By Cherri Gregg

By Community Affairs reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As lawmakers on Capitol Hill work to hammer out a bill on comprehensive immigration reform, a film that explains the why behind the large number of Latinos immigrating- many illegally- to America will be screened in Philadelphia.

Titled Harvest of Empire, the documentary puts a human face on the issue of illegal immigration.

“We cannot understand the Latino presence in the United States unless we first understand what our government and companies did in Latin America,” says journalist Juan Gonzalez. He wrote the book which sparked the film.

He says although roughly 60 percent of Latinos are from Mexico, the population is as diverse as the circumstances that forced people north to the US. For example, Gonzales says much of the Central America migration in the 1980s was a result of civil wars between the people and the governments.

“The governments were largely backed by the United States, like in Guatemala and in El Salvador,” says Gonzales. “The governments were killing so many of their people that they were forced to flee from the very governments that the U.S. was backing.”

Gonzalez says the examples are plentiful.

“The influx of Dominicans in the United States began after President Lyndon Johnson sent in 25,000 Marines to occupy the Dominican Republic,” he says. “And the government that resulted, the repressive government, caused many Dominicans to flee.”

Gonzales says he’s hoping the film takes people beyond the sound bites and stereotypes of “anchor babies” and “illegal aliens” and shows the real story behind why millions of people felt compelled to leave their homeland.

“Once they have a better understanding of who the people are, what they’ve been through,” says Gonzalez, “maybe they’ll have a different view of what kind of immigration reform this country should pass later this year.”

The film will be screened at Riverview Plaza Theatre on Columbus Boulevard through May 15th.

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