“I think that this will bring it to the forefront and really humanize the issue,” says Aissa Olivarez. “You get to hear from attorneys who are representing these people in very dire situations and see the mother and the children and what a real struggle it is to fight this system that has been built to work against asylum seekers fleeing violence in their home countries.”
Olivarez is the staff attorney for the Community Immigration Law Center and is speaking of th documentary “Inside the Trauma of Family Separation,” which the center will screen and discuss on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 7-9 p.m. The Community Immigration Law Center, an initiative sponsored by a coalition of legal, social, and faith-based organizations wanting to contribute to the community and to address the unmet legal needs of immigrants in Madison and surrounding areas, is located on Madison’s near east side. The screening of The Atlantic’s documentary about the fight to reunify families will be followed by a discussion and Skype Q and A session with Jodi Goodwin, the documentary’s featured attorney from Harlingen, Texas.
Olivarez, also originally from Texas, considers Goodwin to be her mentor.
“Because of her proximity to the border and her expertise she started to represent women who were being separated from their children and a local filmmaker decided that they would follow her for this specific case where this woman was separated from her son,” Olivarez says.
“It tracks them through that process to see the amazing attorney that Jodi is and also the advocacy and how unjust the system is and how it is currently treating immigrants to our country and asylum seekers,” she adds.
The woman Olivarez speaks of is Honduran asylum-seeker Anita. On June 13, she and her five-year-old son, Jenri, were forcibly separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. Goodwin worked pro bono as a lawyer and aggressively advocated for their release from their respective ICE detention centers. Thanks to Goodwin, Anita and Jenri were reunited after a month apart. But the damage has been done. “The Separated,” a new documentary from The Atlantic, is an intimate window into the chaos and trauma caused by that separation.
“The documentary really explores the trauma the separation is causing families and the human aspect of it,” Olivarez says. “I think it’s easy for us when we see the media to dehumanize immigration and family separation and think, ‘Oh, that’s happening on the border and we’re in Wisconsin. This is very far away.’”
At the event, there will be a panel and a Question & Answer session (through Skype) with Goodwin, who will be participating long distance through Skype.
“We would have liked to bring her all the way to Madison, but she’s a very busy woman and is so ingrained in this fight,” Olivarez says. “We are lucky that she’s made the time to spend with us and to speak to what she’s seen there now which is not only family separation but also the Trump Administration attempting to halt asylum seekers who are turning themselves in at the border.”
The event is free and open to the public. It will be co-hosted by the Community Immigration Law Center and Christ Presbyterian Church.
“I hope a lot of people will come to this event. It should be interesting,” Olivarez says. “The purpose of this event is to really shed light on the plight of these people and what they are going through and how vulnerable they are to government policy.”
“Inside the Trauma of Family Separation” will be held Tuesday, Dec. 4, 7-9 p.m. at the Community Immigration Law Center, 944 E Gorham St.