Things That Matter

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

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.

Credit: SoberalskiLaw / Twitter

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

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