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Diana Delgado, Coalition of Hispanic Families

Javier Dorantes, Duet member, “Los Inmigrantes del Sur”

Karina Escamilla, Mexican Consulate Department of Community Affairs; Co-director of the film, SUBTERRANEANS: NORTEÑA MUSIC IN NEW YORK

Alberto Ferreras, Writer, filmmaker, HBO “Habla” series


Alyshia Gálvez, Assistant Professor, Latin American Studies, Lehman College 

Ausencio García “El Palomo”, Duet member, Los Inmigrantes del Sur

Pilar Garrett, Assistant Director, Cinema Tropical

Rodolfo de la Garza, Eaton Professor of Administrative Law and Municipal Science, Columbia University

Kemah George, New York Immigration Coalition

Marcial Godoy-Anativia , sociocultural anthropologist and the Managing Director of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University

Shamina de Gonzaga, Executive Director, WCPUN, Co-founder, INDOCUMENTALES and What Moves You?

Gabe Gonzalez, Comedian

Juan González, Democracy Now,  Andres Bello Chair in Latin American Cultures and Civilizations

Carlos Gutierrez, Co-founding Director, Cinema Tropical

Carlos Hagerman, Director, LOS QUE SE QUEDAN

Maribel Hernandez Rivera, Executive Director of Legal Initiatives at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs

Paul Hoeffel, Director of the New York-based Rain Barrel Communications,

Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director, The New York Immigration Coalition

Araceli Juarez, Community Member

Daniel Kaufman, Co-director, Endangered Language Alliance

Jill Meredith Lane, Director, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, New York University

Rachel Lears, Co-Director, THE HAND THAT FEEDS

Jen Lewis, Assistant Director, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, New York University

Andrew Lim, Director of Quantitative Research, New American Economy

Mahoma López, Co-Executive Director, Laundry Workers Center

Jason Marczak, Director of Policy, Council of the Americas, Senior Editor, Americas Quarterly 

Rachel McCormick, Community Member

Jim McKay, Director, EN EL SEPTIMO DIA

Diana Mejia, Founder of Wind of the Spirit (WotS), a prophetic faith base grassroots immigrant organization in Morristown, NJ

Paola Mendoza, Director, FREE LIKE THE BIRDS

Manuel Moran, Clemente Board Chair

Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance

Gala Narezo, Artist and Educator; Co-founder, INDOCUMENTALES and What Moves You?

Suzanne Oboler, Professor, Latin American Studies, John Jay College

Ademola Olugebefola, Artist, New York Metropolitan Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolence

Gaspar Orozco, Consul for Community Affairs, New York, and Co-director of  SUBTERRANEANS: NORTEÑA MUSIC IN NEW YORK

Fay Parris, Co-Chair, Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York

Abraham Paulos, Executive Director, Families for Freedom

Celso Perez, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project

Vinicius Pinheiro, Deputy Director, International Labor Organization, United Nations Office

Jorge Pinto, Founder, Jorge Pinto Books, Former Consul General of Mexico

Yolanda Pividal, Director, OF KITES AND BORDERS

Mary Louise Pratt, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University 

Genoel Ramírez, Musician, Actor

Phil Reller, Senior Minister, United Church of Christ

David Riker, Director, LA CIUDAD

Rev. Juan Carlos Ruiz, Founder, New Sanctuary Coalition movement

Carlos Sandoval, Co-Director, THE STATE OF ARIZONA

Kirk Semple, Journalist, New York Times

Javier Solórzano Casarin, Director and Screenwriter, ELVIRA

Lavi Soloway, Immigration Attorney, Masliah & Soloway PC

Paulina Suarez-Hesketh, PhD Candidate, Cinema Studies, New York University 

Catherine Tambini,  Co-Director, THE STATE OF ARIZONA

Mary Jo Toll, United Nations representative, Sisters of Notre Dame; NGO Committee on Migration

Jessica Torres, Communications Director, New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs

Rev. Schuyler Vogel, Senior Minister of the Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York

Chia-Chia Wang, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Immigrant Rights Program in New Jersey

Thanu Yakupitiyage, New York Immigration Coalition

INDOCUMENTALES has partnered in New York City with such organizations as the Americas Society, 92Y Tribeca, NYU Robert F. Wagner School of Public Policy, Queens Museum of Art, Make the Road NY, Cervantes Institute, P.S. 291 Brooklyn, Coalition for Hispanic Family Services, Beacon Center for Arts & Leadership, Dwyer Cultural Center, Casita Maria Center for Art & Education, Museo del Barrio, the NGO Committee on Migration and John Jay College, and has received additional support from the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York.

