The information in this digital library is 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.
This site is sponsored by Xica Media.
Brief history of EndFamilyDetention.com
In 2006 and under the regime of the George W. Bush administration, the T. Don Hutto facility in Hutto, Texas opened and officially launched the practice of family detention in private prisons. With full permission of the law, private prison corporations began to cash in on the imprisonment of immigrants and refugees. As the federal government enacted laws to criminalize human migration, these particular communities of people were commodified and funneled into the prison industrial complex.
Corporate media coverage of the topic was virtually non-existent and hard to attain because of the historical media void and under-reporting of issues affecting communities of color. Additionally, it was very difficult to spread the word about family detention crisis that was happening in Texas because photos and videos, which were not allowed in or around the prisons, were very difficult to obtain.
In 2009, Xica Media became involved in supporting and covering the issue. As a Texas-based digital media project rooted and birthed in social justice, Xica Media was invited to help create media to support organizing efforts on the ground while raising awareness to the general public in print and online.
It was very difficult to give a name to the family detention crisis that was happening in Texas at that time. The media and society in general was hesitant to use terms such as concentration camp or family prisons. Without pictures it was almost impossible to make a claim that this government was doing such horrible things, but a few pictures did come out thanks to grassroots organizations in Texas that were aware of the situation and organizing on the ground. We were one of those groups and were able to use photographs of children and babies in prison uniforms to visually convey this heartbreaking story, which was unbelievable at the time.
La Nueva Raza News (precursor to Xica Media) was a community-funded and -run print and online bilingual newspaper. It was distributed across the borderlands and addressed social justice issues that affect the Mexican and Mexican-American peoples. Up until this point in time, the media focused on Mexicans crossing the border and being detained, but this was the first time that we saw Central American peoples crossing en masse and being targeted for imprisonment. They were labeled “OTMs” (other than Mexican.) This moment was also a defining one because it seemed that mothers and children were being targeted in specific.
In 2014, Xica Media launched the official EndFamilyDetention.com website in collaboration with pro bono attorneys and social justice groups who were on the front lines inside the prisons and working with detainees.
In 2015, the number of women, children, and families of Central American origin detained in the US continues to increase and deteriorate. The media was once again not sharing information and it was still difficult to break the story without some sort of visual evidence. We were up against a lack of imagery which prohibited us from making news and noise about the issue, particularly online, a medium that is heavily dependent on the visual aesthetic to move information.
We overcame the communication blackout by literally asking those detained to document their stories on any piece of paper they could find and smuggle it out with their attorneys. We began to collaborate with a social justice arts collective in California called Culturestrike who joined the effort and supported by gathering 15 artists of color from across the country to artistically depict what the letters were saying. This turned into a huge socially conscious body of artwork that extended into 2016 and was eventually displayed in the halls of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland for one week.
The artist representations of the letters allowed for citizens to work with this community in such a way that ended up empowering those inside the prison to continue resisting, protesting, and documenting their stories. They felt that on some level they were being heard through this project and that gave them a hope that previously hadn’t existed.
In 2018, after obtaining an audio of a public event in which a Central American woman gave her testimony of how she was forced to abort her baby inside a detention center, the Calling Back Our Womb podcast (a Xica Media network) broke the story and made headlines.
In 2019, Xica Media began collaborating with documentary film maker Anne Lewis to produce a series entitled, “Asylum, Terror, and the Future.” Laura Varela (film maker) of Xica Media served as an on-site translator and Iris Rodriguez served as the film translator.