April 11, 2005

I.C. Movie Explores Immigration Issues

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Walking the Line, a documentary conducted by Ithaca College filmmakers Jeremy Levine, a junior, and Landon Van Soest, explores a recent vigilante uprising against illegal immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico Border.

The movie received a public screening in Cornell’s Uris Auditorium last Wednesday night to expose the border issues occurring in an area far-removed from Ithaca and to garner exposure for the careful and talented work of the two young filmmakers. Only Levine was present at the screening. Van Soest now lives in New York City.

The film opens with a woman discussing her anger at those running all over her land, including the vigilantes. Nathan Maxwell Cann, a freshman at Ithaca College, said that “the film had the best intro ever.”

The film explores a group of Arizona civilians called Ranch Rescue that have started patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border themselves. These vigilantes claim that they’re forced to do the work that the U.S. government isn’t doing.

Mike Iannacci, a freshman at Ithaca College, said the film “had some amazing footage of when [Ranch Rescue] was running through the desert and had to get down and hide.”

Chris Simcox, who heads his own border patrol group, moved to Arizona in order to protect the border. Levine and Van Soest followed Simcox on an all-day boarder patrol. Simcox said that in order to be out near the border, “you have to be birdwatching or hunting. I got my birdwatching guide. Today I’m looking for the common loon.”

Simcox and his friends caught a group of immigrants trying to cross the boarder with their “coyote” — a boarder crossing guide. The communication between the two groups was sparse because Simcox’s group spoke no Spanish, and the coyote spoke minimal English. Simcox’s group turned the immigrants over to the U.S. Boarder Patrol.

Not everyone agrees with the hostile actions taken by these vigilantes. Mike Wilson, as a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, lived on the tribal lands that are now the busiest and most dangerous crossing point for immigrants, because the territory requires immigrants to pass through the treacherous Sonoran Desert. Wilson discussed how many immigrants die of dehydration while they are trying to cross. To assuage this phenomenon, Wilson places water throughout the desert.

“It’s a complex issue. Guest-worker approval would help in the short-term, but long term economic changes are needed,” said Levine, when asked what his solution to the U.S.-Mexico boarder problem would be.

Former President Bill Clinton passed the Free Trade Agreement to try to fix the Mexican economy, but so far it has only made the situation worse. Current President George W. Bush has proposed “guest worker” status for Mexican immigrants, which would allow illegal immigrants to work in the United States for short periods of time to earn some money and fill available jobs in the U.S. market.

“The movie was great, educational, inspiring, and appalling. We have paramilitary in our own country!” said Joey Cardamone, a teacher at Ithaca secondary school Lehman Alternative Community School.

Mike Wechsler, a sophomore at Ithaca College, said the film was “well-produced and a relevant topic.”

New developments are occurring every day.

Levine said, “Chris Simcox’s Minute Man campaign has been getting a lot of media attention. According to The New York Times, sixteen personal planes have been donated to the cause.”

Although the situation is escalating, Levine said, “There is a common ground to work and move forward from.”

Archived article by Laura Harder
Sun Contributor