Rudy Robles (Marin) is told by his mother to pick up his cousin Javier (Paul Rodriguez) at a factory before she leaves for Fresno. Robles arrives shortly before immigration officials raid the factory looking for illegal immigrants. Because he is carrying no identification, and his mother and sister are not available to verify he is a US citizen, Robles is deported with the illegals to Mexico.
Ironically, Robles cannot speak more than very simple Spanglish, though he is fluent in German from having served in Germany in the United States Army. In Tijuana, Robles becomes friends with a guy named Jimmy (Daniel Stern) and a waitress named Dolores (Kamala Lopez-Dawson). Unable to contact his mother, Robles makes repeated attempts to cross the border, all ending in failure.
Jimmy offers to get him back home for a price. Having left home without his wallet, Robles works for Jimmy as doorman at a strip club, earning extra money selling oranges and teaching five would be illegal immigrants, two Central Americans and three Asians, to walk and talk like East Los Angeles natives. They become called the “Waas Sappening Boys” or “What’s Happening Boys”.
Robles falls in love with Dolores and finally raises the money needed to be smuggled across the border. He goes on a date with Dolores and the next day, Robles bids farewell to Jimmy, receives a last kiss goodbye from Dolores and climbs into the coyote’s truck. He sees a woman pleading to also be taken as her husband is already in the truck and their family is in the United States, but she lacks the money to pay for her to be smuggled. Robles gives the woman his place.
Born in East L.A. is a 1987 American comedy film written and directed by Cheech Marin of the Cheech & Chong comedy team. The film is about a Mexican-American from East Los Angeles who is mistaken for an illegal alien and deported. It is based on a 1984 novelty parody song of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” and “I Love L.A.” by Randy Newman. Written by Marin and released on the 1985 Cheech & Chong album Get Out of My Room, the parody was made a music video the same year. Marin used the song as the basis of his first solo film.
Born in East L.A. (1987)
Directed by: Cheech Marin
Starring: Cheech Marin, Daniel Stern, Paul Rodriguez, Kamala Lopez, Jan-Michael Vincent, Lupe Ontiveros, Urbanie Lucero, Chastity Ayala
Screenplay by: Cheech Marin
Production Design by: Lynda Burbank
Cinematography by: Álex Phillips Jr.
Film Editing by: Don Brochu, Stephen Lovejoy, David Newhouse, Mike Sheridan
Costume Design by: Isabella B. Van Soest
Set Decoration by: Enrique Estévez, Steve Karatzas
Art Direction by: Lynda Burbank, J. Rae Fox, Héctor Rodríguez
Music by: Lee Holdridge
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: August 21, 1987