Expanding Sanctuary

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Film Short


Kristal Sotomayor

1 Campaigns | Pennsylvania, United States

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This campaign raised $10,039 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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Despite Philadelphia’s sanctuary status, the city’s sharing of its police database with ICE has left immigrant families vulnerable to deportation without due process. This is how Juntos, an immigrant rights nonprofit, worked with Latinx immigrant community members to limit surveillance.

About The Project

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Mission Statement

While popular media offers images of immigrant villainization or devastation, this film showcases a rarely acknowledged success story lead by immigrants. Filmmaker Kristal Sotomayor, daughter of Latino immigrants, collaborated with the community and a women-led crew to amplify voices of resilience.

The Story




For over 10 years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had access to information through the Philadelphia Police Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS) leading to an increase in detainments and deportations. In March 2018, immigrant rights organization Juntos teamed up with Philadelphia’s Latinx immigrant community to put an end to this unconstitutional agreement. Shot over the course of a year, the upcoming documentary Expanding Sanctuary aims to reflect the perspective of South Philadelphia’s Latinx immigrant community and Juntos, as they fight for landmark policies to limit deportations in their city.


Utilizing the PARS database, ICE exploited demographic information to racially profile immigrants, subsequently carrying out detainments and deportations. ICE had access to the police database through a city contract set to renew in August 2018. From the first community meetings to the mayor’s historic decision to end database sharing, Expanding Sanctuary follows the grassroots campaign to end the PARS agreement and to pass one of the country’s first legislations expanding the protections of sanctuary cities. The film documents a critical moment in immigrant rights in the United States, while providing a guide for other organizations to achieve similar victories in their cities.




The database holds personal information of not only those arrested, but anyone who has had any contact with the police. This means ICE had access to victims, witnesses, and those fingerprinted at the border. Utilizing the PARS database to cross-check fingerprints and racially profile by demographic information, ICE had been processing deportation orders throughout the city.




Juntos is a community-led, Latinx immigrant rights organization in South Philadelphia fighting for our human rights as workers, parents, youth, and immigrants. They believe that every human being has the right to a quality education and the freedom to live with dignity regardless of immigration status. Juntos combines leadership development, community organizing, and focused collaborations with other community-based and advocacy organizations to build the power of their community members so they may be active agents of change and work against their own oppression. Juntos members in the film include: Executive Director Erikaand Communications Manager Miguel. As the only film crew following Juntos, we aim to document a historic moment in immigrant and human rights legislation in the U.S. through the eyes of the Latinx immigrant community.



Through interviews, observational footage, and social media videos, the film follows the beginning of the campaign to end the PARS agreement. Camera in hand, director Kristal Sotomayor captured the efforts of Juntos and the Philadelphia Latinx immigrant community herself. As an outsider to the community, it is her responsibility to ensure the safety and protection of characters and their families.  Particularly during this current presidential administration, sanctuary cities and immigrant activists have been directly targeted by ICE deportation raids. For this reason, the filmmaker is working with community partner Juntos to gain access and to ensure that immigration statuses are confidential. A key aspect of this film is coordinating several rough and final cut screenings at the Juntos office for community members to watch the film and provide feedback.




Though we have hours of beautiful, powerful footage of the campaign, we need funding to bring this story to life in a 26 minute documentary. In a political climate rampant with xenophobia, this film demonstrates the beauty, resilience, and power of Latinx immigrant communities. We hope you take this opportunity to support the often untold and underpresented stories of immigrant communities.


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About This Team


KRISTAL SOTOMAYOR (she/her) is a Philadelphia-based bilingual Latina documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and editor. She serves as the Communications and Outreach Coordinator at Scribe Video Center and as the Festival Programming Coordinator for the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival. In the past, Kristal has assisted with programming and curation for the Philadelphia Film Festival, IFP Week (Independent Filmmaker Project), and the award-winning PBS documentary film series POV|American Documentary. Drawing inspiration from her Peruvian heritage, Kristal’s films focus on Latinidad, immigration, and belonging. As the daughter of Latino immigrants, Kristal Sotomayor has  first-hand experience with the misrepresentation and underrepresentation of Latinx folks. Her objective with this film is to showcase the beauty, strength, and resilience of the Latinx immigrant community in South Philadelphia. She aims to decolonize documentary by practicing transformative filmmaking that humanizes and validates the lived experiences of underrepresented communities.




MARÁNGELI MEJÍA-RABELL (she/her) is a Puerto Rico-born, Philadelphia-based cultural producer and community development practitioner whose work is centered on cross sector partnerships, collective impact arts & culture as a tool for social change and community revitalization. As Co Founder of AfroTaino Productions, she curates, co-designs and executes arts/culture programming, campaigns, special events and projects in public and private arena targeting multicultural audiences. Marángeli also serves as the Festival Director of the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival. Some of her most recent collaborations include Pepon Osorio’s reForm at Tyler Contemporary and BrideNext, a Building Audience Demand project with Marty Pottenger and Bienvenidos Blancos with Team Sunshine Performance Corporation.




SELENA YIP (she/they) was born in the Philadelphia Area and was raised with strong familial and community ties to Philadelphia’s Chinatown. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 with a double major in psychology and anthropology. In 2018, she produced Staying Put: Stories of Chinatown’s Resistance as part of Scribe Video Center's Precious Places Philadelphia history project, which documented the history of the Philadelphia Chinatown community’s resilience in the face of urban development and gentrification. While working on the documentary, Selena met and joined the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival team and is now working as their Communications Director.



ANNIE DIAZ (she/her) is a Puerto Rican documentary and fiction filmmaker based in Lancaster, PA. Recently graduating from Muhlenberg College, her studies included Media and Communication, Film Studies, and a minor in Documentary Filmmaking, which has strengthened her skills and understanding of documentary work within social contexts. Her work focuses on telling stories of communities of the historically disadvantaged with the intention to nuance conversations regarding their social and political issues. Her recent documentary, Para Ti, centralizes the conflicts Puerto Rican women face in relation to beauty standards, womanhood, as a result of migrating to the United States. Through this documentary, she hopes to continue to spread more awareness of serious, systemic issues Latinx communities, specifically undocumented immigrants in this case, face throughout the United States.



MAYA WINNEG (she/her) is from Elkins Park, PA studying film and education at Temple University. Her involvement in Philadelphia’s community media began with her time interning at Media Mobilizing Project and continued with her work in video production at Philadelphia’s Public Access TV station, PhillyCAM. In addition to working with community-based documentary and narrative forms, she hopes to explore the world of children’s media storytelling. The director’s energy and love for her community drew Maya to this project. She believes Expanding Sanctuary will empower those within U.S. immigrant communities and beyond.



SAMANTHA TAN (she/her) is from Lansdale, PA - originally born and raised in Massachusetts. Before going into producing, she animated, voice acted, and wrote screenplays and poems. As she continues to develop herself as a filmmaker, she found herself falling more in love with producing. So far, she produced music videos, short films, as well as a few web series. Most of her works are POC-based. She wants to open up her own production company one day.


Current Team