As a traveling film series, INDOCUMENTALES broadened its geographical scope to include installations outside of New York. In Fall 2010, the series was launched in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Program and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Library. In 2011, the series traveled to the Newark Public Library and to the Migrant Heritage Commission in Washington, DC. In Spring 2012, the series partnered with the University of Arizona’s Center for Latin American Studies. In 2013, the series was presented as part of classes on social justice in Mexico at the Tec de Monterrey, Queretaro Campus. The series is part of a larger series on immigration-related issues entitled the Borderlands Community Film Series, and has been presented at national and international conferences, including the Tulane Outreach Conference in New Orleans, LA in May 2010; the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) conference in Toronto, Canada in October 2010; the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM) Conference in Philadelphia, PA in May 2011; and the Latin American Studies Association (LASA).

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Indocumentales launches 4 part series in collaboration with Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development

Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development is a private, nonprofit agency founded in 1972 to provide emergency shelter and services in Phoenix for runaway and homeless youth. Its mission is to provide a safe space for collaborating with youth and young adults in the community who are vulnerable or experiencing homelessness.

Casa de Sueños (The Dream House) is one of Tumbleweed’s programs that provide transitional housing, education, recreation, religious, and reunification services for unaccompanied and undocumented minors from Latin America. 3 group homes house up to 10 teenagers each between the ages of 13-17. The youth mainly come from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Ecuador. The Director, Coordinators, Clinicians, Counselors, and Youth Care Workers offer cross-cultural support while encouraging clients through the Youth Development Model to maximize their potential, preparing them whether they stay in the US or return abroad.

Thanks to the University of Arizona’s Latin American Studies program, 4 films are on loan to Tumbleweed this July-August. Hosting the screenings and post-discussions will hopefully provide continuous professional development to staff while further educating administrators, volunteers, and board members about the population Casa de Sueños serves.

Posted by Lindy Drew, Team Coordinator, Casa de Sueños, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development

The Sixth Section Movie Presentation at Tumbleweed :: Phoenix, AZ

On August 1, 2012, the Indocumentales-Tumbleweed film series showed The Sixth Section by Alex Rivera. As the fourth and final film in this series, viewers appreciated seeing this positive story for the finale. The glimpse into migrant workers starting their own hometown association to support their pueblo back home, provided a powerful example of what it means to be a humanitarian and continuously give back to your community despite distance and stereotypes. The audience expressed that they were particularly surprised by the selflessness of Grupo Unión – going door to door to fundraise, meeting in a makeshift tent in the bitter cold, and continuously taking on projects one after another. One participant questioned why there were no females in the hometown association. This observation lead to a few theories as to how the women might be linked into this story even though they were not shown much.

Overall, the staff was very appreciative that this Indocumentales series was brought to Tumbleweed. Here are a few comments from the participants on the last day:

Which film(s) did you enjoy the most and why?

“I enjoyed all of the movies, but mostly Los Que Se Quedan. It brought me back to my childhood and the way I grew up.” – Lupe Najera, START and Greenhouse Project Case Manager

“The thing I loved most about all of the films that I saw was the way the filmmakers brought the stories of these people to life. Instead of lumping them all together, they showed individual views of an issue that affects millions.” – Erin Garner, Young Adult Program Clinician

What was your impression of immigration before seeing these films? How do you view immigration differently after seeing these films?

“Abstractly, I knew the hardships of getting here, but seeing the danger and risks as our young folks face to follow their dreams was truly enlightening. I am still talking about Which Way Home. I wish we could make everyone who works here see it.” – Gail Loose, Tumbleweed Program Manager.

“My impression prior to seeing the film was that all the fuss going on including the SB1070 law is all pretty stupid. My views have not changed with these films. In fact, they’re probably stronger.” – Maria Plummer, Greenhouse Program Case Manager and Young Adult Program Youth Care Worker

“My views were honestly negative because my family came here legally and I felt it wasn’t fair specifically for Latino immigrants. After watching these films and having discussions, it showed me that the process isn’t the same for migrants from Mexico. I feel completely different and empathetic for these groups of people just trying to support their families.” –Jordanne Lynn Dempster, Tempe Youth Resource Center Youth Care Worker

How has the film series helped you become more educated about the population Casa de Sueños serves? After seeing these documentaries, will you approach your job differently?

