How Democracy Works: Film Excerpts and Conversations with the Filmmakers


In August 2001, when the Bush administration and key leaders in Congress were readying the plans for a sweeping overhaul of America’s troubled immigration system, filmmakers Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini were there to record history in the making—negotiating exclusive access to document the lives and strategies of the principal players. The resulting “Grand Bargain” promised to change the lives of tens of millions of immigrants and affect every citizen and every state in the union. Its eventual failure offers lessons for what a future, successful bargain might look like.

Robertson and Camerini join Esther Olavarria, a key player in the film series, and CGD senior fellow Michael Clemens, for an exclusive look at never-before-released scenes and a discussion on lessons-learned from the “Grand Bargain” era, pointing to what is possible for future, bi-partisan immigration policy.

Event Video


Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini

Filmmakers of How Democracy Works Now: 12 Stories

Remarks and introductions by

Michael Clemens

Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development

With discussant

Esther Olavarria

Former Immigration Counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy

About the Film Series

How Democracy Works Now: Twelve Stories is a 12-part documentary film series that reveals the fight for immigration reform on Capitol Hill and across the country with unprecedented access and intimacy. The story spans the critical years 2001 to 2007. How Democracy Works Now premiered on HBO with the broadcast debut of The Senators' Bargain on 24 March 2010. A directors' cut of The Senators' Bargain was featured in the 2010 Human Rights Watch Film Festival at Lincoln Center, with the theatrical title Last Best Chance, along with Story 2: Mountains and Clouds. The series is detailed at