Brentwood Youth Films Documentary about Immigration

Hendel Leiva, a young resident of Brentwood well-known on social media for his show “The Hendel Media Project,” has released his first documentary, entitled “From One Mistake.” The project addresses the reasons that drove him to discriminate against day laborers when he was a high school student – even though his own father was undocumented and despite the increase in hate crimes on Long Island. “From One Mistake” is a film about the journey to self-awareness, empowerment and action in the midst of a hostile political environment.

“Every week, I ask people to share their stories and experiences about immigration reform because I think that each one of them has the potential to have an impact,” said Leiva, referring to his YouTube program “The Hendel Media Project.” “I wanted to share mine with people, too,” he added.

Leiva states that he is a product of the immigration system. “Before I was born, my father was an ‘undocumented immigrant’ for many years. He often traveled between Guatemala and the United States to send money home,” he said.

Although he was born in Queens, he was raised in Brentwood, Long Island, in the 1990s. That gave him a front-row seat to witnessing the replacement of the area’s mostly Italian and Puerto Rican population with an influx of thousands of Salvadorans who settled there around that time.

“Growing up in Brentwood, I didn’t know much about immigration, except that the former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy was always on Newsday, angry at ‘the illegals,’” said Leiva, who had an argument when he was in ninth grade in which he verbally attacked a group of immigrants. “I regretted it later.”

“That is the topic of my new film ‘From One Mistake: How Immigration Became My Very Personal Fight.’ It was that moment of self-awareness, along with an anti-immigrant protest that took place in Huntington during my junior year in college, that awoke my passion to fight for the rights of immigrants,” he said.

The movie

Hendel’s film takes viewers through all the key moments that led him to turn into an immigration activist, touching on the issues of hateful rhetoric, harassment, depression, suicide, challenges and opportunities. He also introduces his friend and mentor Eliana Fernández, a DACA beneficiary who became one of the lead organizers against Donald Trump’s visit to Patchogue.

Lastly, Hendel makes the case for immigration reform and analyzes the way, he believes, the United States is becoming increasingly hostile to it. He also cites the way rapper Kanye West – who used to inspire him as an activist – aligned himself with Donald Trump as a catalyst to his mission to help fight the explosion of hate incidents online and in high schools, colleges and local communities.

The film is expected to be released in November, but Leiva has also made it available on his website and YouTube account, where hundreds of his followers have already shared it.

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