‘Immigration Nation’ directors say ICE tried to editorialize the series

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Filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau say they were given access to the Immigration Customs Enforcement agency for almost three years, following raids, intimate meetings and shadowing immigrants to detail their struggles for their six-episode docu-series — but when ICE screened the show, there were problems.

“Unfortunately, the relationship took a terrible turn when we handed in the show for ICE reviewal,” said Schwarz. “The asks were to clearly editorialize the show.”

The New York Times in July reported that the Trump administration fought to keep the new docuseries from being released until after the 2020 election.

“And beyond that, they didn’t just make asks. They made a lot of legal claims that were simply not true,” he continued. “And we were, of course, taken aback by that. And at the end of the day, after a long day, I must say, our legal team and the First Amendment in this country did prevail. And the show is available exactly in the way we wanted it to be on Netflix.”

As a former Israeli soldier for IDF (Israel Defense Forces), Schwarz says he understands the difficult positions ICE officers would find themselves in.

“They’re not horrible people. They are doing their job,” said Schwartz. “You can agree or not agree with that. And their job is mandated on a political issue. It’s shifted quite drastically when we came into the agency filming because we came during the Trump era. And so to us, it was actually interesting to spend time with people on ICE and see the human side, as well as see how the effects of the administration are making some of them act, definitely in a more emboldened way, while others really found themselves in this really tricky position. Nobody likes to be hated. And I think ICE has become maybe the most hated agency in the United States government.”

Gaining the trust of the immigrants featured was equally as important to the filmmakers, but it was never easy. Clusiau explained that since they were shadowing ICE, many made assumptions about their own position. So they had to explain, they were independent journalists.

“I think more often than not a lot of people were not interested, which we totally understand, because of the vulnerable positions they were in. But the few that, you know did, or the many that told their story, I think they really felt the need to express what they were experiencing,” she said.

One thing the husband and wife team found surprising was that veterans were deportable too.

“You know, I think it’s obvious that if you’re willing to die for this country, you’re good enough to live in it. The system doesn’t make sense. And I think that’s the most shocking take and what we want people to see in this show. And we want to make you angry, because if you’re not angry, you either don’t understand or you don’t have a heart,” said Schwarz.

“Immigration Nation” is available now on Netflix.

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