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Virginia filmmaker highlights the plight of Latino immigrants here

Ricardo Preve
Luis Sens
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The Preve Films crew hopes to tell the story of Latino immigrants in central Virginia.

About a third of the immigrants in this country come from Mexico, South and Central America. Among them is Ricardo Preve who feared for his life when he left Argentina in 1977.

"I was opposed to the military government there," he explains. "I came here with nothing – with the clothes I had on. I crossed the Atlantic on a small sailboat from Argentina to South Africa, and then from South Africa to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I took the bus to Charlottesville, and I had some relatives in the Batesville area who took me in."

Here he met filmmakers from National Geographic and was hired to help with documentaries. The work would take him to more than 80 countries. Now, he is turning the camera on people who – like him – had to leave their homeland.

"They come to the U.S. escaping a number of things -- for one thing, poverty. Second climate change has created storms and hurricanes that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes in central America, and very much the drug cartels, the gang violence have made it impossible for people who either need to join the drug cartels or they will be killed," Preve says.

Because they’re undocumented, Preve feared subjects would be unwilling to share their stories. In fact, many have come forward to be part of the film he calls Pathways.

A woman tells how she and her children were kidnapped and held for ransom. A young man who was brought here at the age of two hopes he can stay in the country he considers his home. A transgender woman recalls persecution in Latin America. Each tale is different, and Preve says, each pathway deserves our respect.

"Most of them are hard-working, family-oriented, honest people who do not get government handouts, and we’ve got to face the fact that they’re here, and we have to move forward proactively to deal with them, just like this country has done with other migrations before."

One of those featured, an immigration lawyer in Charlottesville, explains that going through legal channels to enter this country was just not an option.

"I could get a call today from a U.S, citizen who wants to bring over the adult child or their parent, and I say, ‘Sure, we can do that.’ Do they have 22 years?' because if they’re from Mexico it’s a 22-year wait," she explains.

Preve finished shooting the film this summer and will spend the next six months editing. He hopes to screen his work at the Virginia Film Festival before it is broadcast or streamed for a national audience.

Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.