“I’m a little more educated, but definitely not educated enough. Having a non-judgmental attitude is one thing, but I’m still ignorant about resources that can help non-papered people achieve their goals. Especially if that involves citizenship.” – Deseure DeBerry, Phoenix Youth Resource Center Youth Care Worker

“These movies inspired me and helped me understand more fully the importance of offering opportunities for the youth to express themselves through active participation in our program and to listen to their needs, as they may be different from our own. This way the program can continue to grow in its capacity to serve other youth.” –Alfonso Ramirez, Casa de Sueños ORR Program Director

“Having family who are illegal and parents who immigrated to the U.S., I understand the issue and love that the movies show the struggle and the reasons why people come to the U.S. I can work on improving my job by being more supportive and encouraging to the youth we serve.” –Estrellita Alvarado, Casa de Sueños Youth Care Worker

Posted by Lindy Drew, Team Coordinator, Casa de Sueños, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development

Photo credit: http://www.pbs.org/pov/thesixthsection/

conference in San Francisco in May 2012.


Los Que Se Quedan Movie Presentation at Tumbleweed :: Phoenix, AZ

On July 25, 2012, the Indocumentales-Tumbleweed film series showed Los Que Se Quedan by Juan Carlos Rulfo and Carlos Hagerman. Two Casa de Sueños Case Managers and myself helped facilitate a brief discussion after. One theme that ran throughout the film that appeared interesting to viewers included how education or lack of education can affect migration. Another was what it means to be a family even though members are separated, often absent in times of celebration or hardship. Finally, we touched on how there seemed to be huge sacrifices for those who left in exchange for material gains like the loss of identity and gaps in not seeing their children go through certain ceremonial rights of passage.

We had the highest turnout of viewers attend this screening so far with 33 attendees. The further into the film series, the more I have heard Tumbleweed staff express how excited they have been about the films being shown. It has definitely been a fresh inviting way to involve everyone from the different programs in an activity where they can gain more insight into the immigration issue. In fact, the films have been a springboard for people to share their curiosity about workers rights, policies that help or hinder migrant workers, how other populations other than Latinos fare in the immigration debate, and what resources are available to help people without papers be productive members of society.

Posted by Lindy Drew, Team Coordinator, Casa de Sueños, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development

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Al Otro Lado: To the Other Side Movie Presentation at Tumbleweed :: Phoenix, AZ

On July 18, 2012, the Indocumentales-Tumbleweed film series showed Al Otro Lado, by Natalia Almada. Casa de Sueños Program Coordinator Jacquelin Hawley and myself facilitated the discussion after. The POV discussion guide published on the PBS website provided a helpful push to get the conversation going. Once it did, strong opinions were expressed about the themes of corridos, immigration, and drug trafficking.

On a musical note, big name performers featured in the film, like Chalino Sanchez and Los Tigres del Norte, seemed to add a familiar historical component to those who grew up listening to corridos. For others, learning about how corridos are written to share news, comment on politics, and often glorify drug smuggling was compelling. The audience’s varied backgrounds contributed to a colorful discussion when talking about the evolution of corridos, too, sharing their take on what the genre has developed into today, 6 years after this movie was made.

Viewers had varying opinions about the immigration issue since many staff has Latin America backgrounds and some frequently visit or even live in Mexico, traveling back and forth to work on this side of the border. We touched upon the immigration reform campaign that is currently taking place in the U.S., discussing how that will affect Dreamers, Casa de Sueños kids, and other youth in the Tumbleweed network who will be seeking educational/vocational assistance or job development training.

Overall, the audience really identified with the endearing way Magdiel was portrayed in the film with all of his talents, questions, and dreams. Conversely, they expressed that they felt angered by Chris Simcox’s role as the President of The Minutemen Civil Defense Corps. I wonder what corridor Magdiel would compose of him?

Posted by Lindy Drew, Team Coordinator, Casa de Sueños, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development

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Which Way Home Movie Presentation at Tumbleweed :: Phoenix, AZ

On July 11, 2012, the Indocumentales-Tumbleweed film series launched with the screening of Which Way Home, by Rebecca Cammisa. Staff from Tumbleweed’s Young Adult Program, the Learning Center, Phoenix Youth Resource Center, Casa de Sueños (CDS), and the Administration Department attended to learn more about youth immigration and the services shelters like Casa de Sueños provide for unaccompanied and undocumented minors.

The film seemed like a nice compliment for kicking off the series, especially since co-workers from other Tumbleweed programs showed a great deal of interest in what the journey looks like for these youth from the moment they leave their homes to when they arrive at CDS. The new hires who attended were particularly touched by what the characters endured and will soon be hearing more stories along the same lines once they start as Youth Care Workers. Experienced CDS staff viewing the film for the second or third time around were equally touched, like the film resonated for them from already having helped so many youth in this population.

