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April 30, 2013 at 6:30 AM
PBS documentary forces unflinching look at migrant deaths in the Arizona desert
Calls for comprehensive immigration reform center around the people who left other countries and made it here. But what of those who set out to come here but never made it?
Since 1998, more than 2,000 dead bodies have been found in Arizona’s Sonora Desert. They are the remains of migrants braving the desert’s hellish temperatures to cross into the U.S. Last night, PBS aired The Undocumented, a powerful documentary film that follows Marcos Hernandez as he searches for his father,Francisco, who vanished while walking through the Sonora.
The documentary’s power lies in gritty interviews, haunting music and spare narration. The dead lie unidentified in morgues but filmmaker Marco Williams makes sure they do not go unremarked upon.
In the U.S. the immigration debate takes on academic tones thick with numbers and legal statuses. About 20 percent of all international migrants reside in the United States, which accounts for less than 5 percent of the world’s population, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C. think tank.
Williams forces us to look at the human aspects of the debate, from the humanitarians and Border Patrol agents struggling to save migrants from dying in the desert heat, to the medical investigators and Mexican Consulate workers working to identify the dead. Mexican families left to accept the lost off loved ones underscore the human cost.
PBS always repeats its documentaries so if you missed it, its worth setting the DVR for the next time or watching online.