FRONTLINE/World [home]

Search FRONTLINE/World

FRONTLINE/World Rough Cut
View of the Chicago skyline Child in mother's arms. Closeup of a letter written to President Bush. Mother and son sit at a table writing.

Rough Cut
Chicago: Little Mexico
Legal son of an illegal mother
 

 

Watch Video

Length: 18:33

Marian Marzynski

Filmmaker Marian Marzynski emigrated to the United States from Poland more than 30 years ago. A veteran FRONTLINE/World producer, Marzynski has reported from Romania and Russia. Most recently, he returned to his native Poland to report on the 2005 Chopin International Piano Competition.

No matter which side of the immigration debate you are on, it's hard not to react emotionally when Elvira Arellano, the subject of this week's Rough Cut, says, "It's for my son that I want to stay in the United States."

Arellano is an illegal Mexican immigrant with a deportation order -- and a 7-year-old American-born son. As a United Sates citizen, he may stay in this country; but she may not. Faced with the difficult choice of either leaving Saulito behind in the United States or taking him back to Mexico with her where his opportunities are limited, Arellano made a bold decision. She has taken sanctuary in a Methodist Church in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood.

In doing so, she has become an activist for the estimated 3.9 million illegal immigrants with children who were born in the United States and are therefore legal citizens. Veteran FRONTLINE producer Marian Marzynski tells Arellano's story, bringing us to the heart of the thorny debate over immigration reform in FRONTLINE/World's first domestic report.

In "Little Mexico," it's clear that Arellano's case has touched many hearts, as well as many nerves. At a public hearing about creating a sanctuary for illegal immigrants in Illinois' Cook County, one citizen says, "I cannot see that anyone who breaks the law can demand any rights; America is really bankrupt."

The pastor of the church where Arellano takes refuge provides a different perspective. "This government, Republican and Democratic administrations, opened the borders for people to come across," he says. "And they let them work because it was good for the nation...If a nation is going to be healthy, it has to take responsibility for the families that were formed here and the children that were born here."

As a first-generation Polish immigrant who lived in Chicago for nearly 25 years, Marzynski brings a unique perspective to the story. In the film, he interweaves Arelleno's story with Chicago's history as an immigrant city. "I have this kind of image that in America, Chicago is a boat in the ocean," he says. "A rescue ship."

Chicago has in fact had a long history of absorbing waves of immigrants from all over the world. The current Latino neighborhoods were once the largest Polish communities outside of Poland. Between 1880 and 1960, Chicago had the second-highest foreign-born population in the United States. Today, the city is home to the second-largest Mexican population in the United States.

Because of her plight, Elvira Arellano has become a public figure. But her message echoes that of many immigrants. "They accepted my taxes and they accepted my labor," she says. "Not only me, they let millions of other families make their lives here."

America's immigration debate may continue for generations. But for now, Arellano and others like her continue their fight. On November 2nd, 2006, a march of families -- illegal immigrants with legal children -- organized by Arellano's mentor, Emma Lozano, will take place in Washington, D.C. They hope the day's elections will bring new voices to the discussion that could lead to reforms friendlier to immigrants.

Charlotte Buchen and Marjorie McAfee
Associate Producers

REACTIONS

Luis Gonzalez - Monterey, California
I think there are many issues to address when it comes to illegal immigration, but what I probably did not see in this forum is the fact that in this day and age a society (be it the U.S., France, or any other) can not give itself the luxury to assimilate an unlimited number of immigrants, be it "legal or illegal." For example, I went to France last year and to my surprise the French "do enforce their immigration laws" and those who want to impose their life-styles on the French society are being reminded that they migrated to France and it was not the other way around. I went to Mexico as well and, "DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY DO IN MEXICO TO AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT?" First, they kick their butt and if they are lucky, they get deported. All the historical nonsense that I came here legally or my parents came legally is meaningless. This country was and still is being built by immigrants (illegal and legal). The issue is that "WE CANNOT ASSIMILATE AN INFINITE NUMBER OF IMMIGRANTS." We live in the present, and the present dictates that for a country to survive, it must enforce its laws. I don't hate the illegal immigrants, but I get pissed off when I see them running on our streets with a sense of entitlement, waiving Mexican flags, and shouting, "VIVA Mexico." We cannot be the charity of the world. There are places here such as New Orleans, Detroit and others that need our assistance.

(anonymous)
I fail to see how our government can justify removing this family. The mother is a hardworking person who pays taxes and contributes to our economy. Yes, I can understand deporting those who don't pay taxes, use our facilities for free, and drain our healthcare programs. Yes, I can understand deporting those who commit crimes. But this woman has done none of these things. She merely sought to make a place for herself and her child. And who can condemn a person for caring about their posterity's prosperity?

todd norris - fort worth, tx
Why doesn't Elvira Arellano want to raise her son in Mexico? Why do tens of thousands of people a year flee Mexico? What is so wrong with Mexico? These are the real questions which need to be answered.
Perhaps instead of people asking what the US can do to fix the problem of illegal immigration from Mexico, they should be more concerned with what Mexico needs to do in order to make it a country worth living in and raising children in.The real solution to the problem can only be found south of the border.

Juan Garcia - Chicago, IL
Adios Elvira! Today, August 20, 2007 is the day you've finally been served for your crime. Don't worry illegal immigration sympathizers, Elvira will just sneak back into the US like she's done before, she's a veteran of breaking our laws.
Illegal aliens shouldn't be an issue Hispanics rally behind, illegal immigration is a source of embarrassment for Hispanics, including for Mexican-Americans like myself.We need to fix the problem, it's not an ethnic issue, it's a security issue folks.

(anonymous)
I think that Marian Marzynski did an excellent job at portraying the complexity of the immigration issue in the United States in this film. In recent history, immigrants have been conflated with terrorists, blamed for financial problems in our medical system and labeled as "criminals". However, we never look at the fact that the people who are the biggest law breakers and get "amnesty" are corporations who take the labor of the undocumented and become rich. Billions are currently owed to China because of the war in Iraq and not because of the undocumented. However, Latinos have become scapegoats similar to the Jews in Germany. The discourse or rhetoric in this country is about following the law, however, the law in this country used to be that slavery was legal. That did not make it ethically or morally correct. I think that people need to be more critical about what gets spun by the media and by small "hate groups" that call themselves the minute men project and are simply derivatives of the Ku Klux Klan. They promote intolerance, ignorance and are ahistorical because the colonists didn't come here "legally" or with papers. They came, plundered and killed off the Native Americans so that they could become rich. What we should be asking is how do we solve the root of this issue in a humane and fair way. A mother loves her child and wants to be with him so that she can take care of him. It's as simple as that.

