BY JESSICA MENDOZA, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Imagine working hard for your entire life to accomplish your goals only to be deterred by something you have no control over. Undocumented students across the United States know this feeling of constant frustration. Augsburg Latin American Students recently showed a documentary that touches on many of these themes. The documentary “Without Papers” takes an in-depth look at the hurdles Venezuelan immigrant Johana faces because she is not a legal citizen.
Augsburg Latin American Students followed with a panel of students who identified as undocumented and they shared their thoughts about the film. The director, Andres A. Parra, was also available for questions.
The documentary was inspired by the director’s passion for sharing the reality that many undocumented students face in this country. Parra is Venezuelan himself, and as he learned about Johana’s story, he felt the need to share it with as many people as he possibly could. “Without Papers” won the Twin Cities Film Fest official selection for 2016 and the Frozen Film Festival Official selection for 2017.
The student panelists were very open about sharing their experiences and engaging with the audience. Some common themes among the panelists were their struggles to get informed about the process of applying to college, feeling the pressures of needing to be perfect and fighting to gain basic rights.
In the film, Johana aspires to be a doctor but has limited opportunities to pursue her dream. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) offers her the chance to overcome regulations based on legal status and apply to graduate school. Many of the panelists stated that Johana’s story resonated with them, and that they were inspired by her persistence to have equal opportunities in this country.
While there were many supportive and engaged audience members, one thing that was missing was the presence of people who may not know very much about the lives of undocumented or DACA students. The participation of students who have some reservations or misconceptions about what it means to be undocumented would also have been appreciated. A diversity of perspectives allows for more meaningful conversation. It is important that students seek to learn more about the lives of fellow students in order to cultivate a supportive and understanding environment, and it would have been nice if that had happened here.
Overall, it was a thought provoking evening as the students shared their personal stories. The environment was accepting, and audience members were encouraged to ask any questions no matter how big or small. The film is insightful and provides a great depiction of the hard work that undocumented people put into accomplishing their goals.
This article first appeared in the Friday, October 13, 2017, Edition of The Echo.