The Infiltrators

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Infiltrators Movie Poster Image
Hybrid docudrama gives voice to the undocumented.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 95 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Reveals the many reasons that immigrants, particularly those seeking asylum, flee to U.S. Story also demonstrates how "Dreamers" (undocumented young adults brought to U.S. as young children) struggle to stay in the United States.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The young adults who advocate for undocumented immigrants all take great personal risks (particularly risk of deportation) to help others. They're willing to express their opinions, see beyond their situations, and help strangers. They peacefully protest, rally around other immigrants, and work toward educating others about immigration laws.


A couple scenes show detainees being arrested and taken into custody. Detainees are sometimes taken to solitary confinement for arbitrary reasons. Authorities push and yell at detainees.


Mild insults like "snitch."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Discussion of detainees who had drug-related charges.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Infiltrators is a docudrama based on a true story. It tells how, in 2012, two young undocumented immigration activists went undercover in a Florida detention center to help rally support to release detainees. Directed by husband-and-wife filmmakers Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra, the movie weaves real-life footage of the activists with dramatic scenes of actors playing the various roles. The directors deal with thought-provoking, difficult themes: They show people without legal immigration status being arrested, pushed around, yelled at, placed in solitary confinement, and otherwise mistreated. The movie is ideologically pro-immigrant.

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What's the story?

THE INFILTRATORS is a part-documentary, part-docudrama movie about undocumented "Dreamers" who willingly turned themselves in to a Florida detention center in order to rally support for the release of low-threat detainees. Husband-and-wife directors Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra blend real-life footage of young immigration activists from the National Immigrant Youth Alliance with scenes of actors playing those same people. The activists -- led by Iranian refugee Mohammad Abdollahi -- follow up on requests from family members desperate for information about their detained loved ones. Fellow activist Marco Saavedra (Maynor Alvarado) agrees to turn himself in at a for-profit transitional center in Broward County, Florida, to find an Argentinian father named Claudio Rojas (Manuel Uriza), whose son had contacted the group. Once Marco is inside the center, he finds detainees whom he believes merit release and passes their information along to other activists. After helping get a few detainees successfully released, another activist, Viridiana Martinez, turns herself in to the women's side to do similar undercover work. Actors are introduced with captions so that viewers don't get confused.

Is it any good?

This part-documentary, part-drama film pays tribute to the courage of young Dreamers advocating for immigration reform from within a detention center. It may take you a brief moment to adjust between the documentary footage and the reenactments. But once you're used to the format, The Infiltrators uniquely and authentically tells the daring story of two activists (who were at the time protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program) who willingly gave themselves up to the Broward Transitional Center in order to find detainees they were fairly sure they could lobby to free. The film's hybrid nature lets viewers see interviews and footage before, during, and after the semi-undercover campaign. The professional actors add even more drama by reenacting the difficulties of life in the for-profit center.

What's remarkable about the film is that it takes place during Obama's administration (at the time, the president was sometimes referred to as the Deporter in Chief by immigration activists), when it was mostly criminals who were targeted for deportation. Eight years later, the situation for undocumented immigrants (even children) is startlingly, dramatically, more dire. In The Infiltrators, immigrants and refugees are depicted with respect: They're human beings who sought asylum and freedom, many with children in tow. The filmmakers are clearly sympathetic to the plight of all immigrants, not just those with papers, and the film sheds light on how poorly this country can and does treat the (mostly) voiceless population.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what's changed in society since the events chronicled in The Infiltrators. How have attitudes toward and policies pertaining to immigration changed since 2012?

  • Do you agree with the film's stance on immigration? Do you need to in order to enjoy it?

  • Who do you consider a role model in the story? What character strengths do they display?

  • What did you learn about immigration and what happens to undocumented detainees? How did the movie affect your thoughts about immigration?

Movie details

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