Resilience Undocumented

RESILIENCE UNDOCUMENTED focuses on Latino immigrant day laborers’ lived experience and the effects of poverty and discrimination on their well-being. The film addresses some of the social, structural and environmental factors associated with the struggles these immigrants face by looking at the historical and political context of their everyday lives, to include their legal status, social networks, financial situation, risk environments and their physical and emotional well-being. Through the lives of the few men speaking we begin to see how the story of a few can tell a story of the many in capturing the hardships of the Latino immigrant experience, while highlighting the broader context of what it means to live as an undocumented immigrant.

The film discusses how these immigrants are effected by globalization and political conflicts, while recognizing that the growing violence and poverty in Mexico and Central America has forced many migrants to leave their homes and communities. The film shows that these are people who come to the US to find work and in the process struggle to survive and take care of their families in a system where all odds are against them. By looking at the social determinants of health and the lived experiences of these men, the film provides an informed voice for this often silenced and invisible community deemed as “illegal” and unworthy of many basic human rights.

Discussion Guide


Latino Day Laborers
Forced Migration
Profitability of Undocumented Labor
Social/Political Rights
Labor Rights
Human Rights

Discussion Questions:

  • Why are people migrating to the United States?
  • How did the North American Free Trade Agreement influence migration to the United States from Mexico and the Central American Free Trade Agreement from Central America?
  • What does the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have to do with this migration?
  • What does David Bacon mean when he refers to forced migration?
  • What kind of men are chosen to leave their communities to work in the US?
  • Why is this happening?
  • Do you consider the difficulties they face a result of their own actions?
  • What kind of hardships have these immigrants faced in their home communities that compelled them to leave?
  • Do you think this population deserves access to fair wages? Stable employment? Housing? Health Care? Bank accounts? Drivers’ licenses? Voting rights?
  • Why or why not?
  • Do you think the immigrants in the US are productive members of our society who also contribute to it?
  • Do you think day laborers ought to have the same rights as US citizens? Why or why not?
  • What connotation does the term illegal alien have?
  • What do you think when immigrants are referred to as illegal aliens?
  • How does being an undocumented immigrant affect their emotional lives?
  • How does their stress lead to poor health?
  • Why is it important for marginalized communities to organize?
  • What needs to be done to help protect the rights of undocumented immigrants?

Partner Organization

Some of the organizations in San Francisco currently helping to advance the rights of immigrants, providing resources for this community and accepting donations:

Day Labor program: 3358 Cesar Chavez, (415) 252-5375

Carecen: 3101 Mission St. #101, (415) 642-4400

Dolores Street Community Services: 938 Valencia St., (415) 282-6209

Mission Neighbohood Resource Center: 165 Capp St., (415) 869-7977

Clinica Martin Baro: 3013 24th Street, (415) 206-4058

Instituto Familiar de La Raza: 2919 Mission St., (415) 229-0500

Arriba Juntos: 1850 Mission St., (415) 487-3240

Instituto Laboral de La Raza: 2947 16th St., (415) 431-7522


Anzaldua, Gloria. (1987) Borderlands: The New Mestiza. San Francisco, California: Aunt Lute Book Co.

Aviva, Chomsky. (2007) “They Take Our Jobs!” and 20 Other Myths About Immigration. Boston,  Massachusetts: Beacon Press.

Bacon, David. (2008) Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press. 

Farmer, Paul. (2004) On Suffering and Structural Violence: A View from Below in Violence in War and Peace. edited by Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois. 281-290.

Foucault, Michel. (2004) “Right of Death and Power over Life.” in Violence in War and Peace: An Anthology. Pp. 78-82. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing.

Galtung, Johan. (1969) Violence, Peace, and Peace Research. Journal of Peace Research. 6(3):167-191.

Holmes, Seth M. (2013) Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies.

Martin-Baro, Ignacio. (1996). Writings for a Liberation Psychology. United States of America: First Harvard  University Press.

Metzl, Jonathan and Helena Hansen. (2013) Structural competency: Theorizing a new medical engagement with stigma and  inequality. Social Science and Medicine. NYU: New York, New York.

Nancy and Phillipe Bourgois. (2004) Violence in War and Peace: An Anthology. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing.

Rylko-Bauer, Barbara and Whiteford, Linda and Paul Farmer eds. (2009) Global Health in Times of Violence. Santa Fe, New Mexico: School for Advanced Research Press.

Scheper-Hughes, Nancy and Lock, Margaret M. (1987) The Mindful Body: A Prolegomenon to Future Work in Medical Anthropology. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 1(1):6-41.

Quesada, James. (2011) Structural Vulnerability: Latino Migrants in the United States. Medical Anthropology 30(4):339-351.

Quesada, James. (2011). No Soy Welferero: Undocumented Latino Laborers in the Crosshairs of Legitimation Maneuvers. Medical Anthropology 30(4):386-408.

Meet the Filmmakers

  • Kayla Mulholland is a bilingual Cultural Anthropology student with an emphasis in Visual Anthropology and Latin American Studies and a minor in Global Peace, Human Rights and Justice Studies. She was working with Dr. James Quesada as an interviewer on an NIH funded research project that focused on undocumented psychological and physical health in order to provide insight into the health risks related to living as an undocumented immigrant. This ethnographic research project is where the inspiration for the film derived. Kayla is interested in using applied ethnographic filmmaking as a tool for marginalized communities to combat the forces of structural violence and to create films that visually seek to represent the world from the perspective of others.
  • Young Sun is a young aspiring filmmaker living and working in San Francisco bay area. He is influenced by his Chinese background and inspired by the beauty of Chinese culture. Some of his aspirations are to keep working on and making films of his own in order to be able to hone his skills and also to make passionate pieces, both narrative and documentary, that can broaden peoples perspectives of different cultures.
  • Zhao Chen is a Chinese exchange student from Shanghai Normal University for one semester. Her strong love of documentary and determination to promote social justice encouraged her to take this class. Not only did she direct the documentary The Forth Year of the university in China, she was also the assistant of director in the documentary Wheel of Life, which is a film from the 2014 International Workshop. There is no doubt that she was able to compare the culture in China with the United States and think about the social issue from the international point of view. For the future, she hopes to continue paying attention to communities and spreading awareness of justice with images.
  • Regina Xiong is an exchange student from Shanghai Normal University and majors in Broadcasting and directing there. As an exchange student she studies cinema at San Francisco State University. As a filmmaker she has worked on two documentary projects about immigrants. Documentaries hold her interests because of the real emotion expressed. Filming gives her an opportunity to explore the new world.


*The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute