Q&A with Francisco Alarcon, director of new documentary: The Deportation of Innocence

Belen Chacon


Francisco Alarcon was born in Mexico City in 1979. He arrived to the U.S. at an early age when his parents left Mexico for the U.S. to carry out their graduate studies. He grew up in the bay area where he attended high school. Later he studied Film Directing and Writing at the University of California Los Angeles Extension.

He has worked with immigrants throughout his life and has seen the effects of deportation first hand. His film, The Deportation Of Innocence explores the lives of four families affected by deportation. In the documentary he shows the difficult situations children face when an undocumented parent is deported. 

During 2010 – 2012 more than 200,000 U.S. citizen children lost a parent to deportation and an estimated 5.5 million children live with at least one undocumented parent. The Deportation Of Innocence aims to answer the question so few ask: What happens to children after their parents are deported?

What did make you want to work on this documentary?

I grew up in California, and I came back to Mexico in the year 2000. In that period there were a lot of deportations, which was around 2010 to 2012. That was the height of deportations, and a lot of children were coming back to Mexico and they were having a really difficult time integrating into the Mexican school system. My mom showed me this article that talked about that, and I thought well, this is definitely something that’s worth exploring and showing in a documentary because you hear a lot of stories about people getting deported, but a lot of times they don’t take the time to show the stories visually. I understand because it’s difficult to tell those stories especially when it comes to children, it’s a very delicate matter. It can’t be taken lightly. Basically just showing these stories, that’s what really drove me to explore it.

You give a number of scenarios on your website on what can happen to a child when a parent is deported, can you elaborate on each of those cases and what do you hope to show with these particular cases in your documentary?

Like you mentioned, each story is different. Deportation affects families in different ways. We are trying to show a wide range of cases. One of the most common is when one of the parents gets deported and then the other parent has to work without any help. So it has a lot of strain on the family financially, and specifically on the children emotionally.

The other case is when both of the parents get deported and the child enters foster care. This is one of the most difficult cases because it can take six months to two years for the parents to get their children back in the country to where they’re deported. There are a lot of requirements they have to follow to get their children back, that’s why it takes so long.

For example, they need to have a stable job. They need to have sufficient income to take care of the child. They have to take parenting classes sometimes, they have to take drug tests…There’s just a plethora of requirements.

If you take into account that even getting a government issued I.D. where the parents first are deported is a difficult task, then you can imagine how hard it is to follow all these other requirements.

In the most extreme cases, if the parents don’t follow these steps and the process takes more than a year, the child can be given up for adoption. As you know the foster care system in the U.S. is not perfect, it really makes it difficult for the child to get out of that system and be successful going forward.

One of the cases in particular is very interesting because the dad got deported and he had custody of the children, so the kids entered foster care. He did get them back eventually, but they had to go away in Acapulco, which is one of the most dangerous places in all of Mexico because of the drug violence. We really have to ask ourselves if the U.S. government is really taking care of its citizens when they’re basically just throwing them into this very unfavorable situation.

What do you hope to show with these cases?

I think we want to portray this sort of double standard, you know? Like, leave these workers living for decades in the country and then when it doesn’t need them just dispose of them. We really need to show the American people what they’re doing because I really think there’s a lot of ignorance about what really happens to children.

A lot of people get deported, but I think it doesn’t really sink in, the real affect that it has not only for both countries – Mexico and the United States – and I think Trump is a perfect example. He’s saying, deport 11 million people, but that’s impossible in so many aspects. For example, to start with, there are 9 million people in the U.S. that live with mixed status families. What are you going to do? Deport let’s say the dad who’s not a citizen and then you’re not going to deport the mom who is a citizen? It’s just going to break up families. It’s just a big mess…

We want to show the real effect that this has not only on the people being deported, but on the U.S. itself. People need to know what they’re doing when they vote for people who are in favor of mass deportations.

Trump has also suggested that the children should be deported with the parents and not be given legal status. What do you think about that idea, and what should our country be doing to prevent this type of family separation?

I think the very first thing we need to do is recognize that these children are U.S. citizens, because Trump wants to say that they’re not. He’s saying that a lot of people go to the U.S. and that they use fraud, and you know that horrible term, anchor babies.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that if an undocumented person has been in the U.S. for a decade, then you’re a part of that society. There are many studies that prove that they do pay taxes and they do contribute to the economy. I think that’s a big contradiction because a lot of people call undocumented immigrants illegal immigrants, but we don’t call the companies that hire them illegal companies. I don’t see a lot of republicans criticizing the companies that hire undocumented immigrants. They just go after the weakest link.

