MLK Day Recap: “The Right to Live with One’s Parents vs U.S. Immigration Policy of Family Separation”

On the afternoon of Jan. 16, a ground floor Pettengill Hall classroom was filled with Bates students eager to engage in the workshop, “The Right to Live with One’s Parents vs. U.S. Immigration Policy of Family Separation.” The workshop was hosted by Professor of Hispanic Studies Baltasar Fra-Molinero, film director Luis Argueta and immigration activist Eugenio Lopez.

The workshop began with a screening of Abrazos (2014), a film following the journey of fourteen young U.S. citizens of undocumented parents as they travel from Worthington, Minnesota to Guatemala to meet their grandparents, aunts, uncles and even siblings for the first time. Made possible by the organization, Abuelos y Nietos Juntos, which facilitates such trips for children who are U.S. citizens, the film brings attention to the harsh realities of U.S. immigration policies and the threat they pose to separate families each day.

Following the screening, Argueta shared his experiences and intentions in making the film. A dual-citizen of Guatemala and the U.S., Argueta explained that his inspiration for Abrazos arose when he met Lisa Kremer, founder of Abuelos y Nietos Juntos, after showing another of his films about U.S. immigration issues in his hometown.

Eugenio Lopez, one of the Worthington children featured in the documentary, was then invited to speak before the classroom. A recent high school graduate of the class of 2022, Lopez is an immigration activist and is currently working as an administrative assistant at Kivu Immigration Law in Worthington.

Lopez highlighted the prohibitive nature of current U.S. immigration policies, explaining that for undocumented immigrants, there remains little to no legal pathways to gain citizenship. His firsthand experience of the realities of undocumented immigration inspires Lopez to give everything he has to fight for more legal pathways for undocumented immigrants.

The workshop and discussion was held as part of this year’s theme, “Art and Activism.” The workshop concluded with a Q&A with the speakers.