Company: Independent Lens (PBS)
Age Range: High School and College
Includes Teaching Materials
Subject Areas: Social Studies, Current Events, Language Arts, Debate, Sociology, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement, Ethics, Psychology
Film Synopsis: Raised as American’s in inner-city projects near Seattle, 3 Cambodian refugees each made a rash decision as teenagers that shaped life. Facing deportation, they find themselves caught between past and future by a system that doesn’t offer any second chances.
Running Time and Sections: 4 programs—17 minutes
Sentenced Home is a documentary that follows three different Cambodian-American men as they face deportation from America. The video was definitely interesting because I had no idea about the various circumstances that happen when immigrants commit crimes and, quite honestly, I did not really know much about the immigration and deportation process. The film should only be shown to high school students and up, it is not meant for younger children and I do not think they would really understand it. The film did a great job of translating information when a deportee said some language that a common person would not understand.
Sentenced Home follows Kim Ho Ma, Loeun Lun, and Many Uch who are each facing deportation. All raised in the projects of inner-city Seattle, these young men are faced with leaving a country they have known as familiar and entering their country of origin as foreigners. When the men, not related, arrived in the United States in the early 1980s, they found themselves face to face with the American immigration system after committing crimes as teenagers. Because they are “permanent residents,” they are not given the same protections as American citizens. Also, in 1996 a new anti-terrorism legislation was created that denied “permanent residents,” who had committed violent crimes, the chance to “challenge” deportation.
Kim Ho Ma arrives in Cambodia and is frustrated at not being able to find any work. He is a Cambodian-American and does not know how to create a livelihood to support himself, or a family. Loeun Lun had a family in America, a wife and children, when he was separated from them and deported to Cambodia. Many Uch awaits his deportation throughout the video, and decides to take advantage of whatever time he has left by helping the young Cambodian-Americans with little-league baseball; he hopes that this will help other kids get off the streets and provide them with the feeling of belong somewhere.
In my personal opinion, I understand that these men were teenagers when they committed their offenses. But, in a way, the events that are happening are occurring as consequences to stupid decisions. Their families risked everything to bring them to America and to give them a safer and better life than if they had stayed in Cambodia. Yet, these individuals brought shame upon their mothers and fathers by getting into trouble. I understand that if the offense was not too horrific, then a second chance seems reasonable, but you cannot try to negotiate when you are the person that got into trouble in the first place. The moral of the story is, stay out of trouble.