RKS Film: “Split at the Root”: An Examination of Zero Tolerance Policy and American Immigration Policy

“Split the Root”, which will be showing at Toronto Hot Docs Festival, examines the Zero Tolerance Policy and the cumbersome and inconsistent handling of asylum cases in the United States.

The Zero Tolerance Policy (ZTP) can perhaps be best understood as a reaction from the right to the continual and never-ending stream of Mexicans and Central Americans crossing into the southern United States. You may recall seeing coverage of “The Caravan” with thousands of Central Americans marching to the United States border. With images such as this one can understand the fear of many Americans. In fact very recently there was talk of American (Republican) governors about declaring this influx as an “invasion”. What is irksome to many is the sense those fleeing their country seem to have a sense of entitlement to enter the United States. As an American border officer said to my son when entering the United States that this was an important day in his life entering the best country on the earth so wipe that smirk off your face. Are all US Customs and Border officials equally idiotic?

The most loathsome component of ZTP was the separation of parents and children amounting it is thought to 4,368 children. One must question the lack of logic to this family separation. As a minor government official says in the beginning of this documentary that if you enter the United States illegally this is what you should expect so don’t come. In other words the logic of family separation can only be punishment.

Nobody can blame any country for having laws restricting wholesale immigration. But perhaps what is best to focus on are these laws humane. The documentary focuses on two Guatemalan women apprehended for illegal entry into the United States with the ZTP resulting in separation of mother and children causing obvious trauma to mothers and children.

Several mothers banded together to form Immigrant Families Together (IFT) to initially get bail money to free mothers from “detention centres”. But reuniting requires that the parents have adequate housing for their children which is impossible because these mothers are not permitted to work! So the IFT started arranging for lodgings and offering counseling.

And even after reunification of parents and children there is the asylum process which moves at a snail’s pace and is inconsistent in results with New York City judges being the most generous in granting asylum. As a judicial process requires evidence good luck on getting any assistance from corrupt Honduras and Guatemala police that demand bribes.

There are lots of tears flowing in the documentary as perhaps there should be considering the stupidity inherent in parent and child separation. Pardon me for being the elephant in the room but the documentary fails to question the veracity of the two Guatemalan women as it seems to assume there is no ruse or scam involved. The goal of an asylum process is to grant asylum to those who qualify and not to those who simply want a better life than in their crime infested societies. Having spent some time amongst hundreds of Syrians, Libyans and many from various African countries in a locale in Europe with a “refugee camp” it is no secret the NGO’s operating there coach these migrants on how to “win” an asylum case. My sense is that most of the people in this camp were economic migrants as opposed to legitimate refugees. Unfortunately the documentary skirts these issues of fraud and scamming. Otherwise it is a compelling look at ZTP which was revoked by executive order by the Trumpster himself. The documentary can’t be held to task for exposing the pain and suffering caused by ZTP family separation.

You can see the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIM-laheP9A

It shows on April 29 and May 4th at Toronto Hot Docs Festival. It is directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton.

Why the title “Split the Root”? One of the women from Guatemala explains the term meaning she is not really part of Guatemala nor of the United States.

RKS Film Rating 74/100.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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