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Houston Graveyard Shift presents UNDOCUMENTED! A Special Two-Night Screening!

Nordling here.

I won't call it torture porn, because the very idea that it's pornography is insulting.  It's only pornography to sick, twisted individuals.  For the rest of us adults, it's torture horror, and that's what I'll call it.  But torture horror is simply not a genre I can embrace.  So when I recommend a film like UNDOCUMENTED, the illegal immigrant horror film that will be playing the Graveyard Shift at the Alamo Drafthouse West Oaks Friday, September 16, and Saturday, September 17th, you need to know where I'm coming from before you see it.  As a film, it has value.  And when it's finished, if you're angry at the world and upset, you're doing it right.

UNDOCUMENTED played Fantastic Fest last year.  It's now making the rounds across the country in very limited release.  I don't know how available this film will be; I'd imagine that it will be on DVD and Blu-Ray at some point.  But it is thought-provoking and disturbing, and relevant to our discourse in this country.  The film opens with the quote on the Statue of Liberty - "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." but in the context of the film, that famous line has a far more sinister meaning.

A documentary film crew, headed by Travis (Scott Machlowicz) the director, and Liz (Alona Tal) the producer, make their way south of the border to document one family trying to cross over into the United States.  They figure that they will show the family's background, where they come from, and follow them all the way to the end where they find work somewhere in the country.  The film is quite effective at making us feel sympathetic to their plight and their situation.  I'm a raging liberal already, so personally I'm already on their side and the side of the filmmakers in the film to get these people to a safe place.  The father, Alberto (Yancey Arias) wants to give his family a good life, and through his cousin Davie (Greg Serano), the cameraman on the documentary, they are able to secure passage to the border.  Once there they make their way into a tunnel dug under the fence line, used for drug smuggling, and the first sign that the film crew and the immigrants are in serious trouble is a dead body at the end of the tunnel, carved up and maimed.  But the immigrants are desperate, and once in the States, they wait for the truck that is supposed to take them on to a better place.

At this point in the journey, we are frightened along with the immigrants.  We are taken every step of the way through their journey, and the mix of "found footage" styles and faux-documentary filmmaking is very effective at getting the point across.  But suddenly, the truck stops, we hear loud bangs, the truck moves again, and the people in the back of the truck know there is something seriously wrong.  The filmmakers all attempt to open the back of the truck to no avail; suddenly it stops again and the door opens up.  And what happens next is something straight out of a nightmare - these immigrants, and the film crew, are in the hands of some seriously insane "patriots", led by the masked, enigmatic Z (Peter Stormare).  They want the film crew to document what they do to these people - for recruiting purposes, and for their own personal sick pleasure.  What follows is a descent into hell, and we are there along with the camera, seeing everything.  The film is a mix between what the crew shoots and a narrative camera, so we always know what's going on.  It also helps that the crew is competent in shooting, so there's very little shakycam here, and what there is of it is used effectively and sparingly.

I can't say I exactly enjoyed UNDOCUMENTED.  It's not a movie you "enjoy".  UNDOCUMENTED takes you places you won't want to go.  Also, dealing with the controversial subject matter, audiences will be divided on how to deal with the problem but what they shouldn't be divided about at all is that we are all human beings in this world and your sympathies will be tested over and over again.  It's not as simple as white guy rednecks versus illegal Mexicans - the film takes pains to avoid that cliched distinction.  But UNDOCUMENTED is well made for the genre and has a real point to it.  This is Chris Peckover's first feature-length film as a director, and I'd say he's damn good at evoking real terror and genuine unease while making a film that doesn't pull punches or stray from its subject.  UNDOCUMENTED, unlike many other torture horror films, is about something.