(anonymous)
The comments that cast anything but a kind light on undocumented immigrants are cruel and ignorant. Legally speaking, coming into this country without a visa is in the same legal category as laminating your social security card. Socially speaking, these are people who love their country as much as we love ours, and they would stay if they could. We are right to ask what is going on in the Mexican economy that people are ripping their families apart, enduring great economic uncertainty if not death, just to come here. Has anyone connected the fact that after we passed NAFTA illegal immigration soared to incredible new heights? People who were farmers, and sustainable farmers at that, all of a sudden were competing with food imported from the United States, food subsidized by our tax dollars, food that then cost less than the food grown in the very soil in which it now cannot be sold. These are economic refugees, not illegal immigrants, and the Mexican government should have protected their citizens and the United States government now has to deal with the consequences of their economic policies. The whole "my family came here legally" argument is moot: they came here that way because they could, becaue the government had a free for all during that time, and only for Western Europeans might I add. They would have come over in boats without papers if that were their only option. Everyone should stop being so righteous and do some reading, and think with your heart and mind, not your ideology.

(anonymous)
Honestly I would like to see what kind of America it would be without these illegal individuals and their labor. There has to be a middle ground.

(anonymous)
This is an excellent film. I am from Hispanic descent, and I believe that there should not be a deportation of the millions of illegal immigrants and their children whether they are US citizens or not. First, honestly there must be an Amnesty that both parties could be able to agree to. These Illegal immigrants are essential to the economy, and many do report their taxes so making statements that they are simply taking and not putting any money into the Medicaid/Medicare system or any other government funded program is idiotic. Second, the repo cautions of this and the millions of children that would enter foster care, because their parents are deported, would be devastating, as it is the foster system in America is overwhelmed. Giving deportation orders to a child that is not guilty of illegally entering a country is truly an unusual punishment for someone who is innocent. These individuals are Americanized with the same foundation, as any child growing up in this beautiful country, to be productive individuals of society; many of these children's are educated and making progress to better themselves but also their community. To punish them by deporting them is cruel and just because they are deported with their parents doesn't make it ok, their life their education is here in America. I believe a lot of people forget that these individuals will grow up and WORK and contribute to society, economically and educationally but only if given that opportunity. Congress and the President need to focus on this issue rather than keeping it on the back burner hoping that it will fix itself.

Rockford, IL
We all came here from somewhere else. This is a melting pot, and I like it that way. I love learneing from my neighbors--everyone has a different story and I want to hear it! Linda

Jeff - Phoenix, AZ
I voted for Ralph Nader during the past two elections, but am COMPLETELY against ILLEGAL immigration. I do believe that ALL illegal immigrants should be deported regardless of race, origin, etc. First, illegal immigrants are breaking the law. Second, without control of immigration, Homeland Security and National Security are at best compromised, and at worst, in danger. Third, illegal immigration is an economic drain on the US economy. Fourth, a good deal of general AND violent crime in the US is attributed to illegal immigrants who are often associated with gangs, many in cities and locals in the South and SW part of the US. Last and more of a minor point, I can't just go and live in another country. There are laws and obstacles that prevent that. I have heard and understand all the counterarguments, which I consider more pleading than rational and precise thought. The so called `complexity' of immigration is a term to cloud the law and what should be done. I would go as far as to issue warrants and financial rewards for illegal immigrants for deportation. I have traveled a great deal internationally and believe the same should be done to me if I were an illegal immigrant.

Poor/White American - Chicago, IL
It is interesting that the person who made this documentary is from Poland. You would think he would know better.
Hitler called it "Libensraum" or living space. Mexicans call it "immigration". I, along with other Americans, call it "invasion"!The difference between real immigrants and Mexicans is that the immigrant does not try to change the country they immigrate to. The purpose of immigration is to better one's life and hopefully to be grateful to that host country in the form of patriotism to it. The Mexican looks out for himself and his race which is precisely what he claims white Americans do. In his mind, it is impossible for the Mexican to be a racist.Everytime I try to find some sympathy for these people, I simply look out my window and see people who have stolen from poor Americans their rightful inheritance. Their right to a peaceful America that Americans not Mexicans fought for.How dare you portray the Mexican woman in your story as a victim or a martyr. I am more a victim than she is. She is free to come and go. The Americans in my neighborhood can't even leave their homes without the fear of home invasion by those people you feel sorry for. Little old ladies on their way to Church get attacked by these "poor immigrants". Who feels sympathy for them?When I see these women leave their young children to play on the streets unsupervised, while they disappear into newly bought homes to watch cable TV, and let the next generation of gang members be initiated I again feel no sympathy.They all claim poverty but where do they get the money to afford homes and the latest SUV.What other country in the world would put up with this. While Mexicans pour across the border, they prevent legitimate immigration by people from around the world. I believe that is called diversity, but that is not the Mexican agenda.If I feel sympathy for anyone it is the Americans who lived in this neighborhood for generations and refuse to leave, even though threated. God bless them all!

san diego, california
I currently reside in San Diego California, which is not only a border town but a military town with a conservative view on immigration. However, I find it ironic that many of these conservatives are also staunch supporters of the military. Since my stay in San Diego I have befriended many military personnel, and I was surprised by the number of illegal immigrants employed by our armed forces. A particular friend of mine was originally from the Philippines, and traveled with his family to Guam in hopes of joining the military. His sister was accepted into the marines and he was accepted into the navy. Both receieved jobs considered to be the dangerous and harsh. After six years of serving for our military, he was denied citizenship because they would not let him off duty for an appointment. A year later he was finally granted his citizenship. After helping many trying to obtain citizenship, I have encountered a surprising number of illegal immigrants directly employed or independently contracted by our military. How is this possible? How can we employ those in our military for over 5 years without granting citizenship?

