I decided to make I Was Born in Mexico, But… after working as an editor on a piece about a high school for recent immigrants. Although there were interesting and important stories to tell about the kids who had come from Mexico, there was no way to include them in that documentary without putting them at risk. So we ended up leaving them out, and that got me thinking about this large group of Mexican immigrants who can’t tell their own stories- can’t show their faces and say their names- without risk of deportation.
Around that same time I met a young person who was undocumented, but who came here when she was so young she didn’t even know she wasn’t born here. She grew up thinking she was American, only to find out when she was a teenager that she didn’t have papers. She was living in a kind of limbo, trying to go to school and stay positive, even though without papers, there weren’t really any opportunities.
She was willing to be interviewed, but she didn’t want to show her face on camera. I decided to use educational movies, commercials, and newsreels from the Prelinger Archives to stand in for her during the various points in her narrative. This also turned out to be effective in adding bits and pieces of American life and what it means to be American.
Since I interviewed this young woman, the Obama administration initiated DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which offers the DREAMers (those who came here as children) protection from deportation and social security numbers which allow them to work and get driver’s licenses. This is an important step, but it is important to note that it is only temporary (renewable every 2 years), and it is not a law, so it could be changed by the next presidential administration.
I hope that I Was Born in Mexico, But… will help people understand why immigration reform is so important, and that it will encourage people to support the Dream Act and other immigration reform.
If you are interested in screening the film, please let me know. I will make every effort to accommodate you.
Corey Ohama, Director