“This is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to share. Though I’m fearful to share this publicly, I know that being silent is the worst thing I can do right now.” When we saw longtime contributor Carlos Aguilar’s Facebook post about his DACA status, we asked him to write an article about what the film community can do to support DACA recipients.
On September 4, with the Trump administration’s looming announcement about Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals, I decided that there was no better time to share my story as a DACA beneficiary. I pondered a long time about being open about such a difficult matter in a public forum. Fear of being seen or treated differently by my peers — particularly in a field like film journalism that tends to lack diversity — was a major source of worry. However, I knew it was important to tell people that the film community contains people whose lives have been changed by DACA, and who will be affected by its disappearance.
Anyone who wants to a career in film know the paths are not clear and even the most qualified individuals can fail. Being undocumented amplifies these treacherous prospects , and can make working in this industry seem nearly impossible. DACA opened doors in all professions — it didn’t create access, but it created possibility.
We don’t know how many DACA recipients work in the entertainment industry. It’s hard to reveal that status in a country ruled by politicians with an increasingly nationalist agenda. The film community has rallied to defend many other social justice struggles; it should also get behind DACA recipients and their cause, which is simply to contribute to the country they call home.
Here are concrete steps the film industry can take to stand with DACA.
Create a safe space of acceptance and inclusion
Fear is a paralyzing agent. Not knowing whether you’re supported is devastating. Let DACA recipients in your life personally know that you don’t judge them, that you support them, and that their status does not change how you perceive them as individuals. The film community overwhelmed me with kindness over the past couple of days; this made all the difference.
If you don’t know anyone, be outspoken about your support so that those who might fear reaching out see that you’re a safe harbor.
Retire, once and for all, the concept of “illegal”
Like all words used to denigrate and oppress, “illegal” carries a dehumanizing connotation when used toward immigrants. By stating that someone’s very existence is unlawful, people are stripped of their basic rights in the public eye. Major outlets, films, and other entertainment content still use the term to describe people like those protected under DACA. By adopting the more accurate description, “undocumented immigrant,” you make it easier to understand that lacking a document does not invalidate humanity. No human is illegal.
Let DACA recipients tell their stories — their whole stories
Documentation status does not define DACA recipients. We are individuals with the same aspirations as others, but who face complex adversity for a shot at pursuing our passions. DACA does not represent the most compelling parts of our lives. Don’t focus on their immigration situations, but on their accomplishments and goals.
Help make film education a tangible goal for undocumented youth
Creating scholarships for undocumented youth to attend film school, or internships in media specifically targeted for them, would use storytelling for change. It’s essential to support and nurture a new wave of creators from this section of the population. Making film a viable career gives voice to the voiceless. Being ineligible for federal financial aid turns pursuing any degree into a complex ordeal for DACA students; the costs associated with film school make it unreachable.
Use your platform for outspoken support
No matter how large or minimal your following, as a content creator you have the power to influence your network. Mark Ruffalo, Ira Sachs, Ava DuVernay, Shailene Woodley, Michael Moore, Josh Gad, and more have used their social media presence to declarey why they believe DACA is right and important on a humanitarian level as well as a positive impact on the economy. Production companies, studios, media outlets, distributors, and other entities, should put out official statements ensuring DACA employees that their jobs are not at risk.
Engage, donate, and document
Like filmmaking, protesting is a communal endeavor. Find a demonstration near you, recruit friends, family, and co-workers, gather for a sign-making party, and hit the streets. Being physically present speaks volumes about those willing to fight for undocumented youth. Having respected industry members or high-profile figures join the efforts further validates the. Document the stories and the chants for social media. If it’s financially viable for you, donate to organizations that relentlessly fight for immigrant rights such as United We Dream or America’s Voice. Share their information too, so others can donate as well.
Denounce the myths and lies about DACA
In his statement announcing the administration’s decision to end DACA, Jeff Sessions justified ending the program with misleading language and outright lies. DACA is not amnesty. It doesn’t offer a path to citizenship, or permanent residency. DACA recipients must have a clean record. No one with a felony qualified for DACA, and DACA recipients do not qualify for Social Security benefits — although we pay taxes that fund them. Share these facts about DACA so that the false claims about undocumented youth don’t prevail.
Keep the issue in the spotlight
Tweet, call, and write letters to politicians on both sides. Keep the pressure on lawmakers to act. The film industry knows this process well; it’s the same campaign used to sustain public interest in a project. More than 800, 000 lives are on the line and there’s no such thing as overexposure. Share our stories, hear our voices, and know our faces. We are here to stay.
Originally from Mexico City, Carlos Aguilar was chosen as one of six young film critics to participate in the first Roger Ebert Fellowship organized by the Sundance Institute and IndieWire in 2014. Aguilar regularly works as a screener for the Sundance Film Festival and a screenplay reader for Sundance’s Screenwriters Lab. In the spring 2016, Aguilar was selected as a participant in Hola Mexico Film Festival’s inaugural Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today program, which focused on bringing young Latino talent to industry professionals and mentors. Aguilar currently co-hosts One Week Only, a weekly podcast highlighting independent and international cinema.