The Documentary “Immigration Battle”

Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini’s documentary Immigration Battle deals with the story of the Dream Act. The Act was supposed to ensure legal immigrant status or citizenship for the young undocumented immigrants brought to the US illegally by their parents. The Act was never passed. This paper explores the way the documentary shows the Dreamer movement and the Congress’ failure in not passing the Act.

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The Dreamers were people illegally taken to the US as children. Their parents had illegal status as well. These children had lived in the US for years, gaining friends and school education. They wanted to be considered citizens based on their contribution to society. The Dreamer’s movement became well-known because these people, being well-versed in the way today’s media works, had employed different ways to address the public.

Their mass peaceful protest actions had visual appeal, while the stories of children losing their parents to deportation had aroused people’s compassion; the documentary deals with both of these subjects. Newspapers and TV showed multiple stories of families broken by deportation with the children put into foster care,

The Dreamer’s tactics, thus, included marches, rallies, sit-ins, hunger strikes and securing the support of public personalities, such as pop stars. Most importantly, the activists had lobbied Congress “on equal footing with Washington insiders,” having had established close ties with Congressmen such as Illinois representative Gutierrez (Camerini & Robertson). They were also pressuring the Republicans into softening their stance.

The traditional policy change strategy depended on both Democrats and Republicans working together on a bipartisan push. The majority of the Dreamers were not leftist or otherwise radical; they had faith in President Obama’s promises and the fact that the Democrats were in power. Moreover, with certain parts of the American society still viewing immigration negatively, the Dreamers wanted to achieve their goals by the most traditional and lawful means. Thus, they were hoping to pressure the Congress into accepting their plight and passing the bipartisan legislation.

However, this strategy had several significant drawbacks. After the Senate had passed the bill, it was time for the House of Representatives’ action. Both sides involved in the bipartisan legislation had vastly different goals. Another drawback was that the Democrats wished for their conditions to be fulfilled by any means, but could not agree on individual ones among themselves. While they wanted the deportations to end, they could not let this be a political win for the Republicans. The Republicans did not want to lose their voters, as those traditionally were in favor of stricter immigration rules. Thus, the legislation they were drafting was much tougher than the Senate bill. The Democrats, of course, could not agree to the measures proposed.

The lack of agreement was one of the contributions to the failure of the Dream Act. As stated in the documentary, “the Congress talks and talks and talks and talks, but doesn’t act” (Camerini & Robertson). The lack of action was visible in, for example, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus not condemning the deportations that were happening, later on, they could not draft even a simple resolution. There had been a political gridlock, and while the sides needed more time to debate, the political landscape kept changing until the passage of the Act became impossible.

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The Dream Act, a way for immigrant youth to gain legal status, was not passed since its conception sixteen years ago. While the Dreamer movement employed multiple tactics to increase media visibility and amount of influence on the politicians, the politicians themselves were pursuing their interests. The traditional strategy had failed due to several drawbacks, such as the inability of Parties with vastly different voter communities to agree on the planned bipartisan action. The failure of the bill’s passage, as the Congressmen run out of time, is therefore shown to be the fault of both the Republicans and the Democrats. It is seen in the way the documentary portrays the work of the Congress as complicated, but chaotic.

Work Cited

Camerini, Michael, and Shari Robertson, directors. Immigration Battle. PBS Frontline, 2015. Web.

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