Andrew Albee - Houston, TX
1) Every Immigrant deserves equal pay for equal work2) People who come to the US illegally from ANY other country are not immigrants, they are criminals. The term Illegal means a Criminal Act deserving legal punishment. Only the US claims every baby born here to be a citizen. We need to stop this practice.3) If you sneak into any country other than the US and get caught you are subject to life in prison or death depending on the country. In the US we either ship them home at TAXPAYER expense, or turn a blind eye.4) The US is the EASIEST country to immigrate to. There is no other country I know of that allows you to come in on a visitor or student visa & request a transfer to a work visa that can later be upgraded to an application for citizenship.5) The federal criminals who bypass our laws to get here need to be treated the same way any other country would treat them, and the companies who hire them need to be fined so heavily that they are forced to file bankruptcy and close their doors forever. No exceptions.6) Whenever I see a crowd demonstrating, blocking traffic when I need to get to work, carrying a bunch of flags from some country other than the US, I can't help but think "Why carry that flag? If you were in that country would you be better off? If you love it so much, then why are you here? Why is INS not here checking ID's?"
I love the US, but if I fought hard to move to another country, I would not disrespect that country by waving the US flag around in their streets and refusing to learn their language in the hopes of getting better treatment by them!Once again, I say that I honestly do believe that every immigrant deserves the same treatment as a US born citizen. My issue is with the "illegal immigrant." The term Illegal means a criminal act deserving legal punishment. Anyone who came here through legal Immigration faces deportation if they commit a felony before gaining citizenship! That is the law as written. So why turn a blind eye to the people who GOT here by breaking a FEDERAL LAW!

Kim - Dallas, Texas
I want the law changed so that if a person comes to the United States illegally, then their child is not born as a citizen. Instead, the child should be recognized by the United States as a national of the same nation the mother is from. However, if the father is an American citizen then the child born may take the father's nationality and be an American citizen. Furthermore, if a mother who immigrated here legally gives birth, then the child is born an American citizen. I think this is the solution to this problem.

Jacksonville, Florida
I am a decendant of the Cherokee Tribe. So, I don't believe I, nor any of my family before me, were illegal aliens. We did, however, lose land and rights to the White Man. According to history, much of Texas, New Mexico, Southern California and Arizona were taken from Mexico. Now, "Illegal Hispanics" cross the border and feel as if they are home, since Texas was at one time part of their country.The business men who pay illegals $5 or $6 an hour to increase their bottom line directly effect the American economy. We all know the cash the aliens make is wired back to their country on Friday. And if they indeed are 'papered' (fake SS#) why do they run off the job site when Immigration comes around?This country has fought, killed, destroyed to gain land and wealth from the beginning. Now, under the pretense of being a free country, it turns its head when the borders are crossed by 'aliens'. America is a big machine that sells out to the highest bidder, the lowest dollar. Did I hear anyone say NAFTA? Wages in America are undercut by illegal aliens and our businessmen go for it. Or, they go to China for goods and services laying off thousands. We may need to rethink our strategies.

arlington, va
It is really sad to hear about the illegal immigrants in the news every single day.I don't think it's right people coming and jumping to other countries . I think they should stay in their country.

Neil Anderson - Allen, TX
It's sad to hear all the stories of illegal immigrants and their families being torn apart by the courts. But the fact is that what they did was technically illegal, and they have hard choices to make because of it. I do with all my heart sympathize for all the people who have to go back to their country, but do not feel one bit responsible. The video does a great job at showing their side of the story, but really never focuses on the other side. What about the job market for the middle class? What about the legal citizens who earned their way into this country looking for opportunity, only to find out that it's all been taken by illegals? People can't just pick and choose what laws they want to follow, and what laws they don't want to follow.

(anonymous)
People who come into the United States need to be willing to do it the right way. I can sympathize with this woman who wanted a better life for her child, but there's a right way and a wrong way. She could have gone through the government, gotten a visa of some sort, and then made a life for her son. Coming here illegally is not going to make things better for him. There's a huge risk of his mother maybe being taken away from him, or his family being looked down upon for being illegal immigrants. I have no problem with people coming to America as long as they're doing it the right way, because all the jobs they do are ones that nobody else wants to do and that's good for everyone, as long as taxes are paid, citizenship is established, and whatever problems they had in Mexico, stay there.

Allen, Texas
What I simply cannot seem to grasp is how such an incredible number of citizens in this world find themselves so exceedingly and morally superior in relation to immigrants. Elvira Arellano is just as much of a hardworking mother as many of the women in our everyday culture are; and to tack something else on, she contributes to our economy as well. It seems like Americans are simply picking fights, for the sake of picking fights. Why waste all of your energy on attacking one single woman's effort to start a decent life with her child? We are all so incredibly lucky to be living in such a free and liberating country that it seems downright discourteous and selfish when we deny this freedom to others, solely because it is viewed that they "don't belong". Arellano did what she thought was best for her family, and it makes little, if any, sense to punish her, for something that everyday mothers all over the United States do as well. Americans need to get off of their high horse and realize that this privileged place that we are living within everyday is something that is meant to be shared. So many people are negligent enough to forget that we all technically do not belong here as well. Our ancestors were immigrants -- some illegal -- so just because time has morphed and changed a little, why do we suddenly view ourselves on a higher pedestal as immigrants? I mean, it all seems a little hypocritical to kick someone out of a country committed to liberty and righteousness, doesn't it?

Katifa Jahani - Sedona, az
Americans, you need to wake up from your media induced trance so that you can see that you do not live in a democracy, but a corpocracy. Have you ever wondered why the laws that are one the books have not been enforced? If there were no jobs for the Mexicans they would not come here! Big business needs them to maximize their profits. They (undocumented workers) are the closest thing this country has to slavery. Some things just can't be sent to China. Turn off those TV's and start doing some thinking for yourselves for a change. Stop acting like a bunch of hypnotized sheep or they will have you in the slaughterhouse!

- East Palo Alto, CA
Arellano, along with numerous undocumented inmigrants should not be deemed criminals. What is criminal about leaving one's country and entering a foreign one in order to work and provide oneself with better opportunities? Some individuals justify their opposition on this issue by stating that their families came here legally through Ellis Island. I understand that immigrants coming to Ellis Island worked hard to save up money in order to get here and that once they arrived were subject to examinations. However, I don't view this process as legalizing someone's status here. Especially in a country which was founded by Europeans who stripped land away from indigenous people.

