The Gatekeeper (3/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

Adam Fields (writer-producer-director John Carlos Frey) is a bigoted U.S. Border Agent who goes privately undercover to expose illegal immigration from Mexico. As he is Hispanic, he goes to Mexico and poses as an emigrant, wanting to get across the border illegally. Alas, things go from bad to worse and heís trapped in an organized crystal meth drug ring, unable to reveal his identity. But a transformation occurs as he begins to sympathize with the plight of the illegal immigrants with whom he is grouped as, basically, slaves for the ring.

Adam is trapped. But this isnít a story about what happens to him, itís a story designed to inspire sympathy for the illegal immigrant and they way theyíre treated, and it accomplishes that. The immigrants are all wonderful people, horribly oppressed by the hateful anglo drug bosses who control their destinies.

All well and good. But what the film ignores is that these people are breaking the law! Nobody asked them to illegally enter the United States. The film tries to make the viewer feel sympathy for them and to blame anglos and the American government, and this is where itís dead wrong.

The problem of illegal immigration from Mexico begins at home, with Vicente Fox and the Mexican government who have been so corrupt that they have not created an economy that allows its people to live in prosperity in their own country. Lopez-Portillo, who was President of Mexico in the 1970s, was a prime example of why Mexicans try to flee. While it was not unusual for Mexican Presidents to earn hundreds of millions of dollars during their single, six-year term, through corruption, Lopez Portillo took it to the extreme and earned billions. I donít doubt that Fox is much different, although he has taken an amazing anti-American attitude and blamed everything on the United States.

The fact is that nobody pulls a gun on these people and orders them to try to enter the United States illegally. They do it because of the failure of their government, run by Mr. Fox. A picture like this, which brings the support of celebrities like Bruce Springsteen, who donated a song to the film, ignores the serious problems that cause this in Mexico, and the problems illegal immigration causes to the economy of the United States in terms of welfare costs.

On a professional level, this film is, well, not, uh, totally professional. But it was shot on a $200,000 budget, so you have to admire the chutzpah involved in getting it produced. The locations, in south San Diego County, are realistic.

I have a hard time giving this a good review because it is so slanted to one point of view and wrong-headed. The individuals who flee Mexico are deserving of our sympathy. But they are so many in numbers and they cause so much trouble to our economy that I donít want to write much encouraging about this.

Hereís the problem. I sympathize with these people who want a better life. But thatís not something that is the problem of the United States. The problem that the United States causes, and should be addressed, is that the United States encourages this because of itís pie-in-the-sky welfare system, which discourages people from performing menial jobs, jobs that are necessary, like picking crops and performing household cleaning services. If Americans who are on welfare werenít on welfare, they would have to perform these jobs and theyíd be happy for them. But, since Lyndoní Johnsonís ill-named Great Society encourages people to go on welfare rather than work for a living, these jobs go wanting, and theyíre filled by illegal immigrants.

So, this film, which is pretty slow but does hold your interest finally, is tendentious. All people who suffer deserve sympathy, but this is so slanted, and so ignores the causes of the problem of illegal immigration, that it leaves a totally incorrect impression, and that impression is that illegal immigrants are not responsible for their victimization. In fact, they make the decision to break the law and enter the United States illegally. In fact, they are criminals.

The real dilemma caused by illegal immigration is people who cross the border illegally to work for good, honest people, like farmers and homeowners who hire them to pick their crops and clean their homes. The immigrants are not mistreated. They are paid a living wage and generally send money home to their families in Mexico. The problem is how to deal with this flood of people who do provide valuable services to people who are willing to pay them.

But, no, instead of dealing with this difficult problem, Frey takes the demagogic way out and pictures the immigrants as working for brutal criminals producing illegal drugs. While this might happen, this type of occurrence is extremely rare.

So, in the end, this is a dishonest film, asking people to make a judgment on illegal immigration by presenting a rare occurrence as a generalization. As such, it is deplorable.

March 14, 2004

The End