Friday, March 14, 2008

Putting Faces on Numbers

by Mary Castillo

Almost every night on the news we watch a story about illegal immigration. We hear the numbers and see the footage of men and women trekking through the desert, or cuffed and led into vans by Immigration or Border Patrol officers. But rarely do we see the faces of illegal immigrants, much less the faces of their American-born children who account for 3 million of our population. In the wake of U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement (ICE) increased efforts to arrest and deport illegal immigrants - resulting in home and employment raids - these children are "caught into a situation they didn’t cause and cannot fix," says Linda Ellerbee with Nick News.

I'm American! They're Not! exposes the lives of three families with parents are here illegally but their children are American citizens. The half-hour documentary premieres Sunday, Mar. 16, at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on Nickelodeon.

Ellerbee opens the story by asking viewers, "Imagine living in fear of your parents being caught and deported. Or your parents get deported, but you stay - without parents. Or your parents get deported and you go with them, leaving your home, your country and the only life you've ever known. Kids, American citizens, are dealing with these issues every day."

In I'm American! They're Not! we meet the young girl of parents living a shadow life. She talks about the fear she shares with her fellow students that when they come home from school, their parents won't be there. The second segment introduces to two brothers, Iven and Noe, who moved to the small town of Visciano when their parents were deported. Iven says, "School here is hard for me because I don't know how to write or read in Spanish. In the United States I used to get good grades like A's, and now I'm getting grades like C's and D's."
The final segment tells the story of three teenaged siblings who are living in New Mexico with a legal guardian while their parents were forced to return to Mexico. Every month, the older brother drives his sisters across the border to visit their mom and dad. Ellerbee was touched when the brother of that family said, "My parents coming illegally, did a wrong thing to do the right thing. They thought about us having a better life."
She hopes that I'm American! They're Not! will touch families by giving these children a face and voice that everyone can relate to.

"The kids so eloquent and so genuine," Ellerbee said. "After all these years of doing this I'm not surprised that’s so, but I'm terribly touched by it."


Erica Orloff said...

Thank you, Mary.

My children are Mexican-Americans. While my husband and his family all are here legally (he was born here), I watch as Mexicans are vilified in America and it pains me. Other kids have cruelly (!!) said things to my kids about being Mexicans. Prejudice is alive and well in America.


Unknown said...

Hey Erica:

It hurts my heart to hear that about your kids.

As someone who has heard my share of racist comments, I've learned to send blessing to the lesser evolved among us to wake up and see the people they hate as human being who are just like them.