'A Day Without a Mexican'

Film Shows What Life in U.S. Would Be Like If All Illegal Immigrants Disappeared

The spate of new state laws aimed at undocumented immigrants has come with unintended consequences that the 2004 film A Day Without a Mexican foreshadowed.

The film is a satirical, surreal look at what California would look like if all its Mexicans, both citizens and undocumented residents, disappeared. A mysterious fog rolls in and when it lifts, all the Mexican nannies, dishwashers, landscapers, construction workers and business owners are gone.

A leaf blower is left spinning in the yard. Food boils over atop the stove. Cars are abandoned in the street. Crops lay rotting in the farm fields.

Some of this sounds eerily like what’s happening in Arizona, Alabama and Georgia after they enacted draconian legislation designed to drive illegal immigrants out of their states. The laws give state law enforcement officials unprecedented powers to question, detain and arrest people they suspect of being in the country illegally.

The Obama administration is challenging these laws in the courts, contending that the power to make immigration laws and enforce them belongs exclusively to the federal government.

Of course, in A Day Without a Mexican, the entire state economy comes to a stop without the labor needed to sustain it. Many places in Arizona, Alabama and Georgia have found themselves in a similar predicament after immigrant workers packed up and moved elsewhere.

Georgia farmers estimated their crop losses could reach $500 million in 2011 because of labor shortages. Farmers in Georgia and Alabama say they haven’t been able to find enough American workers to fill the jobs needed for the spring 2012 harvest.

Lawmakers who supported the measures had predicted that the recession had created a ready pool of U.S. labor that was waiting to step in and fill the vacancies.

The lawmakers were wrong, again. There remain many jobs in the country that Americans won’t take at any price, even during bad economic conditions.

Many of the scenes throughout the South in 2011 look like they came right out of the 2004 movie.

Sergio Arau directed A Day Without a Mexican, and wrote it with Yareli Arizmendi and Sergio Guerrero. Arizmendi plays a Los Angeles television reporter whose Mexican parents have disappeared, but for some reason, she hasn’t. She becomes known as California’s “last remaining Mexican” and scientists consider genetic testing to determine why she’s still around.

The film wanders haphazardly through a series of TV interviews, vignettes and slices of surreal life. From an artistic standpoint, a wonderful idea never makes its way to the screen in the form of an engaging, coherent story. Neither the script nor the acting do the theme justice.

Still, A Day Without a Mexican is important not as an example of great filmmaking but for its compelling premise. A question, really: What would life be like if all the people we take for granted disappear from American society? Do people who argue for mass deportation really understand the consequences?

Without Mexicans, California fell apart.

Without immigrant labor, Alabama and Georgia will fall behind.

Sponsors of the Alabama law say they will have to make changes to it during the 2012 legislative session to cut their losses. Besides economic damage, there have been a number of embarrassing incidents, including the arrests of prominent foreign auto executives who were in the country legally and providing jobs for Alabamians.

Most of the critical and box office success of the film came from Mexico, where for a brief time it was the No. 1 box office draw in the country. U.S. audiences were lukewarm, and the movie grossed about $4 million in limited release.

A Day Without a Mexican isn’t a great movie to see but rather a great vision to contemplate.

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Moffett, Dan. "'A Day Without a Mexican'." ThoughtCo, Oct. 1, 2015, thoughtco.com/a-day-without-a-mexican-1951519. Moffett, Dan. (2015, October 1). 'A Day Without a Mexican'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-day-without-a-mexican-1951519 Moffett, Dan. "'A Day Without a Mexican'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-day-without-a-mexican-1951519 (accessed September 23, 2017).