It’s not every day a camera crew takes viewers behind the closed doors of the Kennedy Hideaway and through basement hallways of the U.S. Capitol to steal a look at the reality behind the legislative process. But that’s exactly what happened when I attended the premiere of the final installment of a series of behind-the-scenes immigration documentaries called How Democracy Works Now.
The Senator’s Bargain / The Last Best Chance opens in the heat of 2006, as Senator Ted Kennedy carefully crafts a comprehensive immigration reform bill. A past alliance with Sen. John McCain is rendered useless as presidential primaries loom larger. Opportunity strikes as the White House, eager for anything that can be construed as a success, reaches out to a Democratic Congress. Watch hopes soar as Sen. Jon Kyl steps up, and feel Sen. Kennedy’s emotional turmoil as ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) starts deporting undocumented workers by the thousands. When the White House proposes a point system that destroys family-based immigration but promises to legalize 12 million people living in the shadows of America, Senator Kennedy must determine his response. Is the freedom of 12 million worth sacrificing his core values? As constituencies flare and a backroom deal becomes increasingly maligned, we watched intently as the political process determined the fate of millions of immigrants.
Filmmakers Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini did a wonderful job of showing how policy can be impacted by a number of different players in Washington. Profiles of Esther Olavarría, Frank Sharry, Cecilia Muñoz, and Jennice Fuentes gave a great picture of the fight to influence and sway legislators.
All in all, How Democracy Works Now is a great documentary and a worthwhile way to learn about the quest for immigration reform in America.