Office of Refugee and Resettlement Program Director Alfonso Ramirez and Case Manager Miguel Hernandez lead the discussion afterward asking such questions as, “What did you observe about the feelings the kids had? How were the kids’ attitudes towards adults? What are some of the ways you noticed the youth coped with challenges or adversity? Did this remind you of any of your youth?” They touched upon the importance of trauma informed care, stressing the responsibility to report what clients have endured while crossing the border while providing the appropriate follow up care. Finally, they answered many viewers questions about “What percentage of kids are reunified?,” “How many stay in the US?,” and “What kind of options do they have to stay if their families are not present?” Overall the viewers appreciated seeing the film and were challenged to think about what they would do differently in their job now that they had a better idea of what the youths’ journey crossing the border entails.

Posted by Lindy Drew, Team Coordinator, Casa de Sueños, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development.

what moves you? presents at LASA Conference in San Francisco

During the Latin American Studies Association conference in May 2012, held in San Francisco, CA, several members of the Indocumentales team presented updates on the project. On behalf of what moves you?, Shamina de Gonzaga described how Indocumentales is designed to help connect communities of diverse background, generation and experience around immigration issues. Beyond inviting the academic institutions present to bring the series to their campus, participants were urged to discuss in small groups which issues in their community could benefit from the Indocumentales model – i.e. partnering with non-academic organizations, reaching out to interested constituencies in their local community, including documentaries, oral history and other non-traditional resources among learning materials.

Participants discussed the challenges of addressing polarizing topics in the classroom and how to ensure that, as faculty, one doesn’t bring in one’s own political views when presenting documentaries and dialogues on issues such as immigration.

UA CLAS hosts “Al Otro Lado” screening with educators

On May 30-June 1, the University of Arizona Center for Latin American Studies, UA South and Outreach College featured the film Al Otro Lado as part of the 2012 Summer Institute for Educators: Teaching the Borderlands. The three-day Institute provided K-12 and community college teachers with a range of experiences – from lectures about unique musical styles to a tour of the Arizona State Museum’s Many Mexicos exhibit.

Al Otro Lado allowed participants to consider the themes of both migration and music. The film’s powerful story line about the decisions of young corrido composer Magdiel to leave his fishing village in Sinaloa in search of opportunities in the U.S. was interwoven with the stories of famed corridistas who have had great success in the U.S. before him. These themes resonated strongly with the Institute participants, since many of their students have their own migration stories and idolize the heroes of the narcocorridos. Teachers debated the effect of narcocorridos on their communities – whether they simply glorify violence or fill a void for students by giving them heroes who overcome challenges similar to their own. UA South adjunct faculty and assistant vice chancellor of Pima Community College Dr. Dolores Duran-Cerda followed the discussion with a lecture about the folk art form of the corrido, including its role in the Mexican Revolution and the development of today’s narcocorridos.

Farmingville presented as part of Borderlands Community Film Series, Tucson, AZ

Our second film of the Borderlands Community Film Series was Farmingville. The film highlighted the tensions of the town after Mexican day laborers began to be employed in the community. Unfortunately the clash led to the savage beating of two undocumented workers. The film offered various perspectives over the issue of immigration which helped greatly in discussing the film. After the film, our general discussion was dominated with questions about how should immigrant populations be integrated into the country. Also towards the end of the film, it was mentioned that a new wave of immigrants from Mexico City had arrived in Farmingville. As a result, tensions emerged between the first wave and the newly arrived wave. The audience had a difficulty understand why there were hostilities between the groups.  I had to explain that even though they were Mexican, the first group came from a rural background while the new wave came from the inner-city. In other words, the tension that existed in Mexico between the groups reemerged in Farmingville. Overall the film was received well by the audience.

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Mi Vida Dentro at the Pueblo Center, Tucson, AZ

It was February 2, 2012 that the UA Center for Latin American Studies screened the film Mi Vida Dentro . Our venue is located on the south-side of Tucson at the Pueblo Center. Primarily, our goal is to reconnect with the south-side community through the Borderlands Community Film Series. The film, Mi Vida Dentro , caused several of our viewers to shake their heads in disappointment. After the film ended we held an open discussion for general questions. Even though the film was mostly in Spanish without subtitles, our viewers understood the message. The questions that dominated the discussion pertained to legal and cultural issues. For example, if an illegal immigrant was in need of help should they call emergency services. Although they are entitled to this right most will not for fear of being deported. Furthermore, our viewers were appalled by the prosecutor’s racist remarks while she was addressing the jury. To be specific, it was her comment about Mexicans being smarter than they looked. Overall the viewers enjoyed the film and left home questioning the U.S. justice system.

