9th Annual Border Film Week Focuses On Human Side Of Immigration Debate
This is KPBS Midday Edition. I Maureen Cavanaugh. As President Obama's immigration policies remain tied up in the courts tonight in San Diego the focus will be on the human stories of immigration. The struggles and difficult these immigrants face when adjusting to a new life. The University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute kicks off its ninth annual Border Film Week tonight. The pills range from the risks Mexican journalistic to report on the drug war to the consequences of one Mexican town of the mass migration of its residents. Joining me are ever gave the director of the transporter Institute. And Chantal Flores who has produced for land of the goodbyes. Welcome. Ev this is the ninth annual Border Film Week is there a special theme this year that ties these films together? In a way there is not. There are very diverse. It another way they are because they are about Mexico and the complexity of the situation. A place where we see real challenges from a humanitarian human rights perspective and also where there's an amazing amount of creative work being done and people coming up with creative solutions that don't always get expressed in our research and policy making. It's opening up a new medium for looking at that complexity How does the Border Film Week fit in with transporter institutes mission? We have mission to speak to the general public and in a variety of different media. There are things you can get and film as a medium that we can't get it in a research report. We can't get it in the spreadsheet or with academic research. You need to see the faces of the people in here their stories and get it things that don't fit into a yes or no kind of questioning. We need to hear narrative and we need to see it. The films we feature mostly documentary films so they are created but creative to a point. You of real people telling real stories and most filmmakers consider themselves journalists. It's creative but to appoint and with a lot of facts. Now Chantel your film the land of the goodbyes is screening tonight. Can you tell us what it's about? This is about a small town in southern Mexico. We wanted to focus on the stories and the people who stayed in Mexico after their father's and the young kids leave. This is a story about the women and kids who were finishing middle school and looking for a future in a place where there is not a lot of opportunities. I guess this is the emotional side of immigration. What is happening to the Mexican family with all these people leaving the town's? Tell us more about this town. How many people have left? Obviously this is the town that there are not a lot of statistics available. In fact many of the people who study immigration there barely go to these towns. I guess that's why we are receiving all these opportunities because that is new when it comes to immigration. 80% of the men in the town are leaving. What we're seeing now is all these women getting empowered through work with the resources that they are left with. Out of necessity. We have been talking with Ev over the most recent past about the fact that immigration from Mexico has fallen off in recent years largely because of the recession. Is there anything specific happening in this community that is leading to this sort of mass exodus? People are not immigrating anymore because many people are getting stuck in the US. I know there are some statistics but a lot of the family members are stuck in the US. What is happening in South Mazatlan they used to have some kind of agriculture but not anymore. I guess what is happening it is tradition because people are so used to coming to the US even of some of the towns in Mexico are improving or there are other options. People are just used to coming to the US because that's where they think the future is. It's a tradition Ev apparently in some places in Mexico that this is simply what you do in order to better yourself and your family's life. How does this compare to the type of migration we haven't seen most recently from Central America? In some ways it's totally different and in other ways there are similarities and structural things that are the same. The difference first is the immediacy of it. We know that immigrant immigration has fallen to levels we haven't seen since the 1960s and places that have a 100 year tradition of sending people to United States, towns in Mexico have relationships with towns in the United States, that has slowed down. And just like Chantal was saying there are people who feel stuck in the United States. . -- People who might've gone back and forth on it seasonal rhythm have stopped doing that because of some different policy changes that make it harder to get back into the United States. There are also changing demographics in Mexico and the Mexican economy that is all those pressures. If you look at Central American kids, they come from immediate crisis. They are coming because their countries are falling apart at the seams. They are making a decision right now that they have to get out of there. The similarity I would say is their policy decisions that are made in all the countries that encourage this. When we decided to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement and we decided to integrate the economies, one of the major structural classes was there was a lot more pressure particularly in rural areas in Central America and Mexico for people to leave. We may have settled in and things may have gotten more stable but if you look at how we talk about the border we're still talking about it in terms of the crisis in the 1990s when there were more than 1 million people crossing the border. We're still using a language of crisis and looking at the spectacle -- spectacle of the Central Americans and thinking that's the reality of the border when that's really a micro prices. I have your point but for my summer that was all that was in the headlines was about on the company's minors crossing the border especially from Central America. You expect to see that again this summer or have they improved in those hardest hit countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador? I don't think we will see the same thing the summer but not because things have improved a lot. What is happened is there is more enforcement in the region and more enforcement in Mexico so some of those pico -- people won't make it here. People in Central America heard the stories and saw what happened at the border and kids being packed into border patrol stations and heard what happened on the journey and didn't want to make it again. It's a combination of things. It's not likely to happen. The best predictions I have seen there will be a dramatic falloff like 15,000 to 20,000 kids instead of 68,000. It doesn't mean the situation has got a lot better. A lot of politicians made the point last summer that it was the President Obama's policies that were misinterpreted by people in Central America and were responsible for the surge. Now President Obama has expanded DACA and their is DACA now for the parents year. Could that potentially have any effect in getting people to make that journey again? I don't think so. We don't see a lot of evidence that was true last summer. Some kids said something about this but in general they knew they wouldn't be immediately deported because the court system is backlog. None of those kids would have qualified for DACA. It's a red herring. I don't think anything has come out of Washington that particularly changed the calculus of Central Americans who might or might not come to the United States.'s it just means we haven't seized the moment. One more question about this Ev . If these boat through the expand of DACA and if it gets out of court and put into effect you see that softening relations between the US and Mexico because so many people who might potentially be deported or live under the fear of deportation won't anymore? Absolutely. Especially