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Welcome to San Diego - Refugee Life

San Diego as we know it is perceived different to immigrant individuals who have been detained.

This piece is inspired by the stories of people that immigrate and seek refuge in the  United States, specifically San Diego, in hopes for a better life, a brighter future but instead, are  met with a different reality, one with incarceration. Through this Ethnic Studies course, I have  had the privilege to hear stories of different people such as the guest presenters as well as other  sources such as the Detention Resistance podcast, where immigrant detainees share their  vulnerable stories in hopes of receiving help. This topic hits home for me because I am the  daughter of immigrants. My parents left their home, families, and comfort to give my siblings  and I a better life. They risked their lives, their future to give us everything.  

People seek refuge due to violence, environmental conditions, simply stability or other  reasons that will help their quality of life. When crossing the border, they are often met with cold  agents of Immigration and Custom Enforcements, also known as ICE. They are then taken to  detention centers such as the Otay Mesa Detention Centers where they spend months, sometimes  years to get their status processed. Many people call these detention centers ``La Hielera'' meaning an “icebox” due to the cold temperatures of the rooms they are kept in. My father was  unfortunate enough to have been detained twice in cells like this. He recalls the room being very  cold, with nothing to keep him warm, the ICE agents being cruel and the food being cold and  unsustaining.  

This assignment was a bit challenging for me as I am not artistic at all, however, I wanted  to highlight how important it is for people to know what is going on in our city and the reality of the way life is for some individuals. I chose to paint the picture of San Diego as we know it,  sunny, beautiful beaches and filled with hope. This is the way tourists and residents know San  Diego and it is what pops up on the internet when you search the city’s name. However, it is a  different reality, a different city for refugees and immigrants who come seeking hope but are  detained at the border. Their perception of San Diego is cold and uninviting. The detention  centers oftentimes are surrounded by barbed wire which is why the individual in the painting is surrounded by barbed wire as well. It is as though it follows them, keeping them captive in this  so-called beautiful city. Although it is digital, I worked on this manually, through my tablet. 

We live so close to the border, to these detention centers and sometimes we are not aware  of the impact we can have on people's lives if we collectively fight the injustice of the system of  these facilities. Through this painting, I hope that people resonate, find inspiration or further 



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