The documentary The Infiltrators pulls you right into its story and doesn’t let go. This is a gripping tale and a unique format for a documentary, so let’s jump right in.

In 2012, a group of young activists intentionally got arrested in order to access ICE detention centers to help free other detainees by legal methods. How is this not a more widely known story? Because once you start learning about what this group accomplished, you’ll be riveted by this film.

This documentary opens with home films and interviews of undocumented immigrants. These are all people you would recognize in Anytown, USA. Hard working, loving family members and young students all trying to fit into the stereotypical landscape of the American dream. These are taxpayers, these are people whose families depend on them, these are high achieving high school graduates.

These people all entered the United States without papers, so no matter how much they’ve assimilated, no matter how little connection they have to their birth countries, they are all targets for arrest, detention, and deportation. So we learn the heartbreaking stories of parents being taken from their children. Of students being pulled from class. Of people fighting to contribute to society being yanked out of that society.

ICE detainees are not technically under arrest, therefore they have no right to an attorney nor a speedy trial. Which is how we end up with detention centers, holding people awaiting deportation (or praying for release) for years. The documentary dips its toes into the problems with for-profit prisons, but the film is more compelling when it focuses on the stories of the detainees.

In comes National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) to the rescue. Composed of young Dreamers, they were brought into the US illegally as children, have grown up with all their American peers as Americans, but they too face the constant threat of deportation. So their organization fights with civil disobedience to protect immigrants and force politicians to take action. Their plan, in this case, is to get help to those in the Broward Detention Center, from the inside. How do you do that? You turn yourself in.

We follow two brave young adults, Marco and Viri, who are housed in the men’s and women’s sides of the camp. Without alerting the guards who would shut down their activity, they build a network inside to share legal advice, activism and morale. Ultimately, Marco and Viri are released, and they help a number of other detainees legally return to their families and some semblance of freedom in the US.

The young, social media savvy activities of NIYA, captured an extraordinary amount of footage and audio on tape. We are privileged to view countless scenes of planning, activism and encounters with law enforcement. Where footage is unavailable, inside the detention center, we have flawless reenactments. We’re not talking cable channel reenactments but fully committed actors giving themselves to the roles of the detainees.

The Infiltrators completely tells the story of how families are needlessly and cruelly ripped apart. Good luck stopping yourself from falling down the internet rabbit hole reading more about the real story.