By Bhavana Padiyath
The ACLU of Idaho and the Coalition for Immigrant Rights of Idaho (ICAN) hosted the screening of the film “Two Americans” at Northern Lights Cinema Grill in Nampa last Friday.
Shot by Phoenix-based David DeVivo and journalist Valeria Fernandez, the film provides an insight into the politics of immigration in Arizona. The state has, over the recent past, become ground-zero for the fight over immigration reform owing, in no small measure, to the policies of high-profile Maricopa county sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The office of America’s Toughest Sheriff has expended a large amount of monetary and legal capital to round up, prosecute and deport thousands of undocumented workers from Mexico, many with children who are American citizens.
Two Americans” is a narrative about how two lives – that of Sheriff Arpaio and 9-year old Katherine Figueroa – intersect. Kathy, who was born in the United States, is forced to move in with relatives after both her immigrant parents are arrested while working at a car wash suspected of hiring undocumented workers.
Kathy’s fight to save her parents from being deported leads her to Washington D.C. It highlights how a significant section of the community - and its workforce – have been pushed to the margins by a state that criminalizes their existence. The targets are almost always immigrants – seldom their employers.
The film describes the thicket of legal challenges faced by the Figueroa family in the absence of a commonsense policy that recognizes the reality of life in immigrant communities. Meanwhile, Sheriff Arpaio himself comes under intense legal scrutiny on a slew of charges ranging from financial mismanagement to racial profiling.
A community group succeeds in pressuring the County Board of Supervisors to investigate Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s spending priorities – including the failure of his department to investigate over 400 sex-crimes, many against immigrant children, and the misuse of over $100 million in funds allocated to his office. When the sheriff retaliates against his political and journalistic critics, his actions spark outrage, and a federal investigation.
In response to a petition filed by the ACLU, a federal court ruling recently declared that traffic stops and immigration sweeps targeting Hispanics based on SB 1070 and similar laws was unconstitutional and a violation of civil rights. This led Sheriff Arpaio to temporarily suspend his immigration enforcement measures.
The film illustrates the toll of the current immigration policy on an entire community and how the fear of arrest and incarceration pervades their daily lives.  In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, thousands of families like Kathy’s continue to be torn apart.
The audience had the opportunity to participate in a discussion with the filmmakers at the end of the screening.