Since 1998 more than 2000 dead bodies and skeletal remains of illegal border crossers have been found in the desert in southern Arizona. The Undocumented tells the story of Marcos Hernandez, an undocumented Mexican living and working in Chicago. Marcos came to the United States, crossing through the Sonora Desert in southern Arizona. Each month he sends money to his mother in Mexico City for medicine for his brother Gustavo who is in need of a kidney transplant. But Marcos had an even more pressing reason for coming to the United States. He came to search for his father, Francisco, who disappeared in the Sonora Desert trying to enter the United States. Chronicled over the course of Arizona's deadly summer months, the film weaves Marcos' search for his father with the efforts of humanitarians and Border Patrol agents who try to prevent migrant deaths; medical investigators and the Mexican Consulate working to identify the remains of deceased border crossers; and Mexicans who struggle to accept the loss of a family member.
The urge to migrate for family or "a better life" has shaped the history of the United States since its inception. However, the current US immigration system focuses more on harsh enforcement of outdated, ineffective laws than on application of policies that take into account family and labor considerations that draw immigrants to the United States. For over two decades, Human Rights Watch has documented abuses in the US immigration system, from its failure to protect families from being separated by deportation to the vulnerability of farmworker women to sexual violence and harassment.