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Indocumentales launches series at the University of Arizona Center for Latin American Studies

The Indocumentales film series will be launched in Tucson, Arizona in Spring 2012 as part of the Borderlands Community Film Series. The UA Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) was awarded a Arizona Humanities Council grant to run this series. The films will be screened at the El Pueblo Neighborhood Center and the Harkins Spectrum Theater in South Tucson in late 2011 and spring 2012. The series kicked off in September 2011 with a screening of Los Que Se Quedan/Those Who Remain (Carlos Hagermann, Carlos Rulfo).

CLAS is working with the Hanson Film Institute and the Consulado de Mexico en Tucson to screen films and encourage a dialogue about the issues the films explore. The events will include discussions with filmmakers or experts and are completely free and open to the public.

The series will include several films by local filmmakers focusing on regional border issues. In October 2011, the Borderlands Film Festival screened 389 Miles: Living the Border, featuring a Q&A with film director Luis Carlos Davis. The film is a documentary that addresses the current immigration debate taking place on the Arizona-Mexico border. It is a human journey, a story documented by director/producer Luis Carlos Davis who grew up in the shadow of the Arizona-Mexico border. It presents the raw, daily life of human beings who come from different backgrounds and ideologies when it comes to immigration. One of the few things they all have in common is the border fence, steel wall or a strands of rusty barbed wire.

CLACS hosts educator workshop on “Which Way Home”

On December 14th, NYU CLACS Outreach Program hosted a screening and discussion with area educators on the film Which Way Home. This was the second event in December for area educators. Which Way Home, a 2009 film by Rebecca Cammisa, focuses on immigrant children from Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, who must overcome tremendous odds in their journey to the U.S.

The discussion, facilitated by Shamina de Gonzaga and Gala Narezo of what moves you?, opened a dialogue focusing on how teachers might use the film to teach on topics of migration, the challenges that children face on journeys between countries, and connections between the lives of the kids in their classroom with those of the kids shown in the film.

Many teachers commented on particular video clips that might be useful for their classroom. The group also speculated on the fate of the children in the film, a discussion that may be particularly relevant to open in classrooms. Following the release of the film, the NY Times followed up on one of the kids in the film who gained asylum in the US.

The Indocumentales program Resources page includes links to a UW-Madison website featuring commentary and resources on Which Way Home.

CLACS hosts educator screening of Farmingville

On December 5th, NYU CLACS Outreach Program hosted a screening and discussion with area educators on the film Farmingville. The aim of the event was to build ongoing education programming for the Indocumentales project, provide a space for networking among educators interested in teaching topics related to immigration, and disseminate resources that might be useful for teaching these themes in NYC classrooms.

The film was followed by comments by Professor Judy Hellman, CLACS Visiting Professor and Professor of Anthropology at York University in Canada. She is the author of author of The World of Mexican Migrants and Mexican Lives. Hellman made connections between  economic and political change in Mexico he growth of undocumented migration to the United States, which affected communities such as Farmingville, NY.

The discussion, facilitated by Shamina de Gonzaga and Gala Narezo of what moves you?, then opened up to explore ways this film might be taught in classrooms. Teachers offered feedback on clips that are particularly relevant, challenges they may face in teaching these controversial topics, and opportunities to make linkages to existing curriculum.

Farmingville, a 2004 film by Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini, documents the attempted murders of two Mexican day-laborers in Long Island. The movie features first-hand accounts from residents, day-laborers and activists, and underscores the continuing relevance of undocumented immigrant issues.

The Indocumentales program Resources page includes links to PBS teaching materials for Farmingville. The PBS site also has a video interview with the films directors, Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini. The POV materials also gave rise to the Farmingville Campaign, a project of Active Voice which aims to help communities begin or deepen discussions about immigration, racism, national identity and the democratic process.

