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Our family histories are often filled with episodes of immigration, of ancestors seeking new, better opportunities in a new land. Yet, the U.S. immigration system has a problematic history, and has often detained and separated people, resulting in fractured familial bonds. When we look across history and geography, we can learn about the experiences of people who pay the human cost of the policies that keep family members apart from one another.
Here are some stories that provide a deeper look at the human side of the complicated political debate that has dominated the news:
Marcos Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (a collaboration from Frontline, Independent Lens, and Voces) tells a too-familiar story of a family living apart after deportation. Follow Elizabeth Perez, a decorated U.S. Marine veteran, as she fights to reunite her family after her husband is deported. The film is also available to stream in Spanish.
Through The Wall takes us to the U.S.-Mexico border, where a young family lives on both sides. In this moving six-minute film, audiences feel the emotional toll of family separation with just a few words.
Angel Island, a former immigrant detention facility, is an artifact of one of America’s shameful laws: the Chinese Exclusion Act. Enacted in 1882, it remained in force for 60 years, and during that time families were separated and detained in bare conditions for extended periods of time. In this clip from American Masters, artist Tyrus Wong revisits his days as a detainee of Angel Island. American Experience’s in-depth film The Chinese Exclusion Act is available in Passport if you want to learn more.
KQED in San Francisco, CA uncovers the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act in its community. Decades later, family members often hid details of the painful memories of Angel Island, where detention could last for months on end.
In Crossfire Kids, a 2014 series from South Florida PBS, kids who were dealing with the immigration system talk about their lives and how they bear consequences of the actions of so many adults around them.
Watch a collection of films and specials that highlight and add context to the many aspects of race and racism in our country.
PBS was among 60 nominees for the most compelling and empowering stories released in 2019.
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