KUSA - A new art exhibit in Denver aims to highlight conditions at immigration detention centers.
A group of activists and artists are hoping to show what it looks and feels like behind the detention center walls. According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website, there are 181 authorized facilities in the country, including one in Colorado, as of Feb. 2016.
The images at the exhibit housed at the Museo de las Americas are jarring. Emergency blankets shaped like people on the ground, prison-like beds, razor wire, surveillance cameras and desperate handwritten letters from immigrants make up "Detention Nation."
“I feel like it’s very strong. People that see the show begin to see the issue here,” said Delilah Montoya.
“We need to show our audience and show our communities that this is what’s happening behind the fences," said Deyadria Arellano.
Montoya and Arellano are a part of the group Sin Huellas from Houston, Texas. Sin Huellas means without a trace. They are using the installation to shed light on detention facilities.
"I stayed in detention for two years,” said Douglas Menjivar.
Menjivar was held at a detention center in Conroe, Texas after trying to cross back into the United States from El Salvador. He said he doesn't understand why he was treated so poorly while trying to live the American dream.
"What’s the difference? We all have hands, mouth, we speak – even if it’s a different language. We aren’t extraterrestrials. We are not bad people. We came here to find a better future for our families," said Menjivar, after being translated into English.
Immigration is a hot button issue that divides the nation and often takes center stage in political campaigns. It's something the artists are aware of.
“In a way, I kind of get their idea. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re invading my country’ or something but it’s not like we’re coming here to make violence or to seal from you guys. We come here to get an education, have a better life,” said artist Carlos Carrasco.
Carrasco came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 11 years old. He is able to work in the country though the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy.
Even if the group doesn’t change minds, the members of Sin Huellas said they want to spark a conversation about an uncomfortable topic.
“I definitely have a personal experience with it. I grew up as the first citizen in my family and everyone else was undocumented. And I never understood why I had all these rights and they didn’t. I didn’t see any difference between me and them. And so it didn’t make sense to me," said Orlando Lara.
The exhibit opens Thursday night at 6 o'clock at Museo de las Americas on 9th Avenue and Santa Fe Drive in Denver. The artists will meet and speak with visitors Friday night.
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