And then there’s the fact that people benefit from undocumented labor, but at the same time they want to kick them out. The U.S. needs undocumented labor and yet it doesn’t want to give to those people who have been making a contribution, and they’re right, you can’t have it both ways.

I actually think that Trump just uses this fear. A lot of times I’m not sure if immigration is real. The problem I think a lot of people who are in favor of Trump are afraid the country is changing and they just want to target something, and immigrants are the perfect targets. So they use that and unfortunately it is working. It’s going to be interesting what’s going to happen going forward. Hopefully people will actually see that he has no real ideas and that he’s just exploiting this issue for political reasons that are not based in reality.

The documentary also features testimonies from lawyers, social workers, academics and priests. How do they all fit into the narrative of the documentary and what is their experience?

I actually volunteer at these migrant shelters in Tijuana. I do translation work, so we have a long-standing relationship with immigrants. Their experiences are probably one of the most important in the documentary because they’re in the trenches so to speak. They give a lot of validity to the documentary because they know the legal problems you have to navigate. They’ve seen how children and their parents have a difficult time coping with this problem, and they’re very passionate about their work. They can tell you what deportation means not only to the parent, but to the children, to society and to the city of Tijuana, because this is the city where most people are deported, and the way it’s changing the entire city.

Now, the Mexican government is scrambling to figure out what it’s going to do with all these people that are coming back forcefully.

They do have a deep insight as to what happens. There’s a direct contrast between what they’re experiencing and what the politicians say. Going back to Trump, he’s saying that all these people are crossing the border and that there’s a massive attack almost, a massive invasion. If you talk to the lawyers and all these people that are working with migrants you can actually tell the legality of it all, which is that these enforcement actions are having an effect on people. A lot of people are just unwilling to make the trip now because it is really difficult and if you’ve crossed before, you can actually go to jail.

So these perspectives, for the reality that you don’t really see, away from all of the political discourse of people talking about immigration and talking about an invasion and talking about how there’s this big problem which immigrants are causing, which is not necessarily the truth when you take it to the ground level where things actually happen.

How do you think people will react to a documentary like this? As you said, we don’t really get to see this topic painted in this light. We don’t get to see how children are affected by deportations, because people tend to stay away from that side of things.

I saw a video on YouTube where a child was being interviewed. Her dad had just been deported and this guy just put the camera on her and started asking her questions that were really painful. This child just started crying. I saw that and I thought it was very sad, and I thought, well I don’t want to make a documentary like that. I don’t want to ask these children about deportations and have them cry because it’s a really delicate matter, and obviously it is very difficult for children to talk about.

So what I mostly wanted to do is show the children playing and being happy and joyful and sort of the parents talking about the difficulties, so not to put children in this spotlight necessarily. Except for one case where there was this little girl who just kept saying, ‘I want to talk about my dad.’ In other cases we show them playing and being happy.

And the reason I wanted to do this, is that I hope that other people who watch the documentary will think about their own children… I want them to think, oh well that could be my kid, and hopefully that will not necessarily change their minds, although hopefully that will happen eventually, at least make them think about what this can do to children and have a little more compassion about this topic. That would be the end result that I would hope for when people finish watching this film.

Anything you’d like to add?

We’re going to go on tour. We’re going to tour universities and just show the documentary. We’re going to go all over the U.S. showing the film and talk about this topic. Hopefully people will come out to see where we go and support the film. If they have any questions or want us to show it at their university/college/community center we are always glad and open to those ideas. Like we always say, these projects are community based and they’re only possible because of the community behind them.

Death on Sevenmile Road…Border Killings Investigation…Texas Observer

A long and deeply researched piece by Melissa del Bosque on the Texas DPS shootings of Guatemalan men from a helicopter in 2012. Go to the link for the full story, photos and video… This is the piece to give the lie to the “violence spilling over the border” hysteria we hear so often.  What I would say is YES, violence is spilling over the border…from NORTH to SOUTH… not the other direction as Fox News, the US Congress and the Texas DPS wants you to believe.  

