"Instead of always yelling at each other and complaining about illegal immigration, it's time for Americans to ask 'the why' and the 'how.' Until we do, we'll never find a solution to this problem." -Ruben Navarrette
Before Roy Germano became a Doctor in Philosophy, he waited tables in Chicago, befriending his co-workers: cooks, washers, and bus boys—the majority from Mexico and other parts of Latin America. These relationships soon exposed him to one of multiple answers to the frequently asked question, "Why immigrate?"
"Many Mexicans," says Germano,"especially ten years ago, came to the United States with a plan to stay temporarily in order save up money and go home in two years." Today, young people immigrate because of too few options in their own community for future career prospects.
Once unaware of the underlying causes of Mexican immigration and the impact it has not only on the United States but also on the lives of those who have risked coming here and leaving their families behind, Germano was compelled to extensively research illegal immigration on a humanistic level at the University of Texas.
Illuminating the roots of Mexican immigration to the United States, and revealing one of the biggest misconceptions today—that Mexicans immigrate for the American dream—Germano wrote, directed and filmed The Other Side of Immigration, a documentary based on interviews with men and women in the Mexican countryside. "Often, immigrants are either portrayed as helpless saints or devious criminals, depending on one person’s ideological orientation. I wanted to reveal the many commonalities—in family values, religion, and work ethic—between Mexicans and Americans. I hope viewers say ‘this person is a lot like I am,'" says Germano.
Focusing on the everyday people who live and struggle with the phenomenon of immigration, Germano interviewed small farmers, return migrants, small business owners, fathers and mothers, community leaders, and local politicians.
Through his research, Germano recognized that a college education can make a huge difference in a person's ability to achieve a successful living in Mexico. "Public universities in Mexico are free, however, the issue facing most students from rural and mountainous regions is how to support themselves with cost of living expenses when they move to the city to study."
It is these rural and mountainous regions that are the traditional epicenter of Mexican emigration to the US—the center-west region of the country—from states like Michoacán, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, and Jalisco, rather than from Mexico’s border states, which have among the lowest levels of out-migration in the country.
"It is wrong to build fences between people," says one documentary interviewee. Another, addressing the relationship between the Mexican government and the rural Mexican population said, "We don't depend on our government, we depend on our brothers in the United States."
A study from the Pew Hispanic Center detailing the lives of illegal immigrants in U.S. cites more than 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.
In an effort to reduce poverty in rural Mexican communities where there are high rates of out-migration, Germano and four friends—equally passionate for Mexico and its people—founded One with Mexico, which will soon begin helping students alleviate the financial burden of room and board while attending high school or college in Mexico.
In addition to his work in the social sector and his work writing a companion piece to The Other Side of Immigration, Germano isworking on a short film called, "A Mexican sound," showcasing son huasteco, a style of music from the Huasteca region.
For more information, please contact: Roy Germano
Facebook | Twitter
The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute connects the public, private, and social sectors with curated resources and relationships to serve, evolve and lead together.
Become a member, and recieve one year of the Journal.