Living Undocumented

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Living Undocumented TV Poster Image
Heartrending true stories in infuriating ICE docuseries.

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

Positive Messages

This sensitive series is likely to inspire empathy and compassion with stories of family members who just want to stay together, parents who want a better life for their kids.

Positive Role Models & Representations

News footage shows protestors saying things about immigrants carrying disease, or being a proud American means opposing immigration. Many interviewees have touching things to say about how much they love America, and how they want to work hard and be a success here. Authority figures can be scary, like ICE officials who use harsh voices and are rigid in their demands. Those making this series found a diverse group of people to interview who have had many different experiences. 


Some interviewees fear violence or even death if they return to their home country; they talk frankly about their fears. News footage shows protestors screaming angry things about immigrants and immigration. During one ICE conflict, a woman is pushed out of a door and falls to the ground. 


Expect to hear "f--king," "f--k," and "s--t." Cursing is often in the form of an epiphet: "F--k ICE!" yell protestors. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Living Undocumented is a documentary series about the change in American immigration policy under President Trump and interviewing eight families that have profoundly affected by the shift. In some ways mature content is low -- there's no sex, no nudity, no drinking or drugs, and the only violence is short newsreel-type footage of protests and conflicts. But the people viewers meet are so profoundly powerless and tragic that hearing their stories is extremely upsetting. We see young children separated from parents, families that split up, a 9-year-old girl who cries pitifully at the thought of being deported to Mexico and leaving her older sister and father in America. Their stories are understandable, relatable, and sensitively told; viewers' compassion and empathy will be awakened, and they may want to have discussions based on what they see here. There may also be changes in how they feel about American agencies and branches of government. There is some cursing: "f--k," "f--king," and "s--t." 

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What's the story?

For millions of people in the United States, LIVING UNDOCUMENTED wasn't such a problem for a long time. They stayed quiet, they held jobs, they made families. But as this docuseries shows, things got steadily worse for those without papers, escalating during the Clinton administration, and then spiking crazily after Trump's election. Produced by Selena Gomez, this series zeroes in on the immigration struggles of eight families in the United States. They allow their lives to be filmed and candidly talk about their experiences, while news footage both vintage and modern and interviews with immigration experts provide context for their terrible tumult. 

Is it any good?

This heartrending series shows the human faces that are behind Immigration and Customs Enforcement's harsh crackdown on immigration -- and immigrants themselves -- post-Trump. In long naturalistic segments we watch as eight families in Texas, Florida, California, and elsewhere, go about their lives despite the varying degrees to which they've been noticed and/or targeted by ICE: Alejandra prepares for a birthday party in Florida, where she's lived for more than a decade; she was outed as undocumented in a routine traffic stop. Luis prepares to drive his son, Noah, to an ICE center -- his mother's being deported, and Noah's forced to go too. Ron and Karen left their Tel Aviv-adjacent neighborhood after the bombings got so frequent they feared for the life of their new baby -- a relative advised them to lay low and not think about their status that much, so they didn't. Then 17 years passed. 

The truly gutting thing about all the stories in Living Undocumented is how easy they are to understand and to empathize with. Who wouldn't want to take their new baby far away from terrorist bombings? Who wouldn't want to escape desperate poverty, or crime, or war? Once we understand what all these people were fleeing from, then understanding America's new "zero tolerance" policy, has the galvanizing effect this show was hoping for. The cruelty, the devastation, is terrible to see, but important to witness. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Living Undocumented was made. Is it intended to inspire change? To document a cultural phenomenon or a period of American history? What do you think were the intentions of those who made this show? 

  • One of the interviewees on this show addresses viewers to say "At the end of the day [the show is] just something you're watching on TV. You can turn it off and go about your life." What does she mean by this? What effect is this intended to have on viewers? How did this statement make you feel? 

  • How do the stories in Living Undocumented inspire compassion and empathy in viewers? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

For kids who love documentaries

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