Living Undocumented

One would expect that a film of following eight immigrant families in 2018 would be emotional, traumatizing, and a difficult to swallow, but nothing can prepare you for the horror of the merciless and dehumanizing nightmare that is the current reality of immigrants in America. To be honest, I don’t cry--ever--but I did watching this. Yet no matter what we have to watch, we must bear witness and then...we must act.

Under previous administrations ICE focused its resources on immigrants who came or stayed illegally, and were also criminals on top of their undocumented status. However, following Trump’s election, ICE cracked down and began detaining and deporting all immigrants who arrived illegally or stayed illegally with little to no discernment of particular cases or circumstances. It is those situations that the Netflix docu-series “Living Undocumented” focuses on.

These people are working, providing for our economy, paying taxes. All they want is a slice of the American Dream, just like our ancestors who immigrated to the US at any other point in history. Their only crime is coming to this country illegally (meaning without going through the “legal” processes) or overstaying their legal but limited status. However, this idea of “legal” immigration is ridiculous. People often will remark that immigrants should just “stand in line and do it the right way,” but that is NOT a realistic thing. The US department of immigration is currently processing immigration papers from 1997, NOT 2019. People don’t have time to wait; they are often fleeing extreme violence and poverty. These deterrents that the Trump administration thinks they are creating are not ever going to be effective because the push factors bringing immigrants into this country are far stronger than any government policy on the US side. The administration is breaking up families, traumatizing children, violating human beings’ rights, committing abhorrent crimes, and destroying this nation. At the end of the day the real criminals are the ones in the uniforms with the American flag on their shoulders

One of the most horrible scenes from Living Undocumented for me personally was watching Luis being physically forced to bring his stepson to the ICE detention facility. When he did comply he was also shoved by the ICE officer into the detention facility so that he, too, would be deported. Meanwhile his attorney was assaulted by the ICE officer and had to be removed on a stretcher. As the attorney Andrea Martinez said, “If an ICE officer was willing to assault me, on camera and in front of 40 witnesses just imagine what they are willing to do to an immigrant in a private detention facility.” Just imagine. And if anyone is going to come at me and say, “He was just doing his job!” let me remind you that the SS officers running concentration camps in Nazi Germany were only “doing their jobs” as well.

When a 9 year old girl must leave her father, older sister, and home to go to a country she knows nothing about; when US military spouse who entered the US illegally 20 years ago is forced to leave her husband and eldest daughter behind; when her 9 year old daughter (a US citizen) must choose between her father and America or her mother and a country she knows nothing about, we know that we are the ones who have done wrong, not these people. When a pregnant woman and her three year old are criminalized for walking for days through the desert, jumping on a moving train, and crossing a river to flee an abusive partner who is being protected by her country’s government, we know that we are the ones who have done wrong, not these people.

So often we talk about immigration in a broad sense, in generalized and highly technical terms; this docu-series is the cure to all that. Because all the laws and statistics and talking-heads mean nothing when you can see and hear the unfiltered words and lives of these innocent people. Remember these faces and these words, because one day we will speak about Luis, Noah, Alejandra, and so many others in the same way that we talk about Anne Frank, Malala Yousafzai, and Autumn Petlier.

 

I will leave you with these closing words: If you’ve ever wondered what you’d do during the era of slavery, the holocaust, or the civil rights movement, you’re doing it right now.