On Thursday, The New York Times reported that a pair of Netflix filmmakers shooting a behind-the-scenes documentary about President Donald Trump’s immigration policy were threatened by federal officials, ordered to delete footage unflattering to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers, and told to delay release of the documentary until after the 2020 election.
“In early 2017, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement prepared to carry out the hard-line agenda on which President Trump had campaigned, agency leaders jumped at the chance to let two filmmakers give a behind-the-scenes look at the process,” reported Caitlin Dickerson. “But as the documentary neared completion in recent months, the administration fought mightily to keep it from being released until after the 2020 election. After granting rare access to parts of the country’s powerful immigration enforcement machinery that are usually invisible to the public, administration officials threatened legal action and sought to block parts of it from seeing the light of day.”
“In heated phone calls and emails, they said, [an] official pushed to delay publication of the series, currently set to air on Netflix next month,” continued the report. “He warned that the federal government would use its ‘full weight’ to veto scenes it found objectionable. Several times, the filmmakers said, the official pointed out that it was their ‘little production company,’ not the film’s $125 billion distributor, that would face consequences. The filmmakers said they were told that the administration’s anger over the project came from ‘all the way to the top.'”
According to the report, the filmmakers responded by “using an encrypted messaging service to communicate with their production team,” putting security cameras in their office, and concealing the hard drives on which they were storing raw footage.
Over the past four years, immigration policy has been one of the most controversial and contentious aspects of the Trump presidency, from the Muslim travel ban, to the “zero tolerance” family separation policy, to the recent effort to exclude undocumented immigrants from apportionment, which experts consider unconstitutional.