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The Second Cooler is a documentary about illegal migration shot primarily in Alabama, Arizona, and in northern and central Mexico. The premise is that Arizona is the new Alabama—the epicenter of an intense struggle for migrant justice. The documentary’s purpose is to bring basic migration issues into focus. Those issues include the impact of free trade agreements on migration, the lack of a legal way for poor Latin Americans to come to the United States, the inherent abuses of the guest worker program, the fact that many migrants are indigenous people, anti-immigrant politics in Alabama, the thousands of migrant deaths at the border, and an escalating ideology of the border.

The Second Cooler differs from every other documentary to date on the subject. It raises a well-focused question: “Who benefits?” from illegal migration. It has interviews with 25 illegal migrants, including three children under the age of 12. It follows several of them throughout the feature. In addition it includes interviews with 55 professionals including historians, lawyers, clergy, labor union organizers, politicians, a Border Patrol agent, human rights advocates and others who untangle the threads of a complicated issue. When a viewer reaches the end of The Second Cooler, he or she will understand why 12 million migrants are here illegally and will be able to offer an informed answer to the question, “Who benefits?”

Hispanic men and women have a strong presence in The Second Cooler. 25 of the cast of 80 interviewees are Hispanic. Most are migrants; others are professors and a Border Patrol agent. Mexican or Mexican-American artists who lent visual art to the documentary include the late Alberto Morackis, Guadalupe Serrano, and René Germán Aguirre [Reger] in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, Tucson’s Alfred Quíroz, and Leticia V. Huerta. Two Latino songwriter / performers have provided original songs: migrant Tony Zapata of Birmingham, Alabama and Tucson’s “Pablo.”

The Second Cooler consists of three overlapping story lines. First, illegal migrants talk about their lives, their experiences crossing borders illegally, and their experiences with deportation. Second, it proposes that illegal migrants’ lives and deaths are entangled with historical, economic, legal, racial, and social issues on both sides of the border. Third, visual motifs including white crosses relate these issues while emphasizing the approximately 5,000 migrants whose bodies have been recovered from the American southwest.

It focuses on three things. First, the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement on illegal migration. It emphasizes the fact that the militarization of the border took place in conjunction with NAFTA because the signers of NAFTA anticipated the displacement of millions of Mexican peasants. Second, it calls attention to the migrant deaths which were anticipated and which were intended to be a “deterrent” to illegal migration. It emphasizes the 5,000 migrants whose remains have been recovered from the American Southwest. Third, it suggests that “illegal immigration” is ethically related to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, although the cast of characters and location have shifted. The short includes original songs, an original score, and is subtitled throughout in Spanish and English.

The immediate goal of The Second Cooler is to stop the deaths of migrants.

English-Spanish, Spanish-English subtitles throughout.

Writer / Director Ellin Jimmerson has a Ph. D. in U. S. history and post-doctoral study in Latin American history. She uses Final Cut Pro software in editing. Actor Martin Sheen provided the voice-over. Composer Joseph Harchanko is a cellist, works with electronic music, and has scored four films. Cinematographer Bill Schweikert, whose feature film, “Like Moles, Like Rats” was shown at the 2008 Cannes International Film Festival, has twenty-five years experience. The documentary was shot in HD, in part with a Red Camera. Consulting Producers include Michele Forman and Hank Rogerson who wrote and directed Shakespeare Behind Bars.

The production company is the Huntsville Immigration Initiative, LLC. Its stated mission is “to advocate for migrant civil rights.” It has a cooperative agreement with the Interfaith Mission Service, Inc. for its 501c3 charity status.

Where We Are

Production of The Second Cooler is complete.  The runtime is approximately 90 minutes. The use of all narration, interviews, visual art, maps, additional photographs, and additional songs used by permission have been released in writing.

The documentary is in competition at various festivals. It won Best Feature Documentary at the 2013 Peace on Earth Film Festival in Chicago in March, 2013. 


The Huntsville Immigration Initiative, Limited Liability Company (HII, LLC) is a program of the Huntsville Immigration Initiative (HII). HII, LLC is a legal entity in the state of Alabama formed to “advocate for migrant civil rights.” It was formed in May, 2008 by HII member Ellin Jimmerson for the purpose of writing, directing, and producing a documentary that will develop awareness among Latino migrants, their non-Latino advocates, and anti-immigrant groups about fundamental immigration issues.

HII, LLC is in a cooperative agreement with Huntsville’s Interfaith Mission Service, Inc., a 501c3 corporation. All donations are tax deductible.

Please make checks out to IMS and write HII Documentary on the “for” line. Mail to Ellin Jimmerson, Huntsville Immigration Initiative, LLC, 2812 Vista Drive, Huntsville, AL, 35803.

HII, LLC, in cooperative agreement with IMS, Inc., a charitable organization as defined by IRS and IRS

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