Documentary filmmaker Luis Argueta presented abUSed: The Postville Raid, discussed the plight of undocumented workers with students

Story by Valeria Obi and Brandi Palmer

Documentary filmmaker and lecturer Luis Argueta  screened and discussed his documentary, abUSed:The Postville Raid, on Thursday evening, Nov. 10, on Stetson’s Gulfport campus. Argueta, who is originally from Guatemala, talked with Stetson Law students about the plight of undocumented workers and the need to reform immigration laws.

Filmmaker Luis Argueta talks with Professor Luz Nagle before the screening of abUSed.

Filmmaker Luis Argueta talks with Professor Luz Nagle before the screening of abUSed.

The documentary, abUSed:The Postville Raid, tells the personal stories of the individuals, families and town directly impacted by the 2008 Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid at Agriprocessors, Inc., that resulted in hundreds of arrests. At the time, the raid was described as the largest, most expensive and most brutal in the history of the U.S.

In less than a week, more than 300 workers were fast-tracked through the U.S. legal system, convicted of criminal charges and sentenced to five months in prison followed by deportation. 

Argueta said that he first had the desire to create this film after reading an article about the raid in the Washington Post. The 14-page article was written by a certified interpreter who was hired by the federal government to work during the arraignment and sentencing process. This interpreter created a vivid picture of what occurred after the raid.

This article inspired Argueta to visit Postville and interview the survivors of the raid. After initially only planning to visit Postville for a few days, Argueta said that he found himself going back 29 times to interview people. He even took a trip to Guatemala to visit the relatives of those in jail. The documentary shows the very damaging effects of the enforcement policy on families, children and the Postville community.

“The film was very touching and informative,” Stetson Law student Tiffany Owens  said after the screening. “I had no idea that the raids even took place. It’s nice to see that someone is being proactive in spreading the word about this issue.”

Argueta, who was born and raised in Guatemala, has been a resident of New York since 1977. He said that he came to the U.S. because he couldn’t breathe in Guatemala. While there, he said he was raised with fear and was taught to never question any injustice because the result could end in death. As he got older, he said he refused to live that way any longer.

Filmmaker Luis Argueta talks with a crowd at Stetson Law during the screening of "abUSed: The Postville Raid."

Filmmaker Luis Argueta talks with a crowd at Stetson Law during the screening of "abUSed: The Postville Raid."

Argueta said that he feels that the biggest problem with immigration policy is that it doesn’t work. He explained that it is impossible to deport 11 million people. He said that ideally, he would like to see an immigration policy based on the respect of human dignity, common sense and compassion.

“As a nation, when we try to solve the immigration issue by relying solely on enforcement and scapegoating the most vulnerable among us, we are engaging in a futile activity,” said Argueta. “Throwing billions of dollars into creating border walls and prisons is only enriching unscrupulous corporations, not solving the problem of undocumented immigration.”

Argueta said that he wants people to see immigrants in a new light and not as people to be feared. He said that he believes that “by looking into the human face of immigrants and walking in their shoes, by being compassionate, we will begin to regain our own lost humanity.”

Argueta was listed in the British newspaper, The Guardian, as one of Guatemala’s National Living Icons. His film, The Silence of Neto, is the only Guatemalan film ever to have reached the Academy Awards competition and he is the only Guatemalan director to have received a CLIO.

Filmmaker Luis Argueta talks at Stetson on Nov. 10.

Filmmaker Luis Argueta talks at Stetson on Nov. 10.

Stetson Law Professor Luz Nagle, Stetson Law third-year student Silvia Manzanero and attorney Linda Friedman Ramirez organized the event.

Stetson’s student International Law Society, Immigration Law Student Association, Amnesty International and the Hispanic Bar Association helped sponsor the event, along with Stetson’s Center for Excellence in International Law, attorney Linda Friedman Ramirez, adjunct law professors Arturo R. Rios and William J. Flynn, III, and Stetson alumnus Jean Pierre Espinoza.