Sunday, August 23, 2009

Which Way Home

HBO's Which Way Home is a difficult film to watch. Having grown up in India, I have seen poverty right outside my backyard, seen kids just like the child migrants to the US, the movie follows - children with no prospects, no hope, no education, destined to die in the same miserable conditions they were born into.

The families back in Gautamela, Mexico and Honduras that these migrant children come from are not nearly the same dire straits as the most marginalized in India. And yet they would risk life and limb to make the dangerous crossing across the desert, travel for days on freight trains hoping to make it into the US - have a better life. They fully understand the risks involved and are completely unfazed by it. It is amazing to see the amount of grit and determination these young people have - you can't help respect them for their courage.

Several kids profiled in the film have one or both parents working in the US - parents they have no hope of ever being reunited with unless they are able to cross the border illegally. The poor and destitute in India have nowhere to go across the border where they may hope to find a better life - but such is not the case with South America. The US is this mythical place where all dreams can come true and it is within reach.

As legal immigrants to this country, we feel trapped by the system whose sole purpose appears to be to frustrate people to the point that they return home. Yet very few return - we continue to waste the best years of our lives trying to gain a toe-hold in a foreign country so our children can have a better life than we did. These child migrants come here so they can help the adults back home. That is the common thread between the stories of all immigrants no matter what their provenance - we sacrifice large chunks of our lives so those we love can have a what we could not. I could not help feeling a strong sense of kinship with these young people while feeling humbled by their fierce sense of purpose and ability to defy the odds stacked against them.

At a time when any discussion on immigration reform, stirs up some pretty strong emotions among voters in the US, Which Way Home highlights the plight of the children (who will eventually become illegal immigrants in America) who are desperate for a better life well past the point where they can be deterred by any means - they have the freedom of those who have nothing left to lose.

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