Letters of Detained Immigrants are Getting Mass Exposure by Becoming Works of Art

What happens when art, activism, and letters of detained immigrants collide? A stunning and emotionally-packed art series depicting the deplorable conditions of US detention centers. Taking inspiration from the detainees’s letters, artists created these:

The Pain Heartbreaking Goodbye

Credit: Gabrielle Tesfaye / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“Melisa I hope that you get out of there soon, don’t worry and don’t lose faith that God will make it up to you, always pray to Him that He give you strength to continue moving forward.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I found [the author’s faith was] really powerful and, unknowing of what their specific religious views are, I found it important to include something in the sketch representative of faith, hope, beauty, strength and a higher divine purpose throughout the ordeals of the struggles of life.”

The anonymous letter was written by a teenage girl thank her friend for her friendship while in the detention center. The author was deported to El Salvador with her family and about 36 other families.

Suffocating Desperation in Young Faces

Credit: Dolly Li / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I dream of getting out of this place…to be able to study one day…to have a better future for my life.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I wanted to evoke the sensations of feeling trapped and suffocated to show that immigration detention is not a humane place for anyone to exist in, let alone a child.”

Jackeline, the author of the letter, was held in the detention center with her mother and young sisters, waiting to learn their faith in the system.

READ: These Latinos Break Down Immigration AND Make it Funny

Never-Ending Nightmares Exposed

Credit: Jess X Chen / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I am trusting my God who will quickly end this nightmare.” – Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “For as long as she lives, the Honduran mother, and millions others, reach for each other and form constellations in the night despite the borders, detainments, and abuse of the US.”

The author attempted to cross the border twice. The second time, she tried to bring her youngest son, 12, from Honduras after gangs approached the boy to join and killed his friend in front of him.

Dehumanizing Treatments of Refugees

Credit: Chucha Marquez / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“For most people who have entered this place, it’s the start of a new life, but it begins badly, because this Detention Center—that they call a shelter for immigrants—but only those of us who live here know it’s really a jail.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “Butterflies migrate and their migration is beautiful, they’re not restricted by physical borders. When humans restrict the beauty and nature of human migration it brings pain and trauma.”

Rebeca Paulina’s letter exposed the struggles and inhumanity of the detention centers from undercooked food, criminalization for migrating, and the lack of appropriate medical attention for babies. Paulina writes that it takes a baby having a fever of 104 before the doctors will give the child medicine, otherwise they recommend the steam from a hot bath.

Suicide Attempts Caught on Canvas

Credit: Favianna Rodriguez / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I am afraid that if I stay in this center something could happen to me or my daughter because the ICE tries to cover up everything and all news that happen here.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “The women detained in Karnes County Detention Center have endured physical abuse, rape by prison guards, and the constant sicknesses of their children.”

The letter, written by Polyane Soares de Oliveira from Brazil, talks of rapes, being denied medical treatment and the fear controlling the detainees. The text on the image comes from a suicide note from Lilian Oliva, 19 and a mother who was discovered in a center bathroom with slit wrists. She survived the attempted suicide and was later deported back to Honduras with her child.

Faith in God Translated into Illustrations

Credit: Julio Salgado / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I am desperate, I don’t like the food anymore, and I don’t want to be here. My son’s first birthday was here. I would like to get out of here.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “We cannot be okay with the thought that a mother has to celebrate their child’s birthday behind bars. ”

The author, who’s name was redacted, has been in the detention center for a year with her child.

READ: UndocuQueer Activists Changing the Immigration Debate

Confusion and Fear Plaguing Children

Credit: Robert Trujillo / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“It bothers me to not even know when we’ll get out of here, although I have hope we’ll be freed. God willing we’ll get asylum.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I think the part of the letter that hit me most is the idea of not being able to control what is happening, not knowing when they will be able to leave, and the cramped feeling of all of these conditions on top of each other.”

Miguel, who is just 10 years old, is forced to grow up in what he calls a prison and is living in uncertainty about whether or not his family will ever be free.

