Sci-Fi Film Takes a Real Look at Immigration

Cam+Peters+.+The+Spectator

Cam Peters

Cam Peters . The Spectator

he way we do business all over the world. From ordering a cab through an app on your smartphone to virtual-reality video games, the power of technology to change our lives is undeniable. Seattle University’s upcoming event “A Life Without A Mexican: The Invitation and Exile of Mexican Labor and the Ongoing Anti-Immigrant Waves,” seeks to understand how advancing technology influences immigration.

The Center for the Study of Justice in Society is hosting the event and the event draws its name from a movie of a similar title, “A Day Without A Mexican.” The film explores what would happen if all of the Mexicans in California suddenly quit their jobs and left, causing the state to come to a grinding halt. “A Life Without A Mexican” will feature a screening of a similar film called “Sleep Dealer,” which depicts a dystopian science fiction vision of immigration, labor and technology.

“We are hopefully not headed in the same direction the movie depicts,” wrote professor of Modern Languages and Cultures Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs in an email statement to The Spectator. Gutierrez is the director of the Center for the Study of Justice in Society.

Professor of Law Steven Bender will speak at the event and provide a framework for understanding the film. In “Sleep Dealer,” many of the low wage workers in the United States have been replaced by robots that are controlled by human beings who live south of the border in Mexico.

Cam Peters . The Spectator
Cam Peters . The Spectator

Steven W. Bender is a Professor and the Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development.

“What “Sleep Dealer” suggests, is what if [labor] was all mechanized and we didn’t need the low wage workers,” Bender said. “Instead we could just have robots here and have these workers elsewhere. It’s an opportunity for introspection about the benefits and detriments of that outsourced labor.”

Bender will also explain the current state of affairs around immigration, including how immigration policies related to Mexicans have been both invitation and exile policies.

“We invite workers when we need them, and then we remove them when we don’t need them,” Bender said.

According to Bender, a lot of the consumer goods we use come from borderlands factories. Immigration policies cause companies to manufacture goods outside of the country and import them to U.S. to take advantage of lower wages.

Arizona native and senior strategic communications major Nicole Harvey empathizes with those who immigrate to the United States for better opportunities.

“A lot of immigrants I know pay their taxes and come here to work and have a better opportunity for their family,” Harvey said. “I see why they are making that decision to immigrate, but don’t think that we as American citizens can say that they don’t have the right to come here. This was never our land to begin with.”

Though some jobs are inherently more dangerous than others and require innovations to make them safer, such as mining or working with hazardous chemicals, Bender suggests that caution should be used when considering what jobs should be replaced with technology.

“We do have to be concerned with using technology to better do the injustices we already do,” Bender said. “If you replace two expensive border patrol officers with drone technology, and drone technology creates an impenetrable border, then are you just doing a better job of doing inhumane enforcement when people like me call for an open border?”

The 2016 Presidential election will be a major deciding factor in what happens with the U.S. border. With politicians calling for increased security, and some even wanting to build a wall, Bender warns that without an active voter turnout “compassionate immigration reform is never going to happen unless we make it happen, and it starts in the voting booth.”

Harvey believes those that are calling for increased border security don’t understand immigrants’ reasons for leaving their home country, thus compounding the problems of immigration and labor.

“They don’t understand their story and they are selfish in thinking that ‘America is only for me because I was born here.’”

Harvey believes it is a slippery slope.

“Mexicans add a lot of value and culture to our society, and when you take out the actual human person it’s going to be very detrimental in the long term and really create some big divides between people,” Harvey said. “I think it’s going to do more harm than good.”

“A Life Without a Mexican: The Invitation and Exile of Mexican Labor and the Ongoing Anti-Immigrant Waves” will be held at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24 in the Wyckoff Auditorium.

Jarrod may be reached at [email protected]