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Friday, May 6, 2016

"Homeland" documentary focusing on Monett to air

Monday, July 16, 2012

The historic Tivoli Theater in University City was the site of the unveiling of the documentary film, "Homeland," by the Nine News Network. Parts of "Homeland" were shown on Sunday in the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase. [Order this photo]
"Homeland: Immigration in America," the documentary series prepared by the Nine Network of Public Media in St. Louis, begins airing this week in the St. Louis area. One hour of the three-part series focuses on Monett and its Hispanic community.

National distribution of the series begins next week. The documentary was formallyl unveiled during the St. Louis Showcase, a film festival for St. Louis-based films, held on Sunday at the Tivoli Theater in University City.

Jack Galmiche, president and chief executive officer of the Nine Network, told the theater audience that the project took two and a half years to complete. He thanked those in the documentary for allowing the filmmakers to be part of a dialogue on a difficult topic.

The first segment, "Refugees," aired on Wednesday in St. Louis. The second segment, "Jobs," which includes the Monett material, airs on July 18. The third segment, "Enforcement," airs on July 25.

All three episodes are available to Public Broadcasting System (PBS) stations. Ozarks Public TV in Springfield has scheduled the "Jobs" segment to air at 12 a.m. on Saturday, July 21.

A two-minute segment on the Monett portion is available under the "stories" segment of the series' website, explorehomeland.org.

Views of Monett

Twelve minutes from each of the three parts were shown at the Tivoli. The Monett portion showed historic postcards of busy scenes and switched to scenes of industrial Monett today. Part of a Mass celebrated by the Hispanic congregation at St. Lawrence Catholic Church is shown.

Yessi Perez, one of the staff at St. Lawrence, brings the filmmakers to her home, where a family meal is also filmed. Yessi's father, Enrique, as a naturalized United States citizen, is shown, illustrating the development of immigrant communities.

The film shows Hispanic businesses downtown and scenes in Tyson Foods and EFCO, a Pella company, where Hispanics have become a major part of the workforce. Mike Farquhar, EFCO president, tells filmmakers that if Hispanic workers had not been available to fill jobs in Monett, the company would likely have expanded elsewhere.

The jobs episode also focuses on Ed and Joette Reidy, who operate Happy Apples orchard and carmel apple operation in Washington, Mo. The Reidys use the complex H2A federal government program to legally import workers from Mexico to Missouri to pick their crop. The Reidys told filmmakers it has become increasingly difficult to get pickers. Workers who want to settle in Missouri are going to places like Monett instead.

The hour ends showing the October 2010 coronation of Mayra Almaras as Monett High School's first Hispanic homecoming queen.

Varied stories included

Other segments focus on different aspects of the immigrant situation. The filmmakers followed Justin Semahoro, who was relocated from central Congo to part of St. Louis. Having acquired skill in seven languages, Semahoro works at Barnes-Jewish Hospital as a translator.

Wei Jen Chua, a medical researcher from Taiwan working on the cutting edge of a vaccine for the HIV virus, is shown looking for an employer who can acquire a visa for her to stay in the country.

The segment on enforcement tackles some of the more emotional aspects of the topic, showing a deportation flight, and the situation facing Frank Cortez, who has lived most of his 26 years in the U.S. and is now facing deportation to a country he does not know.

The film showed points of view toward the subject. For example, radio commentator Kris Kobach, a former lawyer in John Ashcroft's Justice Department who helped write the Arizona law on immigration, voiced opposition to leniency in immigration policy. In contrast, two police officers used a "don't ask, don't tell" policy working in a Hispanic neighborhood in Kansas City.

A panel discussion followed the segments on Sunday. Ray Saurez, senior correspondent for the PBS News Hour who serves as narrator for the film series, served as moderator. Offering comments were: Leo Eaton, executive producer for the series; Ted Alden, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations; and Jim Kirchherr, producer and writer on the series.

Eaton, who originally came to the U.S. as an illegal alien and who later married an American in England, said the series is all about the stories people tell. Those in the documentary represent how Americans think about the issue of immigration.

Alden said the benefits of immigration are largely on the federal side, including the $3 billion paid annually by illegals into the Social Security system that will never be claimed. Costs are being borne on the local level by hospitals and school districts.

Problems persist in solving the immigration problem. Saurez said employers facing pressure under the 1986 reform law rallied political forces to withdraw enforcement scrutiny from them.

Alden said the 1986 law legalized about three million people as a one-time fix but did not stop the inflow. Consequently, the impression remains that waiting long enough will force acceptance. Alden said he does not think comprehensive immigration reform is possible in the foreseeable future.

Recent updates

Filming on "Homeland" concluded last September. In light of election activity, the documentary underwent additional editing in April. The Obama administration's recent decision to not deport young illegal immigrants will be mentioned in the closing of the enforcement segment. The Supreme Court decision on the Arizona law was not mentioned. Kirchherr said they knew it the pending ruling would prove pivotal no matter which way it went.

The focus of the film, Kirchherr said, is not on historic immigration, like the Bosnians who came to St. Louis in the 1990s, but on how the communities are today.

Some people were not open to airing their personal stories for the filmmakers. Anne-Marie Berger, producer of the series, said the people in Monett were welcoming and open to telling about their experience.

The point of the series, Kirchherr said, was that the immigration story is not about what goes on at the border. The stories happening in towns like Monett represent what is really happening in America.

"What happens here is what is happening in America," Eaton added.

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