America; I Too

Three arrested and detained undocumented immigrants must navigate the system to fight impending deportation. Starring Academy Award nominee Barkhad Abdi.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
20 mins
Closed captioning available Audio description available
Remote video URL


Three arrested and detained undocumented immigrants must navigate the system to fight impending deportation. America; I Too, stars Academy Award nominee Barkhad Abdi and features the music of Grammy winners Quetzal. Closed captioning available in Spanish, Korean, simple Chinese, Haitian-Creole, Vietnamese, and Brazilian-Portuguese.

Featured review

The film is strong, fair and badly needed. I hope that the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights continues to speak up for all of us. Silence is not an option.
Jorge Ramos
8 time Emmy Award winning journalist and News Anchor, Univision


Young muralist Manny Santiago is arrested after being wrongfully accused of tagging his very own mural. After being unduly locked up in a holding cell overnight he learns that he was ordered removed back in 2008 due to his undocumented immigration status and that his name came up in the “gang database.” Manny insists that he was nine years old in 2008, unaware of any pending deportation, and certainly not a part of any gang. When he refuses to sign a voluntary departure Manny is sent into detention.

Meanwhile Korean elder Myeong Kim is just starting her shift at the garment factory, the same factory where young pizza delivery guy Ahmed Omar has arrived to deliver a pizza. Both discover in horror, however, that they have walked into a setup for an immigration raid. The two bewildered and undocumented immigrants are sent to the same detention center as Manny.

Manny, Myeong and Ahmed each go on to make three distinctly different journeys to stave off deportation and stay in the country. While wrestling with criminalization, humiliation and limited resources, Manny, Myeong and Ahmed each dig for their unique option for legal relief, and for the courage to fight for it. “America; I Too” is based on actual testimonies and true experiences.


Based upon the testimonies of those who have navigated through the treacherous maze that is the U.S. immigration system, this provocative short film provides a glimpse into not only the power that the state and its agents have over people's lives but also the power of community. Both devastating and inspiring, it is an indispensable educational tool for anyone seeking to understand what is perhaps the most hotly debated issue of our time.
Andrea Queeley
Associate Professor, Global and Sociocultural Studies, African and African Diaspora Studies, Florida International University
This film is right in the middle of the conversation right now internationally; it felt like a feature film to me.
Emmy award winning journalist Callie Crossley
Under the Radar, WGBH
Powerful, heart wrenching, and with a story that brings together the struggles of all sorts of immigrants; what a call to action.
American writer, music journalist, cultural critic and television personality
America; I Too expands awareness of the diversity of people affected by immigration issues. This film depicts who America is and the global concerns around who immigrants are and who is deportable will open many eyes.
Dr. Kamau Kemayo
Chair of African-American Studies, University of Illinois Springfield
We need to help each other just as we all need help at one time or another. I wanted to do this project because while this information might be helpful to some people, someday I may need help too.
Academy Award Winner
Barkhad Abdi
A fantastic tool for teaching about how to stand up for immigrants' rights--both for those directly affected as well as for their allies. "America; I too" could not be more timely.
Caitlin Patler
Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Sociology UC Davis

Awards and Screenings

Migrant Center Award, Indie & Foreign Film Festival, 2018
Best Short Feature, Show me Justice Film Festival, 2018
Special Recognition Short Film, (In)justice for All Film Festival, 2018
Best Narrative Short, Roxbury International Film Festival, 2017
Best in Show, Docs Without Borders, 2017
North Dakota Human Rights Film & Arts Festival, 2018
FilmGirlFilm Festival, 2018
Official Latino short film Festival, 2018
Global Impact Film Festival, 2018
Beyond the Lens Film Festival, 2018
DisOrient Asian American Film Festival, 2018
The Women's Film Festival, 2018
Chicago Social Change Film Fest (now known as ChangeFest), 2017

Director Commentary

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) commissioned the short film not knowing production would start on the same day President Trump signed an Executive Order to deny U.S. entrance to anyone from the seven countries of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia. Academy award nominee Barkhad Abdi signed up for the project unaware that two of the places he lived - Somalia and Yemen would be included in the ban. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, on April 10, 1985, Abdi earned wide acclaim for his first film role in Captain Phillips (2013) and has gone on to be cast in the highly anticipated “Blade Runner” reboot.

"America; I Too" draws its title from the Langston Hughes poem "I Too," and is as much a work of protest and community organizing as it is a work of art. The film features a predominantly immigrant cast and crew including over 250 Extras, most of whom are undocumented immigrants living in greater Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and Lancaster, California. The cast and crew worked together to shoot the short in just three days, creating an empowerment tool for immigrant communities desperate for education around what to do in the event of arrest or pending deportation couched in a personal and moving story.

It has been a joy for me to work on this project. My hope is that this film will give a sense of what undocumented immigrant families and detainees are struggling with in the United States as well as remind Americans of what is at the core of the American Dream; justice, fairness, opportunity and yes, fighting like hell for our constitutional rights.

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Audio Description
  • Closed Captioning
  • Subtitles
  • Resources for Educators

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • English
  • Chinese
  • Spanish

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

Resources for Educators

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