Waco: Film series highlighting immigrant stories draws attention

(Photo by Rissa Shaw)
(Photo by Rissa Shaw)(KWTX)
Published: Oct. 22, 2019 at 10:56 PM CDT
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A series of films being shown around the country highlighting immigrant families has made it to Waco.

Stories Beyond Borders, a series of five short films focused on the current struggles facing immigrants across America, was screened Tuesday night at the Hippodrome Theatre.

"At a time whenever the narrative is kind of murky and there's a whole lot of misinformation out there, we wanted to educate our community about real-life stories and how it impacts our community here in Waco, Texas," said Hope Mustakim, Executive Director, Waco Immigrants Alliance.

Nearly 200 people signed-up to see the program.

"It's a great turnout, one of our best ever," said Mustakim. "What I hope people take away is that, one--this issue affects community members right here in our city, and two--that there's something that you can do about it, there's ways that we all can be engaged, there's a ramp for anyone to get involved."

Stories Beyond Borders is a project of the national non-profit Working Films, which puts these films in the hands of local organizations.

"We partnered together to make this happen," said Mustakim.

Organizers say the fear caused be the federal and state governments through policies like Texas' SB4 which bans sanctuary cities, has amplified feelings of mistrust in the local immigrant community, causing them to go deeper into hiding and hurting their health and quality of life.

"I've seen the impacts that it's had on children as far as trauma and anxiety, depression...even babies being born earlier just because of stress and anxiety, so mostly fear-based health impacts and also social isolation," said Mustakim. "These parents are not engaging as much as they once did in our schools and churches have seen lower attendance when they have Spanish-speaking members."

She says there's a lot of stigma and shame around being undocumented in the Waco community.

"It's important for people who do have legal status to recognize that it could be your neighbor, your church member impacted by this and that they all need our voice and they need advocacy," said Mustakim. "They also need the space where they can speak out and tell their own stories, and so we also want directly impacted folks to know that this is a safe space, you can tell your story, you can heal in community and you have friends and neighbors here to support you in that."

According to the latest Pew Research Center estimates, there's more than 10 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. and most, about two-thirds of the adults, have been in the country for at least ten years.

After the final film, people fighting for immigrant justice in Waco including local doctors and teachers took part in a panel discussion.

"We want to bridge the stories in the movies to the Waco community," said Mustakim.