The Hilda Ramirez sequence above is part of a feature-length documentary entitled Brightness of Noon: The Intersection of Faith, Refugees, and Immigration, Part I. Debra Gonsher Vinik, an Emmy-Award winning filmmaker, began this project during the last years of the Obama Administration, before undocumented immigrants became an explosive, frontline issue for the Trump Administration and the American people. This sequence focuses on undocumented immigrants who are often asylum seekers—a category of people fleeing for safety that the Trump administration has repeatedly sought to dehumanize through references to “human caravans,” forced separation of families, and the overcrowded, unhygienic conditions reported at numerous ICE detention centers in America. Through an interpreter, Guatemalan-born Hilda Ramirez recounts the detention and interrogation process that she and her young son experienced upon reaching the American border.
Meanwhile, Rev. Jim Rigby of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas, talks about the vital role of sanctuary churches in protecting and advocating for the basic human rights of those facing deportation. The power of this sequence and of Gonsher Vinik’s larger documentary (comprised of two parts) is its ability to make us care deeply for those who have been stripped of clothes, deprived of edible food, and dismissed as credible witnesses to their own life experiences. Over and over, Gonsher Vinik shows us that the demonized “Other” is, in fact, very relatable—very much like ourselves.