Doctoral student's film examines the perils of undocumented border crossings

Bryce Newell's documentary film, "We Have a Wall: Saving Lives on the Tinaja Trail," is the story of undocumented migration and humanitarian service, told from the perspectives of four undocumented immigrants and the volunteers who place water, food, and first aid supplies along the migratory trails to try and save the lives of people who cross from Mexico into the U.S. through long stretches of desert. 

According to the film's website, volunteers have dropped water and aid containers along popular routes of migration for years, and also search the desert for dying immigrants. To some, these are selfless and inspirational efforts that give new and poignant context to the phrase “the Art of Survival.” To others, such action irresponsibly induces illegal border crossing, tantamount to aiding and abetting unlawful conduct. From the perspectives of both the undocumented migrants and the aid-givers, “We Have a Wall” provides a compelling tale of life and death, and compassionate service, along the Tinaja Trail.

The film examines the social, legal, and humanitarian aspects wrapped up in this difficult topic. It tells the stories of immigrants crossing the border and of the volunteers attempting to save their lives, all while seeking to discover where true “humanitarian service” ends and where irresponsible conduct begins. The project is fiscally sponsored by the Center for Independent Documentary ( A new Kickstarter campaign seeks to raise the remaining funds necessary to complete the film. 

Newell is lawyer and a Google Policy Fellow. His research interests at the iSchool are focused on the legal, ethical, and political implications of information and technology in society.