By: Michelle Calderon 🇸🇻
Trigger Warning: There is mention of sexual assault in this article.
Beneath Us movie poster via IMDb
The 2019 horror thriller, “Beneath Us,” written by Max Pachman and Mark Mavrothalasitis highlights the violence and discrimination that undocumented Latino immigrants face while trying to make a living in the United States.
The film also explores how undocumented immigrants are silenced due to fear, and how their lack of rights prevent them from speaking up when violence and harm is inflicted upon them. Violence and discrimination against undocumented Latinos continues to be a rising issue and unfortunately many of these cases go unreported.
There was a 41% increase in Latino hate crimes from 2020 to 2021.
Even though the statistics are already high, there is a chance that the number could be even greater. The article states that, “police departments don’t uniformly track their racial and ethnic information, which can skew data.” Since police departments don’t track calls made on racial violence, there is a chance that the crimes committed against Latinos is a lot higher. The article also acknowledges that some Latinos are hesitant to report crimes committed due to a lack of trust in law enforcements and concerns over their legal status.
The horror thriller, “Beneath Us'' highlights how American employers exploit the vulnerable situations that undocumented immigrants are in, and overwork them for their own benefit.
The film follows protagonist Alejandro and four other undocumented workers who are hired by a wealthy American couple under the guise of building properties for them for substantial payments. However, as the men start working for them they quickly encounter harsh conditions.
They work long hours without breaks and aren’t even allowed to use the bathroom. The couple also abuses and threatens them whenever the workers question them about their payments and their harsh conditions.
The film shows instances of the couple beating on them and the husband even pulls out a gun on the workers to intimate them. Ultimately, the wife kills three of the four workers and Alejandro is the only worker remaining. He comes to the realization of the couple’s twisted and terrifying intentions.
They never intended to pay the workers and instead they had planned to exploit them, overwork them, and ultimately kill them.
Alejandro is able to take justice by killing the couple. He then takes the money that they had owed him and uses it to pay a smuggler to bring his family into the U.S.
Unfortunately, many undocumented immigrants face abusive conditions very similar to those shown in the film.
The August 2022 I-Teams news story, “Undocumented Worker Claims Las Vegas Boss Repeatedly Sexually Assaulted Her in Walk-in Cooler,” shows the case of Sandra Perez. Perez was repeatedly raped by her manager at a Sbarro Pizza in Las Vegas, inside the Monte Carlo hotel. Perez was also threatened by her employer. Her manager would tell her that he would have her deported if she spoke out.
Luckily, Perez was able to free herself from her employer and sue him because the Nevada Equal Rights Commission recognized her case as a sexually hostile work environment.
Like the film, American employers often don’t pay or underpay their undocumented workers. In a PBS News-Hour story, garment factory worker, Audelina Molina, faced a similar situation.
Molina was working at a factory where she earned 10 cents for every garment she trimmed. She would work 11 hours a day to drive up production. After being denied a raise she quit and sued her employer with the help of a labor rights attorney in California.
Molina knew that she was being taken advantage of and wanted to make sure she was given justice. The state of California found that Molina was underpaid and that her overtime wasn’t paid at all.
“Molina was paid, on average $199 a week, violating overtime laws and rules that one piece rate workers earn at least the $10.50 hourly minimum wage.” Like the workers in the film, Molina’s employer refused to give her the money she rightfully earned.
The news story highlighted that all workers in the U.S. are entitled to payment report cases of wage theft regardless of their legal status. “The U.S. The Department of Labor, which operates in all states, doesn't ask victims if they’re immigrants. The agency plainly acknowledges that complaints are reviewed regardless of workers’ immigration status.”
However, wage theft against undocumented immigrants remains high and underreported. Even when wage theft is reported it takes a long time for justice to be served. The article said that it took two years for Molina to receive her first check and her former employers still haven’t reimbursed her for the State funds.
Beneath Us, highlights the horrifying abuse that undocumented immigrants face at the hands of American employers. Undocumented immigrants have their bodies exploited by working long hours in grueling conditions. They are also sexually abused and oftentimes underpaid or not paid at all. In order to combat this issue it is important that everyone is made aware of their rights. Undocumented immigrants should know that they can report abuse in the workplace despite their legal status.