Border Filmmaker: Look for the 'Good Stuff' in Migrants Coming to U.S.

A documentary by Mexico-born filmmaker Diego Joven follows migrants across Latin America on their way to cross the U.S-Mexico border and explores their "psychological, mental and physical journey."

While on a three-month tandem bike ride from Alaska to Cancun, Mexico, Diego Joven said migrants often lent him and his girlfriend a hand.

"They would give me clothes, food and money when I would be traveling and be without money or run into a problem," he said. "They don't do it because they expect to get paid. They just do it because it's like a tradition and it's their culture."

His experience led him to follow immigrants in Mexico and other parts of Latin America traveling north to cross the border into the United States and make his first documentary, A Dream Without a Visa.

"It's just documenting the human side and all the struggles that they go through, why they do it and the psychological, mental and physical journey they endure," he said.

The film focuses on migrants, but Joven also interviewed Border Patrol agents, immigration detention facility correction officers, Minute Men at their training facility in East County and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona.

Through the course of interviewing migrants on their way to the border and elsewhere, Joven said migrants he met weren't criminals or looking for a handout.

"Those gangsters–they don't work at farms. They're another story," he said.

"If you go to downtown Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, they [migrants] don't have signs that say 'Will work for food' or 'Why lie, I need a beer.' They may be selling flowers oranges or everything but they won't be begging," he said.

"I've heard from people saying they're terrorists, cockroaches, they bring diseases, they abuse the system, they don't pay taxes, they take our jobs."

Migrants are necessary for the nation's agriculture and economy, Joven said. People he spoke with just want to come work, not remain residents.

"After going through the place that they pick lemons and tomatoes and stuff, they say: 'We see Americans, and they don't last more than a week. Their backs are not made for this,'" he said.

Though Joven has his opinions on immigration, he said the film will only share the journey, not prescribe a particular philosophy for how America should reform its immigration policies.

"I actually want to leave it open to the people who write the laws and vote to think what's best because Americans are pretty smart, and they can find the best solutions, probably things I've never imagined," he said.

The one thing Joven suggests lawmakers do is listen to migrants as immigration reform is debated.

"Actually talk to the people, see what they're capable of, not look for the bad stuff but for the good stuff," he said. "These people pay a lot of money to bad people to get them into the U.S. Some smugglers are good, some are bad, but they all charge a lot of money, and I'm sure in the U.S. there could be a system that says "OK, you want to come work and make money and do what you're good at.'"

Portions of the film were shot under bridges that cross the Tijuana River and other areas along the border of San Diego. The film also follows the Border Angels, a San Diego-based group that places water in the desert so migrants do not die of dehydration.

As in other places, migrants he met near Tijuana came in search of jobs.

"Most of them got deported because they were driving with a busted tail light or got stopped by a cop who asked 'Let me see your papers.' So they were victims," he said. "Some of them left their families eating at the table when they got arrested and their families were afraid of going to the police station or other places."

Joven plans to enter the film, once completed, in the San Diego Latino Film Festival and other festivals. But to finish the documentary, Joven is asking anyone who will listen for donations.

Donors can have their name listed in the movie credits, receive copies of the documentary or other perks, he said.

Libi Uremovic February 22, 2013 at 12:31 PM
cali's border is small enough to secure - all we have to do is provide a work visa and require our companies to use ssi verification... they come here illegally - not because they want to have that status, but because it's cheaper and quicker than going through the legal channels...and that's out fault... our country, our problem...
Libi Uremovic February 22, 2013 at 01:21 PM
this is not the out of control and un-fixable situation our political leaders want us to think it is...but we've got to separate the facts from the fantasies... fact - most people come here to work - they come illegally because it's cheaper and faster than coming legally....we do not provide a way for them to enter the country - that's our fault .. fact - most farmers, restaurants, and hotels hire illegals because they are the only ones applying for the job, not because it's saving the employer money....they pay all of their staff the same and take out the same deductions... a conservative estimate is that 25% of the kitchen staff at denny's & ihops in san diego county use illegals...the requirement to work at denny's is that the ssi number hasn't been fired from dennys in the past, but the dennys corporation doesn't verify that the person using the ssi number is their employee... but in the fields it's at least 90% illegals... thousands of people are needed to work in cali from may - september... labor is already organized and the farmers have contractors that supply them with workers... all the state has to do is require work visa verification for the employers COMBINED WITH a way for the workers to sign up quickly, pay a fee, pass a physical & background check, and let them work for 6 months... the employers know how many workers they need ...the contractors already have the illegals information...
Libi Uremovic February 22, 2013 at 03:01 PM
'..'We see Americans, and they don't last more than a week. ...' it's true - most gringos last about 3 days... they'll hire anyone that goes to the field for a job.... but the crops are timely and farmers have to hire people that show up for work regardless of their legal status... i worked on a tomato machine for 6 weeks when i was 15 ... there's 5-7 people standing on each side pulling good tomatoes from the vines as they come up the conveyor belt...there's usually 2 - 8 machines in each field depending on the acreage... it wasn't hard work, but it was 10 hour days 7 days/week... a few white people came and went, but only me and another white chick lasted the entire season...
Ed Sorrels February 22, 2013 at 09:53 PM
Really Mike, You want an old Marine to secure the border ? Easily done except for one thing Washington lack's the political will to do it, Which is by the way what we pay them to do, Figure out these diffacult problems ! They better figure out this one soon.
Mark February 23, 2013 at 02:17 AM


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