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"The Visitor" Grapples with U.S. Immigration Policy

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April 11, 2008

Many Americans have formed their opinions about U.S. immigration policies by watching a certain CNN anchor. But I would argue, we might learn better by watching The Visitor, a new film from Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent) that draws you into the issue through its characters and moving storyline. It opens in New York and Los Angeles today, and rolls out across the country in the coming weeks.

Starring Richard Jenkins (of Six Feet Under fame), the film follows his college professor character’s odyssey into the lives of two immigrants as they attempt to navigate the post-9/11 United States, where human rights and due process are sacrificed in the name of national security.

I love this movie immensely. I blogged about it when I first saw it at Sundance in January. I loved it so much I saw it again in March at the South by Southwest festival in Austin. At the Q&A after the film, someone in the audience asked Jenkins if he knew about the Hutto immigrant detention facility just outside of Austin; Hutto was also the subject of a recent article in The New Yorker.

I urge everyone, especially anyone who’s formed an opinion, on either side of the immigration debate, to go to the theatre, bring a friend and use this guide (PDF) put together as part of Participant Production’s social action campaign for the film to spark a post-screening discussion. Let the heart of this story be part of bringing compassion and humanity to the national dialogue on immigration. More on the ACLU’s work around immigrant detention can be found at

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