“Which Way Home,” an Academy Award-nominated documentary film that follows the dangerous journeys of migrant children riding on freight cars to the United States, will be screened at a Community Forum in Newbury Park on Friday, July 6.
The 7:30 p.m. screening at the Conejo Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship will be followed by a discussion about undocumented children who have grown up in this country and have no path to citizenship. Anahi Quiroz, a recent graduate of Cal State Channel Islands, will tell her story of being brought to the U.S. as a child, going to school in Thousand Oaks, working while attending college and having been unable to pursue a profession.
Joining her in the discussion will be representatives of co-sponsoring organizations, including the Center for Equality and Justice at Cal Lutheran University, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice-Ventura County, the California State University Channel Islands Center for Multicultural Engagement, United Church of Christ, Simi Valley and the American Civil Liberties Union Ventura County.
“Which Way Home” shows unaccompanied children riding atop railroad freight cars on a long and hazardous journey to the United States. Olga and Freddy, both 9 years old from Honduras, tell an off-camera interviewer that they want to be reunited with their parents in Minnesota. Jose, a 10-year-old El Salvadoran migrant, was abandoned by smugglers and wound up alone in a Mexican detention center.
In one scene, a worker at shelter for migrants in Mexico warns them that the train can be their best friend but it can also kill them, as can soaring temperatures in the desert across the U.S. border. The migrants are told that out of 100 crossing the border, an average of 10 to 20 will die in transit.
The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2010 as best documentary, and won a 2010 Emmy Award for outstanding informational programming after airing on HBO.
The discussion on immigration policy will focus on young undocumented immigrants who have grown up in the United States. A proposal in Congress called the DREAM Act would offer those who have attended college or served in the military a path to citizenship. Supporters say it would allow those young people who have pursued the American dream to become full members of society, while critics say it would reward illegal immigration.
The forum comes as the issue of broader immigration reform is raised in presidential campaigns and enforcement policy has shifted in Washington.
On June 15, President Obama announced that deportations will be deferred for undocumented immigrants under 30 years old who have no criminal record, were brought to the United States before age 16, have been in the country continuously for at least five years and are in high school or are military veterans. They will be eligible for work permits and driver’s licenses, but the policy change does not offer a route to citizenship.
Director Rebecca Cammisa, who worked on the documentary for six years, said on the film’s website that her objective was to make the public aware of the realities of child migration and to provide a greater understanding of not only how but also why children are driven to make the journey alone.
The July 6 program is free and open to the public; donations will be accepted. The Conejo Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is located at 3327 Old Conejo Road in Newbury Park. For information, visit forum.cvuuf.org or call (805) 374-9818.