Maybe you’re wondering what’s happening in the photo accompanying this column.

Well, three young adults finally are seeing their mothers after years apart, in a new documentary, “Indivisible.” (It debuts at 9 p.m. on July 29 on the cable channel Fuse.)


Look at their clothes, hats and haircuts and you see what’s trending with today’s American youth. But despite how “American” they might act, speak and look, legally they are not U.S. citizens. That’s why these long-awaited embraces are only through a massive metal wall along our southern border. Up until this moment in “Indivisible,” the students have calmly told their stories, explained why they have chosen to be activists for changes in immigration laws. They’ve quietly talked about what happened the day their mothers and other family members left the United States. They’ve looked into the camera and matter-of-factly described how — thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy on shaky ground right now — they are grateful they can remain here and get their educations yet sad they can’t physically share holidays, weddings, graduations, life with their families now elsewhere.

Then they finally see their mothers, and right before our eyes they practically revert to being little kids. All they want is to hug and kiss their mommies.

They probably would rather have not been left blubbering big fat tears on camera, but their emotions got the best of them. Technology has kept them in contact with their moms and family members. Regularly they talk, Skype, text. All that is good, but there’s nothing like a mother’s touch.

So it’s no surprise that you see in “Indivisible” that despite the wall between them, they are crying and clutching at their moms, who also have dissolved into all sorts of emotions. In this photo you see the moms’ hands, grasping at their children, caressing their hair like they’d like to hold them forever, but are acutely aware their time together will be so brief. In the documentary, the moms gently touch their offsprings’ faces, as if willing to memory the new, grown-up features as well as the feel of their children’s skin.

There have been a number of documentaries over the years that have addressed different aspects of the mess that is our immigration system. This is the first one I can remember that talks about how people want to be legalized not only to stay here but also so they can travel to see their family.

I know, as always happens when I write about immigration, people will write me saying: too bad; their parents should not have come here. This is denial of a timeless fact: parents come to the United States for their family’s survival and well-being. As “Indivisible” shows, one of the students’ families came here to escape the dangers of the Colombian drug cartel. So I’m not judging anyone; none of us knows what we’d do when faced with a similar desperate situation.

It’s a powerful documentary that left me troubled and reflecting on families now so fractured.

Family. It’s supposed to be sacred to Americans. Family first: that sentiment is the underlying theme of so much in our country. Celebrities, politicians, athletes and everyday people invoke some variation of those words constantly.

Yet we’ve long been in a situation with the U.S. immigration system where we rip apart families on pretty much a daily basis.

As I watched “Indivisible” I couldn’t help but think: we’re better than this.

Twitter: @sueontiveros

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