Expanding Sanctuary



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Support the stories of resilience! The documentary project Expanding Sanctuary follows landmark campaign, led by the Philadelphia immigrant community and Juntos, to limit police surveillance.


In The Press


“Kristal Sotomayor is producing and directing a documentary film called Expanding Sanctuary. The film follows immigrant rights organization Juntos as they campaigned against the continuation of PARS, a database of personal information shared between the city of Philadelphia and ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.”


“Camera in hand, Kristal Sotomayor found herself in the streets of Philadelphia capturing what came to be a historic moment: the end of a more than 10-year-old agreement that allowed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers access to the Police Department’s Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS).”


“As a queer woman of color, our stories are not told by us, or people who live our experience. It’s told by privilege,” she said. “I have privilege with the camera of telling this story and being responsible to this community and to decolonize the sometimes-abusive ways documentary filmmakers take a story from the community. I didn’t want to do what straight white male filmmakers do when they make communities-of-color documentaries.”


“This film is a success story, it’s about an immigrant community that is being heavily targeted right now, that is able to organize to make political changes, policy changes that will help them. That isn’t often seen… I think that this offers a different perspective on immigration because now it’s just sadness and tragedy with people being like, ‘oh they’re helpless.’ Immigrants are not helpless. They are incredibly strong people.”


“It was “fate,” said Sotomayor, that it happened to be the perfect moment for the beginning of a partnership that would eventually produce “Expanding Sanctuary,” a documentary on the work of Juntos and immigrant activists to expand immigrant rights in Philadelphia.”

““Fue el destino”, dijo Sotomayor, que hubiese sido el momento perfecto para iniciar una sociedad que más tarde produjo “Expanding Sanctuary” [Santuario en Expansión], un documental acerca de la labor de Juntos y de activistas inmigrantes que buscan expandir los derechos de los inmigrantes en Filadelfia.”


“I mostly want people to learn about the different systems of policing and surveillance that affect communities of color, because this issue of the sharing of the police database doesn’t only affect Latinx immigrants… It just happens that Latinx immigrants-rights organizations were the ones that kind of led this, but it doesn’t mean that it just affects them. It affects all immigrants, and it also affects all people of color…If someone can learn more about how to liberate themselves from these systems that just want to imprison communities of color, then I think that’s it.”


“Expanding Sanctuary is directed by Kristal Sotomayor and produced by an all WOC team including Sotomayor, Marangeli Mejia-Rabell, Samantha Tan, Annie Diaz and Selena Yip. The film highlights Juntos’ work to end Philadelphia’s practice of sharing its police database to ICE, putting immigrant families at risk for deportation without legal due process. “The database holds personal information of not only those arrested, but anyone who has had any contact with the police… This means ICE had access to victims, witnesses, and those fingerprinted at the border.” Using this information, ICE has been able to follow through with deportation throughout Philadelphia.”


“Working with Juntos, a “community-led, Latinx organization in South Philadelphia” that advocates for the rights of workers, youth, and immigrants, Sotomayor told me about the documentary that follows the journey to end the sharing of Philadelphia police database information (PARS) with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). During the course of our conversation, Sotomayor shared her impetus for the project, the all-womxn crew, the systemic obstacles within the film industry, and ultimately, their success in fighting for social change.”


Mixing It Up with Maggi: Expanding Sanctuary

By Maggi delgado, PinkLeo Productions

“Maggi talks to Kristal about her new documentary Expanding Sanctuary which explores the immigration community in Philadelphia.”