The above video contains text excerpted from the Voice of Witness book, Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Youth Refugees from Central America
compiled and edited by Jonathan Freedman and Steven Mayers.
“In another freezing cold room there were mothers who were suffering with their children – five years old, two years old, even seven or eight months old. I don’t know how they didn’t die.”
“En otra habitación helada había madres que estaban sufriendo con sus hijos: cinco años, dos años, incluso siete u ocho meses. No sé cómo no murieron."
Pedro, unaccompanied minor, Solito, Solita
Recent border crossers often call the concrete “ice boxes” where they are held in freezing-cold temperatures close to the border, “hieleras.” They are then transferred to “processing centers” where they are separated by age and gender in kennel-like cages. Migrants call these warehouses
a word previous migrant generations used to describe deportation vans. In 2018, the McAllen Processing Center became the emblematic symbol of kids and families in cages. However, even under the Biden administration, kids are still routinely held in torturous “hieleras” and “perreras” for several days or sometimes even more. Most recently, Customs and Border protection opened a child detention facility
in Donna, TX with plans to build many more. The wire cages are gone but the cramped and dehumanizing conditions remain.
We must be wary, however, of arguing that cages are only bad for kids or for people without “criminal” records. In fact, whether migrants are being “processed” while CBP determines where they should go, or whether they are serving a “sentence” for a repeated border crossing, the conditions of their detention are experientially the same: cold rooms, insufficient food, rampant medical neglect
sometimes to the point of death,
and guards who think their job is to teach migrants a “lesson” or make up immigration policy on the spot: we’re sorry, but the United States is full.
In recent years, border crossers have resisted state-defined routes to death,
choosing instead to present themselves at the border and ask for their duly-owed credible fear interview. The Trump-era policy of “metering,” or the “Remain in Mexico” program, sought to "weaponize" the border
by forcing migrants to attend asylum court hearings in make-shift tents while waiting months or years for the “opportunity” to see a tele-judge. The Biden administration has begun to close these camps, but he has yet to close the “hieleras” and “perreras” that torture migrants of all ages at the border. Rather than seeing unaccompanied minors as a class of migrants that stands entirely apart from all others, we could begin to see all migrants as people in crisis; people in need of competent care and quick, efficient release without recourse to intrusive surveillance measures.
In December 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sin Huellas members installed DETENTION NATION at Elgin Street Studios. In the space created, an ensemble of performers created the following Performance GIFs.