My problem with torture horror is fairly simple - most horror films, be it slasher movies, monster movies, supernatural horror, have some sort of catharsis at the end.  Even the ones that end badly for the protagonists.  Torture horror, done right, has no such catharsis.  It puts you in a deep, dark place, and simply abandons you there.  How you deal with that after the credits roll is on you, and I think many audience menbers resent filmmakers for doing that to them.  I know I did, after seeing UNDOCUMENTED.  I was angry, and upset, and had nowhere to put it.  There are no easy answers in torture horror films.  It's the film's job to do that to you, to force you to that place where you have to ask questions, and there's no screams and laughter at the end to let you know that you're watching a movie.  Torture horror is not my genre.  But I'm recommending a film like UNDOCUMENTED because it's made so well, is genuinely thought-provoking, scary in the right places (but definitely not the fun type of scared), and has something to say.  Peter Stormare plays a vile, contemptuous barely-a-human being, and he's very effective.  I wanted to punch the screen when he was on - he's clearly insane, but utterly unredeemable.  All the acting is very good across the board, especially Yancey Arias as Alberto, who speaks very little English in the film and has a very tough time of it in the movie.

Graveyard Shift at the Houston Alamo Drafthouse West Oaks will be showing UNDOCUMENTED on Friday, September 16th at 10:00 PM and Saturday, September 17th at 7:00 PM.  If you think you can handle the level of violence and the disturbing nature of the film, I recommend the film to you.  It's a rough movie, but worth the journey.  It's not gratuitous, but it doesn't let you off easy, either.  I'll be presenting the film with my partner in crime Robert Saucedo both nights.  Just don't hit me afterwards.  And for those just into a more fun kind of horror film, we're also presenting that Saturday night a free screening of the HBO film CAST A DEADLY SPELL, which I'll be writing about tomorrow.  That one has some good old-fashioned Fred-Ward-fights-Lovecraftian-monsters fun in it.  I hope to see you there.

Nordling, out.

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 5, 2011, 10:06 p.m. CST

    Pointless?

    by Chris Moody

    Geez.

  • Sept. 5, 2011, 10:07 p.m. CST

    Terrible genre!

    by Chris Moody

    Thus: Pointless!

  • Sept. 5, 2011, 10:09 p.m. CST

    torture porn

    by Rupee88

    is more accurate. You should go with your first impulse in this case. Some things you have to be sick and twisted to enjoy watching and this sounds like it is in that category and not artistic but pornography...and not even any titties probably (without blood on them) so forget this. Leave it to the retarded teens and sickos who get off on this sh*t and I'll pass.

  • -- compared to other torture porn. Also, since Stormare's eye doctor performance in A MINORITY REPORT is one of my favorites of his, I think I will eventually see this one.

  • Sept. 5, 2011, 10:18 p.m. CST

    Also, are they showing a film print of CAST A DEADLY SPELL?

    by MooseMalloy

  • Sept. 5, 2011, 10:20 p.m. CST

    moosemalloy

    by Nordling

    We're strapping a projector to the VCR! We're going old school!

  • Sept. 5, 2011, 11:32 p.m. CST

    torture porn is what it is and i hate it

    by liljuniorbrown

    I thought it had burned out....where's Eli Roth? The "greatest non Asian horror film director to date!!". His quote. I guess he is in line masturbating to Human Centipede part 4

  • Sept. 5, 2011, 11:39 p.m. CST

    Are the Mexicans sewn together ass-to-mouth?

    by Inexplicable_Nuclear_Balls

    I won't be able to get off if I can't see some of that hot stuff.

  • Sept. 5, 2011, 11:42 p.m. CST

    Don't need this crap to take me to a deep dark place.

    by dead youngling

    Torture horror needs to die, it is perverting the genre. I pray we go back to horror like The Thing, Halloween, original Nightmare, etc. Good scares with good stories. Where has my "old" favorite genre disappeared to?

  • Sept. 5, 2011, 11:58 p.m. CST

    torture horror=torture porn=no joy

    by logosicon

    FUCK this damaged filmmaking "genre". (btw real original, riding the coattails of another film with that poster) Hugo

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 12:48 a.m. CST

    Propaganda

    by Polo Chavez

    Yep, white man bad. White man must die. White man move over. Four legs good, two legs bad. Anyhoo, a film should be made about how the Mexican government REALLY fucks up illegals coming from South America. But that's always covered up...sigh...

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 12:52 a.m. CST

    Another movie that played a year ago at FF

    by rost

    ...and nobody else could see it since. Where's the DVD and where is The Revenant from 2009?

