In America, there is no shortage of conversations about immigration and its policies. In recent years, immigration issues have become increasingly controversial due to the changes in the policies. For the average citizen, these changes may be background noise, however, for the eight families highlighted in Netflix’s documentary series, “Living Undocumented,” it is much more serious. These families share their emotional stories in a fashion that sets itself apart from other documentaries. The way they shed light on what is going on in the families’ lives is unique, but there are not any shockers as the situations shown do not currently have happy endings.
Each episode features the families’ stories, and they often bleed into each other’s until a story ends and another one picks up or begins. There are many stressful scenes in the documentary, such as when they show Luis Diaz, his three-year-old son, Noah, and their attorney, waiting in a parking lot for a white van. The van had Luis’ pregnant girlfriend and mother of his son, Kenia, inside. He was waiting for her because she had already been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She had been detained for more than six weeks at the time for the crime of living undocumented in the United States under the Trump Administration. Diaz himself is undocumented and took the risk of being detained to deliver his son to the detainment facility, all because he would like to say goodbye to his family.
Ultimately, the van does not show up, and the attempt to negotiate having the goodbye outside the facility fails, as they refuse to bring her outside. “If I choose to keep you in custody because you’re here illegally, then that’s what we’ll do,” said an ICE official, “We don’t hold people hostage here.” Then Kenia, her unborn child and Noah were being sent back to Honduras, the country she fled because of her abusive husband there. This emotionally draining story is just one of many in the show.
The show follows the families through their everyday lives and shows the struggles they have to go through in real time. Most documentaries ask the participants about what happened in an interview and then reenact the events they talk about as closely as they can get. In this, the camera crew followed the participants and set itself apart from other documentaries by shooting real conversations and interviews. If they were meeting an attorney or going to trial, the cameras were there to capture it. However, there are times where the “candid” conversations in the show feel scripted, but aside from that, the show does not fail in keeping it as real as possible, despite the unfortunate circumstances the participants have been through.
The show’s importance is displayed through the moments recorded as they were following the families. Every moment is unfiltered truth that is often unseen on our traditional media platforms like the news or even Twitter. In the second episode, we see Diaz’ attorney get assaulted by an ICE official. The official shoved her out the door of a detention center after detaining Diaz, all of this happened in the middle of the night, while it was raining and the camera crew was recording. Other local news crews were present at the time. What is shown traditionally is how bad illegal immigrants are for being here and how that is a major threat to Americans living here now. However, the kind of exposure shown in “Living Undocumented” helps viewers feel empathy for those shown and watch what is happening to people who are trying to start a new life here in the United States. It is important to note that over half of the participants are either married to or now parents of U.S. citizens and have never even crossed the country’s southern border. These circumstances make the show harder to watch because even with the series only having six episodes, it creates a bond between the viewers and the people shown.
“Living Undocumented” is worth watching. It is interesting, emotional and covers the events of the show in a way that other documentaries do not. Out of 5 stars, the docuseries gets a rating of 5 stars. It can be streamed on Netflix and has a total of 6 total episodes.