Border Justice

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Kathy Lorenz

The Gatekeeper

During the Border Justice forum, I viewed The Gatekeeper, a film based on the 1989 U.S. Border Policy Program-Operation Gatekeeper which was implemented, as a means, to thwart undocumented immigration. Operation Gatekeeper was successful only in re-routing the flow of migration from the urban to the rural…migrants are abandoning the “traditional crossings for more treacherous ones in hazardous conditions.” (Pimentel, 2003) With regards to the migrant experience, this film clearly demonstrates many things: unjust and ineffective immigration policy, the unjust abuse of power by the U.S. Border Patrol (migrants stripped of their basic rights as humans-assaulted, humiliated, used for target practice, etc.), vigilante groups spreading hate, under the guise of border justice and migrant exploitation (cheap labor, unsafe working conditions, forced prostitution, drug trafficking, etc.). But, throughout the film, what I found to be truly amazing was the film’s capturing and depiction of the migrant’s spirit! As the film’s writer and director, John Carlos Frey knows that for change to occur, it is absolutely essential to understand the migrant plight…to visually experience a taste of their daily struggle to survive…to understand their desperation, in other words, their desperate need and desire to take care of their family, all of which, leads them to take risky/desperate measures. We need to understand the extreme lengths of abuse migrants endure, all in the hopes of providing for and securing a better life for one’s family!

After the film, I stayed to hear John speak. John shared, with the audience, his point of reference, as a Mexican immigrant. He explained how living in desperation and constant fear of being exposed makes an individual appear weak, therefore, vulnerable to exploitation. Its deplorable that the American business sector is and has been allowed to recruit/lure and “exploit the migrant and then, simultaneously, disregard the migrant and their contribution to our economy, as insignificant.” John went on further to speak of his film’s purpose- “to raise awareness,” regarding the relationship between immigration policy and border deaths…to illustrate the need for a “path to legalization…” but, most importantly, to “educate the public” on how we, as a society, have lost sight of what is important-which is the human aspect of this issue. How can we claim to be a compassionate and civilized society when we choose to ignore the migrant…when we ignore their human rights, of justice and respect! John said it best when he stated “the Mexican immigrant lives in fear…they live in the shadows, wanting out.” John found the perfect match, in film-a powerful medium used as the vehicle to send a powerful message. The Gatekeeper, in my opinion, was quite effective in giving voice to the migrant!

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