Al Jazeera America breaks ground with immigration doc

Al Jazeera America will mine new territory tonight by airing its first-ever originally commissioned documentary about illegal immigrants. Narrated by Gil Bellows (Ally McBeal), Borderland will follow six Americans who retrace the steps of three dead immigrants who attempted to cross the border from Mexico.

“We read an article about the Pima County morgue in Arizona, and how it was one of the busiest in the U.S.,” Executive Producer Ivan O’Mahoney told EW. “The reason it’s so busy is because of all of the work they perform on migrants who cross from Mexico, and who died in desert. We thought the whole situation was absolutely fascinating, but of course plays out away from public view. What if we brought a group of Americans … people who had strong opinions, and ask them to investigate stories, which might provide a catalyst for an debate about immigrations?”

Among the people who investigate the deaths over the four-part series is an artist from Brooklyn, a farmer from Washington, a Republican staffer from the Arkansas senate, and a retired marine. “We drop them in the morgue,” O’Mahoney says about the start of the series. “They don’t have any idea where they are and all of sudden they are surrounded by bodies. The medical examiner explains to them where they are, and why he thought it would be a good idea to bring theme there. He feels Pima County crystalizes the issue. It’s ground zero for the immigration debate.

“He then sends them off and they explore the issue on the U.S. side of the border.,” O’ Mahoney continued. “They spend time with local sheriff, the y embed with local ranchers who are angry, and then they spend time with group with No More Deaths, a humanitarian aide group.”

They participants are then given three case files of migrants who died while crossing the desert. “It’s up to them to give them the story, they travel to the home countries and that’s really where their foreign adventure kicks off. It ends up with them doing a border run themselves.”

Here’s a peek:

The series will conclude on the cable news network on May 4.

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