Life Tormented with Death Threats and Violence

Credit: Micah Bazant / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I cannot return to Guatemala. I am an orphan, and my husband was murdered. I was also threatened, that I would be killed together with my daughter.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “When I imagined what I wished for this mother and her child, I imagined a mighty waterfall breaking through the prison walls.”

An anonymous mother talks about her fears of being sent back to Guatemala because she does not speak Spanish, rather she speaks an indigenous language. The water she and her daughter are being forced to drink has bleach in it and the commissary prices are so high, she can’t afford clean water.

Deception and Hopelessness Brought to the Forefront

Credit: Rose Jaffe / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“Our great fear is that they will deport us without giving us any notice and without us having any communication with our families or lawyer; because in this center they have already deported many families that have already spent so much time incarcerated.”Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I want the audience to capture the journey this family has gone through…and then the juxtaposition of the ‘hopes’ for a safe haven versus the reality of the situation.”

Estela Marquez Marquez, 34, and her three daughters, 15, 14, and 11, live terrified of the guards and staff knowing that the abuse and sexual violence committed inside the detention center is being covered up.

READ: Latino, Gay, and Undocumented in the Rural South

Abuse of Power Fills Frames

Credit: Zeke Peña / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“I know that the way we came [to the United States] is illegal, but the only reason [for coming to the United States] is because I am very scared to go back to my country.” – Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I think I’d like viewers to feel a simple level of human connection to this woman’s struggle.”

The mother, 24, and her son, 10, have been in the detention waiting for freedom. They only came to the US to seek freedom and safety, something they are being denied.

Suffering of Children Stares at You

Credit: Mata Ruda / Visions from the Inside / Tumblr

“We were 5 days in La Hielera, terribly cold, sleeping on the floor of cold cement, we would cover ourselves with aluminum paper, the federales would count us every 2 or 3 hours, would get us up and the sleeping children to go outside and they would strike the door hard with their clubs and they would discriminate against us, they would say that we were dirty, that we had no reason to come here to this country.” – Excerpt from the letter.

Note from the artist: “I wanted to create a simple composition that focuses on the strength, selflessness, hope, and love of a mother who is enduring tortuous conditions because of a lack of a piece of paper.”

Sonia Elizabeth Hernandez Amaya is 33 and a mother of three children ages 10, 9, and 3. Her letter depicts the treatment of detainees and the conditions of the hold facilities they were passed through before arriving at Karnes Detention Center.

You can see the full project hereVisions from the Inside is a collaborative art project created by CultureStrike, Mariposas Sin Fronteras, and End Family Detention.

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In Bombshell Report, ICE Agents Are Accused of ‘Torturing’ African Asylum-Seekers to Get Them to Sign Their Own Deportation Documents

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In Bombshell Report, ICE Agents Are Accused of ‘Torturing’ African Asylum-Seekers to Get Them to Sign Their Own Deportation Documents

Photo: Bryan Cox/Getty Images

A bombshell report published in The Guardian alleges that ICE officers are using torture to force Cameroonian asylum seekers to sign their own deportation orders. The report paints an even starker picture of Immigration and Customs Enforcement–an agency that is already widely criticized as corrupt and inhumane.

The deportation documents the immigrants have been forced to sign are called the Stipulated Orders of Removal. The documents waive asylum seekers’ rights to further immigration hearings and mean they consent to being deported.

The asylum seekers allege that the torture in ICE custody consisted of choking, beating, pepper-spraying, breaking fingers, and threats on their lives.

“I refused to sign,” recounted one Cameroonian asylum-seeker to The Guardian. “[The ICE officer] pressed my neck into the floor. I said, ‘Please, I can’t breathe.’ I lost my blood circulation. Then they took me inside with my hands at my back where there were no cameras.”

He continued: “They put me on my knees where they were torturing me and they said they were going to kill me. They took my arm and twisted it. They were putting their feet on my neck…They did get my fingerprint on my deportation document and took my picture.” Other witnesses recount similar violent experiences.

