Attorney Lizbeth Mateo is fighting for the rights of her clients, most of them undocumented immigrants. What makes the story so incredible is that Mateo is, herself, undocumented too.
In the award-winning short documentary, The Undocumented Lawyer, which was recently picked up by HBO Latino, filmmakers follow Mateo as she takes to the California courts to represent the undocumented men and women who have come to her for help. This includes Edith Espinal, a woman who take sanctuary in a church to avoid deportation.
“There are specific cases that I’m focusing my time and my energy in,” Mateo says during the film’s trailer. “I think if we can win those cases, that will have a huge impact in the way that we win for other undocumented people in this country.”
Coming to the United States from Oaxaca, Mexico, at the age of 14, Mateo draws from her own experiences and struggles and becomes the activist she needs to be to push back against a system that could potentially deport her at any time.
“We couldn’t imagine a better platform than HBO Latino to elevate Lizbeth’s story,” said directors Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci in a statement. “Undocumented leaders like Lizbeth and her client Edith are on the front lines risking everything for more equitable immigration law.”
For Mateo, it’s all about filmmakers and undocumented activists working to pull as many immigrants as they can out of the shadows. She looks forward to sharing her story with the world.
“The filmmakers have respectfully involved me in every step of the process,” she said. “They are following through on their goals to make a difference for undocumented families in this country.”
The Undocumented Lawyer will make its national TV debut on HBO Latino in March 2021.