Ashland, Ore — The national debate over immigration continues to be one of the most divisive topics in America. For one local businessman, the issue is much more personal.
“I certainly see myself not only as a person that’s under attack, but I also see myself as one of these individuals that was at the border today because I was there myself at one time,” said Laz Ayala.
Ayala is a Rogue Valley businessman and has a story to tell that’s both unique, yet all too familiar to those seeking a better life.
“Stories, my story being one, and the stories of others that have come to this country fleeing war like I did or persecution of one kind of another,” said Ayala.
At 14, Ayala entered the United States an undocumented immigrant in the trunk of a car. 37 years later he’s a naturalized citizen with a story to tell, and a film crew to help him tell it.
“I told him, hey your story has potential to become a movie, it’s that powerful and poignant,” said Nickolas Alexander, the documentary’s director.
That’s the idea behind “Illegal, the project”, a documentary focused on immigration, using Ayala as it’s guide.
“It’s around the idea of educating the public about the topic of immigration, humanizing the topic through stories, my story being one and the stories of others,” said Ayala.
The documentary crew left Friday. They’ll follow Ayala to his native El Salvador, then to Tijuana, where the immigration debate rages.
“We will be arriving there around the time a lot of the families and individuals will be arriving so we hope to capture their stories,” said Ayala.
Ayala hopes “Illegal, the Project”, won’t just add to the narrative, but change it, so a real conversation about immigration can begin.
“Hopefully expose some myths, some facts about the narrative we hear today, about what undocumented immigration is and what it isn’t,” said Ayala.
The “Illegal, the Project” crew will be filming over the next 2 weeks.
You can follow their progress on social media, @illegal.theproject on Instagram and Illegal_Project on Twitter or the website https://www.illegaltheproject.org/
Matt earned a Meteorology Certificate from Mississippi State University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon. Before joining NBC5 News, Matt spent a year in Alexandria, Louisiana as a reporter and anchor for KALB News. Matt was also a production assistant at KEZI 9 News in Eugene and an intern at CNN.
In addition to being passionate about news and weather, Matt loves his Oregon Ducks, the outdoors, craft beer and time with his dogs.