Over the MLK Jr. Day weekend, I watched Cary Fukunaga’s 2009 film, “Sin Nombre”, meaning “Without a Name”. The film is unique in that it depicts the current perilous and epic journey immigrants from South America and Mexico take to reach the U.S. In this case, a Honduran teen travels with her father and male relatives. What they saw and endured profoundly impacted me. Overlapping with this story is that of another teen, looking to escape his own current situation in Mexico from membership of one of the most notorious and largest gangs in the world–the MS-13. After enduring a loss and making a snap decision while on the rooftop of a speeding train, both teens’ lives are interlocked in a struggle for survival and a chance at a new beginning.

Sin Nombre’s depiction of the journey Mexicans and South Americans take for the opportunity of a new life are dramatically poignant and remind me of the immense struggle many immigrants endure today. The film focused not on their lives once in the US, but on the journey to the “Land of the Free” and their reasons to endure such horrific pains to live and work in the US. It humanizes the immigration debate. Their chance at a life of opportunity was worth walking hundreds of miles for, sacrificing, endangering their life, and dying for–and there was no promise their lives in America would be any easier. That hope at a brighter future was like a vision of water to someone stranded in a desert.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was Monday, Jan. 18. This theme of opportunity–to have a fair chance in life—rang throughout Dr. King’s teachings. He deeply felt that everyone on this earth had a right to opportunity. What people do with it is up to them, but a chance at living a full life of prosperity and joy was the right of every human being. So while the immigration debate is intricate and complex, there are surely aspects of it that need no clarification.

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