Kathy Gannett - Vieques, PR
Thank-you Marian Marzynski. As long as the US is violating human rights and exploiting people all over the world and thus creating so much suffering, the US must share its wealth and take care of those in need.

Phil Albee - Chicago, IL
Personal Responsibility.
The argument that United States Citizens and LEGAL aliens bear responsibility for the suffering of individuals who choose to be here illegally is immature - and morally, ethically, legally wrong. As for children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens, it's unfortunate, but the responsibility is the parents, not the United States government's. The parents knew the rules.I've personally known women who came here on tourist visas from Africa and Europe to have their babies, and returned home with their U.S. Citizen children - the "anchor baby" situation is very real. Allowing illegal aliens, and non-resident visa holders to give birth to U.S. Citizens only encourages abuse and illegal immigration. This needs to be changed.Let's be clear: Illegal immigration has been tolerated by our middle-class because it's generally understood how bad things are in some other countries - BUT the ones making the money on those illegals are individual business owners and investors in certain industries - wealthy individuals. Illegal aliens have become a tremendous drain on the middle class. They cost individual states far more than what they contribute in either taxes, or economic multipliers. Period. Thank NAFTA for much of this. Circumstances south of our border have deteriorated drastically because of it, and the recent waves of illegal "economic refugees" is a direct result.Most of us would never turn an illegal alien in to ICE. The thanks middle class citizens receive for looking the other way, is to be loudly declared prejudiced, unfair and inhumane when an illegal alien has to face the consequences of his/her life choices. Grand marches and rallies that raise the decibel level of all those immature protests and demands is deeply offensive to many of us who love this country, and possess a sense of dignity, honor, and self-respect.Do I feel human compassion for those less fortunate? Yes, of course. Am I responsible for the pain illegal aliens' personal choices create within their families? Definitely not.If you really want to be compassionate, the way to show it is to fix the broken system. Securing the borders is our right, and our responsibility. So is determining who has access to our job markets, how many, and for how long. And, let's not cut off our noses in the process.

los angeles, ca
Ms. Arellano and her supporters claim that she is not a criminal, but a good mother making hard choices to provide the best possible life for her son. Ms. Arellano commited a crime when she crossed the border. She commited a crime when she used a fradulent social security number. Both offenses were mainly for financial gain, not to save her life or the life of her son. A U.S. citizen would be charged for committing the same offences.
The U.S. courts ruled that she be returned to Mexico. She refused. Mexico is one of the world's biggest economies with a stable democracy and high literacy rate. The Mexican authorities will not jail her or torture her. Mrs. Arellano made the choice to stay because she and her son have a "better" life in U.S.As a naturalized citizen of the United States, I don't embrace Mrs. Arellano as a champion of immigrants.

Houston, Texas
Programs like this one show only one side of the immigration issue. It is merely produced to generate sympathy and doesn't tell both sides of the issue. When the immigrants marched in several US cities around the country last year they chanted that they 'Were not criminals' It was heard and broadcast worldwide.What wasn't broadcast was the number of laws broken, the use of fraudulent SSN to gain employment, using that fraudulent SSN to complete tax returns, to apply for credit, to open bank accounts, and when they are discovered they claim that they are 'not criminals'.

(anonymous)
How does one become a multi-national? I would like to be a citizen of 20 different countries. Can that happen? ... I never really understood borders myself. Why do coorporations get to do whatever they want? No illegal immigrant wants to be here. They are forced to come here. America needs to have [workers]. Who else is going to baby sit our kids for $3 and hour while I go to the gym and weight watchers?

Laura - Santa Rosa, CA
Those who claim their ancestors came here legally through Ellis Island are kidding themselves. "Legal" meant you had been able to somehow get the money together to leave your country and buy a boat ticket to the USA. At Ellis Island they just made sure you were not retarded or carrying some disease. Where's the legality to legitimize you?

Lon Evans - Brooklyn, NY
What many of your commentators seem to have missed is that this is a legal controversy. While only the most insensitive could be without sympathy for the plight of Mrs. Arellano, it is an unavoidable fact that she has broken many of the laws of this country. What I find most troubling is that Mrs. Arellano defied our laws as she self righteously determined that her wants trumped the United States right to determine its own immigration policies. Ms. Arellano fled her own country, a land of little opportunity, in hope of a better life. She fled Mexico, a kleptocracy. As her country is a democracy, this fact demands a culture peopled by a majority who have little respect for their own laws. Should we expect that they would consider honoring ours. The rub is that it is this very kleptocratic culture which demands the impoverishment of so many of the Mexican people. It may sound harsh, but those who flee are running from nothing other than an ugliness of their own making.
America has become a beacon to the world's poor as its culture promotes the rule of law, and expects that its citizens abide by the same. It is this culture that makes possible the equity and opportunity that so many hundreds of millions, if not billions, yearn for so earnestly. It is this cultural respect for law that has promoted this equity and opportunity, and so we have not fallen victim to the corrupt practices that are the political and social realities of Mexico. What puzzles me is that somehow I'm to understand Mrs. Arllano's flaunting the law, demanding exemption from it, and finally defying it are of benefit to herself, or her (illegally) adopted country. From my perspective, she has done nothing other than import the seed harvested from the fruit she found so unpalatable in her native country. Yes, deport her, if for no other reason than to eradicate the potential threat that this same seed will take root in our soil and end in corrupting it.

(anonymous)
Anchor babies and their families should be sent home. NO H1B visas. Educate your own citizens (we are your children by the way). Don't forget this is a generational issue also. The baby boomers decided not to pay for the educations of their children, let alone the ones they aborted. (40 million of us Gen X gone. Oops! now there are not enough highly skilled workers (H1B will fix that.) ...So now we put off having our own families (to pay for our educations.) Humm, declining birthrates possible cause? Nah. You expect SS and medicare so you can live on the dole for 30 years? Sure! Bring on the new Mexican peasent slave class! Their back bones will fix it.Bread and circuses for everyone! :) OH WHAT A TANGLED WEB YOU WEAVE!!!!!!

richard miller - chicago, Il
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door. "
Perhaps it's time to take down our so called 'lady liberty' as it would seem the proverbial light on the front porch is coming close to being extinquished. How sad is it that we seem to have forgotten where we came from and why.

