‘Immigration Nation,’ a docuseries worth watching
Filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau were given unprecedented access and allowed to follow, film and show the daily jobs of ICE agents as they apprehended and arrested undocumented immigrants. “Immigration Nation” was released in August 2020 and its six episodes tell the true story of America’s immigration system from the perspective of the immigrants and the enforcers. It shows cruelty and inhumanity.
The film took two and a half years to complete and included an interview outside the country with the family of one of the detainees. The filmmakers faced a hurdle when Trump administration officials wanted to take back their permission to complete the docuseries claiming that it mischaracterized the agency. The filmmakers’ attorney refused to let them be silenced or intimidated. Ms. Clusiau told the New York Times “You keep on perpetuating the narrative of people being in the shadows when you’re unable to show them. I think that was a big part of wanting to get to the heart of these stories and really show people who they are.” They agreed not to show the last names of the officers.
“Immigration Nation” reveals America’s broken immigration system. It shows the ultimate sacrifice of trying to reach the United States in the face of death or family separation for sometimes more than a year. Thousands have been returned or have decided not to expect new policies. There were many cases but very few with success stories. The zero-tolerance policy and remain-in-Mexico policy have impacted the asylum system tremendously. It was very difficult to watch and hear the officers’ “I don’t care” attitude.
In one interview, Schwarz was asked how ICE officers saw themselves. His response: “I think some come across as extremely cynical and are not meant to be. … They felt when Trump came into power that the gloves were off, that they could do their job, that they have backing. … They get desensitized to the fact that it’s lives. It’s not that they are not aware. They’re well aware.”
Many of the agents would comment that [immigrants] needed to “come in the right way” – saying that Congress could change these policies and would say “this is only my job.” Truth is, there is very little opportunity to request entry into the United States. It appears that it doesn’t matter if there is credible fear, the immigration courts are not approving cases after that long wait in Mexico.
The titles of the six episodes are: Installing Fear, Maintaining Vigilance, The Power of the Vote, The New Normal, The Right Way, and Prevention Through Deterrence. “Immigration Nation” will make your blood boil and break your heart. Watch it on Netflix. (Selena Gomez also produced “Undocumented Americans” in October 2019. It too interviews undocumented youth living in fear in the United States.)