Roy Germano’s documentary answers some of the questions raised by an earlier documentary we discussed, Made in LA. While watching that, I kept wondering, what about the towns where immigrants come from? How does immigration affect the residents and local economies? What are some of the underlying causes of the poverty that force migration?
Germano addresses these questions in his beautifully shot documentary, showing us how NAFTA, governmental policies and corruption have impacted small farmers, turning small agriculture and livestock farming into an unprofitable venture, forcing some to sell their land. Rural development funds, when available go to friends and families of government officials, or simply disappear. Part of the problem, say the many subjects interviewed, is self-interest, rather than a sense of national fellowship and looking after one another.
The Other Side of Immigration shows the human side of immigration: families torn apart, towns depopulated, government officials who shrug about the rural polices. As the interviewees state time and again, they don’t want to live in the United states, but they want to help their families, and they only way to do that is to migrate and work Stateside.
Over $24 billion annually is sent to Mexico by migrant workers, money that not only supports the workers’ families, but also stimulates the economy of these small towns, providing revenue for merchants. But the price of that income is the break-up of families: Parents–primarily fathers–leave, for months, years, sometimes forever, and children once they leave ninth grade are eager to migrate themselves, seeing America as the land of opportunity.
But, as it’s pointed out, they never hear the stories of 12 to 14 hours work days, of living ten people to an apartment, of the fear of being discovered without documents, the dangers of border crossings. Instead, kids see the money that is sent home and how their family members return with trucks and nice clothes.
Is there a solution? Well, improving the economic situation in Mexico is start–the money spent building the anti-immigration wall could go towards building infrastructures. And visiting worker programs could allow workers to travel back and forth safely, removing the smugglers from the equation–and cutting down on drug trafficking as well.
Our country can’t function without immigrant workers, and as it’s pointed out, other countries also rely on immigrants who move from developing nations in the hope of making money to send home, hoping as well to eventually return. NAFTA has undermined Mexico’s economy, and as we are dependent on Mexico and they on us, it behooves both countries to develop a system that benefits workers and the host country–and to develop and implement policies that can help Mexico grow on its own so that the Mexican people can stand on their own.