I will share something personal:  During 2010 and 2011, I had the opportunity to work with Charles Bowden and to travel with him from one end of the border to another… On one trip we drove from Las Cruces to Brownsville. We spent time on Falcon Lake in Texas looking into the disappearance of David Hartley. We took a ride in a fast bass boat over to the Mexican waters of the lake. Our guide showed us the spot where reports said Hartley was shot and disappeared. The depth of the water there was 2.5 feet. (http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/08/world/americas/mexico-cartel-arrest/) There was a lot more leading us to question the official story about the disappearance of David Hartley and many more of the hysterical “violence spilling over the border” stories.

Charles wrote the story (commissioned by a high profile magazine for outdoor sports) and debunked this and other “violence spilling over the border” myths. It was rejected because he didn’t write the story they wanted. He wrote the truth. He sent the story to another very high-profile left-liberal magazine. His editor there rejected it also because she said she didn’t believe the story because “it stands to reason that violence was spilling north.” Chuck wrote a personal memo about this later: “At that point, I thought of two things: why lies rule on the border and why Americans feel the need of a wall.”

So it is refreshing to see the Texas Observer on the case of immigrants being shot from helicopters… by US law enforcement.

If you’d like to see an entertaining video of Chuck talking about this, here’s a link:
Charles Bowden: America’s favorite lethal lies about the border, Utah Valley University, May 2011: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BsO4WuKCUM

Commentary On Texas Immigration Decision

Thanks to Bob Kahn for sending his editorial on the Texas immigration decision. Full disclosure to listeros: I worked with Bob Kahn and Sister Suzanne at the Oakdale Detention Center in Louisiana back in 1986-87 where hundreds of Salvadorans and Guatemalans were held in one of the first remote immigration prisons designed to isolate asylum seekers from legal help, families, churches, communities… People were flown to the pine woods of central Louisiana from Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago and many other places in the US where they were struggling to make a living and survive after fleeing US-funded civil wars. And deported daily with no due process whatever… Kahn’s book is essential reading to understand the venality of the past and current immigration system.

Other People’s Blood: U.s. Immigration Prisons In The Reagan Decade


Also below, a statement from the Mexican SRE that will only give fuel to the idiocy in Congress and Fox News fun and games:


Seeing Artesia | Ending Artesia

Thanks to Taylor Levy, BIA Certified Representative at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, for sending these links… -molly

Clio Sady, a professional artist, and her father, Steve Sady, a federal public defendant, volunteered with the pro bono legal team in November 2014. They published the following visual essay about the detention center in Artesia, using Clio’s drawing and courtroom sketches (photography was not permitted in the center).



Stephen Manning, an attorney from Immigrant Law Group in Portland, Oregon, was a key player in the pro bono project established in Artesia. He published an exceptionally comprehensive report detailing the efforts of this project.



More information about Artesia and family detention in general is available here:


Families continue to be detained at federal facilities in Dilley, Texas and Karnes, Texas. To support the pro bono efforts of teams in these facilities, please consider the following:

To Volunteer (attorneys and paralegals strongly preferred):

Raising bond funds to help get families out of Karnes:

Karnes Amazon Wishlist for Post-Detention Care Packages:

Dilley Bond Fund for Refugees:

Calderon’s Design For US Immigration Policy

Calderon’s wisdom now available on the world stage…a little late to the game. This is precisely the phenomenon described by Roberto Saviano back in 2005: http://www.amazon.com/Gomorrah-Personal-Journey-International-Organized/dp/0312427794

And no mention of the fact that it was Calderon’s deployment of the military that spiked the violence to levels not seen before in many regions of his country…all with United States aid and approval… and so it continues under EPN https://twitter.com/search?q=%23eselestado&src=typd

Former Mexican President Says Most Undocumented Immigrants Don’t Want To Become US Citizens (IBTimes)

Fleeing Violence in Mexico; Living in Migration Limbo in the U.S.

A long article in El Diario on the problems confronting asylum seekers from Mexico in the US. “They flee violence and in the US they live in migration limbo.” The article includes data on asylum cases–#filed, #granted, #denied. This document from the US Dept of Justice Executive Office of Immigration Review provides some data: http://www.justice.gov/eoir/statspub/fy13syb.pdf

Some families who came to the US to seek asylum in 2007 and 2008 are still awaiting hearings–some set for 2016 and 2017.  More details on several cases below of families from Juarez, now living in El Paso and awaiting decisions on their cases. Many have had family members killed. -molly

Artesia Situation On PBS Newshour…Field Reports From Pro Bono Attorneys

The articles below are sent by Taylor Levy, Certified Representative for Immigration Cases with Las Americas in El Paso. Please consider a donation to Las Americas to provide legal representation for asylum seekers detained in Artesia… (information provided below).  THANKS Taylor and keep up the great work!  -molly

Report From Courthouse News

Courthouse News reports on the Artesia lawsuit filed [August 22nd].  The editor at Courthouse News, Robert Kahn, worked with asylum seekers at the Oakdale Detention Center in the 1980s.  His book, Other People’s Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decade (Westview, 1996) is required reading on the shameful history of that period.

