Arizona is no stranger to the immigration issue.
The immigration debate has recently made headlines around the world, prompted in part by Gov. Jan Brewer’s approval of SB1070.
But first-time filmmaker, Roy Germano, wanted to look at the issue from a different perspective. His documentary, “The Other Side of Immigration,” which shares the perspective of those living south of the border, will be shown on two ASU campuses this week.
While many reports concerning immigration in the United States are highly emotional, the film shows the lives and experiences of people willing to cross the border — as well as those who are not.
Many of the Mexicans interviewed are current or former migrant workers. Local political figures from Mexico are also given a chance to speak, but perhaps the most telling perspectives on the issue come from the people who do not cross the border — namely the stories of family members and local businessmen and women in and around the border towns of Mexico.
“The more I learned about these towns and the reasons why so many Mexicans migrate to the U.S., the more I grew frustrated with the tone and substance of the U.S. immigration debate,” said Germano in a press release. “To a large extent, I believe the harsh reactions many Americans have toward immigrants stems from ignorance and misunderstanding about why people migrate. I think with more information, more Americans who consider themselves ‘anti-immigrant’ or ‘anti-immigration’ would find themselves identifying and empathizing with those who come here without documentation.”
ASU’s Pe P rformance in the Borderlands Project, a research, education and public programming initiative that showcases and brings attention to the cultures and artistic traditions along the U.S. and Mexico border, is one of the groups organizing the screening of the film on campus.
Tamara Underiner, program director and assistant professor in the School of Theater and Film at ASU, said she hopes that “through education we can uncover the root problems of this issue and together work to overcome our differences and misunderstandings.”
Kari Bynum, a global studies junior also working to organize a screening at ASU, said she found the documentary compelling “because you are able to see real stories and the affect that migration has on real people’s lives.”
“I think these stories, like the ones in the film, so often get lost among the political debate around the situation, and we forget that are real people involved,” Bynum said in an e-mail. “It shows a very complex situation that is deeply rooted in Mexico’s history in the most simple and beautiful way possible.”
The film addresses many key areas of concern, particularly the North American Free Trade Agreement, which took effect Jan. 1, 1994, to open and expand trade between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Though successful to some degree for larger distributors, it proved to be devastating to smaller businesses.
While the North American Free Trade Agreement is responsible for some of the issues that the U.S. and Mexico face today, “The Other Side of Immigration” also addresses the illusion of the American dream as seen through the eyes of Mexican immigrants.
Several of the current and former migrant farmers in the documentary dispel many of the rumors that make their way into Mexico and Central America from people claiming that migrating is easier than it actually is — in some cases, leaving out specific, sometimes fatal, bits of information like what is needed to simply cross the border.
The film indicates that both sides are suffering from the same problems. On both sides of the border, there is a shared frustration with governments perceived to be ineffective and believed to be squandering resources.
“The United States could provide a great deal of help with implementing things like guest worker programs, so migrants could work here legally,” said Bynum. “Being so close to the border, we have a great deal of opportunities to help the situation. People can become involved in organizations like No More Deaths and peacefully provide aid to what can be such a volatile situation.
“Ultimately, Mexico needs help from within, and the more people who are aware of what is truly going on, the more likely we will see change.”
“The Other Side of Immigration” will be screened Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse on the Tempe campus. There will be another screening Thursday Nov. 18 in La Sala B and C on the West campus at 7 p.m. There will be a reception preceding the screening at 6 p.m. Both showings will be followed by a question and answer session with director Roy Germano and are free and open to the public.
“I hope the film leaves Americans feeling uncomfortable with an immigration policy whose primary mission is to restrict entry — an immigration policy that does nothing to address the factors that trigger and perpetuate undocumented immigration,” Germano said. “If enough Americans voice their discomfort with this approach, our policymakers will take note and, I hope, begin cooperating more with the Mexican government to reduce emigration pressures at their source.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org