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‘Immigration Nation’ Goes Behind the Scenes of ICE

A new Netflix docuseries, “Immigration Nation,” explores the operations behind the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during the Trump administration.

Directed by Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau, the six-part series was filmed entirely during the Trump administration from 2017 to 2020. Surprisingly, the filmmakers were granted extensive access to ICE agents (presented using only their first names) — from all over the U.S. including New York City, Charlotte, North Carolina, and on the border outside Tucson, Arizona.

Filming was allowed inside detention facilities and there are interviews with a wide array of immigrants including elderly asylum-seekers, war veterans, and parents separated from their underage children.

It’s probably no surprise that ICE now regrets being this candid; reports reveal that the filmmakers eventually faced legal threats — with ICE seeking to delay the release until after the 2020 U.S. elections.

According to these reports, ICE’s leadership was frustrated because they believed the documentary was supposed to be about ICE officers rather than immigrants. Although the filmmakers said they came away with some empathy for the ICE officers — many of whom were ostensibly just doing their jobs — they couldn’t ignore that the entire system was harmful to immigrants and their families.

To be fair, the ICE agents were allegedly given a chance to share their side of the story in the new docuseries. “Immigration Nation” also name-checked former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton for laying the groundwork for the current stringent immigration policy. In fact, the origins of this documentary supposedly sprung during the Obama administration, when Director Shaul Schwarz investigated a story on drug cartels at an ICE field office in Arizona.

The docuseries inevitably details how ICE has ramped up its operations in response to the Trump administration though, which has resulted in unprecedented suffering for immigrants. Presumably, this is to make the immigration process as difficult and painful as possible since Trump cannot just outlaw immigration altogether.

Attorney John Amaya, ICE’s deputy chief of staff during the Obama administration, is interviewed in the series and described the current strategy as being “to tear families apart, which to me is unconscionable, and bring them maximum pain.”

ICE is also captured on camera deceiving undocumented immigrants and U.S. citizens alike with their tactics — such as lying that they’re only arresting criminals and pretending to be police to raid homes.

“Immigration Nation” premiered Aug. 3 on Netflix.


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