Stories from the Homeland: Documentary examines issues of immigration
The narrative of immigration stretches across this nation's history, from the pilgrims' journey across the sea, to the U.S. Supreme Court last week striking down much of Arizona’s stringent immigration laws.
It’s a continuing, ever-changing story, but it’s never a simple one.
In a three-hour documentary, "Homeland: Immigration in America," the Nine Network of Public Media explores the complexities through the lens of refugees, jobs and enforcement.
"It's not black and white," says Anne-Marie Berger, a producer of the documentary, which will air nationally this month. "It's extremely complicated."
Homeland zooms in across Missouri and back out to the rest of the United States, seeking to understand the major polarizing issues around immigration that face the nation, leading into the next presidential election. Among those involved in researching the project were reporters for the St. Louis Beacon, which also published a series of stories on immigration.
“We are a nation of immigrants, but issues of immigration are dividing our country. We hope the Homeland documentary will help lead to better understanding and productive dialogue," Nine Network president and CEO Jack Galmiche said in a statement.
Production for the documentary began in January of 2010, Berger said, with producers and staff learning about issues that bubbled up in the community through a series of public conversations. Through the process, three issues appeared again and again — refugees, jobs and enforcement.
The last two often make the news, Berger said, but St. Louis also has a refugee population that faces many issues around resettlement that people often know little of.
Hour one, "Refugees," tells the stories of the people who come to the U.S. seeking a better life, and the forces that make or break that journey. Hour two, "Jobs," explores the maze of rules, regulations and situations that face immigrant workers at every level, and hour three, "Enforcement," looks at how communities and the nation understand and enforce immigration policies.
"I think we started out with this sense that people had real opinions," said Jim Kirchherr, a series producer and writer.
Strong opinions often come up around undocumented immigrants, he said, and it's an issue that shouldn't be easily dismissed.
"We set out not to prove or disprove," he said, "but to provide the reality of what this debate is about."
The documentary also includes the voices of national experts and figures involved with immigration, from Michael Chertoff, former secretary of homeland security, to former governor and U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson to Juan Williams, FOX News political analyst.
Though it's been two years since production began, the issues Homeland explores are still relevant, both Kirchherr and Berger agree. There's been no major immigration reform, and with the upcoming election, Kirchherr guesses there won't be any in the months to come.
"They have an easy sound bite if you're running for office, but they don't really have an easy answer."
Homeland will broadcast nationally this month, and locally it will air on Nine PBS at 8 p.m. Wednesdays beginning July 11; Fridays at 2 a.m. beginning July 13; and Sundays at 1 p.m. beginning July 15.
The documentary will premiere in St. Louis with extended excerpts and a discussion with the production team from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 7, at the Centene Center for Arts and Education in Grand Center. Segments of the documentary will also be shown the next day from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, July 8, as part of the Cinema St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase at the Tivoli Theatre.
After watching the series, Berger hopes that people will better grasp the complexity of immigration and all the different viewpoints around it.
"Ideally, people will have a better understanding of what the other is thinking or experiencing, and maybe that can create a better understanding."