It’s funny how a country that was built on the systemic genocide of its native inhabitants treats “immigration” like a dirty buzzword. With changes in policies during Trump’s administration, the U.S immigration system has become even stricter, permitting only a “chosen few” to live the American Dream. In other words, if you aren’t white, go back to where you came from.

I’ve grown up with these stories that are told in hushed whispers.

I know family members who set foot on California, with only a few dollars in their pocket, working the oddest jobs to make ends meet. I know promising students who were denied visas because their names and skin colors deemed them “dangerous”. I know people who live in run-down apartments with broken light bulbs and leaky ceilings, who’ve made under-the-table deals with the local landlord just to let them stay. I’ve heard of people who’ve returned to the same run-down apartments after a long day of work only to find their entire family missing, ready to be deported to the country they sought to escape from without any notice.

Even though we ought to, we’re often afraid of talking about these stories out loud.

But we’re finally getting a Netflix documentary that promises to talk about the ghastly, harrowing but true reality of U.S. immigration.

The trailer for Netflix’s Living Undocumented announces,

“I want you to imagine waking up one morning and your father is just gone.”

Produced by Selena Gomez, the show chronicles the everyday lives of eight undocumented families, all of whom face potential deportation. These are people who may live next door, own a business, and appear to lead a seemingly normal “American” life yet they live in constant fear and anxiety, all because they don’t have the “right papers” to prove they have the freedom to live here.

As one of the women interviewed confesses,

“I knew I wasn’t born here. I just didn’t know that not being born here was something that was dangerous.”

netflix living undocumented selena gomez
Photo credit: Netflix

Right now, there are at least 4 million unauthorized immigrants who live in the country with their U.S-born children. And these undocumented immigrants are frequently painted as criminals. Yet how can living in a country, abiding by all its rules and contributing fruitfully to society, be considered a “crime”? Why should they be classified in the same category as thieves, murderers, rapists, and terrorists?

There’s a poignant scene in the trailer where a young girl insists,

“But my mom is not a criminal. She’s a military wife.”

The show aims to highlight the pitfalls of the U.S. immigration system and bring to attention the plight of all of those who live “in the shadows” without documentation. It points out that the line to a green card is at least a twenty-year-long wait, emphasizing just how difficult it is for people of color to gain citizenship.

Living Undocumented, which is slated to release worldwide on October 2, may not have the power to change the administration, but it may initiate a dialogue about a very topical issue. Not only does it seek to acknowledge and address the trials and tribulations of illegal immigrants, but it also provides a space where they can speak for themselves and express what they truly want, which is simply a desire to be “treated like a human being.”

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Feature photo courtesy of Netflix

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