Experts believe that the escalation of deportations is directly related to the upcoming election and the possibility that ICE might soon be operated under a different administration. The theory is that ICE is coercively deporting “key witnesses” in order to “silence survivors and absolve ICE of legal liability.”

“In late September, early October of this year, we began to receive calls on our hotline from Cameroonian and Congolese immigrants detained in Ice prisons across the country. And they were being subjected to threats of deportation, often accompanied by physical abuse,” said Christina Fialho, executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, to The Guardian.

Many of the Cameroonians who are in the U.S. to seek asylum have legitimate claims to danger back in their home countries. Many of these Cameroonians come from an English-speaking minority in Cameroon that are violently target by the government there–some have died. The violence has been condemned by The United Nations and Amnesty International.

As with many immigrant stories of people who are seeking asylum, these immigrants’ lives are in danger in their home country. They are coming to the United States for a better life. But instead, they are faced with the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whom they claim brutally mistreat them.

According to report, the U.S. is deporting entire airplanes full of asylum-seekers back to their home countries–deportations that have not been given due process and have been authorized under duress.

An ICE spokesperson contacted by The Guardian called the reports “sensationalist” and “unsubstantiated” while roundly refuting the claims. “Ice is firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody. Ice provides safe, humane, and appropriate conditions of confinement for individuals detained in its custody,” she said.

Read the entire report here.

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This Latina On Instagram Is Using Art And Social Media To Share Her Journey of Embracing Her Vitiligo


This Latina On Instagram Is Using Art And Social Media To Share Her Journey of Embracing Her Vitiligo

radiantbambi / Instagram

Ash Soto is a young Latina living in Florida using social media to bring acceptance and self-love to the vitiligo community. The Instagrammer has more than 166,000 followers and uses her platform to deliver art and activism one post at a time. Vitiligo is a skin condition and this Latina is reclaiming her skin one photo at a time.

Ash Soto is giving the vitiligo community some love and representation on social media.

Soto is a 24-year-old Instagrammer who is using her platform to show off her vitiligo and give the community some love and representation. The sudden social media star is catching a lot of attention after showing off her body in a way followers hadn’t seen before.

According to an interview with Self, Soto first started her Instagram page to do makeup and only showed her face. The reason was that she was uncomfortable showing people that part of herself.

Soto uses art to highlight and celebrate her vitiligo.

You might recognize Soto because of her incredible body art that is giving her vitiligo all of the self-love and acceptance. It is all part of her mission to reclaim her skin and make other people comfortable in theirs.

“I remember back when I was really young—you know when you’re in middle school, you try to fit in with the crowd,” Soto told Self. “I wasn’t fitting in. People made fun of me to the point where I would cry myself to sleep every night.”

Soto was young when she was diagnosed with vitiligo.

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Which one is your fav? 🌎🖌

A post shared by ASH SOTO (@radiantbambi) on

Vitiligo is a skin condition where a person loses the pigmentation of their skin. The cells in the skin that produce the pigmentation die or stop functioning leading to the loss of skin color over time. The disease shows up as splotches on the skin without pigmentation.

“I never realized how beautiful my vitiligo was until I traced it with a black marker, it really helps to bring out the different colors of my skin. I was always trying to find a way to look at my skin in a positive light, [and] I couldn’t do that before starting this,” Soto told Daily Mail. Now what others would perceive as an imperfection, I have made into something more beautiful and made it more accepted than before.”

Soto has been living with her vitiligo since she was 12 years old.

A moment in her teens made her embarrassed of her body and her skin. When she was a teenager, a little girl on the beach asked her if she took a shower in bleach. According to Daily Mail, that was when Soto wanted to lock herself away from the world.

Years later, Soto is flipping the script and embracing her vitiligo in all of its glory. You can follow Soto and her vitiligo journey on Instagram at @radiantbambi.

“If you feel beautiful, that’s what matters,” Soto told Self. “No one can say anything if you feel happy with yourself.”

READ: At Just 6 Years Old, She Told Her Parents To Put An End To The Birthmark Removal Treatments She Was Going Through

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