Larissa - New York, NY
It is hard to immigrate to this country legally. I came here with my parents legally when I was five. Then they left when I was in high school. I went to college here, have skills and a 3.9 GPA. The only way to immigrate was through H1-B. An American company offered me a job, but that fell victim to a random lottery by immigration due to high numbers of H-!B's on the first day due to abuse by Indian consulting companies. So after 23 years, a college degree, offers of employment, I am still not able to immigrate.... Now I hear they have a bill called the DREAM act-from what I know it offers everyone illegally here a path to green card while there is no reward for us who came here when we were five and maintained legal status through great sacrifices when parents left. Who said immigration is fair in this country?

Geraldine Cooper - Chicago, Illinois
Illegals should be sent back The mother and her child. My family came to the United States the legal way thru Ellis Island. They spent every dime they had to get here and went thru horrible examinations just to be able to start a new life. The Mexicans are breaking the law to get here and this is wrong. They need to be sent back and come thru legally.

Armando Gonzalez - Chicago, IL
Without question, the current dilemma facing our country is indeed complex. Any just conclusion or resolution must be free of any bias, bigotry, favoritism or prejudice....What is the answer? I would like to believe that legal immigration to the United States of America is an opportunity afforded to all citizens of the world. A liberty that is granted regardless of gender, race, color or creed. A fortune that is made available to those persons wishing to share in the virtues of the United States of America. A prospect given fairly to all persons regardless of their proximity to our border. However, none of this can take place if we allow anyone to forgo any prescribed, nonpartisan process. The deceit! This is not a problem that can be resolved or fixed, it can only be managed.

(anonymous)
Arellano's case, as well at the immigration situation as a whole is a very complex issue. Arellano did what she thought was best for her family. Everyone makes such decisions on a daily basis. For the majority of us, the decisions that we make for our families aren't as difficult. The United Stated was founded by European immigrats who took land from Native Americans and the ancestors of current day Mexicans. Many of the states in the southwestern United States were taken from these people. Have you ever thought of how certain US cities and states got their names? Los Angeles, Colorado, San Diego, etc. This is a huge issue and we are talking about millions of people and their families. The decisins made in cases like Arellano's will not only affect her directly but also her family, friends, coworkers, etc. To what lengths would you go to make sure your family can eat? Imagine immigration knocking on your door and taking away your mother, father, wife, husband, sister, brother, son or daughter.

Dan A - St. Louis, Missouri
Where to start on such a complex issue? The current large wave of immigration from Latin America to the United States began soon after Ronald Reagan and his conservative followers took power in the very early 1980s--power that they have held onto for more than 25 years). Historically the conservatives have ruled by minimizing the strength of labor unions, favoring the "plantation" method of cheap (almost slave) labor. With the labor unions in decline, with an aging population, with birth rates declining, and with manufacturing jobs moving to the "third" world, the U.S.A. has been fertile ground for Latin Americans to fill a labor vacuum in certain jobs. The xenophobes in the United States will say that the Latin American job-fillers are a burden on the social system, but truth be known, they and the majority of their employers are paying taxes for benefits they will not receive in the future. It is an economic trade-off. The social effect is terrible for the Latin Americans. Families are split apart for long periods of time; they have high divorce rates, culture shock, and identity crises. With the number of guest worker visas (known as H2-B for non-skilled labor) appallingly low and not equal to demand, many Latin American workers have chosen to stay in the United States rather than go home without a reasonable chance of returning. They could pay a coyote more than $1,000, but even then, they are not guaranteed safe passage across the border, or a lengthy stay in the United States. I believe that both sides, the citizens of the United States and the Latin American immigrants, have much work to do in bridging the language and cultural barriers. Neither side is working hard enough in this regard. Citizens of the United States believe it is enough to vacation in Cancun and learn how to order a "cerveza" in Spanish, while Latin Americans are spoiled by satellite television and ethnic neighborhoods whereby they are insulated and isolated from the "gringo" life. Sharing such a long geographic border with Latin America is hard reality that the citizens of the United States need to recognize quickly. The American government (nor economy) is not going to allow deportation of millions of Latin Americans. You cannot stop inertia.

Kyle, TX
I think she should stay. People come to America for safety, a new beginning, and a better life for their children. So I believe she should stay. Kicking someone out of a country dedicated to freedom and justice is wrong.

Bri Kranz - Bath, UK
I am an American student in the Economics and International Development Department at the University of Bath in England. I am writing my masters dissertation on the impact of US immigration policies on trans-national communities, such as in this documentary. After months of research I can say there are multiple migrant myths circulating even on this discussion board (Which is sad and pathetic for a developed country such as the US, with great education facilities such as free public libraries). Please don't take my word for it, look into these issues yourself. But I can say all the research shows that of the undocumented ("illegal" I hate that word) migrants that pay taxes, they actually pay more in taxes than the whole population uses in all services combined (such as schooling health care etc.) As a group migrants are less likely to use healthcare and other services than the general legal population and are far more likely to be employed (96% of undocumented male immigrants hold employment) then their legal American counterparts. These myths are created to distract the focus from the true problems of why schools are under funded or why certain groups cant find employment. Migrants are not the problem they are the scapegoat! And they are certainly not criminals or fugitives. For anyone who sees migrants as fugitives or criminals you need to do more reading, research, and critical thinking.

(anonymous)
I think she should be deported and her son as well. Our government should not feel pity for her. It will only open the floodgates for others. The minute she crossed the border illegally she had no rights. What a lot of people do not realize is that these people are coming here and living off the system getting free Medicaid, WIC, and etc. They are not paying taxes on their income and still receiving help from the government. They are also sending their income to their home country making it wealthier. My grandmother came to this country the legal way, by working hard and selling everything she had in order to come here. Why should it be any easier for others? There has to be a stop to immigrants coming here illegally. And of course we are all native to this land, but our ancestors came here legally, with no free meal ticket.

(anonymous)
I believe we should let her stay. I do not think it is fair for her son to stay and for her to leave. Although, I believe we should still have her earn her citizenship like so many others have had to do.

