Directed by Set Hernandez Rongkilyo ∙ 2019 ∙ USA
COVER/AGE examines the lack of healthcare access for undocumented immigrants in California, and how two undocumented individuals are advocating to fight this exclusion. One protagonist is Emma, an elderly Pilipina caregiver, who has spent over a decade providing care for others. Over the course of the film, we see Emma get ready early in the morning to care for an elderly patient who is not much older than her. Ironically, while Emma was providing care to insured, ailing patients, she herself was battling both illness and the U.S. health system which excluded her simply because of her immigration status. Emma’s story highlights how undocumented domestic workers are integrated in the healthcare industry, but they themselves don’t have access to the care they deserve in order to maintain their own wellness.
The other protagonist is Héctor (they/them), one of the young adult founders of the immigrant health movement in California. Through the film, we learn of their important activism and organizing, from mobilizing around healthcare with legislators in the state capitol to training other undocumented immigrants to advocate for themselves. While Héctor is engaged in the bigger realm of legislative transformation, their personal journey unveils a deeper analysis of what health justice means: Beyond the need to visit the doctor’s office, access to wellness for all communities must include a more holistic healing that recognizes traumas communities have accrued from their lived experiences.
As Emma and Héctor navigate the complex health policy system, critical gaps in a health system that excludes undocumented migrants reveal the profound and harmful impact on the community. At the same time, steadfast organizing by community leaders and advocates underscores the resilience of immigrants in the face of these challenges. As the conversation around universal healthcare continues to gain momentum on the national stage, this film highlights the urgency of expanding healthcare access to undocumented people by centering the unwavering voices of immigrant health justice leaders.