Homeland Security USA

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Homeland Security USA TV Poster Image
National security docu shares a little too much detail.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Lots of discussion about illegal activities, ranging from improper or false documentation to other, more serious crimes. Although racism isn't discussed, there are clear instances in which racial profiling (specifically targeting Arabs and Latinos) is part of the security precautions. Agents are both men and women and are primarily Caucasian.


Many agents carry guns. One incident shows guns being drawn on an innocent family. There are discussions of gang violence and weapon smuggling. September 11th and terrorism are mentioned frequently.


The smuggling of sex-trade workers is discussed.


Words like "damn" and "hell" are audible, while occasional stronger profanity is bleeped. One detainee's obscene gesture is blurred.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent discussions about drug smuggling. Illegal substances -- including marijuana, cocaine, and prescription pills -- and paraphernalia are shown. There are detailed discussions and images of the various ways these things can be smuggled across U.S. borders.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that because this reality series follows Homeland Security agents working at immigration checkpoints, border crossings, customs offices, and airports, confiscation of illegal drugs is frequently visible, and there are lots of discussions about the different ways to smuggle illegal substances and, at times, undocumented workers. Guns are frequently visible; in one incident, agents drew their guns and threatened an innocent couple in front of their children (no shots were fired). Words like "hell" are sometimes heard; occasional stronger language is bleeped. While there are no discussions of racism, some of the security precautions taken are based on racial profiling.

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What's the story?

HOMELAND SECURITY USA offers an inside look at the different ways the titular government department attempts to keep America safe. Each episode zeroes in on the different security measures taken by various federal organizations, including U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the Coast Guard. Cameras follow officers and agents as they attempt to stop illegal drug smuggling, intercept undocumented workers, and check for potential terrorist threats. Through it all, the Homeland Security employees offer their thoughts about their work and the impact they hope it has on America's overall safety.

Is it any good?

The series is full of interesting and disturbing moments, with situations that range from the very serious to the rather absurd. Security incidents include everything from arresting drug smugglers and seizing kilos of illegal narcotics at the border to dealing with frustrated airline passengers at security checkpoints. Many of the featured incidents are also troubling, especially when ethnic profiling clearly factors into the security precautions and innocent people are unapologetically harassed and/or held at gunpoint (sometimes in front of small, clearly traumatized children) thanks to "glitches" the system.

While the show may offer a realistic portrayal of the day-to-day efforts to keep America safe, it offers almost too much detail about the different ways that people and contraband can be smuggled into the country -- including close-up images showing where and how various items can be hidden in order to make it across the border undetected. You also have to wonder whether the decision to share some of the ways the government is trying to keep the public safe, no matter how simplistic they may appear, is really a good idea. Bottom line? Watching this show may not make you feel safer, but it certainly has the potential to make you feel conflicted.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the media typically portrays threats to national security. How does that tie into issues like racial/ethnic stereotyping? Families can also discuss what wit would be like to work for the Department of Homeland Security. What kind of training must agents have in order to work for the department? What kind of dangers do people who work for its agencies face on the job?

TV details

  • Premiere date: January 6, 2009
  • Cast: Phil Crowley
  • Network: ABC
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-14
  • Available on: Streaming
  • Last updated: October 6, 2020

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