It’s time you meet them. It’s time to put a face to the crisis. It’s time to get to know the thousands of kids and young adults from Central America seeking refuge. We’ve read their stories about their journey and their struggle, both at home and in the detention centers. But we haven’t heard the story directly from them…until now.
Photographer Oliver Contreras and CARECEN, the Central American Resource Center, want to change that with the project “Unaccompanied.” They’re giving a platform to share to girls like Erminia, who at 15 traveled across the desert into the United States barefoot after her shoes fell apart. Also hear from Marvin, who spent four weeks sleeping on a prison floor after he was caught by Mexican immigration when he was 14. Both of these teenagers decided this was better than staying in their home country with no hope for the future.
A recent article in the Washington Post says this project “seeks to demonstrate the realities that youth immigrants face: the doubts, aspirations, complexity and humanity of their experience.”
Read more about their stories and the full article here.
José Bello came to the U.S. when he was just three years old. In 2018, he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) only to be released on bond after his community raised $10,000 for his freedom. After his experience in an immigrant detention center, he wrote a poem critical of U.S. immigration policy, titled “Dear America.” Bello read that poem at a public forum at the Kern County Board of Supervisors in May.
Less than 36 hours later, he was rearrested by ICE and taken back to the Mesa Verde detention center. THE ACLU has filed a petition in the San Francisco district court claiming his rearrest is a violation of first amendment rights. Two months later, he’s still in Mesa Verde detention center, and no decision has been made by his judge.
José Bello is a student at Bakersfield College, a farmer, and a father.
Here’s a taste of his poem:
Our administration has failed. They passed laws against our people, Took away our rights and our freedom, and still expect to be hailed? Chaless!
You and your administration cause fear, fear through Separation. Instead of building trust with our people, do y’all prefer this racial tension?
A theme runs through his poem, touching on family separation.
He speaks to all Americans when he says:
You might be asking yourself, “What’s the whole point of repeating these facts?” Well I am here to let you know, we want to feel safe, whether we’re Brown, Asian or Black. We don’t want your jobs. We don’t want your money. Were here to work hard, pay taxes and study!”
Chillingly, two days before he was separated from his baby, he said, “We will never be apart, chiquito.”
“The fight has begun. “We will never be apart chiquito,” is what I promised my son. Y’all can try to justify your actions. Try to make excuses. The bottom line here is that at the end, the people always triumph and the government loses.”
A GoFundMe set up for Bellos says that he received a DUI under “shady circumstances.”
He essentially forfeited his rights without knowing it, resulting in a no contest charge. He hasn’t had a drink since and has been doing community service work as part of his plea. Bello has been compliant in paying all his fines and attended all his hearings.
There is no other known reason to detain him except in retaliation to his public criticism of the system.
The ACLU’s filing is entirely predicated on the close succession of the two events being the reason for his arrest, saying it “strongly indicates that ICE acted in retaliation against Mr. Bello for his speech expressing views against the agency’s actions.”
The fear is that the move will chill immigrant activists from speaking out at a time when ICE’s unchecked power and aggression is escalating.
Still, Bello is writing poetry from the confines of Mesa Verde. This time, he’s simply asking, “why?”
Meanwhile, Judge Kim is weighing her decision after Bello finally had his court hearing July 15th.
That’s two whole months after he was arrested. Two months away from his child. Judge Kim could take anywhere from two days to a month to make her decision.
There is a movement is in motion to #FreeJoseBello.
Jose Bello is a crucial member of the immigrant community in San Francisco. He’s organized a lobbying workshop for his college’s club Latinos Unidos Por Educación. He led and organized an immigrant caravan drive, to help ensure no child went without clean clothes or food.
You can help by donating to Bello’s GoFundMe to help make his unjustly high $50,000 bond to be reunited with his son.
The ACLU has said the $50,000 bond is “hugely unjust” since Bello is a student who makes just $20,000 a year. The GoFundMe has only raised $2,375 at the time of this publication. #FreeJoseBello.