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 1:25 a.m. CST

    You know this probably happens all the time

    by CherryValance

    IMO, the only people who really want illegal aliens in this country are those who want to take advantage of them one way or another. I would image torturers are cut from the same cloth as pimps and people who don't want to pay Americans to work on their house.

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 7:17 a.m. CST

    Film is about being entertained...

    by AllThosePowers

    ...anyone who has babies/young children a wife and all the good things that wholesome families bring to the soul, will always stay away from this genre. EVen those without such idilic family surroundings, prefer to have their brains engaged in something that is thought provoking, granted, this film may have its socio-political moments, but not enough to warrant curling up in a foetus position becuase the film makers have crushed my soul to the point where the world resembles one BIG asshole that I feel I am unable to crawl out of, dark place indeed

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 9:54 a.m. CST

    !!! SCREW THIS !!!

    by Guyver1138

    The machine keeps on rolling to make illegal aliens simply "undocumented" and they continue to flood in by the thousands DAILY. No country in history has sustained this amount of ILLEGAL immigration and survived. If you want to come here do it legally. It's harder yes and takes years yes. I deal with this crap and the fall out of it every day with work and I slowly watch as our country is taken over and the bleeding hearts cry out. Stop and look at the effects it has and the reality of what is going on. It's not racism. They are but a symptom of a much larger problem. That being our government's failure to control our borders and to enforce our laws. Aside from the fiscal effect the cultural effect is huge with only part of the problem being that it is the poor and the uneducated that flood in. How does that help our country to grow? It doesn't. Most come here with little value for education as a result of their cultural upbringing and they come to rely on state and federal benefits. A lot work hard and are to be respected; however, they are still here illegally. The vast majority disrespect this country and the citizens they are stealing from and tout their own flag as if the country they came from is so great. If it is or was then go home. This is a matter of cultural displacement as well. The illegals have been allowed to come here for so long in so many numbers that they are now a huge commercial and political force. Illegal aliens demanding rights? Only here in bleeding heart liberal land. I mentioned displacement. One of the other problems is that instead of coming here and blending into the multi-cultural fabric of America they replace it with their own all while disrespecting the very country they are taking advantage of. Not all are the same obviously. Some come here and work hard and provide for their families and teach them to better themselves. I respect them. They are are still ILLEGAL ALIENS though. They are not undocumented. They shouldn't be given government benefits, driver's licenses, bank accounts, jobs or allowed to stay. There is a reason we allow certain people in certain occupations to come over in limited numbers. We need those people. We don't need people coming here that are going to turn our country into the toilet the country they came from is. Already industries have been taken over and advertisements as well as products are in Spanish as well as school paperwork and most other things of that nature. We need to put an end to the anchor babies used by illegals to latch on here. Will it all end? Yes but not happily. We will have states that are not illegal friendly where people have fled to get away from the the problems that plague places such as where I reside; which is California and basically Mexico now. What has happened here will advance to all of the other states it is simply math. Nothing is going to stop it and the United States will suffer as a result of the inaction of our government and our people. ~Gene

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 10:41 a.m. CST

    Gene -- which is California and basically Mexico now

    by MooseMalloy

    Hilarious, did you fall asleep in history class on that day? The only way to stop the illegal immigrants from moving here, which has steadily declined in number over the recent years, is to have Americans stop hiring them. The only way to do this is to make the hiring of illegals illegal. Plain, simple and the only real solution. When Mexico can finally curb their drug cartel problems then hopefully a lot of these illegal workers can return to their homeland and help improve the place with the money they earned here. Who knows, maybe European-Americans may have to make a similar choice in the near future.

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 12:42 p.m. CST

    Wow . . .

    by Nice Marmot

    Nordling doesn't understand why its been dubbed torture porn. No big deal. It's garbage . . .

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 1:47 p.m. CST

    Legalize

    by vondamage

    Legalize drugs to get rid of the cartel drug trafficking, bust employers that hire illegals. This movie sounds lame, boring, unnecessary, and juvenile.

