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The documentary, “Lost in Detention,” is about the negative affects of immigration laws and policies in the United States throughout recent history. One of the social and cultural factors associated with this issue is familial separation. When undocumented immigrants are caught in America, whether it is from a traffic stop or a criminal offense, they are often taken away from their families who live here legally. The documentary gave several cases of this, as when a mother or father is taken back to their country of origin and their spouse and children are left in America with one less parent. Another social factor of people with undocumented status is the physical and sexual assault of detainees in detention camps. As explained in the documentary, the instances of physical and sexual assault in the Willacy detention center are astounding. There were many cases in which the guards working there would unnecessarily beat detainees of color with whatever item they could find (belt, stick, etc.). Guards would also bring items into the facility that were not allowed for detainees and would trade them for favors from women in the prison, especially sexual favors. One final factor is the lack of legal assistance for detained victims of abuse or assault. Not only do the victims endure such horrible treatment by the guards, but they are also oftentimes denied attorneys in the legal process, and sometimes when they do go forward with their accusations, things only get worse for them.
The theory that can be best applied to this documentary is strain theory. In an individual’s country of origin, they may feel pressures to survive or succeed financially in the face of cultural barriers, and this often leads to them illegally migrating to the United States. Similarly, general strain theory can be applied to the strain people feel when they are involved in dangerous situations or cases where their lives are threatened if they do not leave. In addition, the families left behind by a deported parent often experience financial strain to maintain their wellbeing without another adult to help.
Several things surprised me in this documentary. First, I did not know previously that Obama’s administration did virtually nothing to change the number of people deported and imprisoned in this country for not being a documented citizen. It also surprised me that the ICE agency requires a certain number of deportations each year, which was 400,00 as of 2011. All of these deportations and separations of families instill fear in the communities of illegal immigrants, especially for those who immigrated from Mexico. One last thing that shocked me was the prevalence of assault of detainees in prisons and detention camps.
The most important learning lesson form this documentary is that immigration reform needs to happen. These people, who are mostly caught for minor offenses, do not deserve the treatment they are given. In the show, “Jane the Virgin,” they highlight how undocumented immigrants are treated unjustly even in situations where the individual’s life is on the line (in instances when the individual is at the hospital in critical condition and officials find that they are not here legally). Too many families have been torn apart by deportation of parents for this to keep going on as it has been.
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