when you look at the undocumented population and you realize there's not a lot of new people coming from Mexico and the people who are here, the average time they have been here is 12.7 years. They are very settled. San Diego County as high as real estate is here, 25% of undocumented population in the county owns a house. Coming up with some kind of solution for those people with ease some tensions between Mexico and the United States and might get us thinking in a broader direction about what we really need which is to rethink our immigration policy and come up with something more sustainable for the future. Chantal back to your film the land of the advice you focus on the women and children left the by -- behind after the amount of migration. Is it your understanding from speaking with the people there that with immigration reform that people would look forward to going back to Mexico or that they would want to stay here and build their lives in America? They want to be in Mexico. They don't want to leave. We interview some of the boys in Virginia and one of the kids is 17 and says I want to go back. I guess what they want is to have a good salary and have something to build a house but in Mexico, not here. They want to be in their towns and they miss their cultures and traditions. That's what we wanted to do with the film was bring attention back to the Mexican government. Why is the government not giving us what we deserve as Mexicans? Tell us more about what the burdens that the women and children in this town have had to take on because they have to be the sole providers in some senses for their families? The main activity for women do is they make handcrafts like bags but they only get 1 dollar for each one and it takes a couple hours to make them. Making bags and when it's agriculture season with corn they barely get paid. They prefer to get paid with food than with money. There is nothing else. If you go to Mazatlan people are trying to find quick jobs to get money. There isn't much happening. In this whole immigration conversation that we have we usually focus on the people who make that trip and come across the border. Rightly so to a large extent but you decided to focus on the people who stayed behind in the small village. Why did you turn that focus around? I was living there and teaching a writing course and I had 100 students and they were all telling me stories of how they grew up without a father. Obviously it's a sad story but there are also other big issues because of the exchange of cultures. They bring back dollars and different technical things. They bring bad things from American culture. I started wondering how is that? Why are we not paying attention when we have this new generation of kids who were growing up without a parent and with the idea that the US is the next step in their lives? They can't have dreams of having a career because the US is what they have to do. Is this message getting through to people in the Mexican government? I don't think so. It's really hard especially now with organized crime and Central American immigration so everyone is focusing on that. Not on what is happening in the towns who already went through immigration or even Mexican immigrants because now we have trouble with Central American immigrants. Now in your film is only one of several films that will be shown during the Border Film Week. Solace -- tell us more about the others? Tomorrow night we have [ Indiscernible ] until the end of reckoning which is a wonderful film about crime journalism and crime scene investigators in Mexico. It's great because it takes a Jean are we think of as the about the night a big cities and says what happens with something like that when you put it into a crisis were more than 100,000 people are killed? How do people make in everyday life out of that? It's a terrific film and it's one a number of prizes. We will have a panel discussion with local experts. Thursday night we will turn our lens to another question about journalism and we're going to show a film called reporter which follows Tijuana journalists dealing with both the risks of being journalists in Mexico where it's very dangerous. More than 100 Charles seven killed since 2000. There's a great tradition of investigative journalism and active public spear of critical journalism and we will have one journalist was featured in the film who will come and take part in a panel discussion afterwards as well someone from the Tijuana press. They can talk about both the film and the subject of the film and also specifically about issues that we talk about today about Tijuana in the region. We're on the brink of a homeland security shutdown because the majority in congress want to keep those funds away and pressure President Obama to rescind his porters expanding DACA and getting this new program up and running. Both of those programs are in the courts. Is this a very depressing time for people who are honestly searching for some sort of immigration reform compromised joints I think it is and that is left then right. A lot of the modern voices have disappeared. I think it may also be a catalyzing moment. When you look at something like the injunction against the expanding of those programs you can see in my view it's not particularly in good faith, the lawsuit. It's very anecdotal and takes a bunch of Supreme Court decisions that were designed to defend the rights of immigrants and twists them around. We may have gotten to a point where the hyperbole is so extensive and pervasive that people say enough is enough and we need to come up with some bigger solutions. Those solutions have to do and this gets back to the point that Chantal made about what people like choices are our trade policy our immigration policy and our drug enforcement policy have to work together. If they are all pursuing different directions they are climbing different mountains and creating problems and we can't get beyond. I want to thank you both the Border Film Week runs today through Thursday at the Institute for peace and justice theater and I've been speaking with Avenue even Chantal Flores. Thank you for coming in. Thanks for having us.
As President Barack Obama's immigration policies remain tied up in the courts, San Diegans on Tuesday will focus on the human stories of immigration.
The University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute kicks off it's 9th annual Border Film Week on Tuesday. The films range from the risks Mexican journalists take to report on the drug war to the consequences one Mexican town faced from mass migration of its residents.
Border FIlm Week
Joan B. Kroc School of Peace & Justice Theatre
Dates: Tuesday to Thursday
Time: 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on all three nights
Ev Meade, director at the institute, said the event gives people a new medium to explore complex issues like immigration.
"We have a mission to speak to the general public but also speak in a variety of different media," Meade told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. "The films that we feature are mostly documentary films. It's creative but creative to a point — creative with a lot of facts."
The event will show the film "La Tierra de los Adioses," which translates to "The Land of Goodbyes."
The film, produced by Chantal Flores, tells the story of those living in Zapotitlán Palmas, Oaxaca.
"We wanted to focus on the stories of the people who stayed in Mexico," Flores said. "I guess this is the emotional side of immigration."
Flores said of the 50 percent of residents leaving the town, 80 percent are men. The remaining residents rely on their family members in the U.S. to support them.
"What's happening is tradition," Flores said. "People are so used to coming to the U.S. because that's where they think the future is."
Border Film Week runs from Tuesday to Thursday at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Theatre. For more information or to register to see a film, visit the event's website.