Last month I was hard at work producing promo spots for the evening news in Chicago. But despite being in a newsroom, I felt far removed from the stories that interested me.
Then I saw a 68 year-old woman spontaneously grab a microphone and describe crossing the US-Mexico border, being apprehended and deported, and then repeating the process two more times. But she wasn't telling me - she was telling the US Customs and Border Patrol, through a loudspeaker, in front of its Washington, D.C. headquarters.
That woman was brought there by The Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project (SSIP), based in Bolingbrook, IL. SSIP invited her to participate in democracy, and she supplied the courage. Inspired by that courage, I quit my job and began following the members of SSIP with a camera.
I learned that some have documents and some don't. One is a teacher and one is an electrician. One is a lawyer, one is a church deacon, and one works under a false name. One is studying political science but can't vote. And one is a young organizer from Chicago who found purpose in the suburbs.
I learned that despite the risks that have landed family members in jail and deportation, SSIP meets every Wednesday to organize new plans to improve their community. I learned that The Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project isn't waiting around for a responsive government. They're creating one.
Risks and challenges
The subject matter of this film brings unique risks and challenges. SSIP anticipates a comprehensive immigration reform bill this summer. But the congressional legislative process is unpredictable and reform is not a guarantee. Further, arrest or deportation of a community member might spread fear and diminish access to the film's subjects. Funding and organizational hurdles could bring SSIP to a halt. And access to SSIP actions in legislative offices and local bureaucracies could be limited.
These challenges are unique to the undocumented experience. Setbacks such as an arrest or lack of funding have the potential to become a natural part of the SSIP story.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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