Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Documentary director shares untold immigration stories with PLU

By Camille Adams, Guest Writer

The award-winning documentary, "The Other Side of Immigration," brought Pacific Lutheran University students to the border examining immigration from an array of perspectives.

Creator of the film, Roy Germano, gave a presentation to various classes and students on Friday. His hour-long film was screened later that evening.

The documentary is the winner of the 2009 Politics on Film Founder’s Award. First-year Anna Loose, an attendee of Germano’s presentation, said, “He was a great speaker who presented the information well and made you feel emotionally involved in the issue.”

His lecture focused on the trials and tribulations of crossing the U.S. border through the desert.

The film, on the other hand, features interviews with members of a rural community in Michoacán, Mexico.

According to Germano, the idea for the film occurred to him while he was collecting statistics for his doctoral thesis. He said he realized during his interviews with over 700 inhabitants of Michoacán that personal stories speak in greater volumes than statistics. The film was born.

The film showcases both those who migrate to the U.S. and those who are left behind.  Its intent, according to the author, is to put a human face to immigration, showing how families are split up. Some parents are forced to be away from their children for anywhere from six months to many years.

First-year Maria Cruse said, “I think it is good to get the immigrants’ perspective about the issue. It was interesting to see their lifestyle.”

The film demonstrated how some immigrants create new families in the U.S. and never return to Mexico.

“The movie challenges the misconception that all immigrants come to the U.S. for the American dream,” Professor Adela Ramos said.

“The Other Side of Immigration” also highlights the economic relationship between the U.S. and Mexico that led to this culture of migration. After nations passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexican corn, grain and pig farmers all experienced a dramatic drop in business.

One farmer in the documentary said, “There’s not much point in growing corn anymore because there is cheaper corn coming in from God knows where.” However, Germano’s film claims NAFTA is not entirely to blame for the state of the Mexican economy.

Deceptive and corrupt local governments prevent citizens from accessing or benefiting from funds. Many people shown in the film believe there is nothing they can do, as any protests short of a revolution would have no effect. One man stated, “At elections every six years, they make you forget how they screwed you the last time.” According to the film, most Mexican citizens live on $3-$4 a day, or as low as $1 in rural areas.

The film ended with suggestions on how to move forward. Many of the solutions focused on policies and small-business practices in Mexico. One man quoted President John F. Kennedy: “Never ask what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Although the film proposed a change from within Mexico, during the question and answer session, Germano addressed ways Americans could make a difference.

He said he believes that through policies like the DREAM Act, Americans can improve U.S. immigration policies by making citizenship more attainable to certain groups. He also stressed the importance of temporary work visas, explaining many Mexicans would prefer to alternately work in the U.S. and live in Mexico every six months.

Germano currently works for One With Mexico, a non-profit organization which sponsors development and educational programs in Mexico.