end ice protest
© REUTERS / Joshua Roberts
Protest calling for the abolishment of ICE.
An upcoming documentary shows how US immigration agents deal with being viewed as the 'bad guys' for enforcing policies they don't necessarily endorse. Twitter's collective reaction to a preview of the show? "They're like Nazis!"

The docuseries 'Immigration Nation', by filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau, is the result of three years spent with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which gave them "unprecedented" access to its daily operations. Set to premiere on Netflix next month, the show follows individual agents and shows how they get "chewed up" in a "broken system," according to a preview published by Newsweek.

"Really, this issue is grey, it's complicated," Clusiau said, adding that the issues with the US' immigration system are "systematic in the sense that all sides, everybody, is kind of chewed up by this broken system."

One agent told the filmmakers he simply refuses to arrest undocumented immigrants who have no criminal record, even though the current policy demands that officers hit higher arrest numbers by any means necessary. Another agent said he felt bad carrying out an arrest that broke up a family, while one interviewee complained that he and other ICE officers are branded Nazis by critics, when "all we're doing is enforcing the laws and doing our job."

The sentiment, reflected in Newsweek's headline, triggered a collective 'gotcha' moment on Twitter, as commenters pointed out that the same reasoning was used unsuccessfully by Nazi war criminals during their trial. "Nuremberg defense" trended on the platform as thousands reacted with various degrees of sarcasm and outrage, offered tidbits of historical knowledge about the criminal proceedings and shared hopes for a sequel featuring US federal agents on the bench.

A few lone voices cautioned against falling into the trap of Godwin's Law. However bad the current US policies are, the argument went, they don't include exterminating millions in death camps, so calling those enforcing them Nazis was disrespectful to victims of the actual Nazis.

Some wondered if Newsweek's mentioning the ICE agent's complaints about being called Nazis in the headline and putting "only enforcing the laws" next to it was intended to provoke the reaction that followed.

The general public will be able to watch the docuseries on August 3 and judge for themselves whether the outrage was justified.