Students in Richmond willing to miss the American Idol finale Tuesday night were treated to a screening of a documentary that highlights the difficulties faced by undocumented immigrant youth.
The film "Papers" follows five undocumented students of various ethnicities who were born outside the United States but grew up in this country.
They turn 18 with no legal status and hit barrier after barrier when they try to plan their lives after high school, producer Rebecca Shine said.
"People beat up immigrants literally and figuratively," she said. "Politicians use the issue as a wedge to drive people apart. We want people to think in the future about what they are really afraid of and how we want to treat people in this country."
About 65,000 students graduate from high school each year without "papers," according to Shine.
They can't legally work, drive, apply for a state ID or fly on an airplane. They risk deportation to countries they don't remember and where they have no roots.
"We want audiences to see the world through the eyes of these young people," Shine said. "We want them to take action on their behalf."
Audiences are introduced to Yo Sub, a Korean-American National Honor Student with 12 Advanced Placement credits who is rejected from every school he applies to. Another student, Simone, is publicly humiliated when she applies for college.
The third student, Monica, is in deportation hearings to be sent back to a country she doesn't remember. Jorge struggles to be a gay undocumented Hispanic youth while Juan Carlos works hard to become re-engaged in high school only to face limited options after graduation.
The documentary addresses the nonpartisan Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which would give undocumented youth a path to citizenship if they attend college or join the military.
But Shine said the documentary also studies immigration policy from a historical perspective. It scrutinizes labor policies and looks at trends of scapegoating immigrants when the country experiences social and economic difficulty, Shine said.
Bay City News contributed to this report.