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I Was Born in Mexico, But…

»Trailer on vimeo
»NACÍ en MÉXICO, PERO… (with Spanish subtitles)

I WAS BORN IN MEXICO, BUT… is a creative portrait of a young woman who thought she was American but finds out as a teen that she is undocumented. She is a “DREAMer,” one of the estimated 1.4 million undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children. Because she doesn’t want to appear on camera, found footage from American culture illuminates her voice as she travels between despair and determination, struggling with her new identity and the reality that going to college will be very difficult without financial aid, and her future uncertain when she can’t legally drive, work or reside in what she considers to be her home country of the United States.

In interviews done before DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was implemented, this poetic film will give viewers a window into what it was like for young undocumented immigrants before DACA, and what these young people would return to if it is taken away. The subject also advocates for the DREAM Act, explaining how society would benefit as a whole.

…her subject’s cautiously optimistic voiceover effectively presents a powerful reminder of the plight of illegal [No human being is illegal!—Editor.] Mexican immigrants. Recommended. —Video Librarian
Tells an important story—evocatively so—of the undocumented youth who rarely get a platform from which to speak or be heard. My students loved it! —Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Assistant Professor, UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
Presents a compelling portrait of a young woman who discovers she is not a citizen of the U.S. and realizes the complications to her life that this creates. We recommend this film highly! —Judith Johnson, Immigration Film Fest

Director’s Commentary

I decided to make I WAS BORN IN MEXICO, BUT… after working as an editor on a piece about a high school for recent immigrants. Although there were interesting and important stories to tell about the kids who had come from Mexico, there was no way to include them in that documentary without putting them at risk. So we ended up leaving them out, and that got me thinking about this large group of Mexican immigrants who can’t tell their own stories—can’t show their faces and say their names—without risk of deportation.

Around that same time I met a young person who was undocumented, but who came here when she was so young she didn’t even know she wasn’t born here. She grew up thinking she was American, only to find out when she was a teenager that she didn’t have papers. She was living in a kind of limbo, trying to go to school and stay positive, even though without papers, there weren’t really any opportunities.

She was willing to be interviewed, but she didn’t want to show her face on camera. I decided to use educational movies, commercials, and newsreels from the Prelinger Archives to stand in for her during the various points in her narrative. This also turned out to be effective in adding bits and pieces of American life and what it means to be American.


Since I interviewed this young woman, the Obama administration initiated DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which offers the DREAMers (those who came here as children) protection from deportation and social security numbers which allow them to work and get driver’s licenses. From 2012 to 2016, DREAMers have enjoyed a respite from fear of deportation and have the ability to legally work. With the 2016 election of Donald Trump, the future of DACA is up in the air, and all of its protections, including the protection from deportation, could be immediately withdrawn.

I hope that I WAS BORN IN MEXICO, BUT… will help people understand why immigration reform is so important, and that it will encourage people to support the continuation of DACA, the Dream Act and other immigration reform.

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