On tnews Tonight: Children Of Men

By Daisy Hernandez Nov 07, 2007

The most chilling scene for me in Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 film Children of Men is when Clive Owen’s character is commuting home from work. At the train station, immigrants are locked in wire cages and begging for help. ICE-like officials patrol them with dogs. The train’s loud speaker says something like, “She’s my dentist. He’s my plumber. They are immigrants. They need to be reported.” This week as I sat at home watching television, I felt I was watching Children of Men all over again. But it wasn’t a film. It was the nightly news on the Spanish language station. The stories were about racism, deportations and human beings treated inhumanely. Today when I logged onto the major Spanish networks (Univision and Telemundo), these were the video stories: In Spain, a man talking on his cell phone about hating immigrants spit in the face of an Ecuadorian woman and then kicked her in the face. Also in Spain, cops attacked a Peruvian couple. One of them reportedly said, “Look at this immigrant piece of shit.” The attack was caught on a cell phone video camera. On the border with Canada, Miguel Sanchez and his wife and 4 children (including a 3-month-old baby) said they’d left Arizona hoping to find a friendlier immigrant climate in Canada. An estimated 3,500 Mexicans are asking for political asylum in Canada. In Oklahoma, where a bill has been introduced that would make it illegal for someone to give an undocumented immigrant a ride home, an immigrant man asked, “How can it be that an animal has more rights than an immigrant?” In California, Tanya Cruz held her new born at the hospital. The child had been born while her husband was deported. This year, an estimated 30,000 immigrants will be deported; that’s 10,000 more than last year The parallels between the film, Children of Men, and the nightly news in Spanish are striking: the racism, the hatred, the violence… and a world where this is increasingly acceptable. Children are at the heart of both the film and the nightly news. In the film, women are no longer able to bear children. In reaction, the British government shifts public attention and resources from the real problem to blaming (and abusing) immigrants. In real life, women are still very much having children but it’s the same story: governments taking our attention away from the real problems (racism, corporate greed without borders) and blaming immigrants who are brown and black, Mexican, Arab and African. As in the movie, people in real life are trying to place attention on the children. A news story from Mass. on deportations addressed the issue under the headline: “the smallest victim of this crisis: children.” But just as in the movie, not even the faces of children are enough to appeal to the sympathy of racists. In Oklahoma, a white man shouted at an immigrant, “Take your baby to Mexico!” Watching tnews, I was reminded of the extreme degree to which most of us are sheltered from the war that immigrants are living every day. Clive Owen’s character in the movie can’t get away from it. Everywhere he turns, there are the faces of people attacked by his government. But we can turn away. We can turn off tnews. We can say that we don’t know Spanish or Arabic so we can’t read the stories from these communities. We can tune out and say that the movie is not real life. It’s just an idea of how bad it could get. We can tell ourselves that immigrants, after all, are not locked up in cages at Grand Central Station. At least, not yet.