Film Ponders Life Without Latinos

Yareli Arizmendi, filmmaker, A Day Without A Mexican
CBS
Imagine if California woke up one day to find all Latinos - citizens and immigrants, legal and illegal - had disappeared.

That's the provocative premise of a soon-to-be-released movie, a satirical mockumentary, "A Day Without A Mexican," by Mexico-born filmmakers Sergio Arau and Yareli Arizmendi. The film, as CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker reports, is their answer to recent attempts to cut services to undocumented workers in California.

"Because of course, all Latinos on the West Coast are assumed to be Mexican," says filmmaker Yareli Arizmendi.

"How do you make the invisible visible? You take it away," says Arizmendi. "And that's what we did. That's why there are no Latinos."

In one of the film's scenes, an Anglo restaurateur complains, "I had to wash a dish."

From farm workers to the lieutenant governor, they're all gone.

The filmmakers say they want to stir things up and have they ever. One of the first billboards to go up was pulled right down after an outraged complaint by a Hispanic woman.

But one Pasadena restaurateur calls just the thought of no Latino workers a nightmare.

Aside from closing down his business, Blair Salisbury says the absence of Latinos "would cripple the whole economy in the state of California."

Almost a third of the state is Latino, from bartenders to warehouse managers and meter readers.

"If they start looking around them, they'll see that the Latino presence is pervasive throughout California, but growing throughout the nation," says Harry Pachon, the president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, a think tank at the University of Southern California that specializes in Latino issues.

The trouble, say critics, is that this makes light of a weighty problem: illegal immigration.

"It costs American taxpayers billions of dollars a year to have cheap labor," says Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. "You find out that no, they are not paying their fair share."

"It's a comedy," says Arau. "It's a very serious comedy."

It's one that may make you laugh until it hurts.