Library Screens Films On Illegal Immigration

Nathan Adkisson

By Nathan AdkissonThe Daily Northwestern

Elvira Arellano is not supposed to be here – she is one of nearly 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.

Arellano was the subject of one of two documentaries about illegal immigrants screened for more than 50 people at the Evanston Public Library on Wednesday.

Her story, as told in the documentary “Little Mexico,” gained national attention.

Arellano tried to use fake identification to cross the Mexican border into the United States several years ago, but she was sent back. Later, she simply walked across the border. No one stopped her.

In the United States, Arellano gave birth to a son, Saulito, who is now 7 years old. When the government tried to deport Arellano, she took sanctuary in a Chicago church. The federal government considers Arellano a felon, but Saulito, who was born in the United States, has legal citizenship.

Saulito hand-wrote a letter to President Bush asking him to meet with the Mexican government to discuss the immigration problem. Bush responded with a form letter saying he was too busy to meet. Saulito returns to the White House every month with other children whose parents are in similar situations.

The library also showed “Crossing Arizona,” a film documenting the increase in the number of immigrants entering the United States by crossing the Arizona border because of the closing of the California borders.

“Crossing Arizona” included an interview with Mike Wilson, a Native American who has unrestricted access to a reservation through which some illegal immigrants travel. He fills large tanks with water for the immigrants, who have to travel about 40 miles across the desert without any other source of water.

“Some people don’t like it,” Wilson said in the film. “But I continue to do it. Nobody deserves to die in the desert. They can’t make it without water.”

“Crossing Arizona” also documented the creation of the Minuteman Project at the border near Tombstone, Ariz. The Minuteman Project is a group of veterans committed to preventing illegal immigrants from entering the country.

“Little Mexico” will be shown nationally on PBS Frontline World in April or May, said Liese Ricketts, an associate producer of the film. She said the majority of the footage filmed was sympathetic toward immigrants, but she said producers cut much of it to make the film more balanced.

Emma Lozano, president of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, an immigrant rights group, said during the discussion she was sympathetic to the illegal immigrants in this country.

“(Immigration opponents) are freaking out because the United States is changing color,” she said. “And I say, ‘What’s wrong with that?'”

Evanston residents Don and Martha Farley said the films stopped short of accomplishing all they could have.

“They certainly displayed the problem, but they didn’t offer any solution,” Don Farley said. “There has to be a better way to cope with this problem than hunting these people down. It seems both inhumane and wasteful.”

Reach Nathan Adkisson at [email protected]