Indocumentales video from UW-Madison

Check out the Indocumentales Film Series footage from UW-Madison:

Indocumentales Video from UW-Madison

The Indocumentales project uses documentaries as a means to engage wide audience interest in the complex topic of immigration. The five-week outreach effort was a partnership between LACIS (Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies) and the Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin. Screenings of films and discussion sessions were combined with a “History of Mexican/US immigration and border issues” exhibit open to the campus. The Ibero-American Studies Librarian curated the exhibit and created an online research guide (available via web) covering two-hundred years of immigration. A promotional effort was added to attract a target audience of K-12 teachers, UW students and faculty, community activists, public opinion leaders and the general public. Indocumentales (5 documentaries and a resource guide), was developed by CLACS at New York University in collaboration with advocacy NGOs. Which Way Home?, focused on child workers attempting to enter the US, while, Los Que Se Quedan, looked at the Mexican families left behind. Other films such as, Al Otro Lado and Farmingville, examined hot-button topics like, drugs, immigration laws, and fights between groups seeking to remove undocumented workers from communities. Each screening was followed by a discussion with special guests including academics, immigration lawyers and community activists. A salient theme of the five-week period was that each documentary introduced a complex issue using a thoughtful story a wider audience could digest. We believe this contributed to a more constructive discussion while providing valuable data to the audience. The dialogues were taped and edited for analysis (This footage can be viewed in the video player above).

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Stranded at the Border

Tijuana-San Diego border deaths

Image via Wikipedia

A recent New York Times article and video segment discusses the changes that are occurring near the U.S./Mexico border.  The once permeable border utilized by seasonal migrants has shifted into a militarized area saturated by violence and poverty.  While less people are taking the risk to cross, the Obama administration is deporting a record number to places like Tijuana.  Most deportees cannot afford to go back to their home towns and others that have families in the U.S. cannot afford the steep coyote price to cross again.  The result is a growing population that becomes stranded at the border and often falls prey to drug addiction or to the drug gangs that rule the border.

Mexican Immigrants Repeatedly Brave Risks to Resume Lives in United States – NYTimes.com.

Key Parts of Alabama’s Immigration Law Upheld

#HB56 Immigration Rally

Image by acnatta via Flickr

On Wednesday, September 28, 2011, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn, a Republican appointee, upheld several sections of Alabama’s new immigration law:

1) a section allowing law enforcement officials to question suspected people on their legal status, and hold them without bond (effective immediately) and

2) a section requiring schools (beginning Thursday) to determine the legal status of students when they enroll,

although the state insists that children will not be turned away from attending school, a Christian Monitor Science article discusses the impact of this new provision:

“… even though they’re permitting the children to come to school, they’re creating this situation where they’re not likely to go to school,” says Rosemary Salamone, a law professor at St. John’s University in Jamaica, N.Y.

3)  Along with the provisions above, businesses are required to use E-Verify to confirm a hire’s eligibility to work.

4)  It is now a felony for an undocumented immigrant to do business with the state (i.e. obtaining a drivers license)  and it will be a misdemeanor for an undocumented resident not to have immigration papers.

5)   Judge Blackburn also upheld Section 27, which prohibits state courts from enforcing contracts between undocumented immigrants and parties that are aware of their undocumented status.

A Huffington Post article says Alabama’s Hispanic population grew by 145 percent over the last decade but still only represents around 4 percent of the population, though there are many schools in northern Alabama where most of the students are Hispanic.

Some Alabama police officers are worried about the lack of funds, facilities, and man power to enforce this new law while school officials are concerned about school drop out rates and the requirement to report numbers to the state.  The new law also is effecting Alabama farmers who say they will be unable to harvest their crops without the essential migrant labor and others say it will be more difficult to rebuild Alabama’s infrastructure destroyed by April’s tornadoes without the undocumented work force.

On Thursday, September 29th, the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations asked Judge Blackburn for a hold on the provisions while they pursue an appeal.

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Indocumentales Film Series includes MI VIDA DENTRO, a documentary about Rosa Estela Olera Jiménez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who is convicted of killing a 21 month year old boy under her care.  This past December Judge Baird ruled that Rosa be granted a new trial.  According to an Austin Chronicle article:

[Rosa’s new lawyer] Bryce Benjet argued several claims in his writ – including that Jimenez should be declared innocent, that prosecutorial misconduct marred the original trial, and that Jimenez was denied due process because she was not given access to funds to hire her own experts to testify at her 2005 trial, where she had ineffective legal representation.

Baird disagreed that Jimenez should be granted relief based on actual innocence or on prosecutorial misconduct claims but agreed she should be given relief based on her due process and ineffective assistance claims. … Baird’s ruling now goes to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which will decide whether to affirm his ruling and grant Jimenez relief.

As of the date of this post, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has not yet made a decision.