Also: Lawsuit Filed Over Immigrants’ Access To Lawyers At Artesia Detention Center (El Paso Times)

Immigrant Rights Groups Sue U.S. Over Fast-Tracked Deportations (LA Times)

Q & A with Frontera List’s Molly Molloy

What are the current stats and how do they compare to previous years?

There are two main sources of official Mexican government statistics on homicides. INEGI, Mexico’s National Statistics Institute, tallies numbers of murder victims based on data from medical examiners in morgues across the country. A death is counted as a homicide when a legal medical specialist determines that homicide was the cause of death. These statistics are cumulated and generally reported in July or August for the previous year. The INEGI report for 2013 came out in late July and provided the figure of 22,732 intentional homicides—an average of 1,894 homicides each month. This figure is down from the figure of 25,967 in 2013 and from the highest number of 27,213 in 2012—an average of more than 2,200 murders per month.

The national murder rate in Mexico in 2013 was 19 per 100,000, down from the highest point of about 24 in 2012.  When evaluating murder rates, we also have to consider that many cities, states or regions in Mexico have much higher rates than the national average. The state of Guerrero has a murder rate of 63—the highest in the country—and the city of Acapulco is at the top of the list of violent cities. Chihuahua state had a murder rate in 2013 of 59, about the same as the murder rate in Ciudad Juarez. This is a dramatic decrease from the highest murder rate in the world in 2010 (approaching 300 per 100,000) but still the second highest state murder rate in the country.

The other major source of crime statistics is the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP), part of the Secretariat of Government (SEGOB). SESNSP provides data on homicides from crime scenes as reported on a monthly basis by the Fiscalias (the Attorneys General) in each state. These numbers are generally lower than the cumulative figures reported by INEGI and can probably be explained by the fact that those injured in violent crimes may die later and eventually be categorized as homicides. Also, SESNSP data reports a separate category of homicidios culposos (negligent or unintentional homicides) in an initial crime scene investigation, but some of these may also be determined to be intentional at a later stage of investigation.  A total of 9,303 homicidios dolosos (intentional homicides) are reported for January-July 2014, an average of about 1,300 homicides each month.  In comparison, there were a total of 18,388 intentional homicides in 2013—an average of about 1,500 per month—somewhat lower than the cumulative INEGI total. For more on the SESNSP data, see: http://www.secretariadoejecutivosnsp.gob.mx/es/SecretariadoEjecutivo/Incidencia_Delictiva_Nacional_fuero_comun

Adding the INEGI numbers for 2007-2013, and the SESNSP numbers for January-July 2014, there were a total of 153,648 murder victims in Mexico during the past 7.5 years. That averages to 1,688 homicides per month since the hyper-violence began in Mexico.

And, these numbers do not include the estimated 30,000 people who have been officially reported missing or disappeared.  Mexican government spokespeople have addressed the issue of the disappeared, most recently in a press conference yesterday resulting in a flurry of media coverage trying to explain the “disappearing disappeared.” See: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2014/08/22/politica/005n1pol




The reality is that there are no accurate or reliable numbers on people who have disappeared. The government never says how many were found alive and how many are confirmed dead. And it is certain than many of the dead are never found. One recent report by Michelle Garcia and Ignacio Alvarado Alvarez for Al Jazeera America concludes:

“People began to disappear in Mexico in large numbers after President Felipe Calderón launched his war against drug traffickers in 2006. By 2013, the Mexican government, under a new administration, pegged the number of disappeared at 26,121, adding that not all were criminally related.

Experts and several human rights groups, however, estimate that reported cases represent roughly 10 percent of the total, as most people are reluctant to appeal to authorities who were either involved in or suspected of having ties to organized crime groups. Based on their calculations, the actual number could be closer to 200,000 people.”

What is the most informative literary work to come out in the last year regarding the violence in Mexico? Why?

 The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail, by Salvadoran journalist Oscar Martinez.

