Netflix or News? Documenting the undocumented
By Mackenzie Gellner, Staff Writer
This is not your typical Netflix series. This is happening as you read this. This is real; these people are real.
Living Undocumented, produced by Selena Gomez, tells the stories of eight immigrant families living in the United States as undocumented immigrants. The series delves into how the immigration policy in the States has been changing with time.
The series discusses how under the current Trump administration, the use of detention centres by the government has proliferated, and their extensive use has many concerned about their state and condition.
New Jersey’s Ellis Island Immigration Station is a notable example of an American detention centre, with its creation in 1892 making it the first detention centre in the world. Overall, detention centres have been used by the United States government continually to hold immigrants in civil detention while they wait for a hearing to determine whether they will be allowed to continue living in the country or not. But, with their skyrocketing use in recent years — being estimated to have grown twentyfold from their 1979 predescessors — current detention camps have been compared to the conditions of concentration camps during the Holocaust. Detainees of the detention camps described them as overcrowded, the food either raw or foul and the water provided, a dark color with sediment in it, according to The Atlantic.
Each family featured in the series struggles with the possibility of being deported, or having a family member deported and the mental and psychological effects of this reality. When discussing the idea of returning to their country of citizenship, you can hear and see the pain in these families’ voices. Especially when it comes to children, being born in a country does not necessarily make it your home; many immigrant children only lived in their country of origin for a handful of years, making memories of their childhood primarily within the States.
One of the largest issues facing immigrants on the verge of deportation revolves around their safety. Many of these families fear going back to their country of origin due to war, lack of opportunities, poverty and other political, social and economical aspects, which were the main catalysts for inspiring their move to the land of the ‘free.’
So why is this Netflix series so important to watch? Why does it matter if you’re not living in the States? Or if you’re not undocumented?
The answer: They are people, just like you and me, and they need support from as many other people as possible, no matter where in the world.
According to Rolling Stone, Selena Gomez stated, “It is a human issue, affecting real people, dismantling real lives. How we deal with it speaks to our humanity, our empathy, our compassion. How we treat our fellow human beings defines who we are.”
There is always concern around supporting social and political issues when you are not directly involved in them. There is a fear of saying or doing something wrong due to a lack of knowledge about the situation. However, the outside voices can be the loudest. In order for a group to really be heard on a magnified level, those unaffected must speak towards the injustice taking place. It is about speaking on what you believe to be right, even if you don’t know someone personally who is struggling with it.
Living Undocumented makes the issue of undocumented immigration in the States more tangible for those of us living outside the States, or who have never considered the issue our own. By hearing the stories from the people who live them as realities, we are able to humanize the issue and understand it as something directly affecting those around us. The humanization of a problem so massive and politically charged is essential to strike empathy within viewers and motivate action. Without the media documentation of these undocumented people, movements to enact change on their treatment might never happen.