Immigration Books & Movies


7 Soles, which depicts the plight of a group of migrants crossing the Sonoran desert, helps viewers better understand the sheer horror some immigrants are willing to endure to come to this country.

Better Life, a moving tale of a Mexican immigrant gardener and his rebellious son.  The film focuses on people who often are invisible in real life.  The film grew out of an incident in the early 80’s involving a gardener who lost his livelihood after his truck was stolen.  The film, shot in 69 locations around Los Angeles, exposed concerns of the city rarely seen in movies.  The film does not take sides on the issue of illegal immigration.  Available on DVD (October 2011)

California Solo – The recent movie release has gone largely unnoticed by the immigration community, although it has a decidedly immigration message. The movie stars Robert Carlyle, who plays the part of a Scottish LPR living in California who is arrested for a DUI and finds his life in a tailspin after being detained by ICE and issued a Notice To Appear for that arrest coupled with an old drug arrest that had gone unnoticed by DHS. This movie portrays the main characters frustration with the system, his lawyers, the uncertainty surrounding his predicament, and his inability to completely understand the system. (2012)

Crossing Over, starring Harrison Ford as an ICE officer, is about immigrants of several nationalities struggling to achieve legal status in Los Angeles. The film deals with border issues, document fraud, the asylum and green card process, work-site enforcement, and the clash of cultures.

Goodbye Solo is the story of an unlikely friendship between Solo, a struggling but happy cab driver from Senegal, and William, a tormented southern man with secrets.

El Nacional, is the story about four children and their adult brother as they desperately race across Texas for survival. They are running because their parents, undocumented for 30 years, were caught, arrested and thrown in jail in one fell swoop. Deportation is only a matter of time.

Letters From The Other Side interweaves video letters carried across the U.S./Mexico border by the film’s director, with the personal stories of women and families left behind in post-NAFTA Mexico.

Los Trabajadores is a documentary that follows the lives of immigrants Ramon and Juan, and the controversy surrounding the day labor center where they wait for work each day.

Sin Nombre follows Sayra, a Honduran teen, and El Caspar, a former Mexican gang member, on an odyssey across the Latin American countryside en route to the US. Together they must rely on faith, trust and street smarts if they are to survive their increasingly perilous journey towards the hope of new lives.

Under the Same Moon/La Misma Luna is a Spanish-language film that chronicles the story of a boy who crosses the Mexican/US border to reunite with his mother who is living in Los Angeles.

The Visitor is about a professor whose life is changed by his relationship with an undocumented immigrant who is subsequently placed in detention pending deportation.

For a more comprehensive list, click here.

Books:  (work in progress)

The Death of Josseline, Margaret Regan – Regan writes firsthand of the desperation that compels people to cross, of the environmental damage wrought by the new border wall, and of the unidentified bodies piled up in a Tucson morgue. Regan’s on-the-ground reportage puts her in the heart of America’s complicated story of immigration. Her extraordinary ability to witness guarantees that the stories and characters you encounter here will stay with you, long after you finish the book.

Trails of Hope and Terror, Miguel A. De La Torre – a penetrating discussion of the challenges of immigration in which recent immigrants, and those who work with them, tell of both dreams and heartbreak.

Enrique’s Journey, Sonia Nozario – In this astonishing true story, award-winning journalist Sonia Nazario recounts the unforgettable odyssey of a Honduran boy who braves unimaginable hardship and peril to reach his mother in the United States.

The Tortilla Curtain, T. Coraghessan Boyle – the story of illegal immigrants and their interface with wealthy suburbanites in southern California.

A Long Way Gone:  Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah – tells the story of Ishmael, a 12 year old boy who’s village was attacked in Sierra Leone.  Ishmael joins the army to fight against the rebels.

Power and Love: a Theory and Practice of Social Change – Kahane, Adam.   San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, (2010)

It is a short book that unfolds a fresh approach to dealing with problems on which the culture and the church are stuck. I think you will find it very helpful. Kahane is a cofounder of Generon International and a partner in REOS Partners, both of which work at addressing complex, emerging problems.