WWW: “The Undocumented”

Photo by Flickr CC User: DrStarbuck

Photo by Flickr CC User: DrStarbuck

In 1994 the United States launched Operation Gatekeeper, effectively militarizing the US-Mexico border. Within three years, agents strapped with M4 rifles and .40 caliber submachine guns patrolled their newly-installed fences 24 hours a day. The INS budget and the size of the Border Patrol doubled during the same period and the easiest routes north were sealed. Policymakers envisioned human action in economic terms, expecting that people would make a “cost-benefit decision” before deciding to journey across more dangerous terrain. They believed that no rational actor would assume the “cost” of crossing Arizona’s Sonora Desert in the summertime.

Policymakers were wrong. Each day this summer, countless migrants will begin 4-5 day treks in 110 degree heat for a chance to live and work in the United States. Many will never make it out of the desert.

Acclaimed director Marco Williams recently released his documentary: “The Undocumented,” which has aired as part of PBS’s Independent Lens series. The documentary chronicles Arizona’s deadliest summer months:

  • Humanitarian groups work tirelessly to identify remains and notify families in Mexico and in the US;
  • Medical examiners see their workloads double, triple, quadruple;
  • Even the de facto mission of the Border Patrol transforms as agents spend their days saving lives and recovering bodies.

“The Undocumented” (1 hr and 25 mins) is available to stream free online until May 29th. I highly recommend this documentary to anyone who wants to see the direct impact of US immigration policy on human lives. Interestingly, PBS will also be releasing a video game called “The Migrant Trail” in June to “introduce players to the hardships and perils of crossing the Sonora Desert.” Both of these resources are available by clicking the links above or visiting the PBS: Independent Lens website.

8 thoughts on “WWW: “The Undocumented”

    • Hi Stephanie! Yes, from what Adam said, it’s definitely worth watching. I’ve still got to watch it myself. It’s only available online through May 29th, so we’ve still got a few days to watch it. You’ll have to let me know what you think about it!

      • The documentary was definitely eye opening and thought provoking. It’s going to take a few days to process it. Four years ago, I read Helen Thorpe’s Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America about four friends, in which two were documented and the other two undocumented. The book brought the immigration issue to life for me. After watching this documentary, I feel strongly compelled to become involved in some form. I will be purchasing this DVD and sharing it with my mentees.

      • The documentary was definitely eye opening and thought provoking. It’s going to take me a few days to process it. Four years ago, I read Helen Thorpe’s Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America. The book is about four friends, in which two were documented and the other two undocumented. Reading it brought the immigration issue to life for me. After watching this documentary, I feel strongly compelled to become involved in some form. I will be purchasing this DVD and sharing it with my mentees.

      • Thanks so much for coming back and sharing what you thought about the film!
        I haven’t read Thrope’s book before, but it sounds like one that I’d like to look into getting–also sounds like a great read to combine with watching the documentary. Maybe we’ll do a post about using the two resources in the classroom–thanks for the recommendation!

  1. Thanks for the update, Stephanie. I’m glad the documentary was meaningful to you. If you want more information, some important organizations that are involved in this issue are Derechos Humanos (in the video), and No Mas Muertes.

  2. Pingback: Teaching the Realities of Border Crossing | Vamos a Leer

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