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New Policy On Deportations Allows Some Non-Criminal Undocumented Immigrants To Stay

This article by Elise Foley of The Huffington Post on August 18, 2011 could add to the discussion of the larger picture of the United States’ policy towards immigration.  While this move by the President is an unprecedented step and good news for those about to be deported without a criminal record, there are many such as Rosa Estela Olera Jiménez (MI VIDA DENTRO), who are arrested and charged for crimes yet not given adequate representation or the opportunity to understand their rights.  As this article points out, the President’s plan does little for undocumented immigrants not in deportation proceedings – such as the musicians in SUBTERRÁNEOS or those such as Magdiel (AL OTRO LADO) who make the decision to cross rather than traffic drugs in order to survive.

The article gives credit to Latino and immigrant reform groups for garnering enough pressure on the administration to prompt this announcement – which highlights the impact and importance of immigrant organizations, like the community of Mexican immigrants in SIXTH SECTION, who are working together to improve their lives and empower their future.


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced on Thursday it will do a case-by-case review of deportations, allowing many undocumented immigrants without criminal records to stay in the United States indefinitely and apply for work permits.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will send a letter on Thursday to Senate members who had asked for details on how the agency would prioritize its immigration enforcement. The policy change is meant as a framework to help prevent non-priority undocumented immigrants from “clogging the system,” senior administration officials said on a conference call with reporters Thursday.

First, the agency will look at its pending immigration cases and close the low-priority cases, so immigration courts can focus on the most serious ones, administration officials said. The low-priority cases can be reopened if circumstances require. Next, guidance will be given to immigration enforcement agents to help them better detect serious criminals and other high-priority undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented immigrants whose cases are closed will be allowed to apply for work permits, but will not be given them automatically, officials said.

The move was perhaps meant to combat harsh criticism from Latino groups and immigration reform advocates, who have rebuked President Obama for continuing to deport undocumented people at record rates, while at the same time insisting he supports immigration reform.

Although the Obama administration has repeatedly said its deportation policies focus on the “worst of the worst,” immigrant rights groups say enforcement agents still net a large number of non-criminal undocumented people.

The administration had earlier attempted to defend its record on Tuesday, with a blog post meant to “set the record straight” on the Secure Communities enforcement program.

Cecilia Munoz, White House director of Intergovernmental Affairs, wrote that more than half of all removals are of people with criminal records. Among non-criminals, most of those removed were apprehended crossing the border, had recently arrived in the United States or had been previously deported, she wrote.

“Those statistics matter,” Munoz wrote. “While we have more work to do, the statistics demonstrate that the strategy DHS put in place is working.”

The administration earlier tried to clarify its immigration enforcement policies in a June memo, which specifically recommended prosecutorial discretion. That memo cited the possibility of considering whether a person under removal proceedings would otherwise be eligible for the DREAM Act, an un-passed bill that would allow some undocumented young people to gain legal status in exchange for two years of college or military service.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), one of the key supporters of the DREAM Act, applauded the administration’s decision Thursday.

“The Obama Administration has made the right decision in changing the way they handle deportations of DREAM Act students,” Durbin said. “These students are the future doctors, lawyers, teachers and, maybe, senators, who will make America stronger. We need to be doing all we can to keep these talented, dedicated, American students here, not wasting increasingly precious resources sending them away to countries they barely remember.

Durbin pledged to “closely monitor DHS” to ensure the new policy would be implemented.

But increased discretion on the part of administration prosecutors may not be enough to please advocacy groups, many of which argue the administration should abolish certain enforcement programs altogether.

“In order to fulfill its promises, the administration must end policies like Secure Communities that result in the criminalization of innocent immigrants who are Americans in Waiting like those who came before them,” said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, in an email statement. “The administration has pursued policies that are sowing fear and devastation among immigrant communities, and it must reverse course to stop the Arizonification of the country,” he added, referencing Arizona’s strict immigration enforcement policies.

via New Policy On Deportations Allows Some Non-Criminal Undocumented Immigrants To Stay.

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La vida es sueño


Image by j valas images via Flickr

Each film in the Indocumentales Series has one thread in common: the hope for a better life.

