Aimed at humanizing and shedding light on the realities and experiences of detained migrants, this illustration is part of Visions From the Inside, a visual art collection based on letters written by detained migrants at the Karnes County detention center, a for-profit immigrant family detention center in Texas.
Created by artist Robert Trujillo, this illustration is based off of a letter from 10-year-old Miguel about his everyday experiences living in the family detention center. Because these daily experiences are largely unreported, not talked about, and therefore invisible and unknown to those who do not keep up with these issues or have direct connections with people living in these conditions, Trujillo sought to express these day-to-day experiences through his illustrations. The drawing includes Miguel’s descriptions of cramped conditions, lack of freedom to move around, limits to personal property and space, food and sleep arrangements, controlled communication with family and the outside world, and unpredictable and tense interactions with prison guards and staff members.
Visions From the Inside was created by CultureStrike in partnership with Mariposas Sin Fronteras, and End Family Detention, in collaboration with the migrants who shared their letters and stories and the 15 artists across the United States who created the visual art pieces.
Read the letter written by 10-year-old Miguel that informed the illustration. What is he saying about his experiences and how have they been captured in the illustration? What is the significance of the people and places in the different parts of the drawing? How are reading the letter and looking at the illustration different in terms of visual and emotional impact? What can you gain from one that you cannot from the other? Does the experience of this illustration change when you learn that the drawing was inspired from a letter from a detained child? How?
How do words and labels matter when speaking about migrants, refugees, immigrants, and the boundaries of national belonging and identity? What’s the difference between referring to someone as “illegal” versus “undocumented,” or “migrant” versus “refugee”? How does this language matter for the people, institutions, and laws that govern their lives?
What and who comes to mind when you think of people in jails and prisons? How does this illustration and the others in the series complicate these associations?
How are migrants, immigrants, and refugees represented in the media? How do other aspects of identity, such as gender, sexuality, class, religion, race, nationality, and ethnicity factor into these representations? What are some examples in news, television, movies, music, and other kinds of popular culture? Are these representations positive, negative, overly simplified, complex, or mixed? How?
These letters are from migrants detained in a for-profit detention center. What is the significance of this detention center being a for-profit organization? How do they make money? What sustains the organization?
Look at the other illustrations and stories from the Visions From the Inside collection. What common themes emerge?