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 2:02 p.m. CST

    These 'people' will be the downfall of our country

    by DarthJedi

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 2:06 p.m. CST

    This shouldn't be a political issue...

    by jorson28

    Also, I find it hard to believe that anyone would go to the lengths needed to make any kind of movie to make THIS particular movie, based upon its description, if they didn't at least hope that audiences took a particular side AFTER all of that great "discussion." Either you want immigration laws or you don't. If you do, then enforce them - period. Asking a car full of Mexicans for their papers is NOT RACIST if you want to effectively enforce these laws. Racial profiling, itself, is only racist in a malicious context if you assume that Caucasians don't qualify as a race at all. Case in point: Since the 1970's, at least, it's been common knowledge that the FBI regards the quintessential American serial killer to be a white male of a certain age and within a certain income bracket. This goes for law enforcement, in general, and is such an entrenched belief - albeit based upon accurate statistics up until recently - that even after being told who committed the murders, several more brunette women in the midwest had to die in a serial killing case before they finally wrapped their heads around the idea that a black man and a known "peeping Tom" could have committed the killings. In the end, the collected evidence backed up and sealed the conviction. I only wish I remembered enough to be more specific so as to lend more credibility to my example, but if anyone cares so much about my accuracy, you're free to do the search. If the liberal side is just to let these people run wild over here because, well, they're poor and hurting and it's the compassionate thing to do, then they're serving one part of their ideology at the expense of another. Some of the same big, evil corporations that liberals rant and rave against all the time are the ones that hire a lot of these illegals, and why? Because they don't want to hire American citizens and have to pay the taxes and/or obey the labor laws - most of which are more heavily endorsed by liberals than conservatives because of the conservatives' "pro-business" agenda. By hogtying border officials in their alleged duty to enforce the immigration laws currently on the books - for whatever reason - you're basically making it easier for these corporations and unscrupulous business types to evade just about every law on the books protecting the rights of American workers OF ALL RACES that, because of their citizenship, are entitled to things that illegal immigrants OF ANY RACE won't always get - i.e., health insurance, fair wages, paid time off, pensions, retirement benefits and other perks. Nordling can use all the clever wording he wants and call himself a "raging liberal" so as to beat the opposition to the punch in the namecalling department, but I find it near infathomable that this movie exists for ANY reason other than to generate sympathy for the illegals and make seemingly sympathetic politicians look like saints compared to the evil, ignorant "conservatives" and Tea Party types out to keep down anyone that isn't living in the suburbs and attending a white Protestant church. What burns me, though, is that liberals aren't the only ones hampering efforts to enforce these laws. Bush wanted amnesty and the Republicans are still characteristically unwilling to duly punish the businesses that engage in these unethical practices and, if nothing else, substantially contribute to the problem they claim they have the means to solve. So even though I restate my belief that there is a political agenda here, it should not be a political issue - at least, not a partisan one because both sides are culpable here for the problem getting worse. If you don't think we should have immigration laws, then say so. As far as educating those that might lack compassion because they don't know what it's like for these illegals, let me tell you that my family and I lived in an apartment adjacent to one occupied by about 16 male Mexican workers back in 2002. Other residents as well as we believed them to be illegals because the apartment was in the name of a white couple that seemed to pick them up and take them to work in one big pickup truck every morning, likely to a construction site. The reality of this living situation was that every night, these people came home from work, got plastered and in many cases, got wild - not in a violent sense, but certainly a destructive one, at least when it came to the property, itself. You couldn't talk to them unless you knew Spanish, but I doubt it would have made a difference, and it wasn't a rare thing at all to have to come home at night and step over pools of vomit just to ascend the staircase to your apartment. The next morning, if you got up early enough, you could look down and see a very big row of work shoes lined up on the porch, but by the time you could get any apartment authorities over there, they'd be gone. Eventually, they were evicted, but the apartment itself was pretty much destroyed. It had to be fumagated and EXTENSIVELY repaired before it could be rented out again - work far exceeding the usual amount needed after a tenant or group of tenant moves before renting out the unit again. Wrapping this up, I'm obviously FOR immigration law and FOR just about every tactic effective in enforcing it short of gunning people down at the border. What's more, before calling me any number of names and claiming that I'm ignorant and lacking of compassion, consider the practices of these companies that hire illegals and, if nothing else (because Americans are some to blame to the extent that they won't take these kinds of jobs), consider also the tax dollars NOT flowing into the government that could be going to pay for "progressive" government programs. In the end, I believe that immigration laws exist to protect not just the citizens, themselves, but the integrity of the nation and its system. When you endorse politicians that literally sue their own state because infringing upon the rights and offending the sensibilities and integrity of a car full of potentially-undocumented Mexicans (who can't even vote if they really are undocumented) is of greater concern than enforcing your own laws and standing up for the rights and saftey of your own citizens and their hard-earned way of life, then you compromise your own agenda by contributing to a problem that will eventually make America unattractive, even to immigrants, because the things that attract them have been compromised. After all, how can you justifiably ask not just naturalized Americans, but immigrants that have lawfully achieved citizenship, to pay taxes to fund YOUR programs when you seem to have little or no problem with thousands of people crossing the border and almost indefinitely getting away with not only NOT paying taxes, but compromising the integrity of your own labor laws by accepting less than equitable and legal working conditions? As for me, I can't justifiably or comfortably do that, and even as a Republican, I also cannot endorse people like Bush and those that would echo his policy sentiments in wanting amnesty simply because, for example, living in a border state might have made them a little sympathetic. I'm not desensitized to suffering, but suffering comes in all forms, and just because you don't want to do what it takes to more effectively enforce a few laws because the tactics might bother your bleeding heart conscience DOES NOT mean that you're doing one iota to improve the overall lives of innocent, hardworking Mexicans. What's more, the quote on the statue of liberty is NOT justification for overlooking someone's illegal status or for not doing what it takes to enforce laws. Those "tired," "poor" and "huddled masses, yearning to breathe free" have plenty of opportunity and potential assistance in both coming to the States legally and becoming lawful citizens, able to take advantage of the things that make America attractive in the first place - things that could disappear if they're not protected from those that have no desire to BE AMERICAN and would thus circumvent our laws and system for any reason - immediate necessity, convenience, etc.

