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.

Bloody Attack on Police in Mexico Raises Jalisco Cartel’s Profile…Insight Crime

I have been busy with other stuff the last few days, but I have not seen any analysis (or even speculation?) about this event in Jalisco other than the Mexican government’s focus on the CJNG. Has there been any mention of the fact that one of the original leaders of the original Guadalajara Cartel–Rafael Caro Quintero–was released from prison in 2013 and has been at large since, despite manhunts and rewards offered by both Mex-Feds and US-DEA? There were also rumors months ago that Ernesto Carrillo–his older compatriot from Guadalajara and also uncle of Juarez cartel leaders Amado and Vicente Carrillo Fuentes might be released from prison. Both of these men were tried en absentia in the US for the torture and murder of Enrique Camarena in 1985 and never extradited by Mexico despite years of requests from the US. Their incarceration in Mexico stemmed from nebulous drug charges and not specifically the murder of Camarena. Numerous Guadalajara state officials as well as Mexican federal cops and politicians were also involved in the Camarena case and some of them were convicted in federal court in the US in the early 1990s. The analysis below also does not mention that the slaughter in Ciudad Juarez began in early 2008 with the murders of state and municipal police working for the Juarez cartel and that this was the catalyst for the federal police and military incursions into Chihuahua in March 2008. The death toll in Juarez by the end of 2014 was 12,000+ and much higher if homicides from the whole state of Chihuahua are counted. -Molly

30 Homicides In Juarez In February; 67 So Far In 2015

The El Diario report posted late Saturday (Feb 28) reported 29 homicides in Juarez in February.  But late Saturday night, a young man was shot to death by a police officer bringing the total to 30. Channel 44 reported 31. These discrepancies have been fairly common over time. El Diario reported 37 homicides in January; Channel 44 reported 36.

Three victims in February were women, exactly 10 percent of the total number of people killed. This female to male ratio is also fairly constant when looking at Juarez homicides from 1993 to the present.

Mexicanos en Exilio Press Conference, Wednesday, Feb 25, Offices of Carlos Spector

(Summary in English)
The Mexicans in Exile organization will hold a press conference Wed Feb 25 at the Offices of Carlos Spector. The group will discuss violence in the Valle de Juarez and the fact that government forces have allowed criminal groups to exercise control over the region and its residents. Since 2009, the population of the Valle de Juarez has been persecuted, displaced, murdered and disappeared and the government has done nothing to stop this violence. The state has systematically ignored complaints presented against criminals in the region. In Mexico, in Chihuahua and in the Valle de Juarez, authorized crime rules. Mexicans living in exile are victims of authorized crimes of the state.
Subject: Mexicanos en Exilio Press Conference, Wednesday, February 25
Papacho, Toga y Meño: Crimen Autorizado. El Valle de Juárez exige justicia y el arresto de los oficiales que facilitaron los delitos en contra de los ciudadanos de la región.

1430 E Yandell, El Paso, Tx.
Febrero 25, 2015
13 hrs

Este 25 de febrero Mexicanos en Exilio insiste en señalar su posicionamiento ante la violencia y el despojo en México y en el Valle de Juárez, Chihuahua: fue y sigue siendo el Estado.

El pasado 18 de febrero la Fiscalía General de la Zona norte presentó, en calidad de detenido, a Mauricio Luna Aguilar a quien se vincula con al menos 20 homicidios en el Valle. Al lado de Mauricio fueron presentados otros integrantes del cártel de Sinaloa: Isidro Soto Aguilar, alias el “pantera” y líder de la célula; Juan Carlos Nuria Gómez, alias el “parral”; Karina Carrillo Griego; Jonathan Arturo Torres Rodríguez, alias el “Jhon”; Antonio Carrillo Griego, alias el “Toño y/o el tio”; y Juan Cuellar Cereceres, alias “Quintana.

