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“Show Me Your Papers!” – PBS Takes on The State of Arizona Immigration Law

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PBS Independent Lens Show Me Your Papers


Immigration reform – as well as opposition to it – is at the heart of Arizona’s controversial “show me your papers” law, and the documentary The State of Arizona which airs Monday on PBS tackles this head-on. A mostly balanced exploration that points out the frustration of citizens with federal inaction over illegal immigration as well as the concerns of immigrants and others over the potential for civil rights infringement by local authorities, The State of Arizona presents both sides of the issue. Filmmakers Catherine Tambini and Carlos Sandoval do so by telling stories from the point of view of individuals and families, from local sheriffs and cattle ranchers to undocumented home owners and immigrant businessmen.

The State of Arizona is part of the Independent Lens series and will premiere on most PBS stations at 10 pm Eastern Time on Monday, January 27.

While acknowledging that there is problem and one that must be addressed, the filmmakers are quite clear about on which side of the Arizona law issue they stand, but at the same time respectfully allow supporters of the “show me your papers” law to plead their case. They follow the battle from the Phoenix to Washington, where the Supreme Court ruled that parts of the law could stand – provided the state could show that enforcement would not lead to racial profiling or subject people to lengthy periods of detention. Tambini and Sandoval also depict how supporters of the original bill balked at attempts to pass even stricter laws, many of which challenged the 14th Amendment and its right to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants born on American soil.

The State of Arizona is an important and informative contribution to the debate over immigration reform; it is a film that acknowledges the problem and explores the positions and situations of those caught up on both sides of the issue.

The State of Arizona is part of the Independent Lens series and will premiere on most PBS stations at 10pm Eastern Time on Monday, January 27. (Connecticut Public Television has not yet scheduled an air date for The State of Arizona, although Connecticut viewers who can access New York and Boston stations will be able to view The State of Arizona on Monday).

Mark G. McLaughlin is a Connecticut-based free lance journalist and game designer with over 30 years of experience as a ghost-writer, columnist, historian and game designer. An author whose first published book was Battles of the American Civil War, and whose games include the Mr. Lincoln’s War set, Mark continues to be enthralled by stories from the age of Lincoln. To view Mark's 16th published design, the American Civil War Naval strategy game Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, visit his publisher at
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