““My pain is so big” is a quote from Rosa Escobar, the sister of Carlos Esteban Escobar Mejia, the first person in immigrant detention to die of COVID-19, upon learning of his death. She told her late mother she would care for her brother and was distraught after discovering she could not protect him. He was deemed a flight risk (though he was in fragile health) and so was not released even after he developed symptoms at the Otay Mesa detention center, which is administered by the prison industry behemoth CoreCivic. The Guardian reported that “Amanda Gilchrist, a CoreCivic spokeswoman, said the company was not responsible for medical care and referred questions to ICE. Gilchrist said detainees had received masks and could get new ones if they requested them.” The immigrant detention systems are rife with shunning of responsibility. The risk of COVID to inmates at MDC Brooklyn, where this message will be displayed, is high according to the report of Dr. Harold Venters, who found multiple “system failures” (ignored and destroyed sick call requests, inadequate symptom screening, among others). As doctor Venters points out, MDC Brooklyn is not a closed system so the community is at risk as well. In my message, I wanted to elevate the voice of someone whose family has endured the painful failures of our health and incarceration systems, and to highlight the concept, that the immigration detention system is not a closed system, that each of us is affected by the pain, sickness, death, immorality and system failures in these immoral structures.“”
Eric Gottesman photographs, writes, makes videos, teaches and uses art as a vehicle to explore aesthetic, social and political culture. He is an Assistant Professor of Art at the State University of New York (Purchase College) and a Mentor in the Arab Documentary Photography Project in Beirut, Lebanon.
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