Feel Good Story

My last post for August 2020 is about a remarkable story documented on film. The last time I had this much excitement about a film was when Kevin Costner starred in McFarland. The new film is titled Spare Parts and stars George Lopez a standup comedian who shows us a new face in his role as an unemployed engineer who takes a job as substitute Science teacher in a Phoenix high school.

Both stories take place in poor communities heavily populated with illegal immigrants, all working in a cash society without any documentation. They send their kids to school because it is the law and they don’t want break any laws and bring attention to themselves. The teachers involved take the job seriously and learn to coach their students effectively. In Spare Parts, Lopez is corralled by a really smart kid to mentor a team four who want to enter an underwater robot contest.

The kids gel into a team and brainstorm through the problems associated with a robotic device that must function under water. They finish in time to drive to Santa Barbara for the competition. They enter into the college division because they rationalize that if they lose against a bunch of high schoolers no one will know the difference, but if they lose against MIT they will at least get some mention.

The story of how the team constructs “Stinky,” as they have named their creation, creates enough interest, but the story is deeper than just the kids building a robot from junk. There is a love interest between Lopez and another teacher played by Marisa Tomei, and conflict between one of the key members of the team and his father. The lad who initiated the whole project is running from I.C.E. who is hot on his trail to deport him.

Although the film does not get political, it does make the viewer aware of the problems involved with undocumented workers and their kids. They live in fear, they work for menial wages, they stay clear of the law, anything to stay here in America. The team member who has conflict with his father is under pressure to guard his brother who was born in the USA, while their mother was found and deported to Mexico.

Both McFarland and Spare Parts are films based on true stories. In both cases some of the plots are so unbelievable they have to be true because one couldn’t imagine the situations these characters go through. I give Spare Parts five stars. It has all the components of a great film, but most of all it is a tear jerking funny, and romantic story that keeps the viewers interest throughout. I will watch it again and again just as I have watched McFarland five times.

All through this film I kept thinking about the two families Iknow personally who are undocumented, and are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to staying in America. In my two cases the families have been here for over twenty-five years. Neither has been able to apply for Social Security nor any of the social programs we have here. Because of new Homeland Security rules they cannot fly on any domestic flights. They can leave the country to visit relatives, but reentry may take as long as ten years before they are granted new visas and green cards. In one family they traveled here with a young daughter who was a toddler. She is as American as any other kid in the country, but she is undocumented, her brothers who were born here are US citizens. In my mind this opposes a real moral dilemma. The toddlers who were dragged here should be granted automatic citizenship. The parents should be given some grace for each year they have lived here without any trouble.

Of course all people in this situation know where all the loop holes exist in the immigration system. We who have no interest in knowing the details of immigration have no clue about how illegal immigrants survive under our laws. Why should we? That is why we elect our representatives. It is their job to write the laws that govern these situations. Over the past twenty plus years under our bureaucracies, and our law makers we have allowed the problem of allowing undocumented people into the country and now we are faced with a real dilemma about how to resolve the issue. First, we have to stop the flow into the country. We need the wall, we need more and better border control, but most of all we need the resolve to enforce the laws. Then we must work on taking care of all the kids who were dragged here by their parents, lastly we must enable the undocumented people who have been here for so many years to stay here legally, and to give them a path to permanent residency, and a path to citizenship. Of course the easiest thing to do is to grant them all amnesty, but that didn’t work the first time we tried it, and we mustn’t allow it to happen again.

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