December 2008
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The Visitor – A Look at American Immigration

The Visitor had a bit of personal meaning to me while watching it which I didn’t fully realize until I began. The movie hit me from two different angles. The first and most obvious to me was that main character Walter Vale (played by Richard Jenkins) was not happy and not at all comfortable in his life. I’ve felt this way from time to time and have often thought of how terrible it would be to go on like that indefinitely. The second angle is that of the American Immigration system. Having recently attempted to bring a long distance relationship closer by having her stay with me for a few months from another country, I know (almost) first hand how rude, disrespectful, and unhelpful the Immigration officers at the airport can be. The Visitor is not about airport immigration at all but it shows the same calloused view and methods taken by our system. I hesitate to even say “our” system because I’m ashamed to admit it is ours as Americans.

The movie definitely wants to make a point but since I agree with the idea that something is terribly wrong, I enjoyed it. If you are someone who does not like to be persuaded then perhaps you may not like the film but you are still free to make up your own mind. I try to stay away from politically motivated postings on my blog since that is not the main purpose so I will ask the reader to take a look at the movie. The plot on the main website basically spells out the entire thing so if you read before watching the movie you won’t be surprized by much.

There is one part that stood out to me. After a while Walter finds out that Tarek and his mother Mouna came to the US from Syria after his father was jailed for something he wrote in the newspaper there. They were seeking Asylum when they first came. After making calls to a lawyer and seeking information on what would happen to Tarek (who was detained) his mother says

No one seems to know anything. It
feels like Syria.

That stung a bit. I have always felt that the USA was a better place to live than many other countries out there because of the freedoms we have but when seeing how people are treated when coming here for legitimate reasons it’s hard not to ask: How much better are we?

If interested, there is information at

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