By: Laura Bennett
Oftentimes it’s our most vulnerable communities that need the most help – yet sadly because of their situation they’re also the ones who have the most trouble accessing it.
In Saint Judy, we see a world where the vulnerable not only need help – they have to prove they’re worthy of it.
Starring Michelle Monaghan (Mission Impossible, The Best of Me) as immigration attorney Judy Wood, Saint Judy is based on the true story of the woman who was instrumental in changing immigration law in the US to make it easier for women to seek asylum.
Judy moves to Los Angeles with her son to be closer to his dad, taking up a role at small law firm. She quickly realises the firm’s motivation is less about seeking justice for their clients and more about closing the hundreds of cases they have piling up.
When Judy comes across the case of an asylum seeker who’s being mistreated in jail and hasn’t had her case fully investigated, she can’t let it go – and is forced to form her own practice to continue pursuing it.
This case becomes the backbone of the movie, exploring issues within America’s immigration law – particularly those that don’t count women as a vulnerable social group.
How Women Fleeing Violence Are Not Protected
While promoting Saint Judy the real-life Judy Wood explained that, because women aren’t a minority, they’re “not a protected class; the refugee statutes don’t apply to women who are fleeing violence in their home country. And I can’t understand how that holding could possibly survive, because the whole meaning of being a refugee is someone who is fleeing from violence.”
As the case continues, Judy must validate her client’s request for asylum and prove the legitimacy of a woman’s need for protection – and how the law doesn’t cater for the nuances of their needs.
Judy continued, “A person who has a well-founded fear of persecution can apply for asylum [in the US], but the grounds of the persecution are very limited; there are five grounds.
“So if a woman presents her case and is not able to annunciate [for instance] the fact that she actually does have a political opinion, and she’s been raped on account of her political opinion – if she’s not able to garner those facts, most likely she will lose her case in court.
“The problem is there’s so much shame in the fact the person you’re representing has actually been a victim, it’s very hard for them to overcome that shame and tell the truth. And when they do tell the truth they’re not believed, so it’s kind of a crushing experience.”
The Law Should Support People, Not Dehumanise Them
Ultimately Saint Judy’s intention is to remind us that the law should be there to serve people – not dehumanise them. It gives real faces to persecution and abuse, and invites us in to the stories of immigrants and refugees seeking asylum.
Actress Michelle Monaghan said, “It’s important for people to see this movie because there’s so much to be learned about the human experience of immigrants and refugees.
“…One of my great takeaways is the impact just one person can have; [Judy] saved literally thousands of lives with her own mission – there’s nothing more inspiring than that. And I hope [Saint Judy] opens people’s hearts to have compassion and to have another point of view in regards to [America’s] immigration issues and how it’s affecting women and families all over the world.”
Saint Judy is in cinemas right now.
Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.
About the Author: Laura is a media professional, broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.