Mexican-born filmmaker fears losing hope if DACA thrown out

Oct 25, 2022, 9:21 PM | Updated: Oct 26, 2022, 9:43 am
Jorge Xolalpa, a 33-year-old movie director from Mexico checks a shot on a monitor during the filmi...

Jorge Xolalpa, a 33-year-old movie director from Mexico checks a shot on a monitor during the filming of his latest movie "Union Station" at "Trunks" gay sports bar in West Hollywood, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. Xolalpa is mired in a years-long battle over whether he can keep working legally in the United States. He is among hundreds of thousands of people waiting to learn if the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will be allowed to continue. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

              Jorge Xolalpa, a 33-year-old award-winning Mexican-born filmmaker, foreground, directs his latest movie in San Pedro, Calif., on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022. Xolalpa is mired in a years-long battle over whether he can keep working legally in the United States. He is among hundreds of thousands of people waiting to learn if the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will be allowed to continue. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin)
            
              Jorge Xolalpa, second from left, a 33-year-old movie director from Mexico directs his latest movie "Union Station" at "Trunks" gay sports bar in West Hollywood, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. Xolalpa is mired in a years-long battle over whether he can keep working legally in the United States. He is among hundreds of thousands of people waiting to learn if the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will be allowed to continue. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
            
              Jorge Xolalpa, a 33-year-old movie director from Mexico poses with Leandra Rose, left, while filming his latest movie "Union Station" at "Trunks" gay sports bar in West Hollywood, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. Xolalpa is mired in a years-long battle over whether he can keep working legally in the United States. He is among hundreds of thousands of people waiting to learn if the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will be allowed to continue. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
            
              Jorge Xolalpa, a 33-year-old movie director from Mexico checks a shot on a monitor during the filming of his latest movie "Union Station" at "Trunks" gay sports bar in West Hollywood, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. Xolalpa is mired in a years-long battle over whether he can keep working legally in the United States. He is among hundreds of thousands of people waiting to learn if the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will be allowed to continue. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Under a string of golden street lights, the directions roll off Jorge Xolalpa’s tongue interchangeably in English and Spanish as he paces the sidewalk with a cameraman by his side.

The actors don’t miss a beat, and crewmembers prop lighting on top of a nearby dumpster to give the scene the glow the 33-year-old award-winning Mexican-born filmmaker has etched in his mind. Moments like these are precious to Xolalpa, whose eyes dart with excitement as he describes his love of film.

Despite his rising fame, Xolalpa, like hundreds of thousands of others, is mired in a years-long battle over whether he can have legal working papers in the United States. Should the courts end the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, he said he’ll find a way to make a living and won’t stop making movies. But, he said, he would reel from the loss of stability in the country where he grew up and has made his home.

“The biggest thing I would lose would be hope,” he said.

For many of the 600,000 immigrants in this position, it isn’t easy to remain hopeful. A U.S. appeals court recently left the program in limbo by returning a hotly contested case about it to a lower court for review. As the country heads into midterm elections that could put Republicans in control of Congress, that decision has ramped up pressure on Democrats to pass legislation to protect these immigrants.

While the Obama administration program has brought educational opportunities, job prospects and benefits such as driver’s licenses and insurance for the immigrants, long-term security has proven elusive. Texas and other states sued over DACA four years ago, and prospects worsened when U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen last year ruled that the program was illegal, allowing it to continue for those already participating but barring new applicants.

Immigrant advocates appealed and the Biden administration went through a new rule-making process aimed at putting the program on more solid ground. This month, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals returned the case to Hanen for review of the new rules; the judge ordered attorneys to brief him on the regulations but didn’t set a timetable for a decision. The case is widely expected to end up before the Supreme Court.

With uncertainty ahead, Biden and his party will face increasing urgency to devise a more lasting DACA fix during the final weeks of the session before the New Year.

DACA was created in 2012 to shield from deportation young immigrants who were born abroad and lacked legal immigration status but who were raised and educated in the United States. Shortly after his election on a largely anti-immigrant platform, President Donald Trump moved to end the program, but the U.S. Supreme Court found he didn’t do so properly and kept DACA intact.

The program was initially open to immigrants between 15 and 30 years old who were attending or had graduated from high school and who didn’t have a felony criminal record. Many original applicants were college students and are now working professionals. Some are parents and even grandparents.

Xolalpa was nine in 1998 when his mother collected him from school in Mexico and took him to catch an airplane bound for Los Angeles. He said his mother was escaping his abusive father, and that she sold toys and T-shirts in Los Angeles’ densely packed downtown streets to make ends meet.

