politics

Short Film ‘So Close To America’ Lays Bare The Facts Of Being An Undocumented Farm Worker

Peter Carrs / So Close to America / Facebook

Immigrants in the United States have a long history of being the scapegoat during times of uncertainty. Every generation has a group of people that were demonized and dehumanized in a false attempt to better the lives of “Americans.” Currently, immigrants from Latin America are being used as the scapegoat by President Donald Trump as he pushes for his border wall to stop what he claims is a crisis at the border. Despite Trump’s claims, illegal border crossings are at record lows and crime levels in border cities are lower than the national average. Filmmaker Peter Carrs is using his own film “So Close to America” to dispel the hurtful and blatantly false claims of immigration leading to crime.

Peter Carrs’s “So Close to America” is a film demolishing the notion of undocumented immigrants getting a free ride in the U.S.

The film’s full title is “So Close to Ameria: Undocumented Farm Workers & The Myth of ‘The Free Ride'” is an intimate look at the daily lives of immigrant farm workers. The subjects of the documentary are the center of one of the great political debates of the 21st century with both parties fighting on opposite sides of the debate.

In the film, Carrs breaks down the facts about immigration and the impact immigrants have had on the agriculture industry. Carrs’s documentary shows that most of the farm workers are immigrants and anywhere between 50 to 80 percent of them are undocumented.

One fact Carrs tackles is the notion that undocumented immigrants are draining the welfare system.

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According to Vox, about half of all undocumented workers in the U.S. file federal taxes annually. In 2015, undocumented workers made up $23.6 billion paid to the federal government in taxes. Not to mention the taxes spent buying a home, buying gas, buying groceries, etc.

At the same time, undocumented immigrants cannot benefit from any of the social programs their tax dollars pay for. Why? Federal laws prohibit undocumented immigrants from accessing federal welfare programs. However, some of the children of immigrants do have access to some programs, such as healthcare, WIC, and other programs because they are U.S. citizens.

Even for legal immigrants, there is a five-year ban on accessing any kind of government assistance. Trump has tried to “propose” this to the U.S. but the law has been in place since 1996 when Bill Clinton signed the bill. Essentially, anyone claiming that undocumented immigrants are overloading the welfare system is not telling the full and true story.

The basic message of the film is that undocumented farm workers keep our food affordable, boost our economy, and contribute to the U.S. by paying taxes.

“Whether we want to admit it or not, our agricultural system is almost entirely dependent on migrant labor, but specifically undocumented migrant labor,” historian Cody Ferguson says in “So Close to America.” “Undocumented workers, they’re doing some of the hardest work that you can do in the United States. And, as a result of their hard work, we have this incredible, diverse system of agriculture that can provide practically anything we want to eat, whenever we want to eat it, for some of the cheapest prices in the world.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, around 50 percent of the work force making up the farmworkers in the U.S. are undocumented. According to a report in CBS News, certain aspects of the farm economy are more vulnerable to the uncertainty of our immigration policies.

CBS News reports that there is currently no visa program for year-round dairy farm workers, which relies heavily on undocumented and migrant labor. Furthermore, a study commissioned by the dairy industry found that if federal immigration policies removed 50 percent of the dairy farm laborers from the workforce, 3,500 dairy farms will be forced to close.

President Trump’s sustained and amplified attack on immigration, both illegal and legal, could have damaging repercussions for the U.S. economy. The immigration system is complex and difficult to maneuver and is in desperate need of an overhaul. Comprehensive immigration reform is something people support. Several prominent political and cultural leaders have spoken out about the need for comprehensive immigration reform and it’s time we start taking those steps.

READ: Miami Film Festival Cancels Screening of Immigration Doc After ICE Detained The Movie’s Main Character

Pregnant Mom Of Two Children Faces Deportation Back To Guatemala Without A Place To Go

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Pregnant Mom Of Two Children Faces Deportation Back To Guatemala Without A Place To Go

@OccupyWallStNYC | Twitter

It’s quite rare to hear of raids in sanctuary cities such as New York City or Los Angeles, but detainments do happen. In 2018, the Queens Eagle reports that 33 people were detained in Queens and 35 were detained in Brooklyn. This latest case is not only affecting the person arrested but her small children as well.

A Guatemalan pregnant woman living in Queens with her two U.S.-born children is currently facing deportation.

Alma Sofia Centeno Santiago is a 33-year-old undocumented woman that was arrested by ICE at a Queens courthouse. She was there for a court appearance in regards to a dispute with the father of her child. Some called foul when Santiago was initially arrested because ICE cannot do those inside courthouses.

“This a particularly harrowing example of the human devastation caused when ICE enters the courthouse,” Make the Road Action Managing Director Daniel Altschuler told the Eagle earlier this month.

The family of this woman is very concerned for because she’s currently very sick and, also, if deported, has nowhere to go when she gets to Guatemala.