A estos arrestos se agrega el homicidio de los también integrantes del cártel de Sinaloa Leonardo Rubén Morales Rodríguez, alias “el Toga” y Jesús Manuel Morales Rodríguez, alias “El Meño”. “El Toga” había sido arrestado en 2012 y liberado pocos meses después.

Desde 2009 la población del Valle de Juárez ha sido perseguida, despojada, asesinada y desaparecida sin que el gobierno haya hecho nada; sistemáticamente fueron ignoradas las denuncias y quejas presentadas contra estos individuos en las distintas instancias de impartición de justicia ¿De qué otra forma habría sido posible que una sola persona asesinara a 20 personas?

En México, en Chihuahua y en el Valle de Juárez impera el crimen autorizado.

Frente a este teatro, levantamos nuestra voz. Estaremos presentes víctimas del Crimen autorizado y del Estado:

  • Jorge Reyes Salazar
  • Israel Estrella Chávez
  • Lucía del Carmen Rangel
  • Gerardo Gamez
  • Víctor García Archuleta y Armando Archuleta
  • Sandra Flores
  • Miguel Murguía
For more information, contact:
Alfredo Holguin (President of Mexicanos en Exilio): (915) 727-8344
Carlos Spector (Attorney for Mexicanos en Exilio): (915) 544-0441

History of Lynchings in the South Documents Nearly 4,000 Names…NYTimes

I’m certain that some will disagree, but since I get asked to talk about the violence in Mexico and I get asked hard questions, I thought I’d share some thoughts on this article from [the] NYTimes. It reports on a new study of lynching in America from reconstruction through the 1950s….nearly 4000 documented cases of lynchings of African Americans–700 more cases than previously recorded. The worst place was Phillips County Ark. where 237 people were lynched in 1919 during the Elaine race riot. The rest of the worst places are in Louisiana…my home state.

I am often asked how to explain the extreme violence of the killings in Mexico. The only way I can explain many of these actions–whether they come from directly from the state or from criminal entities sanctioned by the state–is that they are acts of terror designed to control the population.


The Guardian reported on the Equal Justice Initiative study also quoting Bryan Stevenson:

“I also think that the lynching era created a narrative of racial difference, a presumption of guilt, a presumption of dangerousness that got assigned to African Americans in particular – and that’s the same presumption of guilt that burdens young kids living in urban areas who are sometimes menaced, threatened, or shot and killed by law enforcement officers.”


Note the similarity with the Mexican practice of criminalizing all victims of violence (90 percent at least)… Note the similarity to the narrative of the murdered students in Iguala–portraying them as radicals, criminals and hooligans in order to justify their murders. The idea that the people killed in Mexico are all narcos or malandros and thus deserving of their violent deaths.

I read Bryan Stevenson’s book [Just Mercy]a couple months ago…and I can’t recommend it enough. But this new report is so important and shows the need to keep the record and to reclaim the truth of the terrorist history of our own country. I am also struck by the parallels to the current Mexican and Central American violence and forced migration…

“Lynching and the terror era shaped the geography, politics, economics and social characteristics of being black in America during the 20th century,” Mr. Stevenson said, arguing that many participants in the great migration from the South should be thought of as refugees fleeing terrorism rather than people simply seeking work.

The terror in Mexico has already claimed more than 150,000 lives and the official narrative continues to criminalize the victims. -molly

13 Disappeared Per Day During EPN Tenure…Proceso

A new study of reported disappearances in the official statistics in Mexico shows that during the EPN administration (Dec 2012-present) there have been 13 disappearances each day–a total of 9,384 people in 22 months. This is more than double to rate of disappearances registered during the previous administration of Felipe Calderon. These are some of the findings from an examination of the databases of the National Register of Missing or Disappeared Persons from Jan 2007-Oct 2014 maintained by the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System. The database contains a total of 26,569 cases. The article below is an excerpt from the current issue of Proceso, 1997. It includes this link to numbers of disappearances per state. – Molly

Con Peña Nieto, 13 Desaparecidos Al Día (Proceso)

7 People Murdered So Far This Weekend In Juarez

At least 7 people have been killed in violent incidents in Juarez so far this weekend. On Saturday a municipal policeman was shot but survived the attack and injured the shooter. The policeman was taken to the hospital. Later on Saturday, near midnight, 5 people were killed and at least 4 others were injured when an “armed comando” attacked a house party in the Colonia Felipe Angeles. The report says at least 30 people were at the party–a birthday celebration–and included women and children. The attackers also set fire to several vehicles on the property. The owner of the house ran a tortilleria.