Frank Morales - Honolulu, HI
I sympathize with Mrs. Arellano. I do not blame her. I blame our ineffective politicians. Laws cannot be broken without penalty. If the laws are wrong, they should be changed. Mrs. Arellano should be deported.

Alex Hailey - Chandler, AZ
I don't understand. Frontline tries to bring light to another side of immigration and it is completely and utterly ignored. What about all the Polish immigrants? What about that situation; should they all be immediately deported? Why is it that only Latin American immigration (which always is lumped together incorrectly as "Mexican" immigration) seems to be the big issue when they only make up roughly 3/4ths of all illegal immigration? It seems to me that there is an underlying racial tension from US citizens here against Latin Americans. It isn't people like Mrs. Arellano and her child the US government should be against. It should be trying to end drug trafficking into the US. Drugs are one of the largest contributors towards terror. It doesn't make sense to me to justify building a fence along the Mexican border for "national security." The people coming over from Mexico have no greater threat to our security as does Canada. Thus why aren't we building a fence along the longer northern border?Even beyond this point people need to realize that "law" is not all-powerful. Was it not under US law that slavery was permitted, women not allowed to vote, and minority rights oppressed? Just because something is the law doesn't make it right. Currently abortions are allowed under the Supreme Court's decision. If you are a Christian ask yourself this, "Who would Jesus deport?"

Jennifer Savin - Sacramento, CA
Please, let's not forget who the real immigrants are: Europeans.

Waukegan, IL
Let her stay! Why pick on one lady while you are over in Iraq killing and being killed. I would come to America also if I could get everything free for my child, and I could not get anything in Mexico, Honduras, India, China, Korea, Ireland, Canada, Pakistan etc. Come on in everyone and we will try to teach you in your language. Forget English.

Plano, TX
I feel that Mrs. Arellano is using her son as a way to stay in America. I know many other in the same situation who are on Medicaid. But if she stays, then the door is open for millions of illegal immigrants using their children and having more children as a way to stay in America illegally and this is WRONG!

Bill - Chicago, IL
What I find ridiculous is that the media tells us that illegal aliens do jobs Americans don't want, but that's not true. There isn't one job in the United States that a native born citizen would not want. What "horrible" jobs are they talking about? Are they talking about construction? Landscaping? Janitorial? Etc. Because there are a lot of people that would take those jobs in an instant. Many people for many years took those jobs. People need work to earn money, so why wouldn't they take a job that was open if they needed it? I know for a fact that my father loved his job, and his company hired cheaper labor to replace him, so they could make more money. The foreign countries that these illegal people are coming from need to fix their economy, and not tell us what we should do for them. Also, America needs to stop cheating its own people.

Lorain, OH
How confusing it must be for our youngsters to realize that all lawbreakers are not penalized. My parents came to this country and never accepted a dime to exist. They worked very hard to provide the necessities, nothing more. People who advocate the amnesty of these illegal immigrants simply do not understand the math. The boat is tipping folks. Our government takes better care of illegals than it does of its own poor citizens.

Michael Garcia - Chicago, IL
I'm ashamed of all of the ridiculous and illogical comments posted by people with Hispanic surnames who criticize other Hispanics for being against illegal immigration. As a Mexican-American whose grandparents came to this country and became citizens while picking fruit and vegetables in order to improve the lives of their children and future generations, I'm tired of hearing how we should support illegal immigration just because we share a heritage. Not to mention we're being asked to look the other way in regards to "our" country's national security. We're not the problem, whites aren't the problem, and other races of American citizens and legal immigrants aren't the problem. The problem is the corruption of the Mexican government, the Mexican economy, the closed markets/protectionism of Cielito Lindo that makes it near impossible to create sustainable employment and the Hispanic sympathizers to illegal immigration who put a wedge between fellow Americans. Additionally, we live in a different era, where our national security interests have moved way up the priority chain. Don't get me wrong; I understand why illegals come here. They have no future in their beloved homeland, so they go where they can get work and care for their family. However, to say that American Hispanics can't have an opposing view because we think of ourselves as Americans first and foremost is insulting. I make no apologies for criticizing my grandparent's birth home and the transparent borders of our nation that should've been addressed decades ago. I support Mexicans coming to America to work and make a better life for their families; I just want them to sign up at the door so we know who's here. Is this the same way immigration used to be in the early 20th century at Ellis Island or along the Rio Grande? No. But then again, we're not living in those times anymore. The needs for American security, economic accountability and helping local governments and local constabularies are more important today than ever. If that's not an acceptable "Mexican" position, tough. I'm an American, who has pride in his Mexican heritage but has absolutely no allegiance to anything that goes counter to my country, her people and her security.

George Rivera - Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii
It's all about your Heart, and how you were raised to respect others... ( It's not about me, it's about what I can do for you.) Let me know, how I can help...

Alyssa Vuono - Pocono Lake, PA
It still amazes me that so many people forget that none of us belonged here. All of our ancestors were illegal immegrants. These people deserve to be here as much as anyone else.

Jose - Paramount, CA
I am ashamed of all of the ridiculus and hypocritical comments posted by people with hispanic last names , who live in cities where there is a majority of immigrant population. Their attacks are so obvious against the Latino population in the U.S. Maybe if people could apply for legal residence in the U.S and it was as easy as it was fifty years ago nobody would be illegal. These ignorants think its very easy to leave your family and home and your land and risk your life in hopes for a "better" life which means coming to work here for a racist person, getting paid the lowest wages and living on the borderline of poverty. They see this as taking away from the economy when what immigrants are really doing is keeping the United States of America the country it is today.What these people are really mad about is that no matter how much they say they are Americans, whites will always view them as Mexicans, that's what really infuriates them,they cant hide what they really are and instead of being proud of their heritage they want to pass by as "white" americans. I dont entirely support what Arellano has done but being an ethically educated Mexican American I feel an obligation to support the people that come here and endure so much hardship just to provide their families in Mexico or in Latin America with a better life.

