‘Split at the Root’ Review: A Powerful Lens on Immigrant Families Split Apart

When news of the Department of Justice’s zero-tolerance policy for unauthorized entry into the United States came out in mid-2018, a group of moms in Queens sprang into action. They created an organization called Immigrant Families Together, aimed at reuniting mothers held at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona with the children taken from them by the government. “Split at the Root” follows one of these women: Rosayra, an asylum seeker from Guatemala who had crossed into the U.S. with her two sons. The documentary, directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton, is a heartbreaking reminder of the cruelty of these separations, showing that reunification is often only the beginning of a long journey for the families torn apart.

Rosayra’s path toward gaining asylum shows the Catch 22 many face: One must be in imminent danger to be admitted as a refugee but must also remember to get a police report from the country they were leaving; immigrants must prove they will not be a burden to the country but are not allowed to work. The emotional toll on the families is acute, including inhumane conditions, bureaucratic hurdles and personal trauma. Before Rosayra meets up with her boys in New York City, her teenage son, Yordy, takes charge of his younger brother, Fernando Jose, and in an interview expresses the challenges of becoming a de facto parent at age 15.

“Split at the Root” is a powerful lens into the emotional plight of the thousands of immigrants who cross the border into the United States, the danger they are fleeing and the people trying to help them.

Split at the Root
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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