Inspired and moved by the experiences of undocumented families close to us, I have set the action not in a remote Chile troubled by tyranny or in contemporary Syria, Turkey Kashmir or Sudan but here, in familiar Durham, N.C., in the United States of America, where the “migra” is the enemy, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement who will wreak havoc on those lives.
The film has been directed by our son Rodrigo, who decided to cast it with kids from our own town who bring to their roles an intensity that is almost unbearable, given their fears for their own families and friends.
It has been strange to watch our own son work with these youngsters portraying the very games he played in exile, but also comforting for us to realize that the grief of his own life of loss and banishment have stood him in good stead, opening his heart to those whose voices are so frequently neglected and crushed, people who have no rights and no protection and whose voices need to be heard.
It is less comforting to realize that millions of children in this land of the free and home of the brave, which has been built on the premise of receiving the “huddled masses,” are living in terror. It is sobering to have to compare the country of Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., of Cesar Chavez and Susan B. Anthony, to a tyrannical regime in Chile that oppressed its own people.
And it is shameful that the United States should be mentioned in the same breath as so many other relentless governments around the world that today persecute minorities and immigrants and turn their backs on refugees like we once were when our family wandered the earth.
It is a shame that has only grown in recent days, as the Trump administration has released guidelines for tightening border security, heartlessly singling out for accelerated deportation children who, by the thousands, have made the hazardous trek from Central America to flee poverty and gang violence.
The little girl who plays the sister in our short feature naïvely pedals her dilapidated tricycle while reciting a nursery rhyme: “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home, your house is on fire and your children will burn.”
She is not old enough or mature enough to fully discern that she is speaking of her own home, that she could well be the one whose life will be turned to ashes if armed men arrest her family and remove them from the only country she has ever inhabited.
Can we really shut our eyes to that sort of fear? Can we really be willing to doom so many blameless children to an uprooted life? Is that how America wants to be known?