'The Call,' Short Film Raises Human Rights Issues For Undocumented Women

Sonia waits anxiously for her daughter to return from school. She’s late. The door opens, a school friend nervously enters, behind her the battered face of her little girl. She’s been sexually assaulted. Sonia knows she needs to call a hospital and the police, but her daughter refuses.

“No we can’t, we just can’t. What would happen to you?” she asks Sonia, her undocumented mother.

That call could mean deportation for Sonia, but also security for her daughter. “The Call”, a five minute film produced by Breakthrough, a global human rights group, is part of a campaign to bring immigrant women’s rights to the front of the political agenda this election season. (Check out the film above.)

Based on a true story, Sonia’s situation aims to represent the “impossible choice” many undocumented immigrant women must make in the face of sexual assault, domestic abuse, and other violence.

The film is an answer to recent policy that excludes undocumented immigrants, placing their safety at risk.

The Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act omits non-resident and, according to the New York Times, the federal government will soon cut in half the annual $20 billion in aid to hospitals currently treating large numbers of uninsured patients -- many of which are undocumented. The reduction in aid is based on the notion that after the ACA goes into effect less people will be uninsured.

Nevertheless, hospitals will remain obligated under federal law to treat anyone that enters their Emergency Rooms.

More relevant to the film’s plot, is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that is currently awaiting reauthorization in Congress. Signed in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, the act had already been reauthorized twice with bipartisan support.

This year, however, Republicans have proposed changes to the law, arguing that undocumented women are reporting fraudulent cases of violence to gain temporary visas. The GOP’s amended bill would break the confidentiality guarantee for victims, directing them to the closest immigration office and allowing officers to reach out to the abusive partners. Leaving people worried that undocumented women would be less likely to report cases of domestic abuse.

In August, the Administration answered the call for immigration reform with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, allowing undocumented youth brought in by their parents to temporarily avoid deportation and gain work authorization (but not legal status) in the United States. Still, fathers and mothers, like “The Call’s” Sonia, remain at risk for deportation.

“Attacks on immigrant women are attacks on human rights. They undermine the fundamental American values of family and hard work, of just and inclusive democracy,” Mallika Dutt, Breakthrough president and CEO, wrote in a press release. “These women are successful contributors despite policies that threaten them. They deserve the right to be treated fairly and live securely.”

Families Separated By Deportation