Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s negligence and dehumanization of immigrants has resulted in the deaths of children at the border and countless other horrors that the general public may not even know about. Even if we know that mistreatment runs rampant in detention centers that profit from human tragedy, looking inside to hold people accountable often remains off-limits.
However, thanks to The Intercept and WNYC’s The Takeaway, a short film titled ICE and Isolation: A Portrait of Torture in Immigration Detention provides a harrowing look at the despicably inhumane conditions that resulted in a Mexican immigrant’s suicide.
Constructed of footage taken directly from the security cameras at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, and the testimonies of staff members and other detainees in the same cellblock present during the incident, the 10-minute video documents how 40-year-old Efraín Romero de la Rosa, a man diagnosed with schizophrenia, was held in solitary confinement for an extensive period of time. It drove him to take his own life.
Day in and day out, de la Rosa cried, expressed hopelessness, and experienced episodes that were exacerbated by having to spend 23 hours a day inside a 13-foot by 7-foot concrete cell. More disturbingly, the images present clear proof that medical and correctional personnel were unprepared for the situation or had falsified information that prevented help from reaching de la Rosa sooner.
Although the United Nations considers solitary confinement longer than 15 days as torture and has demanded countries to ban its use entirely on people with mental illness, de la Rosa spent 21 days in solitary. At the end of this difficult-to-watch but utterly necessary project, the most devastating revelation is that this is not an isolated occurrence and that this is only one facility among hundreds across the country.
Watch the full short film below.