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Independent Lens | The Undocumented

Border Patrol agents, Native Americans, smugglers, ranchers, retirees and Samaritans form a constellation of people engaged with the Arizona/Mexico border on a daily basis—policing it, inhabiting it, crossing it, working it, making it safer or simply feeling its consequences. But at the center of it all is the migrants, who sometimes die while trying to cross an unforgiving desert.

In the loud and contentious debate over immigration, there are voices that will never be heard — those of the more than 2500 border crossers who have perished in the vast wasteland between Sonora, Mexico and Tucson, Arizona in the last fifteen years.

The Undocumented tells the story of these migrants who died while trying to cross an unforgiving desert in search of a better life, and follows them on their long journey home, shining a light on an often-forgotten but very human side of the ongoing national conversation about immigration reform. Directed by Marco Williams (Two Towns of Jasper, Banished), the film will premiere on the award-winning series Independent Lens, hosted by Stanley Tucci, on Monday, April 29, 2013 at midnight on WMHT.

The Undocumented is told through the first-person stories of the men and women at the deadly ground zero of the immigration issue. In Arizona, the film follows the heroic efforts of the Pima County medical examiners who work to identify the remains of border crossers. Says medical examiner Bruce Parks, “We do a full autopsy on everyone who passes away who we suspect is a border crosser. We believe that it’s important to treat people equally and treat them just as we would a U.S. citizen. We have just a few shots to get the most accurate cause of death, to get these people identified, and get them back to their families.”

The medical examiners work closely with the Mexican consulate in Tucson, headed by Jeronimo Garcia. Fielding calls from worried families back in Mexico whose loved ones have gone missing, Garcia sums up their plight: “In search of the American dream, they lose it all in the desert.”

The film also follows Border Patrol Search and Rescue (BORSTAR) agents, who balance law enforcement with lifesaving in the midst of a deadly hot summer, as well as humanitarian workers who search the desert, looking for crossers in need of water, food, and medical aid. In Chicago, we meet Marcos Hernandez, an undocumented Mexican who came to search for his father Francisco, who disappeared while trying to cross the Sonora Desert. And back in Mexico, the film explores the impact of border deaths on migrant families who explain why their loved ones chose to make the perilous journey.

While everyone featured expresses a wide range of viewpoints regarding the border and illegal immigration, the one thing they are able to agree on is that the migrant deaths must end.

“People are dying and that should be enough to change things.” - Kat Rodriguez, Derechos Humanos

To learn more about the film, visit the companion website for The Undocumented at www.pbs.org/independentlens/undocumented. Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, read an interview with the filmmaker, and explore the subject in depth with links and resources. The site also features a Talkback section where viewers can share their ideas and opinions.

Watch Monday, April 29, 2013 at midnight on WMHT

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