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by Laura G. Brown




[]  This latest film about immigration in Southern California doesn't have as many intertwining stories or a plot line as compelling as Crash, but it might make libertarians reflect on why they chose the Statue of Liberty as their symbol, and also help them to remember what's written on its base.

The face of the new, improved INS now goes by the cool acronym ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The name change reflects post-9/11 priorities. While "Immigration and Naturalization Service" seemed to include the mission of helping immigrants become naturalized citizens, ICE rings coldly on the enforcement side, with a mission of keeping contraband (including dangerous people) OUT.

One of these "dangerous" people, as depicted in Crossing Over, is a 15-year-old high school student from Bangladesh, whose family is here illegally. She gives a distasteful, offensive speech in class defending the 9/11 hijackers, and is investigated by Homeland Security. She's found to have visited Jihadist websites and is promptly deported.




Is incendiary speech, such as hers, seditious or protected? Because she lacks documents, does she also lack First Amendment rights?

This part of the film recalls the recent suit brought by L.A. College student Jonathan Lopez. He gave a speech against same sex marriage after Prop. 8 passed. His professor called him names and told him to "Ask God what your grade is."

Libertarians argue that, in both cases, the message may be abhorrent, but the opinion should be aired. In his book, Defending the Undefendable, libertarian Walter Block even defends yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater.

Some scenes in the film ring false: An "honor" killing because a young Iranian woman sleeps around; long, gratuitous nude scenes with a tempting Australian actress who offers sex to immigration caseworker Ray Liotta to clear her case; and a ranting diatribe delivered by an ICE agent (with a gun to his head) amid a bloody convenience store shootout.

Harrison Ford is that ranting agent's partner. In an enervated performance, he half-heartedly attempts to plant a human face on ICE. He doesn't just callously round up beatific sweatshop workers like the one played by Alice Braga. He listens to her pleas about a child left behind, and drives her kid to Tijuana to be with his grandparents. He doesn't just file a report when the woman, deported and desperate to reunite with her son, pays "the wrong coyote" and ends up dead. He drives to Tijuana again and delivers the message to her parents personally, the prince. Then he awakes the next day to another round of raids.





In reading other reviews, I was surprised to find the usually liberal-minded Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly decidedly less liberal on the topic of immigrants (whom he calls "illegal aliens"). He concludes: "But when the film wags its finger at the U.S. for deigning to protect itself by cracking down on those who haven't earned green cards, it…starts to look like…knee-jerk empathy."

I guess I've got knee-jerk empathy. Is there any other kind?

How does "earning" your green card make you any less of a security risk? Timothy McVeigh didn't earn one, and he was more of a threat than the average immigrant.

In tough times, people tend to look at immigrants as scapegoats, and these times we're in look pretty tough. As one who's always been drawn to the libertarian ideal of open borders, I can only hope that, post-9/11, they're not slammed shut.



Laura G. Brown is a teacher and writer living in San Gabriel, CA, and a Libertarian Party activist. Her email: lauragbrown at sbcglobal dot net.

Also read the Hollywood Investigator's review of Bordertown.


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