"We like to think we are a humane country, but the way the United States treats their immigrants, particularly those from Latin American countries, is appalling." Miami-born filmmaker Oscar Corral echoes the feelings of many in our city, thousands touched by the immigrant experience.
His latest endeavor, The Crossfire Kids captures the struggle of young immigrants caught in the political crossfire over our country's immigration policy. Premiering tonight on WPBT2, the multi-week, cross-platform programming event features a web companion series and an exclusive online original mini-documentary. The web companion series will begin releasing on October 14 through WPBT's uVu channel, with new videos each week through October.
Directed and produced by Corral, The Crossfire Kids features several young immigrants who came to the United States as minors but have found themselves stunted by the limitations of living life undocumented.
"We set out to make a film that tells the stories of immigrants who would otherwise have no voice," said Corral, who also directed and produced the PBS-aired Tom Wolfe Gets Back to Blood in 2012.
Corral offers an intimate view of the underground lives of several immigrants, with footage that takes viewers into the places where they live out their daily lives. Though the public is aware of the vast humanitarian crisis involving unaccompanied minors pouring into the U.S., the documentary shows that every case is different.
Oscar Turcios, a Honduran boy who fled to the United States after his brother and father were killed by gang members in his village. Donatila Diego, a Guatemalan farmworker who is struggling to raise the three children of her deported sister. And Peruvian immigrant Frida Barreto, who became an immigration reform advocate after her undocumented status held her back from her dream of going to college.
"For the last two years, I've been watching the debate over immigration reform and the sad fate of that legislation," Corral told New Times. "...Being the Miami-born son of immigrants, I appreciate the positive contribution that immigrants bring to the United States, and how critical a role they play in the health of our national economy and our future."
Several South Florida leaders appear in the film, including Archbishop Thomas Wenski; Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado; former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz; Cheryl Little, founder of Americans for Immigrant Justice; and Al Cardenas, a GOP activist and Chairman of the American Conservative Union, who advocates for immigration reform.
The Crossfire Kids also draws attention to immigrants whose families have been torn apart by deportation, kids who can't make it to college because of their legal status, and orphans who are trying to start a new life in an unwelcoming nation.
"United States policy is to separate families, detain parents for months without trials, and fill a detention quota so that private companies can continue to profit from the misfortune of the poorest and humblest among us," Corral says.
Corral hopes the film highlights the human aspect of this ongoing struggle, putting aside the generalities used when discussing the issue.
"We wanted to look past the stereotypes and bring audiences into the homes and lives of immigrants caught in the political crossfire over immigration reform," he says. "It's no surprise that many of the leaders of the youth movement for immigration reform are based out of Miami. This is a city that offers a future to people from everywhere, where immigrants feel comfortable, build lives, and pursue their version of the American dream.
"I want this documentary to show audiences that young immigrants are not villains. On the contrary, they are the fresh blood in our national narrative, and the living proof that this country is still a beacon of hope. We must help them as a country, not try to destroy them, as the United States is currently doing."
The Crossfire Kids airs today at 7:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. and Tuesday, October 21 at 11 p.m. on WPBT2.