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Admissions : Student Stories from Undocumented America


Produced by Chloe Smolarski and Tasha Darbes
Directed by Chloe Smolarski
DVD , color, 50 min.
Sr. High - General Adult
Immigration, Multicultural Studies, American Studies, Latin American Studies, Asian American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Eductation, Law, Human Rights, Criminal Justice

Reviewed by Gisele Tanasse, University of California Berkeley

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 4/24/2013

Admissions focuses on the often overlooked plight of undocumented college students in the United States, examining the emotional, psychological and practical realities faced by young people, brought here as children illegally by their family. Though the United States only accounts for 5% of the world’s population, it is home to 20% of the world’s unauthorized immigrants. It is estimated that 2.1 million undocumented children and young adults live here with their families. Many of these families are of mixed status, one parent or siblings may be authorized, while the rest are not, making the decisions to come and go even more difficult. Undocumented children, who legally cannot be prevented from attending K-12 school, suddenly find themselves cast aside as adults. And though they may have known no other home for 20 years, they are not granted the status given to people who are accidentally born in this country. The simple solution, the film argues, would be the passage of the DREAM Act, which, in its various proposed forms, would grant permanent residency to young adults who met certain criteria.

In our current model, without the DREAM Act, it is estimated that as few as 10% of undocumented high school graduates go on to college, because financial aid is not available to them. And these undocumented young adults cannot simply return to the country of their birth to go to college or work, as they generally do not have the language and writing skills required for higher education or professional employment. One student profiled in the film who decides to return to Mexico to study medicine eventually switches to graphic design because of the language difficulty, having once been called a gringa because she talked so differently. Those students who do manage to graduate from college in the United States are left unable to use their degree, as is the case of one college graduate in the film who dreams of going to law school, but instead works at a corner store.

Both beautifully shot and informative, Smolarski has perfected the art of pace. She makes the most of her 50 minutes, packing in statistical facts and commentary by scholars, but also giving each student time to meaningfully recount their experiences, thereby giving a face to the otherwise anonymous “illegal alien.” All the while, she treats the spectator to a visual feast, allowing them time to absorb what they see and hear. Admissions is highly recommended, not just because it is a wonderful piece of documentary film, but also for inclusion in courses related to immigration and multicultural studies. Moreover, it should be required viewing for those lawmakers and citizens without undocumented friends or family, who may benefit from considering an important human rights component of this hotly debated political issue.