Stories | Homeland: Immigration in America

The New American Dream

Monett is a small idyllic town of 9,000 residents nestled in the rolling plains of Southwest Missouri. It’s also grown into a hub for big business—attracting international industries like Tyson and Pella —and unskilled immigrant workers from Mexico and Guatemala. Monett illustrates a national trend as Hispanics become more visible in small towns with no international borders.

The Best and Brightest

WeiJen Chua is at the cutting edge of her field, working towards a cure for HIV. However, she is struggling to get a worker’s visa upon her graduation. America has a longstanding tradition of being a beacon to immigrants, yet the complexity of the visa process is a complicated and unwelcoming burden. Additionally, polarizing political agendas fuel angry rhetoric, mobilizing many constituents against any form of immigration. Do we want to keep these highly skilled immigrants that have been trained in U.S. academic institutions, at the risk of eschewing American workers?

Illegal in America

Frank Cortez is 26 and facing deportation. He came to America when he was a child, and has lived here ever since. He has built his life in the United States. He has a steady job, owns a home, and doesn’t remember Mexico. Many of his family members are here legally. He is part of one of 8.8 million mixed status families in America. Situations like Frank’s have motivated recent debate around the DREAM Act, and will be affected by President Obama’s new immigration policy.

National Crusader

It’s somewhat surprising that Kris Kobach, the man who molded the controversial Arizona immigration bill, is based so far from the border. Kris Kobach is a Kansas-based attorney who travels the country to help craft legislation that he believes will restrict the flow of illegal immigrants to our land—a flow that he argues needlessly burdens our system and defies the rule of law.

Fruit of their Labor

The Happy Apples orchard in Washington, Missouri needs a stable workforce to pick and process their caramel apples, but this small, family-owned business has trouble finding and retaining dependable workers. As owners Ed and Joette Reidy kick off another apple season, we see just how dependent they are on migrant labor to produce their tasty treats.

Law of the Land

Police officers Matthew Tomasic and Chato Villalobos are veteran police officers based in Kansas City, Missouri’s Westside, home to one of the Midwest’s largest Hispanic neighborhoods. It’s been a place where the undocumented are not defined solely by their legal status and can find refuge at the local migrant labor center staffed by police officers. Can a policy benefit the country but fracture a community?

The Survivor

Justin Semahoro is a 27-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo whose language skills and positive outlook have landed him on the path to success. Justin’s story sheds light onto what factors enable refugees to succeed—language, steady work, a caring community, and often a lot of luck

Welcome Home

The International Welcome School is a safe haven for refugee children to transition into mainstream American life. Unique to the St. Louis area, yet international in its reach – the Welcome School teaches children the linguistic and cultural tools necessary to survive in America.

A New Normal

Karzan Bahaaldin is a 36-year-old civil engineer from Iraq, whose current job at the front desk in a downtown St. Louis hotel has led him to consider returning home. Like Karzan, more than 1.3 million immigrants currently residing in the United States are underutilized and underemployed. Often low-skilled workers have an easier time finding work in America. America seeks to maintain its technical edge in the world, but its policy does little to help these forgotten workers. His story highlights that for many highly skilled immigrants, The United States is just one of many places to take their expertise.

Homeland: Immigration in America

Homeland: Immigration in America is a three-hour documentary series that explores one of the most polarizing issues facing America today. A PBS Election 2012 national special, the series is narrated by Ray Suarez, senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour, and produced by the Nine Network of Public Media in St. Louis.

Explore Homeland

About Homeland

Immigration reform is one of the most polarizing subjects in America today. Many Americans assume that it is only gateway states, bordering Mexico and Canada, where immigration issues are of critical concern. Missouri, in the heartland of America, is a state with no international borders that may seem far removed from the rancor of the immigration debate. Yet the same tensions, anger and political polarization develop there as in the border states. In Homeland: Immigration in America, a three-hour documentary series, Missouri becomes a metaphor for all of America, emblematic of the complicated immigration debate and the changing narrative of what it means to be and become American.

Each of the three Homeland episodes revolves around core themes focusing both on the fine line separating success and failure for immigrants and refugees in America, and the fierce debate about whether legal and illegal immigrants and refugees threaten the American way of life.

Homeland illuminates a new chapter in American history. The series offers viewers personal insights into America’s immigrant experience as a guide in exploring one of the most important public policy debates of our time. The series serves as a vehicle to explore just how much we as a country and a community value assimilation and inclusion, the extent to which we are bound by language, and ultimately, whether we as a nation are still a beacon for immigrants.