Independent Lens: East of Salinas

About This Episode

East of Salinas takes us to Salinas Valley to meet a boy and his teacher — both sons of migrant farm workers. With parents busy working long hours in the fields, Jose Ansaldo often turns to his teacher, Oscar Ramos, for guidance. But Mexico-born Jose is undocumented. Like many migrant children, he is beginning to understand the situation — and the opportunities that may be lost to him through no fault of his own.

Many of the students that enter Oscar's third grade class have never been to the beach, even though it’s twenty miles away. Their parents work from sunup to sundown. They live in cramped apartments in neighborhoods plagued by violence. The kids take on the day-to-day stresses of their parents: making ends meet, dealing with health issues, fearing deportation. In the face of these challenges, Oscar gives his student’s access to a world that often seems beyond their reach.

Jose is one of Oscar’s most gifted students. Despite having moved between seven different schools in three years he still excels in math. But Oscar can only do so much. For Jose, a student with such promise, East of Salinas demonstrates the cruelty of circumstance — a cruelty that touches on the futures of millions of undocumented kids in America.