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 2:10 p.m. CST

    Well Nordling I give you credit for admitting that

    by Artemis Webb

    you like this movie because it appeals to your left wing prejudices. Want to see some serious HATE that's real? Go watch Teamsters Union head James Hoffa make a speech.

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 2:13 p.m. CST

    Well said jorson28

    by vondamage

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 2:17 p.m. CST

    Ignorance

    by themovieweasel

    Just when I thought that talk-backers ignorance could not get any worse, they manage to reach new heights. Are illegal immigrants a problem? yes, but they are not the root of all the problems facing america as a lot of people would have you believe. They are just a group that can be easily targeted because they cannot defend themselves. One of my friends runs a good size produce company and she tells me that if all the illegals were to be kick out of the country, the entire food production chain would collapse. Most Americans would never do the back breaking work that illegals do for anything resembling a reasonable pay, and before you all start saying that it is not true go here http://www.takeourjobs.org/ and sign up for a taste of what puts cheap food on our tables.

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 2:26 p.m. CST

    So themovieweasel

    by Artemis Webb

    You admit that illegal immigration is a problem but that we shouldn't do anything about it? Don't get me wrong, I don't want to start a nasty argument here that will end up with both of us proving Godwin's Law to be correct. I don't totally disagree with you but by the same token illegal immigration is a real problem and a minimally divisive solution has to be found.

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 2:33 p.m. CST

    yes, it is a problem

    by themovieweasel

    But we cannot ignore how we all benefit from it as well. Simply saying they should all go back home is not going to happen or help. A far more realistic approach is to give them a path to citizenship, tied to very strict rules that require them to stay out of trouble, pay taxes, and if they get caught gaming the system in any way big or small, they would forever lose the chance to stay. Also, anybody with a criminal background would be automatically kicked out of the country. I am all for enforcing the rules, but when the rules are broken, we need to work on them first. According to my friend with the produce business, politicians know what is going on, and they look the other way. And for the record, my friend and all their business associates are hardcore republicans.

