When filmmaker was driving to the South Fork during the making of his first film, "King of the Hamptons," he never paid much mind to the man standing in front of the in Southampton with signs like, "When they jumped the fence, they broke the law."
That is, until one day, when he got stuck at a red light and the Neil Diamond song "America" came on the radio. With a video camera in hand, he pulled over and started interviewing the protestor, Tom Wedell. It was the start of his second film, "They Come to America," a documentary that takes a nonpartisan look at the human and financial cost of illegal immigration.
"I decided I would travel the entire country, especially the hot spots, and just focus on ordinary people and how illegal immigration was affecting them — positively and negatively," said Lynch, who moved to East Hampton in 2010. "I didn't take a left-tone or a right-tone. I took a truth tone."
He finished the final cut just two months ago, but already the film is causing a stir. Lynch was a guest on Fox & Friends on Wednesday morning.
While illegal immigration is a familiar issue, long a hot-button topic on Long Island and the South Fork, Lynch felt strongly that he had to experience as much as he could first-hand. That included a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border where he and his crew slept in the desert for three days dodging cartels that run human and drug trafficking operations. "I wanted to see how open our borders are," Lynch said. "They are really open."
He interviewed local ranchers who fear for their lives. "One rancher said that if he takes his family out to dinner, when they return home he has to check the entire house with a gun before he can let his kids back inside," he recalled. "They constantly find illegal immigrants — not just Latino, but Arabic and Chinese — squatting in their houses and barns.”
In looking at the financial costs of illegal immigration on education and health care, Lynch also took his camera to English as a Second Language classes. It was there he found illegal immigrants who spoke candidly about their objective to make as much money as they can in the U.S. and then return back to their country.
He also found other stories that he calls the human cost of illegal immigration. “So many of them are polite, friendly, hard-working, good people who violated our immigration laws because they dream of being American. They want to add value to the community and pay taxes. They want to raise their families here but can’t without doing so underground,” Lynch said.
One-third of the film was shot on the South Fork. He filmed illegal immigrants willing to share their stories and answer questions — two of whom were Ecuadorians looking for work at the in East Hampton and in Southampton.
John Roland, a former news anchor on Fox 5 and long-time resident of Westhampton, helped conduct some of the political interviews for the film.
Overall, Lynch sought to shine a light on issues he feels can no longer be ignored. "I went at it with an even-hand. I just let my camera tell the story. Aside from stating the system is broke, I keep my opinions out of it," he said. He invites the viewer to decide.
"My hope, like any filmmaker, is the movie will spark a little bit of change."
For details about seeing the film, visit www.theycometoamerica.com. Trailers are available to the right of the article.