Marco Williams, a widely acclaimed film director, highlighted the emotional struggles faced by undocumented immigrants and their families in his new film “The Undocumented,” which he showed in Johnston Hall on Monday night.
“The Undocumented” tells the story of those who cross over the American border to find work due to tense financial situations in Mexico. The documentary uses powerful images to humanize the fact that 2,500 human remains have been found since 1998 along the Arizona border.
“I am profoundly impacted by the human rights crisis taking place along our border,” Williams said, discussing what he sees as a key piece of the immigration debate that is not displayed in the media narrative.
It follows the work of several organizations, both humanitarian and government, as they do their best to help those who survive the crossing and identify the remains of those who do not so the families can have closure.
The movie is relevant given the recent spike in debate surrounding the American immigration policy. One of the first official actions taken by the newly elected Congress was a bipartisan effort to make serious and necessary changes to the current system of immigration.
The documentary also discusses how American policies dating back to the 90s have led to a spike in casualties as individuals are forced into much rougher and far more dangerous terrain while attempting to cross the border.
Karma R. Chávez, an assistant professor in the department of communication arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the modern political and social movement to ‘secure the borders’ has exacerbated the situation for all those involved on both the American and Mexican side of the border.
“So-called border security has only made border communities unsafe, and furthermore, it has led to record numbers of deaths for people crossing as they continue to be pushed into remote parts of the Arizona desert,” she said.
There are also student driven-efforts to relate the immigration discussion back to Marquette. Youth Empowered in the Struggle is a student group working to try and raise awareness for those impacted by immigration laws.
“The discussions surrounding immigration reform are a huge step forward because it is long overdue, but the plan put forth by the president and the senate is still a sad excuse for reform,” said Francisca Meráz, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences who is a member of the group.
Meráz said she supports reforms that would help protect workers’ rights and create a simple and direct path to allow those already living here to gain citizenship.
Chávez said immigration talks, while somewhat encouraging, are still in the political theater stage, which makes it difficult to know if real reform will be possible.
“Above anything else, and in terms of realistic policy, we need a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented people that is not contingent on militarizing the border,” Chávez said.
Meráz said that many of the current laws have negative effects on the immigrant communities who are impacted by them, often dehumanizing large populations.
“Anti-immigrant laws…make it a point to strip the humanity out of the immigrant community, shaming all of us as criminals and ‘illegals’,” she said.
Williams said that while the political debate surrounding comprehensive immigration reform has been constant for the past few years, the story of the dead bodies in the Sonoran Desert is often left unsaid.
“The deaths are invisible,” he said.