Xolalpa, who came on a travel visa that expired when he was still a child, said he was afraid he’d get stuck in a rut if he took a similar job. So after finishing high school in a Los Angeles suburb, he filed paperwork to become an independent contractor and got work as a property manager, started a small house-cleaning business and went to college.

He wanted to go to law school and perhaps return to Mexico to run for political office, knowing he couldn’t do so in the United States. But after seeing the movie “Black Swan,” Xolalpa said something in him clicked and he knew he wanted to make film.

Xolalpa said he didn’t initially apply for DACA, fearing his family could be deported if he handed his personal information to immigration authorities. He waited about two years before he applied. He said he then had more freedom to apply for jobs, and these came with benefits: health insurance, a (401) k) plan, and a feeling, for the first time, that he was part of the property management company where he worked.

But it didn’t lift all the limitations, especially on his work in film. Xolalpa said he has faced challenges getting permission to travel overseas, which can be done under the program but requires additional paperwork and takes time. He said he missed out on opportunities to attend overseas film festivals and work on a streaming production in Mexico, and doesn’t want that to be his lot forever.

“They’re playing with my life, and it’s just not OK,” he said.

Xolalpa said he made seven films in seven years and has no plans to stop. He started out with an iPhone and $100 budget and now has his own production company, Mighty Aphrodite Pictures, focused on female-driven films. Last year, his film “Your Iron Lady,” which tells his mother’s story, was considered for a Golden Globe nomination after winning awards at a number of film festivals.

His latest film, “Union Station,” is expected out next year, and he has applied to renew his participation in DACA after the federal judge ruled it could continue for now.

Without a solution to his immigration situation in the next two years, though, Xolalpa said he might head overseas to keep making films. He said he loves this country and the opportunities it has given him, but that the chronic instability is taking its toll, leaving him with a restless mind after late nights making movies in a Los Angeles neighborhood with views of the sprawling port just blocks away.

“I don’t like the word ‘Dreamer,'” he said of the term often used to describe participants in the program, which was coined in an earlier legislative proposal to fix the group’s immigration woes. “We’re makers.”

“We’re not victims. We’re heroes,” he said. “We’re making this nation.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Storms could spawn major tornadoes, floods in several states

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Forecasters warned of the potential for strong tornadoes that could stay on the ground for long distances in parts of the South on Tuesday, as well as flooding rains and hail the size of tennis balls. More than 25 million people will be at risk as Tuesday’s potent storm system moves […]
1 day ago
The Kid Laroi appears at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards in Las Vegas on April 3, 2022, left, and Jus...
Associated Press

Apple Music reveals top music in 2022 and listener charts

NEW YORK (AP) — “Stay,” the smash hit by The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber topped Apple Music’s global song chart in 2022 as the giant music streamer released its end-of-year lists and provided listeners with data on their own most listened-to tunes. “Stay,” which stayed atop the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks this […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

US bat species devastated by fungus now listed as endangered

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The Biden administration declared the northern long-eared bat endangered on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to save a species driven to the brink of extinction by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease. “White-nose syndrome is decimating cave-dwelling bat species like the northern long-eared bat at unprecedented rates,” said Martha Williams, director […]
1 day ago
Pope Francis walks past a Vatican Swiss Guard as he arrives to meet with members of the Italian Sch...
Associated Press

Russia protests pope comments as Vatican seeks to mediate

ROME (AP) — Russia has lodged a formal protest with the Vatican over Pope Francis’ latest condemnation of atrocities in Ukraine, in which the pontiff blamed most of the cruelty on Chechens and other minorities in an apparent effort to spare ethnic Russian troops from criticism. The Kremlin’s ambassador to the Holy See, Alexander Avdeev, […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Ethiopia offers no date for end to blackout in Tigray region

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — There is “no timeline” for restoring internet access to Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, a senior government official said Tuesday. The restoration of Tigray’s internet service will be carried alongside the resumption of its phone and electricity services, though no date has been set for those goals, Ethiopia’s Minister for Innovation and […]
1 day ago
Ohio State University president Kristina Johnson speaks Jan. 21, 2022 in Newark, Ohio. Johnson says...
Associated Press

Ohio State leader Johnson resigning halfway through contract

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State University President Kristina Johnson says she’ll step down when the school year ends in May, resigning after less than three years at the helm of one of the nation’s largest public universities. The 65-year-old Johnson thanked Ohio State students and employees in a letter Monday but did not explain […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Mexican-born filmmaker fears losing hope if DACA thrown out