Episode 44

Linda Freedman - UNACCOMPANIED Children: Alone in America


October 7th, 2020

58 mins 48 secs

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About this Episode

This episode is near and dear to my heart because I get to interview one of my favorite people in the whole world: Linda Freedman. Linda is one of my biggest heroines because she taught me something really powerful about age - it doesn’t MATTER! She is also a model of generosity and compassion toward other human beings who need our help, and she dared to believe she could make a difference, and boy, did she.

I had the opportunity to work with her a few years back and the project changed me. It had a profound impact on shaping my understanding of what it takes to make an impact, and that when you really desire to do something in service to others, nothing is impossible.

Linda is the writer and producer of UNACCOMPANIED: Alone in America, a short film that shows what happens when unaccompanied children cross the US-Mexico border and appear in immigration court without a lawyer. The film has been viewed online by more than 50 million people in over 170 countries and won a special award at the Indie foreign film festival.

After working as a documentary filmmaker for the last decade, Linda has shifted gears and is now writing instead of producing stories that she hopes will have the same impact as unaccompanied. She's completed the pilot for a limited TV series on unaccompanied children and a second pilot for a TV series about the trauma response work that she does. She lives in Portland, Oregon with Mateo, her yellow Labrador retriever, and recently discovered a new way to stay in shape - non-contact boxing.

  • In recent years the number of unaccompanied immigrant children migrating to the United States has nearly tripled and they have no representation or legal counsel, leaving them vulnerable and alone.

  • In mid-March 2014, Linda was sitting at her breakfast table reading The Oregonian. She came across a piece written by Anna Ciesielski, a young lawyer working for Immigration Counseling Service, who represents unaccompanied children from Central America in immigration proceedings. She described the situations these children face and the nature of her work with them, and it broke something in Linda.

    • Under U.S. law, children arrested for entering the U.S. illegally have no right to a court-appointed lawyer.
    • Although most children don’t speak or understand English, they have no access to interpreters. They don’t understand U.S. immigration laws; laws so complex, most adults aren’t able to comprehend them.
  • Children have no way to contact, communicate with, or hire a lawyer.

  • Linda spent months talking with and filming interviews with pro bono attorneys who had represented unaccompanied children. She attended immigration hearings and talked to anyone who had any experience working with unaccompanied kids.

  • Because the Department of Justice does not allow recording devices in immigration hearings, it felt impossible to convey the story that needed to be told. Linda became so disheartened, she shelved the project for more than a year.

  • Finally, a new approach took shape, film a reenactment of the children's circumstances in the most realistic way possible. With the help of an amazing team, we brought the vision to life.

  • Over four years later, and with timing that was devastatingly appropriate, Linda was relieved to finally be sharing the story of unaccompanied children, the forgotten ones, who have no one to guide them, hold them, or serve them.

  • Linda is now writing a pilot for a series she hopes will get picked up.

  • Linda has a son with Mobius syndrome that she admires so much due to his mindset and resilience.

  • Linda was born in 1940, making her 80 years old, and she never tires of learning and taking risks.

  • Linda believes that the combination of curiosity, passion, and perseverance means that you can do anything

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