120 Days is a documentary that is meant to open a discussion about Immigration policy reform in America.It closely follows the personal life of Miguel Cortes, an undocumented immigrant who lived with his family in North Carolina for twelve years, as he counts down his last days in the United States.
Before the movie begins, a North Carolina police pulled over Cortes for a routine traffic stop and arrested him after discovering this immigration status. The police quickly turned Cortes into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, because the 278(g) policy passed in North Carolina permits police officers to operate like ICE officials in order to get “dangerous” immigrants off the street.
Arizona attempted to enforce a similar policy in 2010. S.B. 1070 allowed police to check a person’s immigration status during routine policing procedures, which in turn created problems when lawmakers suspected police were targeting individuals through racial profiling. As a result of the policy, Latino businesses closed and populations plummeted while community trust in law enforcement reacted similarly.
Seeing as law enforcement relies heavily on community involvement to maintain order, policies such as these discourage residents from speaking up due to the fear of deportation, ultimately making law enforcement’s job more difficult.
The Cortes family appears to be the exact opposite of dangerous. Not every immigrant is dangerous like the ones broadcasted on TV. Many are from wholesome, hard-working families, restlessly chasing the American Dream.
Miguel and his wife were prominent community leaders who volunteered for their church’s choir and found time to teach dance classes to children despite their anxiety about Miguel’s departure. Their daughters excelled in school, just as they hoped.
“For me, the United States was always the land of opportunity,” Miguel’s wife, Maria-Luisa, says in the film. “I remember crossing…we risked a lot, wanting a better life for our daughters.”
The Cortes family seem like the “model” example for immigrant families. They have heavy community involvement, excel in school, have never broken the law in the twelve years since living in America. Despite this Miguel is being deported because of a law originally intended to be used on criminals.
The documentary can be seen here.