Netflix’s Living Undocumented, a six-part documentary series, premiered on the platform this week. With Selena Gomez on board as one of its executive producers, the creators of Living Undocumented are hoping that the human stories of these immigrants will reach a broad, American audience and help to counter the xenophobic narrative being pushed by the Trump administration.
Co-directed and produced by Anna Chai and Aaron Saidman, the series follows the stories of eight families who are facing deportation, after having immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, Central America, Israel, Mauritania, and Laos. While a majority of undocumented immigrants hail from Mexico and Central America, the series’ creators deliberately took up the challenge of presenting a broader slice of undocumented America. “Most people don’t realize that they know someone who’s undocumented,” Chai told Vulture. “It took a while to find people whose stories were so different and who had different stakes and were at different points in the immigration process.” According to figures from the Migration Policy Institute, approximately two-thirds of undocumented immigrants in the US are from Mexico and Central America (a majority of whom are from Mexico). Sixteen percent of undocumented immigrants are from Asia.
From her high-profile platform, Gomez shared her personal connection with Living Undocumented in a piece she wrote for Time Magazine. “I watched footage outlining their deeply personal journeys and I cried. It captured the shame, uncertainty, and fear I saw my own family struggle with.” She opened up about her extended family’s immigration to America in the 70s, starting with her aunt, who was the first to cross over, a stowaway in the back of a truck. Gomez’s grandparents followed after that; her father was born in Texas. “I was born a U.S. citizen thanks to their bravery and sacrifice,” she wrote. “ Undocumented immigration is an issue I think about every day, and I never forget how blessed I am to have been born in this country thanks to my family and the grace of circumstance.”
Luis, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras whose story is told in the series, told Vulture that he was optimistic about having been able to share his experiences with a national audience, despite his family’s circumstances. His partner Kenia was detained last year during a traffic stop and set to be deported, while five months pregnant at the time; Luis chose to self-deport, bringing along Kenia’s young son, in the hopes that they could all be deported together — but was ultimately held in detention on his own. “The truth is that everything we lived through was incredibly harrowing, and in that pain that I felt I was motivated to take part in this project because I didn’t want anyone else to live through the same horrible experiences that I survived with my family,” said Luis. “For us, the only thing left to do is move past all of that and continue fighting for our happiness.”