Film in Frederick highlights plight of young immigrants -- Gazette.Net


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The children at the center of the film “Which Way Home” run along train tracks and cling to the tops of boxcars that sway as they make their way north to Mexico’s border with the United States.

The trains — nicknamed “The Beast” for their tendency to grind up and crush the unlucky people who slip and fall beneath their wheels — are a key mode of transportation for Central American migrants hoping to get to America.

Of the thousands who hitch rides on the trains each year, about 5 percent are children traveling alone, according to the film.

The film, which follows several such travelers on their journeys, was shown at Hodson Auditorium in Hood College’s Rosenstock Hall in Frederick Thursday evening.

About 30 people attended the screening.

Merna Pettit, a social work student at Hood, said she came to see the film, directed by Rebecca Cammisa and released in 2009, because social workers need to be able to deal with people from different cultures and understand where they’re coming from.

Pettit said she liked how many of the children in the film, who ranged in age from about 9 to 17 years old, talked about going north to make money to support their families back home.

“A lot of people look at them as being just foreigners. But they’re people,” she said.

The screening at Hood came several weeks after the screening of another film, “They Come to America,” at Frederick Community College on Aug. 23.

That film, directed by Dennis Michael Lynch, looks at issues like the burden undocumented immigrants put on the country’s education and employment systems and inconsistent security measures at various parts of the U.S. border with Mexico.

The FCC showing, which drew about 400 people, was hosted by Frederick County Sheriff Charles A. “Chuck” Jenkins (R) and Frederick County Board of Commissioners President Blaine R. Young (R). It was underwritten by a committee financing Young’s possible run for governor in 2014.

But the Hood College screening of “Which Way Home” was not in response to that film, said Jeanie Cronin, coordinator of faculty services for the college’s Department of Foreign Languages.

In fact, she and Kiran Chadda, director of multicultural affairs and international student programs at the college, who also helped organize the screening, didn’t even put the two together until someone asked about a possible connection, Cronin said.

Chadda said they were only looking to show a film that addressed issues being discussed in the news.

Immigration has been an issue on both the national and state levels as November’s election draws closer.

President Barack Obama (D) spoke to a forum Thursday in Miami, sponsored by the Spanish-language television network Univision.

He has proposed a plan that would stop the deportation of undocumented immigrants who are brought to the country as children as long as they meet certain measures, such as attending school or serving in the military.

Republican challenger Mitt Romney spoke to the same group Wednesday but didn’t say whether he would maintain Obama’s plan if elected..

Obama holds a 35-point lead over Romney in polls among Hispanics, according to the Associated Press.

Maryland residents will also vote in November on a ballot referendum that would offer in-state tuition to some undocumented immigrants.

rmarshall@gazette.net