Living Undocumented: Selena Gomez’s powerful new Netflix docuseries is breaking stereotypes of immigrants

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Christobel Hastings
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Selena Gomez has always been vocal about immigrant rights, and in a powerful new Netflix documentary series, Living Undocumented, she embarks on a mission to humanise the real people behind the debate. 

Over the course of Donald Trump’s presidency, there has been one issue that has stoked controversy above all else: immigration

“A Trump administration will stop illegal immigration, deport all criminal aliens, and save American lives,” Trump declared at a campaign rally in 2016 before he took office in the White House, and over the last three years, the push to crack down on undocumented immigrants has intensified through divisive rhetoric and dehumanising policies. Most recently, the spotlight has fallen on the separation of migrant families in detention facilities, and the plight of children who had been denied access to basic toiletries and adequate sleeping conditions. 

In a move to shift the mainstream narrative around immigrants, Selena Gomez has announced that she is executive producing a new documentary series for Netflix that explores the lives of eight undocumented immigrant families living in the United States.

The series, called Living Undocumented, looks to “illuminate and humanise the complex U.S. immigration system” during an era of increasing ICE raids, migrant detention and racial tension. By allowing film crews to “chronicle their lives as they faced potential deportation,”  the families in the documentary give viewers a rare insight into the struggles they endure “in their quest to pursue the American dream.”

In an Instagram post announcing the documentary, Gomez, whose father is Mexican, explained that the documentary would reveal the complexities of the immigrantion debate that so often perpetuates crude stereotypes.

“I am so humbled to be a part of Netflix’s documentary series Living Undocumented,” she began. “The immigration issue is more complex than one administration, one law or the story you hear about on the news. 

“These are real people in your community, your neighbours, your friends – they are all part of the country we call home. I can’t wait for you guys to see this and hope it impacts you like it impacted me.” 

Gomez elaborated on her involvement in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, where she explained her hopes to break down the stigma attached to the word ‘immigrant’, and put faces to the real people behind the debate.

“I chose to produce this series, Living Undocumented, because over the past few years, the word ‘immigrant’ has seemingly become a negative word,” she explained. “My hope is that the series can shed light on what it’s like to live in this country as an undocumented immigrant firsthand, from the courageous people who have chosen to share their stories.”

The venture isn’t Gomez’s first time going behind the camera. The actress and singer served as an executive producer on Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, as well as the Wizards of Waverly Place franchise. This time around, Gomez serves as a co-producer alongside Eli Holzman and Aaron Saidman, who previously produced the docuseries Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,  which explored the alleged abuses within the Church of Scientology.

Living Undocumented is designed to illuminate one of the most important issues of our time,” Saidman added. “But rather than discussing this issue with only statistics and policy debates, we wanted viewers to hear directly from the immigrants themselves, in their own words, with all the power and emotion that these stories reflect.”

Living Undocumented is available to stream on 2 October on Netflix. In the meantime, watch the trailer below.

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