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Documentary sheds light on undocumented children in Salinas

Documentary of teenage immigrant

SALINAS, Calif. - A documentary filmed in Salinas is shedding light on the lives of undocumented children, now that all eyes are on Congress to come up with a solution for the nearly 800,000 recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Those are young people who came to the U.S. as children and stayed illegally.

"East of Salinas" is a story about the hardships and challenges these undocumented children have to go through.

Two independent filmmakers, Laura Pacheco and Jackie Mow, followed a young boy and his dedicated teacher to show, that given the opportunity and support, migrant children have just as much potential to succeed as anyone else.

“We used to get up really early, at like four in the morning. Then we used to work for 10 hours, 12 hours,” Oscar Ramos, a teacher and son of migrant workers, said. Ramos told his story to a group of students in the film, and José Anzaldo knew that life all too well.

"Sometimes, we don't have nothing to eat. We don't have food for my mom to make, like, something to cook. We have to sleep without eating, until the morning, until we go to school," Anzaldo told Pacheco and Mow.

When things got tough at home, school became Anzaldo's salvation. Many migrant students such as Anzaldo entered Ramos's third-grade class at Sherwood Elementary School with eyes full of hope, but the road ahead was filled with challenges. Being undocumented in America, through no fault of their own, presented a major roadblock.

"People are always talking about farmworkers, and they never thought about what the effects of immigration policy and farmworker practices were on children,"  Pacheco said, explaining what motivated her to make the film.

Many people whom came to the screening on Saturday were moved by the story.

"It's an emotional story for me because so many families have gone through that, that we see and then they are gone," said Alicia Beltrán-Castañeda, a teacher at Sherwood Elementary School.

Anzaldo, now a ninth-grader is beginning to understand what it means to be a foreigner in a country he calls home

"It would be more work and effort, which, you know, I don't mind. If it would make things better, I will do it," Anzaldo said.

"East of Salinas" is available for viewing on pbs.org.


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