Harry Wheeler - Honolulu, Hawaii
This is a difficult one. I have carefully read all of the comments on the subject. Emotionally, I can understand the importance of the child remaining with his mother. A child needs that. However the outcome of the final decision will effect not just one child but all of the other 3.9 million American-born children to illegal immigrants in the United States. If Saul Arellano's mother is allowed to remain in the United States, then in all fairness, the American people must allow the parents of the other 3.9 million children to remain in this country. And this decision will open the door for other illegals to gain a permanent residence in this country. All you have to do is enter the coutnry illegally, have a child in the United States, and you're in. The population of the United States now exceeds 300,000,000, and the United States has a birth rate that is high in comparison to most developed countries. The high birth rate is being fueled by immigration. The population of the planet went over 6 billion in 1999 and is projected to reach 9 billion before mid-century. That is alarming. With most of the population growth occuring in already overpopulated poorly developed countries, Mexico is a good example. Does that mean the excess simply could illegally enter the United States, produce a child, and legally remain? I believe that Americans had better "wake up and smell the coffee" right now. I would have to say that we should deport Saulito Arellano's mother and leave her with the decision to either leave her American-born child in the United States or take him with her. If she leaves him here and returns to Mexico, she should then have to apply for legal immigration, allowing her to enter the United States and become an American citizen in the same manner that most legal immigrants have done in the past. As I wrote earlier, the child should remain with his mother, however there is a harsh reality here. Saulito would receive a better education by remaining in the United State! On the other hand, if he returns to Mexico with her, he would be free to return to the United States when he is old enough to do so on his own. But of course, the ultimate decision rests with his mother. I know that sounds cruel, however the love of my country and its future is very important to me.

Larry - Atlanta, GA
Illegal aliens made the decision to break the law and are guilty of a crime. If they choose to falsely identify themselves that makes them felons. It's interesting to see so many desperate criminally minded people try and warp that fact and quickly move beyond it. These criminals have all the same phony excuses that any prison population uses worldwide, and so do their supporters that exploit them for power and profit. Whether going to the house next door or the country next door, stealing the food off innocent people's tables is a crime. Let it be understood that the state of Georgia is implementing laws that the federal goverment and corrupt states refuse to enforce. If you are an illegal alien, do not come to Georgia, there is no home for you here and you will be subject to arrest.

John Marshall - San Diego, CA
The church should automatically lose its tax and property exemptions for illegally providing sanctuary for this woman. This should be made an example to other organizations that want to thumb their nose at US laws.

(anonymous)
I can't believe you people! So you have never ever broken the law? Jay walked, drunk at an underage? These people are trying to make better lives for themselves and their children. I went and truly worked with migrant workers last summer; it was the most eye-opening thing I have ever done.

Mia Mendoza - Evanston, IL
This is for all of those unfair people in America. Just for your concerns: sending US (immigrants) back how will it help you? How? If WE do all of the hard work in the fields and factories. How are WE hurting you personally? WE are helping this economy be stable; WE are the ones responsible for making the United States. We were all immigrants at once; why can't one single person stay? Yes it might not be fair for the rest who are trying to have a better life, but think what would you do if you were in that spot today? Would you be ok with going back to your native country knowing your government doesn't give because the economy is bad? What would YOU be able to do, to better yourself? Wouldn't YOU want to come to the United States and have a better life, a life that might be the hardest but know you will be compensated because you might be helping your generations? This is for all of the people who are being unjust; what are WE doing so bad to you? Crossing the border? Is that all you complain about, you think you appeared here naturally? You think your ancestors were creatures in this continent? What bad are WE doing to you? We are only trying to live somewhere secure but the more we try and fight here the more ideas you type of people get about us. What do we do? What is it that gets you so aggravated, if we are just trying to live a normal life like you? We are being harassed by you type of people, why? Is it jealousy? Is it because we are trying to be successful like you? This is the real life; why don't you try living in a place that's poor? Maybe because you are not in our shoes. Although, I am born in the USA, I consider myself, from Mexico 100%, like my parents; they are legal citizens but we still fight for any other immigrants trying to make it in life.

Lexus Nexus - Little Rock, AR
I am undergoing the process of green card through a legal means in US. I sympathize with Elvira but at the same time I know that these immigrants are totally aware about the rules when they come to US. They exactly know how to wiggle their way out of the system. These illegal immigrants are not following the fundamentals of this country. It was based on English speaking skilled workforce. I am totally against illegal immigration. As a legal immigrant I came here on a student visa, paid taxes from day one even when I was a student. The process of earning your permanent residency is so country specific and just because I come from South Asia, the process is not expedited for some reason. I wouldn't agree in granting Elvira a citizenship or a permanent residency. I would agree to grant her temp visa and get it renewed every 2 years.

(anonymous)
"Anchor" babies should be deported with the mother. It is a major drain on the economy and resources. They should be welcomed with open arms only when they are willing to understand, follow and obey the laws.

Ann Nunez - San Diego, CA
A simple question that no one seems to be able to answer: Can I go to Mexico tomorrow, start working, demand service (in any sector) in English, and expect not to be deported (or worse)? The answer is no. Why are they allowed to enforce their laws, when to do the same here is called racist?ps--I am the grandchild of legal immigrants from Mexico. My grandparents came here in the '50s, raised large families on their own (no Medicaid for their US born kids, no WIC, no free school lunches); learned and spoke English; and sent all 10 of their children to college and beyond. THAT'S contributing to this country. That is certainly NOT what's happening today.

Marcus Akiyama - Honolulu, Hawaii
10% of the U.S. population own over 70% of the wealth. If illegal immigrants were of real negative concern to them they would do more to stop it. However, they actually benefit financially from thier labor. I believe America is the land of opportunity where success and prosperity is earned from hard work. I'd rather have these hard working illegal immigrants as my fellow citizens then those Americans who have chosen to be homeless, incarcerated, or believe in entitlements. Capitalism and competition makes America successful. America would be better off if the right to citizenship is earned versus entitled through birth.

