Can a Human Being Be Illegal? Thoughts on Immigration through Film

Posted on June 16, 2010

The national dialogue on immigration has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks, with many municipalities declaring boycotts of Arizona over the recent enactment of a strict immigration law that critics say amounts to little more than institutionalized racial profiling. Some Arizonans, in response, have sworn to boycott the cities that demonized their state. Regardless of your position on the law, the truth is that immigration is an issue at the forefront of international debate and legislation, as the increasing mobility of humanity makes borders ever more easily crossable as people search for social and economic opportunity. 

Even in the UK, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s flippant retort to a citizen angry about Eastern Europeans flooding into Britain sparked a backlash that may have cost him the recent election there. Much of the debate turns on what rights are afforded a person just for having been born in a particular nation, and what are refused to a person for not having been. Even that  is being parsed, as Arizona considers withholding citizenship and birth certificates to children born to undocumented immigrants on U.S. soil (although this contravenes the U.S. Constitution and may not survive the courts if passed).

Truly understanding the particulars of immigration requires a knowledge of individuals involved in the transformative process of emigrating or immigrating — often to a foreign land, often without knowing anyone or even possessing a familiarity with customs and language, and often either fleeing persecution or poverty. In turn, they often contribute to the rich cultural fabric of their adopted country. Some evidence indicates immigration boosts a nation’s overall economy, while there is similar data showing that some states absorb an uneven share of the costs for immigrants without healthcare or jobs.

At ITVS, we have funded a number of groundbreaking films on the topic of immigration from a wide breadth of perspectives. Check out some of our favorites, most of which you can watch online: 

The New Americans: Discover a wide variety of immigrants to America from around the globe, and what they bring to the American landscape. 

A Dream in Doubt: Experience a patriotic American Sikh immigrant who suffered a dual tragedy when his family was mistaken for Muslim after 9/11. 

Tia and Marco: In this fictional short set in the future (part of our FUTURESTATES series), an American border guard must weigh her loyalty with her humanity when she meets an undocumented Mexican immigrant boy in her home. 

The Other Side: In another FUTURESTATES project, an Anglo-American family attempt to sneak across the border when the United States economy has collapsed.


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