Powerful and painful, this documentary digs into the backstory of the Trump administration's massive ICE expansion, the agents on the job, and the immigrants they apprehend, with damning results. The contrast between the agents, who range from swaggering and gleeful to resigned and faintly critical, and the immigrants they bust is terrible enough. Detainees are interviewed in stark talking-head style, relating the stories of how they made their way to the United States, the lives they've led here, and the anguish they feel at being separated from their families and torn from their lives. Tears are common as detainees describe what their kids are like, and how they screamed to stay with their parents as agents forced them apart (a scenario that we learn is a new one, as pre-Trump families were kept together if at all possible, and only separated for up to 72 hours).
Meanwhile, many of the ICE agents seem to view their job as something akin to a video game. There's a lot of excited talk about "ops" and intense competition to bring in the most "tangos" (those residing in the United States without legal immigration status, in ICE parlance). It is difficult to watch as ICE agents are instructed to identify themselves as "police" and use a combination of tricks and threats to get people to open their doors to them, and then demand to see ID for everyone in the house, looking to sweep up what's called "collaterals": people who aren't in any trouble with the law, but aren't legal residents, either. That's new, too, this arresting and deporting of "collaterals," and that's just the beginning of the horrible things Immigration Nation uncovers. It's not an easy watch, but it sure does feel like an important one.