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Documentary looks at the plight of immigrant construction workers, including DACA recipients

Christian Hurtado came to the U.S. when he was 14 and could stand to lose everything if the U.S. government ends DACA.
Christian Hurtado came to the U.S. when he was 14 and could stand to lose everything if the U.S. government ends DACA.
Moyo Oyelola

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Back in 1996, Christian Hurtado was 14-years-old and living in a small town in Mexico, when his parents told him the family was going to a wedding in Texas.

But what he thought would be a short trip, in reality was a cover for his parents' plans for a permanent move to the United States.

Christian's father got a construction job, and Hurtado eventually started working in construction too — later becoming one of the first undocumented immigrants to receive temporary protection from deportation and a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

After his father died in an on-the-job accident, and promises from his employer to help with funeral expenses went unfulfilled, Hurtado began advocating for safety protections for all workers, regardless of their immigration status.

As a DACA recipient, Hurtado says, he's felt more free to bring up safety concerns than his fellow undocumented workers without DACA protections.

They think because they're undocumented, they feel afraid to talk about safety. I feel now, some of the guys working in construction who got DACA, now they feel like we will be pushed back to the shadows.

Hearing the news Tuesday of President Trump's plans to end the DACA program in six months, Hurtado says felt like a nightmare.

Hurtado’s story is featured in a forthcoming documentary called "Building the American Dream," about the exploitation of immigrant construction workers in Texas.

The film is directed by Chelsea Hernandez, who joined The Frame via Skype from Austin, Texas. Once audiences see her film, she hopes they will see DACA recipients differently.

DACA recipients are a vital part of communities. I've seen it firsthand in the construction industry. They're the ones building our workplaces, our schools, our roads, our skylines — we need their help. In Texas, there is a huge construction labor shortage and getting rid of of these DACA recipients isn't going to help the situation. They're not taking away jobs in Texas or throughout the country, they're building our nation. And they've been building our country for decades, centuries. So they're just a vital part of our community and our American society. 


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