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 2:41 p.m. CST

    Your words are appreciated and make sense.

    by Artemis Webb

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 5:55 p.m. CST

    Not surpised

    by Randxts

    After walking out of Machete, I don't think anyone should be surprised that Hollywood wants to glorify illegal immigration. I know Nordling says that this film isn't about that, but reading his description of the villains seems to contradict that. I agree with the posters who say that while torture of any kind on anyone should be denounced. But there is also a simple way to avoid the treatment some of the illegals suffer when they come here and that is to not come here illegally. stand up and fix your own country. The world will help if you ask for it and actually allow real help. The Mexican government needs to get uncorrupted, stand up to the cartels, and ask for help. Don't be coy about it, don't be half-assed. Allow special forces to operate on your soil and they'd get rid of the cartels. Above all, we here in America need to quit allowing sentiment to dictate policy. Yes, feel bad for illegals, but also remember that this country was founded on legal immigration. Enforce the rules. As another poster mentioned, we can't financially support these numbers of illegals. No matter where our hearts are, it just can't be done. It seems to me that just allowing them to stay here does not fix the problem...it seems to just be a way of giving an entire country to a drug cartel. Allow an allied force to come down there and root them out.

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 7:29 p.m. CST

    themovieweasel

    by CherryValance

    You seem to only get your information from your friend. That's not good. Everyone has an agenda. Use your own eyes, ears, and experiences to decide what you believe. My experience and what I see tells me that illegal aliens are here because they can be abused. They're abused by the coyotes who bring them here, who then extort from them. They are abused by the pimps that coyotes turn them over to so that they can work off their debt that they didn't know they incurred. Often times young women are expected to serve as prostitutes to pay off a fee in the tens of thousands of dollars that the coyotes say they owe them once they get into this country. Human trafficking is booming because we're not cracking down on illegal aliens. Those who don't have to go through all that are hired in industries that traditionally hired Americans with little education. They no longer hire those people, because not only would they have to pay them a higher wage, but they'd also have to insure them and pay for things like workmen's comp. And they wouldn't be able to treat them like shit. It's about having slaves. Americans try to apply for these jobs and are told that they are not hiring the same day that illegals are handed these jobs by "temp agencies". You might hear about these type of temp agencies eventually being caught by the FBI in a identify theft bust. These agencies, work with coyotes to recruit people while in their own countries, bring them here, give them paperwork with stolen American identities so that companies can hire them and it all appears above board. Then there are the illegal aliens who are highly educated and are taking engineering jobs away from Americans, by way of coming here on student visas and then being trained by the same Americans the company intends to replace with these people. They rejigger the paperwork to allow them to be here legally, putting Americans out of work time and time again. Imagine training the illegal alien who steals your job after working for a company for a decade or more. The politicians won't do anything about it, Democrat or Republican, because they benefit too. They benefit from the suffering of these people and the Americans being crippled by the lack of jobs in this economy. They want there to be a ruling class and serfs. That's where we're headed. We're almost there already.

  • Sept. 6, 2011, 11:35 p.m. CST

    cherryvalance

    by themovieweasel

    I don't just get my information from my friend, I use that example so you can see that I am not just going by what some talking head on tv said. Being the son of immigrants I have a far more informed opinion than the average person, and as far as this country being founded on legal immigration, that is ridiculous. I don't remember reading about europeans applying for work visas and the native americans granting them. People forget that immigration has been the life blood of this country. Each new wave of immigrants has contributed to the greatness of this nation, and if you know anything about history you also know that each one of those groups were not particularly welcomed when they first arrived. Italians, Irish, Jews, they all faced discrimination early on. The sad thing is that it is extremely easy to demonize a group that can not defend itself. I don't expect to change anybody's mind, you will believe what you want to believe, I just wish that more people would take the time to really learn about the issue before making statements based on misinformation or speculation.

  • Would that be the hilariously topical un-PC antidote to this shit or what?

  • And I remember reading in school about the newly arrived Irish being eligible for section 8 housing, food stamps, welfare, free emergency room healthcare and in-state tuition rates... Oh wait no I didn't. Also I find it strange that the greatest period of economic growth in American history happened during the 30 year immigration pause(1934-1964)... Strange indeed!

  • Sept. 7, 2011, 6:43 p.m. CST

    Europeans

    by CherryValance

    save for the Pilgrims and original settlers came through Ellis Island and were processed. But how many Americans were there then and how many are there now? We can't just keep squishing people into this country. But since your parents are "immigrants" you better tell me their address so I can call ICE. *demonizes weasel's parents*