The United States border is not just a geographical location. The border is everywhere. In every undocumented immigrant family, the border is inside each and every member, because at any moment they can be ensnared, deported, destroyed. Skylight’s forthcoming feature-length documentary, Borderland not only exposes the human cost of the business of immigration in the U.S. but weaves together the stories of immigrant heroes and heroines resisting and showing a way forward, intent on building a movement recognizing the human rights of all.
Continuing our commitment to transitional justice in Guatemala, Borderland follows Kaxh Mura’l, an environmental defender who appeared in 500 YEARS but who now must flee death threats for his leadership role in standing up to stop extractive industries from mining in his community’s Maya-Ixil ancestral lands. Rather than a voluntary “migrant” Kaxh considers himself forcibly displaced under threats to his life.
Kaxh documented his epic journey to the U.S. during which he is met with border walls, guns, cartels, drones and every form of surveillance imaginable at one of the most militarized borders in the world. Kaxh is confronted by the Border-Industrial Complex, a system that transforms the suffering of immigrant lives into corporate profit: billions of dollars every year spread throughout congressional districts in every state. As his quest to receive political asylum unfolds in the U.S, Kaxh crosses paths with other human rights defenders who are part of an intergenerational fight to defeat this many-headed monster. Kaxh is committed to forging solidarity with his Native American peers and mobilizing the growing but largely invisible Maya diaspora in the U.S.
At the same moment, In El Paso, Texas, the Border Network for Human Rights is rapidly building a powerful grass-roots activist community of immigrants and immigrant families. Fernando García leads a team of talented organizers that challenge the abuse of the Border Patrol and ICE. But Fernando is beginning to realize that the immigration struggle, as important as it is, is but one part of a much larger movement to challenge the Border-Industrial Complex.
One dynamic woman, Gabriela Casteñeda, who we meet as an organizer trained in the Border Network community, now moves across the country to organize in Pennsylvania. A DACA recipient herself, Gabriela knows what it’s like to be powerless as an undocumented essential worker. She knows how to get people fired up organizing for their rights and how to support people to regain the recognition of their inherent dignity.
To truly understand what Gabriela and Kaxh are up against, another group of immigrants in the ivy-covered halls of Columbia University are creating a mechanism to make visible the invisible neural networks of the Border-Industrial Complex. This group calls itself the xpMethod and is led by a brilliant digital research librarian, Alex Gil, an immigrant himself. Alex explains, “If they established a regime of surveillance for us, we’re going to turn the camera around and look at them. What if we knew the infrastructure that Hitler was building before WWII, would history have been different?”
With artistic visualizations created from hidden data generated by the Border-Industrial Complex itself, and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the xpMethod builds a shocking picture of an infrastructure for the mass removal of immigrants whose tentacles now reach into every state in the U.S. with handsome profits for private industry.
The threads of this story are woven together in Borderland through distinct cinematic imagery that sweeps the entire country and creates excitement as we see the possibilities of a movement for immigrant rights gaining momentum. The protagonists’ conversations with each other via text, voice, zoom and in-person, craft our storylines into one coherent whole, envisioning a different future, a future rooted in human connection to our earth that sustains all life.