'Immigration Nation' depicts the activities of ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement), offering unprecedented access into their operations. The six-part Netflix docuseries also takes a look at the lives of immigrants in modern day America.
According to reports, both ICE and Trump's administration attempted to block the release of 'Immigration Nation' on Netflix until after the upcoming election. One can't confirn for sure, though it isn't much of a stretch. Moreover the documentary offers a damning picture of Trump's presidency and the expansion and operations of ICE.
One of the deportation officers, Scott (no surnames are given, though audiences do see their faces), an off-putting representative, is giddy as immigrants arrive into his office in cuffs. The first man arrested is from the Dominican Republic. He had criminal charges before coming to America. But it quickly emerges that this isn't the case for the vast majority of men, women and children brought in.
Deportation officers are tasked with finding, arresting and removing 'fugitive aliens'. They've grown exponentially in unit numbers with thousands more officers being employed in the last three years (which is when the series is shot over). Initially their job was only to focus on those who'd committed serious crimes. Under Trump, all immigration violators are targeted (an executive order he introduced days after being elected), whether convicted of a crime or not. An officer named Judy describes it as the floodgates being opened, a whole new world that no one is used to.
The participants in the series are extremely honest, which is a credit to directors Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz for getting them to open up so much. The officers talk about how their pain knowing that these immigrants are just looking to work (often in the jobs Americans don't want anyway) and a better life for their families. Anyone in their position would do the same.
Clusiau and Schwarz grapple with the dehumanisation of immigrants via ICE as they're reduced to just numbers ("bring at least X number of people in, I don't care what you do"; "it comes to a point where it's just next, next, next") by interviewing the immigrants who hide out, terrified at home, and those arrested. Men at the border sob as one father describes his three year old son being pulled from his leg and taken away as he begged to stay with his dad. These and other stories are just heartbreaking.
Elsewhere we are introduced to the employees at the federal plaza who are so disconnected from the immigrants who come in, it's sinister. We see how various bodies and individuals contribute just a little piece to this horrific, terrorising system, where everyone feels justified as they're "just doing their job." The documentary shows protests against ICE gaining momentum around the world, and the fury and indignation at Trump's inhumanity.
We see a family from Guatemala desperately torn apart; elsewhere a marine who fought for his country gets no moment's rest. Such topics as the separation of families, the importance of voting, wage theft, asylum seekers and the Mexican border also provide subject matter. It also highlights that it's not all Trump's fault either. Policies set out by Obama and particularly Bill Clinton have also led to the current crisis.
Admittedly, 'Immigration Nation' is most effective in its first three episodes. But, as mentioned previously, its greatest strength is in the way that it humanises those individuals that the system seeks to dehumanise. It's important that everyone watches this to understand what's happening in America right now. An answer must be found, though none are offered here. The starting point however, the documentary insists, is more compassion.
'Immigration Nation' is streaming on Netflix now.