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.
Artist Julio Salgado created this piece, which shows a woman celebrating her son’s first birthday, tightly contained in a block of ice. The block of ice is particularly symbolic because the woman describes being locked in “the ice box” in her letter, and because the organization that detains undocumented immigrants in the United States, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, is abbreviated and commonly referred to as ICE. In addition to the woman, child, and birthday cake in the block of ice, a quote from the letter is included in both English and Spanish in the illustration, “Only God has given me the strength to bear all of this time here…,” speaking to the length of time that she and her son have been imprisoned.
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 the woman in the illustration. What is she saying about her experiences and how have they been captured in the illustration? What is the significance of different parts of the illustration, including the ice cube and birthday cake? 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?
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?