(anonymous)
It's a shame that she has to hide in a church. People are not stupid, and if there is no work or low-wages then people go to where work and wages are better and can sustain them. People also just want to go where the grass is greener. When this happens in such great numbers then it is obvious that the place they are leaving has major problems. I do not blame the Mexicans for flooding the US for one minute. On the other side I can understand (somewhat) US citizens who fight to stop the flood as the result may eventually be that the illegal immigrants create a nation in the image of the one they ran from. This is however only speculative, but complaints about an already struggling healthcare system in the US are so great that they warrant consideration in the context of this illegal immigration issue.One thing that should happen is that the law should change to penalize employers who hire illegals. Another legal provision might change the law granting citizenship to children born in the US to non-citizens if that non-citizen cannot on the balance prove that they have been in the country for 12 months or more.More emphasis should be put towards getting the indigent to do those "jobs that no Americans will do". And the relationship between the US and Mexico should be one where the US nurtures, teaches and shares its economic successes so that there can be wider regional prosperity for both countries.

plano, tx
i have been traveling to chiapas for 11 years now and when i first went the men would all ask me to help get to the usa, now 11 years later there teenage sons and daughters are asking me for help. this is a cycle that needs to stop. the mexican government must be forced to take care of their own people and stop the rampant corruption. mexico is a very wealthy country and must be held accountable!!

Aaron Roch - Windsor, ON
This is indeed a touching story but the film fails to touch the heart of the immigration problem in the USA. The system is broken. Plain and simple. Just talk to any immigrant who is trying to follow the law. It is extremely frustrating. You will hear all sorts of stories. Huge delays to process citizenship cases. Green Cards lost in the middle of the bureaucracy. Incompetent government employees. Everything you can think of. Because the system does not work, it makes the life of those who want to break the law a lot easier. In contrast, this system makes it a lot harder for America to attract legal high-skilled immigrants. I myself was forced to move to Canada because I am married to a Green Card holder who lives in Chicago. We were both living in the USA legally and we did not know that Green Card holders are in practice not allowed to marry anyone who is not an American citizen. If they choose to do so, they might as well just leave the country since it may take from 5 to 7 years to get the required permit that would allow their spouse to live with them in the USA. But I am here waiting in line. I have never broken the law and I will not do so. But I must say: it is extremely frustrating.

San Antonio, TX
Can't the U.S. government put a little pressure on the Mexican government to spend more on creating jobs in Mexico and improving education there?

Gloria Martinez - Chicago, IL
I myself come from parents whom immigrated to the US in search of a better life, when I say a better life im not refering to luxurys but a means to support their family. with all the anti-immigrant sentiment some fail to remember the sometimes harsh reality that the majority of Americans will not work in some of the conditions immigrant workers gladly accept as long as they can provide for their own. I was born & raised here in the US & I dont know any of my co-workers , neighbors, or class mates that would work in hot, fruit & vegetable fields being covered in pesticides as they work, nor do I know anyone that would take jobs in restaurants or construction sites that offer very little pay or safey for their workers. We often argue about immigrants comming to the US the correct or "legal" way, but if you do your home work on this topic you will quickly see there is no avenue for Mexican immagrants to obtain any form of legal status. So ask yourself this if this was your family, your children's future, would you not risk your life crossing a border or climbing a wall & run the risk of death & being hated in a country that was built by immigrants to secure a better future for your family? I thank my parents everyday for having the courrage to endure such a dangerous trip & enduring all the prejudice that awaited them when they arrived, all for for my siblings & my future. I will be forever grateful to them for comming to this great country, I consider myself a proud American and will be untill the day I die.

San Francisco, CA
It is ironic that the US presents itself to the world as such the role model for democratic reform, and yet, we continue to argue over the plight of HUMAN BEINGS in our country whose crime is nothing more than migrating to find a job and support their families. Our question should not be what to do with the 15 million people who are undocumented in this country, but, unless we change our policies which continue to ravage the economies of developing nations, what will we do with the continuing flood? Wall or no wall, they will find a way to come. Would people be risking their lives to cross the border today if they had other options? I know many undocumented immigrants, who, if given the choice, would stay at home, in their cultures, speaking their language, with their mothers, fathers, wives, sons and daughters, than choose to come here to be exploited, crammed into small cockroach infested apartments, and be subjected to the xenophobia and racism which has now found an easy scapegoat. Immigration serves as a wonderful distraction away from the real issues that face our country - our healthcare system is in crisis, not because of illegal immigration, but because we are pouring billions of dollars into fighting a war that we should not be fighting. For those who say these people should obey the law and come here legally, I would urge them to try doing that with no money. It is impossible. Our current immigration laws are meant to only allow those with money to enter this country. Forget those tired, poor huddled masses, we only want those with a good education and enough money to be able to fit right in with the rest of us. The solution? Dismantle NAFTA, CAFTA and other free trade agreements. We've seen an enormous increase in illegal immigration in spite of increased border enforcement, since free trade laws have made it easier for US corporations to take over entire communities and destroy local economies and means of survival. Let's discuss the real problem here. When the US goes to another country, whether it be Mexico or Iraq, we have only one thing in mind - profits for multinational corporations. What results is economic disruption, a flood of refugees, and a lot of pain.

Michael E. Russell - San Diego, CA
People who flee their home due to economic circumstances are cowards, unwilling to do the hard work of standing up for themselves against their own government and compete with us. They act as parasites by using our country and our sacrifices to keep this country free and just. They take jobs we would do for a living wage, causing us to live with their problems just as a flea attacks a dog. I have no problem helping people legally, train them, educate them, then SEND THEM HOME! Let them earn the right to call themselves Americans, just as I and my ancestors do.

Atascadero, CA
Arellano and her son should both be deported. She crossed into the country illegally. The people giving her refuge should be arrested, she is a fugitive, and if you harbor a fugitive it is against the law. It is true we are a country of immigrants but there is a right way of coming in. Why should she get better treatment by breaking the law than a person who has been waiting patiently to come in legally? If the children of illegals are minors they should go back with the parent and return when they are of legal age if they so desire. The taxpayers don't need another mouth to feed.

Edward Lech - Elkhart, IN
As a legal immigrant whose been here for more than 50 years I sympathize
with Mrs. Arellano. I hope that the US Government will make an exception for her family. However, my fears are that this will open the door for many more illegals in the same situation. My family and I had to obey the law and I feel
that everybody else should too. By the way my family and I learned to speak excellent English. My mother who was 42 when we arrived in the US also spoke good English. I am now 62 years old.
Edward Lech

Brookline, MA
The film was a balanced insight into the problem - and it is most definitely a problem - of immigration in our country. All of the undocumented immigrants I work with can see both sides of the problem. As with most things, it all depends on how you look at it: from a national policy perspective, the immigrants themselves agree that immigration must be regulated; but from their own individual perspective, they will do whatever it takes to make a good life for their families.