These days it seems the battle for immigration reform has become little more than a ping pong ball in an endless game of political table tennis, with our ineffectual elected officials using the issue for quick political points while millions of hardworking immigrants live in constant fear of deportation. I mean, really: why haven’t they been able to solve this? Even George W. recognized that our immigration system was broken about 15 years ago, and put forth his own timid but sincere proposal for overhaul only to have it shot down.
So what’s really going on behind the Capitol walls that such a fundamental issue has turned into a permanent congressional sideshow tent? Well, turns out there’s a new documentary that’ll give you a pretty good idea. Immigration Battle was co-directed by DC veterans Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson, who set out to see what was going on behind the scenes of the Republican party during the 2009-2010 push for immigration reform. Instead they stumbled upon Illinois congressman Luis Gutiérrez, and his tireless efforts to reach across the aisle in an obstructionist congress and get something done.
In an observational, fly-on-the-wall style, Immigration Battle takes us behind the smoke and mirrors of American political theater and follows Gutiérrez and other members of Congress as they roll up their sleeves and work through the nitty-gritty of lawmaking. All the while, a voiceover narration contextualizes who’s who and what’s what from the first-person perspective of the filmmakers. While we see governing can be a messy job, after three seasons of House of Cards, it’s nice to see that Congress is actually doing more than just bullying and killing each other; although sadly when it comes to lawmaking, they’re still not doing much at all. Just don’t blame Luis Gutiérrez.
Immigration Battle recently screened at the New York Film Festival and is now available for streaming online from PBS’ Frontline, in co-production with Independent Lens.