Migrant Caravans from Central America with Ilse Fernandez and Xiomara

Why are so many Central Americans fleeing in masses forming Caravans and what’s really happening to asylum seekers at the border?

Documentarian Ilse Fernandez and asylum seeker Xiomara come to the club to help answer these questions.

Since 2014, it’s estimated that more than 2 million people have fled from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala escaping violence, poverty, and extreme hardships. For years, El Salvador and Honduras have had the highest global homicide and femicide rates per-capita, as a result in the last decade, U.S-Central American asylum claims have shot up by 1600%. Because the journey north through Mexico is one of the most dangerous migratory routes in the world, large caravans began to form in 2018-19 to provide safety in numbers. More women and children began to make the journey. While many opted to stay in Mexico, many made it to the U.S border creating an on-going humanitarian crisis. 

Documentary filmmaker Ilse Fernandez befriended Xiomara (21 years old at the time) in early 2018 when her father asked her to help her daughters navigate the asylum process. Xiomara and her sister fled El Salvador after her step-father and uncle were murdered in their home. Both young women were separated and sent to different detention centers. Xiomara spent 7 months locked up at the ICE Adelanto Detention center a for–profit prison 2 hours north of Los Angeles. Despite having proofs of her claim, Xiomara had challenges getting legal representation until it was almost too late and lost her case which is currently in appeal.

Her situation inspired Ilse to head down to the border herself to document what was happening. Just then, the large migrant caravans began to form. Ilse began to film with the 2 largest caravans and as a result “Exodus Stories” was born. Through intimate access, Exodus Stories follows the high-stakes journeys of three immigrants fleeing violence who join the migrant caravans only to face their most decisive battle yet: making their case for U.S asylum, an institution they find under siege.

Ilse Fernandez is a Colombian-born U.S immigrant, documentary filmmaker, and docu-series showrunner with over 20 years of experience. She has produced and directed over 200-hours of nonfiction work for ABC, NBC, MTV, Netflix, Discovery, A&E, NatGeo, and Vice. Ilse began tackling pressing social-issues via documentary as a director/story producer on five-seasons of A&E’s “Intervention” series, including the 2009 Emmy Award-winning season. Her “Rachel” episode about a homeless heroin addict was nominated for both an Emmy and Producers Guild Award. As a Showrunner on Viceland’s cutting-edge doc-series “Cyberwar,” she explored geopolitical-digital conflicts from Syrian Cyber Armies to NSA whistleblowers to Anonymous hackers. On Spotify’s “Music Happens Here” documentary series, she served as both Director and Showrunner finding innovative stylistic ways to bring different music genres to life from Pink Floyd to A$AP Mob. The series won 3 Clio awards. Ilse is currently producing and directing “Exodus Stories” which has received the IDA Logan/Elevate Grant, SFFilm/Catapult Documentary Fellowship, and both the LPB Current Issues and Public Media Content Fund Grants. 






The award-winning MindfulVR empathy-driven VR experience directed by Scott Gagain will be available before and after the presentation. Mindful provides an opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a young girl named Ana. Her story is told through glimpses of her life, narration, and a portal device that leads to three different memories: A sentimental return to her childhood, the horrors of war; and the unknown future of retreat.

This program was organized by Andrew McGregor #1188.