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Immigration Nation — The Documentary Trump Doesn’t Want You To Watch

Here's why you should anyway.

( Immigration Nation Trailer / YouTube)


On Aug. 3, a documentary called Immigration Nation was released on Netflix. To President Trump’s great dismay, it exposed the treatment of people, primarily Latinxs, seeking asylum by ICE under the Trump Administration

Due to insufficient funds and imminent danger, the refugees in the documentary came here without documentation and later found themselves in inhumane conditions. In each one of the six episodes, we see the faces of those who are fighting to survive.   

Naturally, these faces are what Trump is afraid of. An ICE spokesperson tried to force filmmakers Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz to release the documentary after the 2020 election because of the negative light it shines on the ongoing zero-tolerance immigration policy.  

The current law states that undocumented entry is a criminal offense and persons will be subject to deportation, even if they arrived a decade ago and have since followed the law. Under the Obama Administration, “high risk” subjects were prioritized to be detained. In other words, only the people who committed serious offenses were usually deported. 

But today, undocumented immigrants who have been here for years, pay taxes — an estimated $9 billion are collected annually from undocumented immigrants — and haven’t committed a crime since their arrival are being sent back to the impoverished, dangerous situations in their home countries. 

More than two-thirds of undocumented immigrants do not commit a single crime besides their undocumented entrance. And for the one-third who do commit crimes, they are oftentimes non-violent offenses, like speeding. undocumented immigrants commit 0.5 percent of the murders in this country and the lives taken are usually people of their same ethnicity. 

Yet, Trump has painted them out to be “not people, but animals” or rapists bringing drugs and crime that endanger American lives. But research has repeatedly shown that immigrants are “less likely to be incarcerated than native-born Americans.” Therefore, there is actually a negative correlation between immigration and crime rates. 

Many are unaware that Trump has made it even harder to come here legally. So, telling someone to wait out the legal process (that Trump has worsened) while they are starving to death, being threatened by gangs or chased by their abuser is basically subjecting them to death. 

For the people reading this who are “pro-immigration so long as it’s legal,” the series reminds viewers that the people who flee their countries are not coming to “steal jobs” but are coming to escape death, starvation, violence and discrimination. They come so that their children can get educations. They come to be reunited with their loved ones.

Immigration Nation is a documentary made so well, it’s saddening. Before your eyes you’re shown: Families being separated at the border (which didn’t happen before 2018); Children below the age of ten being ripped from their parents’ arms and told they’d never see them again whilst in detention facilities, wrapped in tinfoil to get warm; Teenagers coming home from school to locked doors; Veterans being deported as a thank you for their service. 

There was one image in the first episode that stayed with me — a pink bicycle. A symbol of innocence that the camera showed as an ICE agent said, “We’re looking for you.” 

A pink bicycle that will grow cobwebs because the child’s parent won’t be around to teach them how to ride it. Or how to drive a car. Or how to pay the rent when they’re gone. Or how to live with the constant fear that one day, they’ll be looking for you too. 

This was just one of the dozens of thought-provoking shots. 

The cinematography of Immigration Nation is so great you can feel the pain in each child's eyes as we see the absence of youth. The journey stole that youth from them and shattered the patriotic image they had of the United States. That image is what keeps most poverty-stricken dreamers going. What do you hold onto after the “best country in the world” ignores your cries for help? 

This is all because of the quotas the Trump Administration states must be met. 

Judges in Immigration Nation said they don’t want to deport so many people who are peaceful and have families to support, but if they don’t, they’ll be fired. As they hear pleas to stay, there is a pointer in front of them that is either in a red zone or a green zone. They have to stay in the green zone in order to keep their jobs, which requires deporting as many people as necessary. 

An ICE agent said “there’s no judge for him,” when discussing what comes after their capture. Whenever ICE agents were asked how they felt about what they are doing to people’s lives, the recurring answer was that they’re simply following the law. 

In the series, a U.S. Marine quoted Thomas Jefferson with the following: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” 

So with that in mind, I ask you this: when Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, allowing for slave owners and their “agents” (the blueprint for police and ICE) to rightfully search the homes of people bordering free states, would you uphold that law? Before same-sex marriage was legalized five years ago, would you have upheld that law? Conversion therapy is still legal in so many states. Would you upload that law? In Nazi-run Germany, would you uphold the law? 

Ask yourself what side of history you will continue to be on. The side that follows inhumane policies because they’re “the law” or the side that recognizes that without the immigrants who are our scientists, farmers, midwives, nurses, construction workers and so much more, this country will never be great. 


Grace Romo is Rowdy Magazine’s Copy Editor. When she isn’t writing poetry or taking pictures, she is listening to indie music way too loud. You can follow her on Instagram @msromoo for anti-racism tips and song recommendations. 


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