Selena Gomez Produces “Living Undocumented” Netflix Series

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Idelis Pizarro, Contributing Writer

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On Oct. 11, Netflix released a new docuseries, produced by Selena Gomez, called “Living Undocumented,” which follows eight families as they face potential deportation. 

Production took place from April 2018 to January 2019. Producers reached out to hundreds of candidates, but many declined out of fear of jeopardizing their legal situations. Producers chose on two families from Texas, one from California, and one each from South Carolina, Maryland, Florida and Wisconsin. Initially, the producers wanted to include ICE’S point of view, but the agency’s conditions for participation made them worry about the safety of the families, so they chose to move forward the project without it.

Gomez sat down with Bar, an 18-year-old, and Columbian brothers Pablo, 20, and Camilo, 18, in an interview. They reflected  on their experiences since the documentary was filmed. 

 Camilo’s and Pablo’s father was detained and deported to Colombia, but the brothers were unable to say goodbye to him beforehand. Pablo also said that they had an appointment with ICE, but it was postponed. 

I really hope that the fight doesn’t end with us leaving. I hope the fight continues to the point where this country welcomes us with open arms,” said Camilo in the interview. 

Bar reflected on how different her life would be if none of this happened to her and her family. She said that she was unsure if she will ever be able to see her Israeli family members because, like the brothers, she is unable to travel outside of this country; because ICE collected their passports. The three also recall moments of comfort such as finding friends they could trust and share their experience with.

Other documentaries have tackled this complex issue from a personal standpoint. “America Divided” features actor America Ferrera exploring the challenges facing Central American refugees on the Texas border. “The Infiltrators,” a blend of documentary filmmaking with scripted narrative, tells a story of two undocumented Florida activists who recorded live inside detention centers. However, in “Living Undocumented,” the audience spends time inside the homes, businesses, and workplaces of families being separated by the laws and policies.

The audience sees a father playing with his toddler on a swing after his girlfriend was deported. We later experience the suspense of a check-in appointment with Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials, where we see another father not knowing if he’ll be detained and deported or can stay with his wife and child who are both citizens. 

In another episode, a wife of a former Marine, self-deported to Mexico with her 9-year-old, leaving her husband and other daughter behind in Florida. Another Mexican immigrant opts to self-deport to Toronto with his husband after losing his chance at legal status because he flew to the U.S. at the age of 14 to see his mother who was getting a cancer treatment.

“Living Undocumented” is executive produced by Selena Gomez along with co-director and co-executive producer Aaron Saidman. Saidman and his partner became interested in the topic when the executive producer, Sean O’Grady, showed them a footage of an up-and-coming Nigerian chef who had lived in the U.S. for 15 years and was later detained by ICE while on his way to a culinary event. 

Saidman said, “It was important to us to craft a series where we could tell those stories while illuminating what we think is a complex immigration system.”

“Living Undocumented” is available for streaming through Netflix.