Headlights flicker down a desert trail.

"La Migra! Vamonos!"

They scatter, along with the aspirations of 13,017,293 others. Over 13 million people - that's the number of Mexican citizens who would move to the U.S. without authorization if given opportunity to do so.

Set in the sweltering desert of the Southwest U.S., ILEGALES defines the raw motives and realities of illegal immigration on the U.S./Mexico border. Written from the perspective of the immigrants themselves, the film captures the social, economic, and political impact of this difficult issue from all sides. Crisscrossing the border, it depicts the businesses that enable illegal immigrants, the officials who track them, and the social institutions that unwittingly support them. Through heartbreak and hope, five separate, but connected stories weave together, asking - What lines would you cross for a better life?

Maribel (Shirley Rumierk) refuses to be broken by her circumstances. With a meager job as a waitress in Juarez, Mexico, she is perpetually accosted by ignorant Americans who frequent the restaurant where she works. Her spirit of optimism and self-sufficiency helps to finance her education and support her mother and young son. Maribel's driving hope is to become a U.S. citizen, but after seven years of failed legal immigration attempts, she is faced with a weighty choice: Seek legal citizenship as a matter of principle, or flee Juarez at great personal risk to get her son the urgent medical care he needs.

With simplicity and moral conviction, Ariel (Luis Bordonada) works as a day laborer in the cotton fields of New Mexico. But the pressures of necessity and hope of a better life slowly pushes him to ever darker roles amongst his bracero (migrant worker) brethren. Splashed against the bright joys of his wife and son, Ariel's convictions quietly set with the desert sun, and he finds himself trafficking drugs and people. Will money and shallow progress overcome him? Or will he resist?

Arturo (Omar Leyva) works the fields with Ariel. Despite the injustice and pain that surrounds them, he speaks with wisdom and moral conviction. But will his words be met with action? When a snap decision pits Arturo against a smooth operating ICE agent (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), he must decide where to place his loyalties and how to define the coyote (those who traffic people and goods for a fee) value system.

Carrying a pensive grimace and a soft heart, Igancio (Jorge Jimenez) washes dishes at a diner in New Mexico. An illegal immigrant with young children, he is constantly threatened by discovery and deportation. To survive, he must juggle work, parenting as a single father, and quietly sell drugs to teens in a dead-end town. As he patiently waits for naturalization, U.S. Immigration agents circle in, seeing him as an entry point into the workings of a Mexican drug cartel.

As a low-level Mexican coyote and trafficker, Chuy (Salome Martinez), muscles for favor with a drug cartel's leader as he shuttles drugs across the border in unassuming green backpacks. Through coercion and machismo force, Chuy drags a weary band of migrant farm workers down with him, putting dozens of lives at risk while on his way to better plans. Beneath a hardened exterior, he longs for a way out his miserable position, driving the intersection of the film's characters with grit and force.

ILEGALESWhat lines would you cross for a better life?


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