Movies & Books

Searching for a casual way to introduce the issues surrounding immigration to your friends and family? Consider hosting a movie night. There are, of course, classics like Green Card, Coming to America, Maria Full of Grace, El Norte or Real Women Have Curves. However, if you’re interested in something more recent, there have been a veritable avalanche of films and documentaries that touch on immigration issues:

7 Soles, which depicts the plight of a group of migrants crossing the Sonoran desert, helps viewers better understand the sheer horror some immigrants are willing to endure to come to this country.

Crossing Over, starring Harrison Ford as an ICE officer, is about immigrants of several nationalities struggling to achieve legal status in Los Angeles. The film deals with border issues, document fraud, the asylum and green card process, work-site enforcement, and the clash of cultures.

Goodbye Solo is the story of an unlikely friendship between Solo, a struggling but happy cab driver from Senegal, and William, a tormented southern man with secrets.

In Search of the American Dream (El Nacional), is the story about four children and their adult brother as they desperately race across Texas for survival. They are running because their parents, undocumented for 30 years, were caught, arrested and thrown in jail in one fell swoop. Deportation is only a matter of time.

Letters From The Other Side interweaves video letters carried across the U.S./Mexico border by the film’s director, with the personal stories of women and families left behind in post-NAFTA Mexico.

Los Trabajadores is a documentary that follows the lives of immigrants Ramon and Juan, and the controversy surrounding the day labor center where they wait for work each day.

Sin Nombre follows Sayra, a Honduran teen, and El Caspar, a former Mexican gang member, on an odyssey across the Latin American countryside en route to the US. Together they must rely on faith, trust and street smarts if they are to survive their increasingly perilous journey towards the hope of new lives.

Under the Same Moon/La Misma Luna is a Spanish-language film that chronicles the story of a boy who crosses the Mexican/US border to reunite with his mother who is living in Los Angeles.

The Visitor is about a professor whose life is changed by his relationship with an undocumented immigrant who is subsequently placed in detention pending deportation.

“Divided Families, Responding With Faith” (Chicago Sunday Evening Club) This one hour documentary explores the impact of current immigration policies on Amy and Carlos, a young family from West Chicago, IL. This tells of their attempts to do the right thing and arrange for Carlos’ documents to be in order (he was brought to the US as a young child).


“Documented” Jose Antonio Vargas’ documentary about his own undocumented status despite living in this country for twenty years and developing a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism career. This movie chronicles his journey to America from the Philippines as a child, his public struggle as an activist and his journey to discover what it means to be American.


“Which Way Home?” (HBO) The film follows several unaccompanied child migrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. on a freight train they call “The Beast

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“Who is Dayani Cristal?” Explores the search to identify a body found in the Arizona desert, one of hundreds who die trying to cross into the United States.

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“No Sanctuary, The Big Business of Family Detention” (Grassroots Leadership) This new documentary which chronicles the return of immigrant family detention in the United States. The Texas-made film follows our government’s response to refugees and migrants in the creation and expansion of new private prisons for these families in remote and isolated areas of the Southwest.


For a more comprehensive list, click here.


Trails of Hope and Terror, Miguel A. De La Torre – a penetrating discussion of the challenges of immigration in which recent immigrants, and those who work with them, tell of both dreams and heartbreak.

Enrique’s Journey, Sonia Nozario – In this astonishing true story, award-winning journalist Sonia Nazario recounts the unforgettable odyssey of a Honduran boy who braves unimaginable hardship and peril to reach his mother in the United States.

The Tortilla Curtain, T. Coraghessan Boyle – the story of illegal immigrants and their interface with wealthy suburbanites in southern California.

A Long Way Gone:  Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah – tells the story of Ishmael, a 12 year old boy who’s village was attacked in Sierra Leone.  Ishmael joins the army to fight against the rebels.