“Visions from the Inside” Illustrates the Courageous Stories of Detained Migrants at the Karnes Detention Center

CultureStrike launches an art collection by artists from around the country to illustrate the courage of migrant families in detention and shift ideas around criminalization.


Art by Robert Trujillo


OAKLAND, CA ­ CultureStrike, a national pro­migrant arts organization, is releasing illustrations based on letters written by detained women and children at the for­profit detention center in Karnes County, Texas, in collaboration with the advocacy groups ​Mariposas Sin Fronteras ​and  End Family Detention​ .​ These visual art interpretations created by a diverse line­up of 15 visual artists from across the U.S. will highlight the realities that migrants are experiencing inside of detention facilities, what led them to migrate away from their home countries, and the resiliency of the human spirit.

While the detention centers isolate detainees and limit their access to connecting with loved ones, letter writing is one of the few ways that detained migrants can communicate to the outside world, and artists were able to use letters collected and published by ​ End Family  Detention​ as a source of inspiration​.CultureStrike contacted 15 artists and shared an individual letter with them. Each illustration is a collaborative effort between the artist and the individual in detention. Throughout the project artists received feedback from some of the authors of these letters, via their attorneys, in order to ensure that the illustrations stayed true to their stories.
“I chose images of mothers holding children because I remember how it felt to be placed in I.C.E detention,” states Iowa­based artist Fidencio Martinez about the piece he created for this project. “All I wanted [when I was in detention], was the comfort of my mother and I think that [detained] women are incredibly brave, strong and noble in those situations. They are still fighting for the safety and well­being of their children.”
Participating artists include Breena Nuñez (NY), Dolly Li (CA), Favianna Rodriguez (CA), Fidencio Martinez (IA), Gabrielle Tesfaye (NY), Jess X Chen (CA), Julio Salgado (CA), Mata Ruda (NY), Micah Bazant (CA), Robert Trujillo (CA) and many more.
The painful letters describe the ​journeys of​migrant detainee mothers and other , as well as the conditions they experience while in immigration custody. In the last couple of years the United States has seen a “surge” of Central American migrants (with a noticeable spike in unaccompanied minors) fleeing ​violence​in their home countries. Those who survive the dangerous trek from Central America, through Mexico, and all the way to the U.S./Mexico border are often apprehended by Border Patrol and placed in detention, often with little or no legal counsel, while they wait to see whether they will be allowed to stay in the United States with their families. Unfortunately, for many, this journey often ends in deportation back to the country from which they were escaping.
While families have to deal with the physical and mental abuse that comes with being incarcerated, companies such as Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group, Inc., profit from the detention of human beings. ​ According to the Detention Watch Network, revenues  and stock prices for companies that run correctional and detention facilities are skyrocketing​.
Starting July 27 and ending August 14, 2015, CultureStrike will be sharing one illustration per day at​ bit.ly/csvisions ​and other social media networks.
We need a world without borders and detention centers! In the meantime, artists and migrants across the globe will continue to imagine the possibilities through culture and action.
Original Post by Culture Strike, Press Release, July 27, 2015
CultureStrike ​is a national organization that empowers artists and social justice movements to dream big, disrupt the status quo, and envision a truly just world rooted in shared humanity through art. We believe cultural work is key to creating systemic change.
End Family Detention​is a digital library composed by a network of families, volunteers, pro bono lawyers, social justice organizers, and digital activists dedicated to raising awareness and promoting action to end family detention.
Mariposas Sin Fronteras​is a Tucson, AZ based group that seeks to end the systemic violence and abuse of LGBTQ people held in prison and immigration detention.
CONTACT: Julio Salgado, ​ [email protected]​g
Art Projects Manager, ​ CultureStrike 562­313­5892