We recently held two faith-based conversations about immigration, one at Chapman University and the other at the University of Southern California, in conjunction with the Office of Religious Life. Students from the campus’ Catholic Center at USC spoke about the film and its resonance as a catalyst for dialogue around the morals and ethics behind the topic of immigration. Students and professors at Chapman University had a lively discussion about the actual state of immigration legislation here in California, and what the future may hold for those living “lives on the line” in this state.
On Monday, March 25th, 2014, we screened “Life on the Line” with the students of Breakthrough, an organization based in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts, whose mission is to transform urban education for students and teachers. Students of Breakthrough come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and countries, and immigration is very much a part of their daily lives. The kids who watched “Life on the Line” come from Haiti, Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Somalia, Palestine, Tibet, the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, and Puerto Rico.
As part of our afternoon with Breakthrough, students wrote “Letters to Kimberly,” sharing their own personal stories:
You are an inspiration! I am separated from my father too, but not for the same reasons. Your story made me realize that there’s a lot I take for granted, made me never want to give up. Do you ever want to give up?
I am Asian- American, mostly Vietnamese. I always try to embrace and enhance my culture even though there’s this American culture as well. I’m not so comfortable calling myself American since I’ve had a difficult time defining my own identity. All these years I’ve been bulied and teased because how I look and my different culture, just because I wasn’t a type of skin color. At first I was ashamed that I didn’t fit in, but I’ve learned to take pride in it.
You inspire me. Because of you, I will no longer take school for granted.
My culture, my nationality, is Haitian, but I’m known as a Haitian-American and I speak Creole and English at home and English at school. My mom and dad are from Haiti and I was born in America. I identify as American, because that is who I am.
On Monday morning, April 14, 2014, Life on the Line was featured for a school assembly at Desert View High School in Southeast Tucson, a school with a large Latino population and a diverse student body. The screening was arranged by Congressman Raul Grijalva‘s office; the Congressman serves the 3rd district of Arizona on the U.S. House of Representatives and is interested in the issues represented in Life on the Line.
The film screened to its toughest and most engaged audience yet — a crowd of 350 high school students. A discussion with co-director Jen Gilomen followed the film, and the students asked numerous insightful questions, such as “how did making this film change you, personally?” and “what do you hope Americans will learn from watching the film?” The students spontaneously erupted in applause during the post-screening discussion.
The discussion proved that the film is a useful tool for engaging students and starting a conversation with them about issues that are close to home — young people from immigrant and multi-ethnic backgrounds, immigration, and youth forced to manage many responsibilities and worries, both in and out of school, as a result of their family members’ immigration statuses.