As President Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Continues, 4 Documentaries to Watch

President Donald Trump at a coronavirus briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Donald Trump at a coronavirus briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

April 22, 2020

Amid the coronavirus crisis, President Donald Trump this week returned to a theme that has become a signature focus of his presidency: curtailing immigration.

Trump announced Tuesday that he planned to implement a temporary “pause” on issuing green cards to people seeking to become permanent residents, saying that doing so would help to reserve job opportunities for American citizens — although the order wouldn’t apply to people seeking temporary work visas. Issued on Wednesday, the finalized order contained several exemptions, including for health care professionals, and spouses and children of U.S. citizens.

It’s the latest in a series of efforts by the administration to curb immigration. FRONTLINE has been chronicling Trump’s harsh stance on immigration — and how it has served as a winning political strategy — from the beginning, tracing how Trump, who compared immigrants to snakes on the campaign trail, rose to the presidency amid a chorus of “Build the Wall,” and how he has honed his “America First” sentiment as a powerful political weapon.

Go inside the origins and impact of the Trump administration’s immigration policies in the following four documentaries:

Targeting El Paso (2020)

How El Paso, Texas became a testing ground for some of President Donald Trump’s most controversial immigration policies, a subject of his anti-immigrant rhetoric, the site of a surge of migrant families crossing the border — and the target of a white supremacist with an assault rifle. Interviews with current and former officials, Border Patrol agents, advocates and migrants tell the inside story from the epicenter of the border crisis.

Kids Caught in the Crackdown (2019)

As the detention of migrant children climbed to record-breaking levels under President Trump, FRONTLINE and The Associated Press investigated what’s going on inside federally-funded shelters — and the lasting impact on children held in U.S. custody.

Zero Tolerance (2019)

An investigation of how the behind-the-scenes efforts of three anti-immigration hardliners — Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions and Steve Bannon — helped propel Donald Trump to the presidency, transform the country’s politics, and bring America’s immigration policies to where they are today. FRONTLINE examined how the trio became the driving force behind some of President Trump’s most controversial initiatives, and how Trump came to wield anti-immigration fervor as a potent political tool.

Separated: Children at the Border (2018)

Inside the origins and impact of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy mandating that adults who enter the country unlawfully be criminally prosecuted, and separated from the children they brought with them. This FRONTLINE documentary was among the first media reports to find that separations were happening to families who crossed the border illegally months before the “zero tolerance” policy was officially announced.

This story has been updated.


Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE



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