In the most recent installment of Blumhouse’s “Into the Dark” Hulu TV movie anthology series, “Culture Shock”, a story about a Mexican woman who finds herself trapped in a warped American utopia after attempting to cross the border, Blumhouse explores the horrors of the migrant crisis, adding a dose of supernatural to the already chilling situation many migrants are face when striving for a better life.
“Culture Shock” follows Marisol, played by Mexican actress Martha Higareda, a poor young pregnant woman living in Mexico who dreams of a better life for her and her unborn child.
“Culture Shock” immediately establishes the harrowing conditions that many immigrants face in their home countries before deciding to emigrate. Indeed, one of “Culture Shock”‘s first scenes shows Marisol being raped by Oscar, a man we had previously been led to believe was her loving boyfriend. Shortly after, we also discover that Oscar stole money she had given him to secure her passage across the border to the U.S. This leaves Martha stranded and alone in her home country of Mexico, and also now carrying the child of the man who assaulted her, which adds even more urgency to her situation.
Marisol bravely decides to attempt the crossing one more time to secure a future for her and her baby, paying a “coyote” hundreds of dollars to help smuggle her into the U.S. The journey isn’t an easy one–at nearly every stop on the way to America, Marisol is strong-armed into giving every new handler additional money–money that she wasn’t told about before. If nothing, “Culture Shock” gives a realistic, if infuriating, portrayal of all of the injustice desperate migrants are subjected to while trying to cross the border. And the danger is steeper than ever for Marisol, a single woman who is also pregnant. The threat of sexual violence on Marisol’s body is constant, and what’s more disturbing is how habituated to sexual and other forms of violence she seems to be. It’s just another subtle nod towards her complicated and traumatic history.
After being caught at the U.S. border, Marisol wakes up in a pastel-colored paradise that embodies the American dream in every aspect: the residents are beaming, the food is delicious and abundant, and the pervading sense of peace and harmony of the so-called town of “Cape Joy” easily lulls Marisol into an immediate sense of security. It’s here that the director, Latina auteur Gigi Saul Guerrero, begins to flex her artistic muscles. The cinematography is disorienting, with off-center and odd-angled close-ups, quick cutaways that mimic Marisol’s constant confusion, and a visual stark contrast between Marisol’s old, dreary life in Mexico and her new, vibrant life in Cape Joy, USA.
But something isn’t right in Cape Joy.
Not only does Marisol have no recent memories of what happened to her after being caught by US Border Patrol, but the fellow immigrants she crossed over with have no idea who she is. And while Marisol mysteriously gave birth to her baby while she was presumably unconscious, she’s never allowed to hold her. When Marisol expresses concern to her host mother, Betty (Barbara Crampton) about her missing old belongings, Betty tells her: “Don’t worry about what you’ve lost. Think instead of all that you’ve gained.” It’s lines like this, which are obviously meant to convey more than just the literal meaning of the words, that the movie leans hard into.
Throughout “Into the Dark”, there is an underlying current of not-so-subtle political messaging that makes it obvious that this movie isn’t your typical straight-forward horror film. It’s as much a vehicle for social commentary and critique on the migrant crisis and America’s inhumane treatment of migrants at the border as it is about delivering stomach-churning gore and jump scares. The movie, directed by, confirms the existential fear many migrants have of looked at as sub-human when they try to cross the border. Sometimes, the social commentary comes off as a little too on-the-nose, with Big-Bads saying things such as: “Nobody gives a fuck about these people,” and “We’re not paid to give [them] the American Dream. We’re paid to keep them out of it”.
When the mystery behind the oddness of Cape Joy is finally revealed, the element of sci-fi and horror that’s added to Marisol’s story can almost feel like a relief, purely due to its obvious fictional tropes. The more terrifying parts of the movie–the abusive boyfriends, the violent men, the human traffickers, and the Mexican cartel–are arguably more frightening than the supernatural parts.
And lest, while watching, you trick yourself into thinking the movie isn’t really a horror movie, prepare yourself for a few jarring scenes.
The climax of the movie is an extremely gruesome and violently gory climax that establishes the anthology installment as exactly what it markets itself as: a horror movie. But as we’ve seen in headlines that flood the TV, the newspapers, and our phones, sometimes, reality can be more horrifying than fiction.
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