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DACA Written into "National Treasure"

photo from National Treasure: Edge of History for Gasparian Spivey Immigration

I started watching National Treasure: Edge of History on Disney+ (no spoilers, please!) this weekend, and one interesting twist is that the lead character is undocumented and registered for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). It comes up in the first episode when the boyfriend of Jess, played by Lisette Olivera, warns her not to pursue a risky plan because she might face “the D-word. Deportation.”

In the show (filmed in Baton Rouge), he’s worried about what will happen when Jess tries to solve a mystery that involves a Freemason’s gavel and an Aztec treasure, but all across America on a daily basis, people with DACA protection have to do similar mental calculus, though for more mundane reasons. Feel wronged? Do you feel so wronged that you’re willing to deal with the unwanted attention that come as a result of complaining? How sure are you that you and those around you can stand up to the scrutiny that might come as a result? And how much do you trust the authorities? It’s not like federal and local law enforcement have given people a reason to feel confident dealing with them.

Putting that dimension on screen helps people appreciate the undocumented immigrant’s situation more precisely. People who don’t know anyone undocumented or with DACA status—or don’t know that they know someone—now have a window into one aspect of the lives of DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants. That’s the first step. Television can play a major role in normalizing situations that are outside of people’s day to day lives, giving them insight and understanding that gets lost in the political back and forth. It’s not a reach to trace many positive changes for the LGBTQ community to MTV’s second season of The Real World in 1994 when cast member Pedro Zamora was the first person many American saw living with AIDS.

It’s too early for me to know how sensitively DACA and being undocumented will be treated in the series, but that’s almost beside the point. Writing DACA into the show doesn’t mean we’ll get to comprehensive immigration reform any time soon, but National Treasure: Edge of History can play a part in slowing changing the discourse on immigration.

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