This thread continues to unite undocumented children that are brought or sent here by their parents.  These children grow up in the United States, they learn English, watch American television and become a part of the American culture.  Most of them have no idea that they are considered “illegal” until they take the natural American step of thinking about their future and are shocked to learn their opportunities are suddenly very limited.  According to a New York Times article, “In 2008, about 65,000 illegal immigrants graduated from American high schools, but only 5 percent went on to college…”

In 2001 a bipartisan effort created the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act to help such children continue living their American dreams. The DREAM Act journey has just hit its ten year anniversary and there have been many amendments and changing sponsors throughout the years.  Here is a breakdown of the 2011 version from multiamerican.scpr.org:

  • The age cap for applicants, which was reduced to age 29 last year, has been bumped back up to 35 years of age or younger
  • The length of conditional legal status before applicants may obtain permanent legal resident status has been reduced to six years, as in an earlier version, from 10 years
  • This version would, as did an earlier version (but not the House-approved one), seek to repeal a ban on in-state tuition rates for beneficiaries
The 2010 DREAM Act passed in the House but was not approved in the Senate with a final vote of  55-41.  Determined more than ever, undocumented students and supporters vow to keep fighting to make the DREAM a reality.
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El Norte screening 8/9/11

Cover of "El Norte [Region 4]"

Indocumentales hosted a screening of Gregory Nava’s El Norte on Tuesday, August 9th at 92YTribecaEl Norte, first presented in 1983, is about two siblings, Rosa and Enrique who migrate from Guatemala to the United States after their father is killed and their mother is taken away by their government.

Though their story is fiction, their journey is filled with hope and many struggles not unlike 40,000 Guatemalan refugees.  After the screening, Shamina de Gonzaga, co-founder of Indocumentales moderated a discussion with panelists Mary Jo Toll of Sisters of Notre Dame at the United Nations and Carlos Gutiérrez, co-founder of Cinema Tropical on how things have and have not changed for migrants in the 28 years since this film was released.

Mary Jo relayed to the audience that through her work she has learned that things have not changed very much for migrants.  Many South and Central Americans still face racism in Mexico and the US and people are still fleeing their countries due to human rights issues but due to the current US situation on immigration it is very hard to gain asylum.  She noted that the anti-immigrant sentiment in the US and elsewhere is in great part fueled by well-financed propaganda misinforming people about the reality of migrants’ contributions in their countries of destination.  She expressed the importance of migrants to the US economy, not only do migrants take on jobs that are extremely strenuous but there are a substantial number that create small businesses in the US. She reported that many work in horrible conditions and live in fear of other co-workers who threaten to report them to Immigration.  Unfortunately, she said many politicians are unaware of the conditions of labor camps.  She also briefly discussed the US’ fickle policy toward immigration throughout history.  A once porous border, which allowed migrant workers to come to the US to work and then return home is no longer possible now that the border has been militarized.

Carlos discussed the many ways media has handled the immigrant experience.  Today there are many documentaries about the migrants who travel from South and Central America.  Carlos addressed how migrants are consistently portrayed as victims even to this day – and how El Norte, despite presenting a favorable image of the characters’ indigenous culture in Guatemala, subsequently presents them in a patronizing light later on in the film – what is lacking are films that present the migrants with equal empowerment and dignity.  Carlos also mentioned the recent fictional film Sin Nombre which has a similar story line but is a much brutal version to El Norte‘s magic realism.  Carlos said crossing is much more dangerous now as migrants are either kidnapped and/or killed by drug cartels.

Participants questioned what services could be made available to aid families that have been separated due to deportation of one family member and noted that existing governmental services are already overstretched and in some instances the involvement of the authorities can be more harmful than helpful.

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A Growing Community

We have been screening films as part of the Indocumentales series since 5 de Mayo here in New York and I feel a growing community around this issue every day. We couldn’t have timed it better if we had planned it. The proposed laws in Arizona, the hate crimes in Staten Island and a pressing need for solutions have increased the urgency around immigration. People seem interested and open to dialogue. Many seem confused, some have very strong opinions which are not always rational, some are somewhat misinformed or need more information to form an opinion. The premise of Indocumentales is that if information is available and people can learn more about the situations that create “the immigration problem,” then they will eventually be more educated and prepared if and when they have to weigh in on the matter.

Last Wednesday we had an inspiring workshop at Make The Road in Jackson Heights Queens. We held a screening of Alex Rivera’s The Sixth Section and then we had a discussion and workshop session with the students who were all incredibly energetic and full of ideas. I could see how these students were preparing themselves to go out into the world and change the way that people think and I’m certain that they will.

Conversation after “Los Que Se Quedan” in Bushwick

Video of conversation following a screening of the film Los Que Se Quedan at Bushwick’s P.S 291 on May 21, 2010.

Discussion of “Subterraneos” at NYU

Video Part One of a discussion after Indocumentales screening at NYU’s King Juan Carlos of Spain I Center on May 5, 2010.

Video  Part Two of the same discussion.

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