July 17, 2013 8:00am PT by Austin Siegemund-Broka
'The Bridge's' Demian Bichir: 'There's No Wall High Enough to Stop Immigration'
Demian Bichir hopes The Bridge is more than great TV drama -- it could help serve as a wake-up call to Washington immigration reformers.
The FX series, in which Bichir plays a Juarez detective, airs its second episode Wednesday as Capitol Hill lawmakers debate a bipartisan immigration reform bill that includes a "path to citizenship" and proposals for heavier border security.
"I think it's perfect timing for that. If we can bring people's attention to what the real problem of immigration is, that'll be an asset to our show," Bichir told reporters in a conference call Monday.
"Why are they passing this law, this new immigration law?" he continued. "There's a big chance for a new amnesty [policy], but at the same time, why do they want to build this huge wall? Why do they want to use our tax money to build a wall? Haven't we learned that there's no wall high enough to stop immigration? That is not the problem. That is not the issue. We need to know the facts in order to tell the politicians, 'Excuse me, I don't want you to use my money on building a wall that will not solve any problems."
Bichir, a veteran Mexican actor from a well-known family of performers, received a best actor Oscar nomination for playing an undocumented gardener in 2011's A Better Life. He stars with Diane Kruger and Ted Levine in The Bridge in which his character, Marco Ruiz, teams with El Paso detective Sonya Cross (Kruger) to hunt a serial killer working on both sides of the border.
He hopes The Bridge will shed light on "the way politicians lie" and stir up curiosity about immigration policy, among other issues. "I hope people can stop believing everything politicians say about Mexico and the U.S., about the problems that we share," he said.
The show's title alludes to a positive relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, he explained. "The fact that our show is called The Bridge -- that is exactly what we need. We need to build bridges and not walls."
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 was introduced in the Democrat-controlled Senate in April and passed late last month, though it has stalled as Speaker John Boehner decides how and if the bill will come before the Republican-led House of Representatives. The bill could provide immigrants a route to legal status and citizenship, increase border security funding and grow the Border Patrol from 21,000 to 40,000 agents.
"The immigration issue is about the separation of the families," Bichir said. "We should not root for a law that can separate the family."
He also spoke about corruption in the Mexican government. “If you’re corrupt in the United States, and they get you, they find you, they bust you, you’re going down,” he said. “In Mexico, there is always a way out. Especially if you went to Harvard, right?” he added -- likely referring to former Mexican president Felipe Calderon, whose war on drug cartels led to accusations of human rights violations by activist groups. Calderon received a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2000, and in January he began a yearlong fellowship at the school.
The Bridge could inspire viewers’ curiosity about subjects beyond Mexico-U.S. relations, Bichir said, such as Asperger’s syndrome (Det. Cross has the condition) and the dead girls of Juarez, a group of young women killed in the region in the past two decades. But the show’s perspective is slanted in one regard, he warned: the depiction of Juarez.
“We’re only showing the Hollywood Juarez,” said Bichir, adding that he has family and friends in the city. “Juarez is a very modern city.”
“Everything we’re showing right now is the bad side, the bad guys,” he continued. “Juarez is much more than a difficult border sometimes, and we still need to show that part.”
The Bridge airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.