9500 Liberty (2009)
Under pressure from anti-immigration groups, officials in Virginia’s Prince William County enact a controversial law requiring police to step up their efforts to identify and detain suspected illegal aliens. Filmmakers Eric Byler and Annabel Park detail the turmoil that the new law stirs in the community, as well as the efforts of local citizens to resist what they regard as an unconstitutional assault on individual rights.
A PBS magazine series examining contemporary life along the U.S.-Mexico border, with segments litigation over who owns the land, the crisis of water and migration into south Texas. The show focuses on the stories of everyday life, faith, tradition, opportunity and art that are flourishing in the many border towns of the United States and Mexico.
Children in No-Man’s Land (2008)
This documentary uncovers the current plight of the 100,000 unaccompanied minors entering the United States every year. The film gives this timely political debate about the U.S.-Mexico border a human face by exploring the story of Maria de Jesus and her cousin Rene as they attempt to cross the U.S.-Mexico border alone to reunite with their mothers in the Midwest.
Ellis Island (1997)
This documentary examines the immigrant experience at Ellis Island, America’s busiest immigration processing center. The movie explores immigrants’ often dangerous sea voyages, the grueling documentation process, and the often inadvertent Americanization of family names.
Farmingville: POV (2004)
This Sundance Special Jury Prize-winning documentary examines the hate-based attempted murders of two Mexican workers, a crime that catapulted a Long Island town into national headlines, unmasking a new front line in the border wars: suburbia.
God Grew Tired of Us (2006)
After raising themselves in the desert along with thousands of other “lost boys,” Sudanese refugees John, Daniel, and Panther find their way to America, where they experience electricity, running water, and supermarkets for the first time. This documentary, an award winner at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, paints an intimate portrait of strangers in a strange land.
This acclaimed documentary focuses on a freighter smuggling 286 immigrants that ran aground near New York City in 1993. The film is a compelling and timely portrait of courage, resilience, and compassion in the face of U.S. bureaucracies.
H-2 Worker (1990)
Filmmaker Stephanie Black journeys fearlessly into the grim world of Jamaican farm workers who labor in Florida’s sugar plantations under temporary H-2 visas, often enduring inhumane conditions and corrupt employers for very low pay. The film won the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize.
Immigrants Organizing: Changing the Workplace, Changing the Union (2000)
Many of the 1,300 Minneapolis hotel workers who went on strike in 2000 were immigrants who spoke 17 different languages. Immigrant issues were among the union’s core demands and it fought to improve the newcomers’ working conditions and overcome prejudice against them.
Living with Torture (2003)
This film documents two African survivors of torture who came to the United States as asylum seekers and used their newfound freedom to continue their work as democracy activists. The film explores the contradictions they faced as the country in which they sought refuge debates the merits of using torture in its own war against terrorism.
Locust Point (1999)
Baltimore’s Locust Point was second only to Ellis Island as this country’s largest port of immigration in the early 1900s. Using archival and reenactment footage, woven together with the words, fragmented memories, and anecdotes of immigrants themselves, this film recreates a glimpse of the American immigrant experience in a bustling industrial city.
Lost Boys of Sudan (2004)
This Emmy-nominated feature-length documentary follows two Sudanese refugees on an extraordinary journey from Africa to America. Orphaned as young boys in one of Africa’s cruelest civil wars, Peter Dut and Santino Chuor survived lion attacks and militia gunfire to reach a refugee camp in Kenya along with thousands of other children. From there, remarkably, they were chosen to come to America. Safe at last from physical danger and hunger, a world away from home, they find themselves confronted with the abundance and alienation of contemporary American suburbia.
Maid in America (2004)
This documentary takes an intimate and emotional look at the lives of three Latin American immigrant women in Los Angeles who have left their own families behind to earn a living cleaning other people’s homes and caring for other people’s children.
Mojados: Through the Night (2005)
Director Tommy Davis follows four migrants from rural Mexico on their harrowing journey across the desert into the United States. Their 120-mile trek is filled with peril as they evade the Border Patrol, endure temperature extremes, contend with dehydration, and face the all-too-real possibility that their quest for a better life could end in death.
The New Americans Series (2004)
An award-winning PBS documentary series, The New Americans follows four years in the lives of a group of contemporary immigrants as they journey to start new lives in America.
Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth (2010)
The story of undocumented youth and the challenges they face. There are approximately two million undocumented children who were born outside the United States and raised in this country. These are young people who were educated in U.S. schools, hold U.S. values, know only the United States as home and who, simply by turning 18, become “illegal” immigrants. 65,000 undocumented students graduate every year from high school without “papers” and the door to their future slams shut.
Sentenced Home (2006)
Over 1,400 Cambodian-Americans are currently being forcibly deported back to Cambodia. Raised as Americans in America, they are being sent into exile to a distant homeland they never really knew: a homeland that starved, tortured, and murdered their families. This feature-length documentary tells the heart-breaking personal sagas of the deportees, following several characters’ stories full-circle: from birth in Cambodia to their unwilling return decades later.
Sewing Woman (1983)
An intimate document of the filmmaker’s mother’s life. It is essential viewing for those who want to understand more about Asian women who immigrated to the United States from China. Through home movies, family snapshots, and rare archival footage, it tells of the filmmaker’s mother’s efforts to build a new life in America. As a Chinatown garment worker, she single-handedly brought her entire family to America in an era of tight immigration quotas. ”Sewing Woman” earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Short Documentary in 1984.
Tony and Janina’s American Wedding: A Deportation Love Story (2010)
A feature-length documentary that gets to the heart of the broken U.S. immigration system. After 18 years in America, Tony and Janina Wasilewski’s family is torn apart when Janina is deported back to Poland, taking their 6-year-old son Brian with her. The film follows the Wasilewski’s 3-year struggle to be reunited.
