The Immigration Paradox

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The film “The Immigration Paradox” takes a look at different viewpoints on immigration. Local filmmaker, Lourdes Lee Vasquez, discusses the documentary.

Jose Cardenas: The film "Immigration Paradox" premiered in Phoenix in September. The documentary takes a look at immigration debate. We'll talk to the local filmmaker in a moment but first, here's a short film clip from "The Immigration Paradox."

Video: You are going to die in poverty and your children won't have the opportunities you did. It's time to rethink the way that you are living your life.

We got rid of the blacks and the Mexicans and Chinese.

The natural state of things is for there to be significant inequalities.

It's ridiculous.

When they are called out on the contradiction it's a flat out denial or you playing the race card.

Why should anyone be offended if you are asked if you are in the country illegally?

How the hell I did end up over here?

I've never been asked questions like these before.

No matter if you are white, black, brown.

Jose Cardenas: Joining me now to talk about the documentary is filmmaker Lourdes Lee Vasquez. Welcome to "Horizonte."

Lourdes Lee Vasquez: Thank you.

Jose Cardenas: It took seven years to get it all together. But as I understand it it wasn't typical delays that result maybe from lack of funding or something. It was intentional. You had a lot of work to do.

Lourdes Lee Vasquez: Definitely. Part of taking so long because it was because we were trying to be conscious in the kind of images we were putting out there. As a filmmaker we realized the power behind images. So we wanted to be constructive with the images we put out there. We realize with the immigration issue, we already have a lot of chaos. We already have a lot of sensationalism. We have a lot of conversations that are creating division in our community. So we wanted to be responsible and conscious filmmakers that would eventually create a documentary that would be constructive to the issue of immigration so that we might be able to find, you know, comprehensive solutions to an issue that has been in our communities for many, many years.

Jose Cardenas: One of the reasons that it took so long, and the reason why it is as constructive as you put it, you interviewed a very diverse group of people. I want to talk about that but first of all, a little bit about your background and how it came to be that you made this documentary.

Lourdes Lee Vasquez: A little bit about my back ground, I don't know how far back you want to go.

Jose Cardenas: You were born in Mexico and live there had until you were seven.

Lourdes Lee Vasquez: Yes. I was born in Mexico City. I came here to Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona, at the age of seven. Pretty much grew up in an immigrant community, working class family, single mother. And eventually just realized, you know, how the plight of the immigrant, how we have been with this issue of immigration that has been repeating throughout history and eventually, you know, just wanting to find solutions.

Jose Cardenas: Some of your materials talk about meeting people crossing the desert, and that's what inspired you to begin this project.

Lourdes Lee Vasquez: Uh-huh. Fortunately, my family and I, we didn't cross the desert. We were fortunate enough not to go through that type of journey. But it was something very impactful for me once I saw and came face to face with an immigrant who was crossing the desert, you know, seeing his face who just was pretty mulch hopeless, lack of dignity, and it was just really hard for me to see that. For someone who loves our humanity, always want to advance our humanity, and allow for every individual to achieve maximum potential, it was really hard for me to see someone lose their whole hope and dignity there in the desert. I really wanted to find solutions, root cause to this immigration issue that has been haunting us forever so that, you know, our humanity doesn't have to stop losing a lot of the potential that they can actually be achieving.

Jose Cardenas: And while that was the inspiration meeting one of the desert crossers, you went off the your way to make this as balanced a presentation of the different points of view as you could. I looked at some of the materials of the kinds of people. You interviewed people on what some would consider the far right on this issue, a Tea Party members, people who are very outspoken against immigration, both legal and illegal. And on the other side, people who are very much pro immigration and would probably be in favor of dealing with the issue of undocumented by giving everybody documents. So how did you decide, for example, that you were going to interview people like the couple that you mention in some of your materials who are Tea Party, very strong supporters?

Lourdes Lee Vasquez: Well, I felt that in order to be constructive, you always have to look at the -- at a diverse group of people and cultures and ideologies as well. Otherwise, you are just either following a specific agenda or you are not trying to really understand what's going on. So I felt that it was really important to try to understand other people even though for me it was difficult, growing up as an immigrant, in an immigrant community and viewing the minute men as perhaps like my enemy. I felt like why is it I have so much fear and perhaps hate towards them? And after analyzing more just realizing that that wasn't something that I had concluded on my own. It was a lot of images that I had gained from the mainstream media, a lot of information I had gathered from third parties. But I had never gone there and introduced myself and actually got to know them. So there was a lot of interviews that we did that didn't make it to the documentary, but part of the process was to write, try to get a better sense of what's going on with this issue of immigration. A lot of their interviews were two to four hours just so we can sit down and peel the onion and not just look at stereotype or the superficial aspect of this issue that we usually get in a lot of the top, a lot of debates that we have.

Jose Cardenas: And of the people you interviewed, did you find anybody who lived up to their stereotype either, very conservative or very liberal?

Lourdes Lee Vasquez: No. Once you sit down with people and have a constructive communication with them and really try to understand them instead of yelling at them, you really find that we're actually more alike than we're different.

Jose Cardenas: When you talk in your promotional materials about the shocking things that people will find out, is that part of it? That people really are probably more open-mind both sides of the issue than the general public thinks?

Lourdes Lee Vasquez: Yeah, yeah, definitely. In fact, that was one of the shocking things for myself as well. As I was telling you that going into Tea Party home and actually advertising to us that they had a shotgun in the house so that we may be aware of it sitting down with them for three hours and we end up having coffee and pie and it was a whole different story. They wanted us to come back and visit and they gave us their blessing and so it was very, very shocking for myself and as I'm sure for any viewers who go out and watch the documentary, they will see how different people could be.

Jose Cardenas: And speaking of watching the documentary, I know it's already premiered in one location. Where do things stand. where can people go to see it?

Lourdes Lee Vasquez: Currently right now we don't have any schedules showings here in Arizona. Next week we will be showing it in L.A. But we will be having some more showings that are in the works here in Arizona. If they just go through our website, they will be able to get more information where our next showing is or if they're on Facebook, like the page, the Immigration Paradox, and we will advertising there.

Jose Cardenas: Just one last question. We are almost out of time. Title, the Immigration Paradox, in what way?

Lourdes Lee Vasquez: There are so many contradictions to this whole issue of immigration. You would think it's such a simplistic issue that, oh, we need to do is get rid of the 11 million or legalize the 11 million we have here when it's a whole lot more complicated than that and that's what we wanted to show in the documentary to show the interconnection that there is in this issue so that we can find the root cause and tackle it at that, at the root cause. Unless, if you don't know the root cause, how can you actually achieve comprehensive immigration reform.

Jose Cardenas: On that note, Lourdes Lee Vasquez, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." We will certainly have you back to discuss this more. Thank you very much.

Lourdes Lee Vasquez: Thank you. I appreciate it.

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