The Refugee Jail Deep in the Heart of Texas
While families fleeing the Middle East continue to dominate the news, the U.S. government has quietly built a gargantuan detention center for Central American migrants.
Photos by Ilana Panich-Linsman
It is 104 degrees in Dilley, Texas on this September afternoon. A smattering of saplings struggle to make sense of the dusty clay beneath them. The shade they cast provides little relief to the twenty-four hundred individuals locked away in the world’s largest jail for asylum-seeking women and children.
Ana finds herself nodding off as the post-lunch doldrums hit her in the legal library. It is her three hundred and eightieth day here. Her reading list has evolved over the past thirteen months. She has long outgrown the primers on asylum and refugee law that she used to argue for her release from immigration jail months ago. It seems like every other page of her Bible is earmarked. The margins overflow with notes. Now she finds herself midway through a Spanish translation of Alex Haley’s Roots. “It reminds me that I am part of something longer, bigger,” she says.
But the task of bearing the weight of history, of knowing you are a mere plot device in a grand…