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Documentary Describes America’s History of Immigration

Vanessa Lopez, Rosario Lopez, Lynne Jackson, Wayne Glasker, Sandra Wong and Elizabeth Wydra after the Philadelphia Premiere at the National Constitution Center (Photo Credit: Roland Dahwen Wu, courtesy of Graham Street Productions)

A new film that recently screened in Washington raises many questions about American immigration policy.

The documentary, “14,” directed by activist Anne Galisky, follows the different immigration movements in America over time, through the lives of several individuals of varying backgrounds—Africa, Asia, Latin America.

It examines the Dred Scott decision of 1857, which ruled blacks could not be US citizens; the Civil War; and the 14th Amendment. Through a Chinese citizen, Wong Kim Ark, the film explains the Chinese Exclusion Acts, and what one lawyer interviewed in the film calls “the systematic exclusion” of people based on ethnicity, all the way through the 1940s, “that is pretty shocking.”

The film then follows the life of an 8-year-old girl named Vanessa Lopez, the daughter of undocumented migrants from Mexico. The family becomes active in immigration reform as they fight to stay together.

The film should resonate with many Cambodian-Americans. An estimated 120,000 Cambodians were accepted into the US in the 1970s and 1980s, many suffering from the trauma of civil war and the Khmer Rouge.

Many have struggled to find success here, and now some are facing deportation regulations that activists say underscore a need for continued reform.