Documentary sheds light on immigrants' plight
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Fernanda Marroquin's words falter as her eyes mist with tears. She looks away from the camera and cries as she thinks about the undocumented immigrants such as herself who live on the borders of their community, faced with the constant fear of losing everything.
"It just makes me mad, you know, [they] didn't have to go through that, just being so afraid to leave their houses," she says, looking squarely at the camera in a YouTube video posted on Nov. 15, 2011 by DreamActivist.
DreamActivist is an organization that aims to pass the D.R.E.A.M. Act, which stands for Development Relief and Education of Alien Minors. This act would legalize millions of young undocumented immigrants in the United States, affording them a chance at schooling, jobs and a better future. According to the DreamActivist website, this piece of legislation has been voted on twice, each time falling short by a margin of eight and five votes, respectively.
Fernanda Marroquin is a member of DreamActivist Pennsylvania, a student at Eastern University and the focus of an upcoming documentary, "Out of the Shadows," made by a group of University students and faculty.
"I got involved with the documentary program last year when I took Documentary Theory and Practice with Hezekiah Lewis," says senior Juliana Brown, writer and director of the film. "I wanted to take the class because after seeing the other social justice documentaries, I knew that it was a program I wanted to be a part of to help spread awareness about important social issues."
Other members of the team behind the documentary include Professor and Executive Producer, Hezekiah Lewis, Producers Nick Monzo and Weddy Worjroh, Cinematographers Amy Diebolt and Gianni Carr, Editor Katherine Portelli, Sound Producer Janay Bates, Public Relations Director Jackie King, and Writers Crystal Lane and Marlon Calibi.
"As a group, we were motivated to make this documentary after seeing the video of Marmoquin on YouTube describing her participation in an act of civil disobedience in Alabama to protest the anti-immigrant bill known as HB 56," Brown says.
The Hammon-Beason Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, better known as HB 56, was passed in June 2011 and allows law enforcement authorities to arrest and retain any individual suspected of being undocumented. This law also restricts the leasing of property, admission into public colleges and hiring of suspected illegal immigrants.
Marroquin and others like her speak out against acts such as these that allow for detention and speedy deportation proceedings of immigrants, despite the fact that many make an honest living and pay taxes. According to Brown, estimates show that undocumented immigrants paid close to $11.2 billion in taxes last year. "Out of the Shadows" follows the efforts of these individuals to draw attention to the injustice done to these immigrants.
For Brown and her team, working with the young activists was eye-opening. They didn't simply stand in the sidelines-the University students filmed and participated in the DreamActivist rally in Philadelphia. The event involved testimonies from young, undocumented immigrants and a march to the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement building.
"Despite the fear that many undocumented immigrants live under every day, the DreamActivists go public with their undocumented status, engaging in acts of civil disobedience in order to bring attention to the deportations and human rights violations that occur on a daily basis within the U.S. immigration system," Brown says. "Two undocumented youth, one of whom was a student at Bryn Mawr, engaged in civil disobedience and were arrested for blocking traffic. It was an incredible experience to see people taking a public stance to fight for the empowerment of the undocumented community."
According to Brown, filming the documentary had a powerful impact on her personal outlook.
"Having never come face-to-face with an undocumented immigrant before, when I met Fernanda I was forced to confront my own privileges and think about the implications of a system that deems some human beings illegal," Brown says. "For immigrants like Fernanda, something as simple as going to college becomes a major obstacle since undocumented youth have no access to student loans."
Ironically, for Marroquin's parents, traveling to the U.S. in 2000 came with the hope of an education for Marroquin and her siblings, as they were unable to afford schooling for their children back home.
"They basically gave up everything they had to give us a better future," she says in the video. "Once I reached high school, I realized all the limitations I would have being undocumented. I pretty much lost a lot of the hope that I had for a future."
Marroquin's work with DreamActivist allows her to regain some of the hope she lost, empowering others like herself to "take a stand for humanity, for dignity, for families and to fight back."
The creators of "Out of the Shadows" hope that the documentary helps students sympathize and connect with individuals like Marroquin, as well as bring the issue of immigration policies in the U.S. to the forefront of their minds.
"Undocumented immigrants are much more than the photos we see in the media of people climbing over border walls--they are people like you and me, living among us in Philadelphia and all over the United States, trying to support their families and make a better life for themselves," Brown says.
"Out of the Shadows" premieres on Sunday, April 29 at 7 p.m. in Connelly Cinema, and on May 5 at 11 a.m. at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.
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