Santiago, who’s been held at New Jersey’s Bergen County Detention Facility for two months, is reportedly experiencing extreme stomach pain and is in quarantine due to a measles outbreak at the center.

Her family and friends already fear the worst because they haven’t heard from her in a couple of days.

“We are nervous and concerned because she usually calls us,” her friend Jennifer Pacheco told the publication, “She said if she didn’t call them, they may have moved her. They told her that maybe Sunday night going into Monday, or Monday night going into Tuesday that she will probably be removed and deported.”

If deported, Santiago leaves behind an 11-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

READ: 11-Year-Old Undocumented Girl Is Being Forced To Leave The U.S. Without Her Family

Say Their Names: This Father-Daughter Pair Were Found Dead, Washed Up On Banks Of Rio Grande After Attempting To Swim Across

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Say Their Names: This Father-Daughter Pair Were Found Dead, Washed Up On Banks Of Rio Grande After Attempting To Swim Across

Just hours after news broke that a woman and three children were found dead at the US-Mexico border, we have confirmation of two more deaths.

This time it’s a father-daughter pair who died a horrific death trying to find a better life in the United States.

Across social media, horrific pictures are circulating showing the victims’ lifeless bodies drowned in the Rio Grande.

Heartbreaking images reveal the tragedy of a father who drowned with his 23-month-old daughter as he went back to try and save her in the Rio Grande while her mother watched on.

Credit: @dailymailuk / Twitter

Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his daughter Valeria were found face down in shallow water on the Mexico side of the river across from Brownsville, Texas on Monday morning.

Their deaths are the latest in a string of migrant deaths at the US-Mexico border.

Just yesterday, the bodies of four undocumented people, one 20-year-old woman, two infants, and a toddler, were found near the Rio Grande.

The father had successfully taken his daughter to the US side of the border but the little girl followed her father back as he returned for the mother.

Credit: @nytimes / Twitter

After waiting desperately for two months in a migrant camp Ramírez crossed the lethal currents near Matamoros first with his child before returning to other the side for his wife Tania Vanessa Ávalos, 21.

But their youngster, misunderstanding why she had been left on the other side got back into the water and Ramírez fatefully went in to save her.

Ávalos could only watch in horror as her husband and daughter were swept a few hundred yards downstream to their deaths.

Credit: @CBSNews / Twitter

Photos from the scene show his black shirt hiked up to his chest with the girl’s head tucked inside. Her arm was draped around his neck suggesting she clung to him in her final moments. 

The family had been waiting nearly two months in an overcrowded migrant camp before finally deciding to make the dangerous crossing.

Credit: @CNN / Twitter

Ávalos said the family left El Salvador on April 3 and that they spent the last two months in Mexico at a migrant camp waiting for an appointment to apply for asylum to enter the U.S.

A Tamaulipas government official said the family arrived in Matamoros early Sunday and went to the U.S. Consulate to try to get a date to request asylum. 

It’s not clear what happened to the family at the U.S. Consulate, but a shelter director said only about 40 to 45 asylum interviews were being conducted in Matamoros each week, while somewhere in the neighborhood of 800-1,700 names were on a waiting list.

Twitter lit up with reaction to both the devastating photo and the story behind it.

Credit: @nytimes / Twitter

The devastating news and shocking photo have generated tons of comments on Twitter.

Many are frustrated by the government’s inability to take action to help migrants.

Credit: @CNN / Twitter

The issue of migrant deaths shouldn’t be fought along party lines. Each and every member of government should be able to agree that steps need to be taken, first and foremost, to stop people from dying.

While many on Twitter were outraged at the comments from people completely lacking empathy and compassion for the lives lost.

Credit: @nytimes / Twitter

Sadly, there are still way too many comments on Twitter from people who say migrants shouldn’t risk the journey and that they’d survive. Too many people still don’t get it.

From the scorching Sonora desert to the fast-moving Rio Grande, the US-Mexico border has long been a deadly journey for migrants trying to cross into the US.

Credit: @fams2gether / Twitter

In recent weeks alone, two babies, a toddler and a woman were found dead on Sunday, overcome by the sweltering heat. 

Elsewhere three children and an adult from Honduras died in April after their raft capsized on the Rio Grande, and a 6-year-old from India was found dead earlier this month in Arizona, where temperatures routinely soar well above 100 degrees.

‘Very regrettable that this would happen,’ Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday in response to a question about the photograph. 

‘We have always denounced that as there is more rejection in the United States, there are people who lose their lives in the desert or crossing the river,” he added.

The tragic deaths come amid reports of squalid conditions and overcrowding at migrant shelters.

Credit: @realDonaldTrump / Twitter

“The kids had colds and were sick and said they didn’t have access to soap to wash their hands. It was an alcohol-based cleanser,” Clara Long, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch said to CNN. “Some kids who were detained for 2-3 weeks had only one or two opportunities to shower. One said they hadn’t showered in three weeks. Hygiene and living conditions like this creates a risk of spreading infectious disease. It makes me very concerned about the public health emergency.”

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