We Put Her There: The Contributors (2000)
This video chronicles the struggle of ordinary citizens, both in France and the United States, to finance the Statue of Liberty. From inception to completion, a span of fourteen years, the generosity of thousands of volunteers on both sides of the Atlantic realized the dream. No government was involved. It was a people-to-people gift, largely funded by the small savings of millions.
This documentary reveals how the Immigration and Naturalization Service decides who will be granted asylum in the United States. The applicant must have a “well-founded fear” of persecution in his or her home country. Despite true and terrifying stories of torture and mistreatment, it’s often up to how well the translator presents the case and how sensitive are the ears of the asylum officer to decide a person’s fate.
Wetback: The Undocumented Documentary (2005)
Director Arturo Perez Torres’s award-winning documentary about undocumented workers chronicles the life-and-death journeys of Central American and Mexican migrants as they enter the United States without going through proper immigration channels. The subjects’ first-person perspective sheds light on individual motivations for the trek and the hazards encountered on their way to the American dream.
In America (2002)
With their two daughters in tow, Johnny and Sarah leave Ireland and head to New York so Johnny can pursue an acting career. What follows is a series of adventures, both comical and terrifying, as they struggle to make the most of their new life. A heartwarming drama about an Irish family starting anew in early-1980s America.
Eager to provide a better future for her son, divorcée Muna Farah leaves her Palestinian homeland and takes up residence in rural Illinois—just in time to encounter the domestic repercussions of America’s disastrous war in Iraq. Now, the duo must reinvent their lives with some help from relatives.
The Betrayal (2008)
A moving, compassionate account of the courageous journey made by a Lao mother and her children escaping from war-torn Laos to Brooklyn, NY. The “paradise” they reach is, in its own way, as harrowing as the world they left behind. Though several layers of political and familial betrayal occur here, including the U.S.’s abandonment of the Laos who fought alongside it, the film is about recovery and the start of a new life.
A Better Life (2011)
This candid social drama tracks the relationship and conflicts between Mexican immigrant gardener Carlos and his teenage son Luis, whom he’s trying to interest in earning an honest living rather than drifting into the East L.A. gang scene.
Chasing Freedom (2004)
A lawyer reluctantly takes on the pro bono asylum case of a woman who has fled the brutal Taliban regime in Afghanistan and arrived in the United States seeking freedom.
In upstate New York at the Canadian border in a gray and frigid pre-Christmas desolation, two women (a white trailer-mom and a Mohawk woman who has lost custody of her child) team up to smuggle illegal immigrants from Canada into the United States.
Gran Torino (2008)
Curmudgeonly Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (played by Clint Eastwood) must confront his Hmong immigrant neighbors—and his own long-held prejudices—when the family’s teenage son, Thao, tries to steal Walt’s beloved 1972 Gran Torino. Walt soon assumes the unlikely role of guardian angel to young Thao and his sister Sue, both of whom are vulnerable to local gang influences.
Green Card (1990)
Bronte, a prim horticulturist with a talent for making even the most stubborn plant thrive, will stop at nothing—even marriage—to get her dream apartment, especially one with a beloved greenhouse. So she marries Georges, a free-spirited Frenchman who needs a green card. When the Immigration and Naturalization Service comes knocking at the door, the two have to pretend to be in love, which turns out to be not so far from the truth.
The Immigrant (1917)
In this silent Charlie Chaplin classic, the tramp, traveling steerage, comes to the United States with throngs of other immigrants. Acted with humor and poignancy, the film offers an intimate and affectionate perspective on the immigrant experience in the early twentieth century.
Maria Full of Grace (2004)
Maria Alvarez is a smart, independent 17-year-old girl from Colombia who agrees to smuggle a half-kilo of heroin into the United States for a shot at a normal existence in “El Norte”—where she imagines the city streets are paved with gold
The Namesake (2006)
Gogol Ganguli is torn between his parents’ Indian traditions and his decidedly modern lifestyle, and frankly prefers for his friends to call him “Nick.” But the true meaning of his name is a story that spans two continents—and two generations. Based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s best-selling novel, Mira Nair’s coming-of-age drama explores first-generation Americans’ delicate dance between culture and identity.
Sin Nombre (2009)
Fleeing retaliation from the violent Central American street gang he has deserted, young hood Casper boards a northbound train, where he takes refuge on top of the moving freight cars and hopes for a fresh start in a new country. Dodging authorities and other dangers, he finds a new friend in Sayra, a Honduran girl also making a run for the American border.
El Norte (1983)
When the army ransacks their Guatemalan village, impoverished teenage siblings Enrique and Rosa travel north through Mexico, hoping for a better life in America as undocumented immigrants in this Oscar-nominated drama. Kind souls aid their trek northward, but criminals and a persistent fear of deportation also dog their every move.
After he catches the eye of a scout while playing in his native Dominican Republic, baseball prospect Miguel “Sugar” Santos is recruited to play in the minor leagues in the Midwest, where he has difficultly adapting both on and off the field. As much a story about the promise of the American dream as it is about America’s national pastime, this film dramatizes the hard lessons learned when hope and reality clash.
Under the Same Moon (2007)
A heartwarming story about a mother who leaves Mexico to make a home for herself and her son. When the boy’s grandmother dies, leaving him alone, he sets off on his own to find his mother.
The Visitor (2007)
Widowed professor Walter Vale finds himself drawn to a different rhythm when he discovers an immigrant couple, Tarek and Zainab, squatting in his Manhattan flat and becomes wrapped up in their lives. Tarek’s mother forges an unlikely connection with Walter when Tarek is thrown into a detention center.