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Tribeca 2020: “The Undocumented Lawyer” (2020) ★★★


© Optimist 2019

We have one large planet where we’re all supposed to live in harmony and peace. There should be no war, no jealousy, no divided class but love, happiness, and unity. Yet, we have many people who struggle on a daily basis. Rich people get richer while the working class continues making money for corporations. But when it comes to undocumented people, that’s a whole different story. They are smart, capable, and willing to boost any economy by contributing more than regular citizens. Yet, they are the ones who are mostly being hunted down by immigration officers.

“The Undocumented Lawyer” follows Lizbeth Mateo, an immigration lawyer who fights for her clients while she has no legal papers. Because of the law in California, it enabled her to get a degree in law and help as many people as she can. She realizes that in a country like the United States, it’s easy to make national headlines as it’s a country where a fair legal battle is possible. But winning that battle is the hardest thing as it’s the Congress (especially in the Trump Era) that legalizes DACA.

As an attorney, she swore to uphold the Constitution of the country that mainly does not want her, except the sanctuary cities.  As she navigates through the case of her client, Edith Espinal, avoiding deportation by taking sanctuary in a church, Lizbeth realizes that sometimes following the law is not an option when the system is broken from within and decides to go back to her activism route in order to bring attention to her case and help Edith Espinal.

Directed by Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci, “The Undocumented Lawyer” reminds us of how far one well-established country can go to silence the voice that was and is the core of that country. By taking the case personally, it’s sad to see that it takes only someone like Lizbeth Espinal to pick a fight with a foe that has no intention of giving up. Yes, it is easy to issue a deportation order but it is difficult to retain the knowledge that once it’s lost, it’s lost forever.

That being said, maybe the country can have more immigration lawyers but it won’t be having someone like Lizbeth Mateo nor a faithful and hardworking citizen like Edith Espinal who. through hardship and perseverance, know the true value of a free world and how hard they would work to not take it for granted. Each country needs people like them whether that country is the United States, Canada, or Europe. And because of documentaries like this, we learn more about them and furthermore learns to appreciate them and be grateful for doing what most of us won’t do – continue living in a dangerous zone full of risk yet continue fighting for what is right.

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