Amnesty International estimates that as many as 70,000 Central American migrants have disappeared in Mexico in the past 10 years. Published in Spanish as Los migrantes que no importan…The Migrants who Don’t Matter, The Beast is by far the best account I have read of how criminal/government networks actually work and how and why the massive death toll in Mexico and in Central America keeps rising. The book not only helps us to understand Mexico, but it also is the skeleton key to understanding the recent crisis in child migration from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. At least 60,000 unaccompanied minors have made it to the United States border in the past year and we do not begin to know how many have been lost on the journey—not to mention the numbers of adult men and women who die in the migration. Here is one paragraph from Oscar Martinez’ interview below with the Texas Observer:

 “TO: What do you hope Americans will learn from your book?

OM: I believe the worst tragedies along the path—the rapes, the mass kidnappings, the torturing done by Los Zetas, the fee to cross the border—are things that the migrants who have suffered them, in my experience, dont even tell their own families. Im convinced that its something they dont tell their employers or their friends if they have any friends in the United States. I think people in the U.S. know that migrants have a long and hard journey. But Im convinced that the country in which they work—where they cut tomatoes and clean houses—has no idea at all that what the migrants are going through is actually a humanitarian crisis. In other words, its a humanitarian crisis where organized crime takes care of extracting the very last drop it can from people who are already leaving their country with practically nothing.”

What has been one of the most surprising news story you’ve read this year? why?

The rise of ISIS, or the Islamic State terrorist military force and its lightning take-over of much of Iraq and Syria. I know, it has nothing to do with Latin America. Or does it?  I think of the several trillion dollars and thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives lost since our invasion of that country in 2003 and even more deaths caused by massive destabilization in the region, in part sparked by our interventions. And for what? The result seems to be the creation of one of the most violent and dangerous threats the U.S. has faced, ever.

Then I look at the media storm in response to the massive numbers of children fleeing from intolerable violence in the small Central American countries. And I think about the illegal U.S. proxy wars against “the Communist threat” in those countries resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans in the 1970s and 1980s. Our policies and actions 30+ years ago sowed the seeds for the destruction of these societies and now we are reaping the crops.

What do you see happening with immigration in the U.S. and how will it affect Latin America?

I am appalled by the inhumane reaction of our government to the recent Central American migration. Instead of seeing the migration as a human rights crisis, our government is determined to detain and deport people as quickly as possible with not even lip-service to human rights, international law, or due process in our own courts.



The American immigration gulag is expanding and becoming more repressive at every turn. And the loudest protests call for more repression, not less.

While the administration and activists continue to talk about the president bypassing the stonewalled Congress to mandate immigration reform through executive action, I fear such action will result in more draconian border security measures and provide little if any benefit to the immigrants most in need of relief.

I hope my sad predictions are all wrong.

Nicaragua Seems To Escape Problems Suffered By Its Neighbors…NPR w/ Corrections

NPR did post a bit of a correction in the online transcript (posted below) concerning the fact that the police had arrested 11 people accused of the attack on July 19 that killed 5. But they were presented in court and charged–no one has been disappeared.  I would recommend reading comments from people who seem much more knowledgeable about Nicaragua than the NPR reporter.  See comments at this link… The posting below comes from an email bulletin from the Nicaragua Network.

On a personal note, I lived in Nicaragua during the height of the contra war in the mid-1980s. People suffered terribly from the US-sponsored violence. Every family I knew had someone serving in volunteer militias or police or other self-defense forces and I knew many families who lost people to the contra violence–imposed by illegal US arms-trafficking, much of it funded by drug trafficking.

I visited in 2013 and while joblessness and poverty are an issue, there is not the kind of criminal violence and police and military oppression that exist in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The Nicaraguan people made real changes to their government and security forces during the revolution (it took more than 20 years and a lot of people died). And in the years since, Nicaragua has had several substantive regime changes brought about by democratic elections. I recommend reading the comments posted to NPR.  Others with more recent experience provide some excellent corrections to the NPR story. -molly

August 14, 2014

“This publication may be reproduced in whole or in part. Please credit the Nicaragua Network.

National Public Radio ran an interview this morning, Aug. 14, 2014, entitled “Nicaragua Seems To Escape Problems Suffered By Its Neighbors,” with reporter Carrie Kahn which contains a few good factoids such as “Nicaragua is unique in Central America for its low crime rate,” has an economic growth rate unrivaled in the region, and its police have not adopted strong arm tactics.

However, it also contained many untruths and mistaken analyses…”

You can read the rest of the Nicaragua Network article here or on the Frontera List.