In another area of the city known as Granjero, a couple were attacked and the man was killed. The woman apparently survived. People in the area indicated that in the past several days there have been several execution-style murders and the residents are fearful.

Early Sunday morning, a man was executed at the Tequila Bar in the Pronaf zone near the Plaza de las Americas mall (this is a traditional tourist zone near the UACJ and the Las Americas bridge to central El Paso). -Molly

Mexico Violence: Dozens Of Bodies Uncovered In Acapulco…BBC

For those who believe that the violence is diminishing in Mexico… Consider the fact that we have no idea how (or IF) the mass killings happening now along the border in Tamaulipas or these mass graves in Guerrero even get into the official statistics. More details below from Animal Politico.

Mexico Police Find Dozens Of Bodies In Acapulco (BBC News)

Hallan 60 Cadáveres En Crematorio Abandonado En Acapulco; Dueño Ya Tiene Orden De Localización (Animal Politico)

Refutation That The Normalistas Were Incinerated At Cocula…

Thanks to Jim Creechan for these links to updates on the killings and disappearances of the 43 students. -Molly

Reports in La Jornada and a report from CENCOS:




Academic Investigators have refuted the claim that the normalistas were incinerated at the Cocula garbage dump. They provided a detailed analysis of why this was physically impossible. Some independent (academic) investigators have suggested that the students might have been incinerated in army crematoria or in other private crematoria. The investigators have called for the army to allow inspectors onto the base to check. The army rejects both the “possibility” that this could have happened and “access to inspect”. In fact, a letter in today’s La Jornada from a general argues that the army does NOT HAVE incinerators capable of burning bodies. Sanjuana Martínez interviewed an academic at the centre of these claims (on Sunday) and he suggested that there had been threats made against those who opposed the “official version”. On Monday, an opinion column in La Jornada warned about the growing signs of “suppression” and threats against those who oppose the official version.

Both the Mexican press and the intellectual class of Mexico continue to be worried that the ultimate government response to the missing students and the public protests will be another DIRTY WAR. And I’m guessing that these fears are even greater today after the announcement the death of one of the iconic voices of free speech [ Julio Scherer Garcia (Proceso publisher)died early this morning–http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/julio-scherer-garcia-journalist-and-irritant-of-politicians-dies-at-88/2015/01/07/a50ebb82-96a0-11e4-8005-1924ede3e54a_story.html ].

429 homicides in Juarez in 2014…El Diario

El Diario reports a total of 429 homicides in Juarez in 2014–a decrease of 11.5 percent over 2013 when there were 485 murders in the city. Interestingly, a couple of days ago (Dec 28) El Diario reported that there had been a total of 447 murders in the Northern Zone of the state of Chihuahua. Both figures are from the state Fiscalia, so I’m assuming that the difference has to do with which municipalities are included in the count. The criminologists and sociologists interviewed by El Diario point out that the year saw several examples of domestic violence in which fathers or mothers killed their children and in some cases also committed suicide.
“Criminologist Oscar Maynez Grijalva said that the conditions in the border city, in addition to being next door to the country that consumes more drugs than any other in the world, also suffers from a lack of opportunities, a weak and corrupt justice system and thus the violence and murders remain high.

“Violence within the family he said, is a product of the crisis generated by many causes of stress and is a symptom of something happening, that society is failing to protect victims, especially children.”

Bajan Los Homicidios En 2014: Fueron 429 (El Diario)

Acribillan y matan a hombre en la colonia Manuel Valdés (El Diario)