A CIVIC Survey of Media Over Last 8 Years Finds Reporting on Immigration Detention Increasing, But Immigrant Voices Largely Silenced

A vigil at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, October 2016. Photo credit: Tina Shull

CIVIC Releases New Survey & Report, Launches Blog Featuring Authors Who Are Detained

Feb. 14 — President Trump’s recent issuance of executive orders calling for an expansion of immigration enforcement and banning travel from 7 countries allegedly affiliated with terrorism has caused a public and media uproar. It has also thrown a spotlight on the vast yet shadowy U.S. immigration detention system.
Today, non-profit organization CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement) has released a timely 77-page report on how immigration detention has been portrayed in the media since 2009. CIVIC also is launching its new blog IMM Print — the first of its kind to feature the voices of those impacted by the detention system.
The report, Immigration Detention the Media: Missing Migrant Voices and the Need for Humanistic Storytelling, assesses media coverage of immigration detention over the past 8 years and surveys prominent immigration journalists to reveal that migrant voices and experiences have been systematically silenced in the mainstream media.
CIVIC Finds:
• Opportunity: Immigration detention is three times more visible now than in 2009. Coverage is largely critical, highlighting flaws and abuses within the system.
• Challenge: The quality of coverage is still lacking. The complex realities of the detention system remain hidden from public view and there remains a dearth of first-hand migrant accounts. The main reason behind this is that the U.S. government makes it difficult for reporters to access people in detention.

A survey of 1,153 media sources focusing on immigration detention between 2009–2016

**CIVIC Recommends:** • Media outlets should focus on solutions-based coverage. • Media-makers should increase their efforts to include first-hand migrant accounts in their reporting, and collaborate with organizations like CIVIC that serve migrants in detention and affected communities. • The U.S. government should ease restrictions on reporters when visiting immigration detention facilities. • Non-profit organizations serving immigrants should embrace storytelling as a means for social change.

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*“The Trump Administration has been trying to limit First Amendment rights and sell ‘alternative facts’ to the public. But even under the Obama Administration, the truth about immigration detention was rarely told, and when it was, those directly impacted were seldom heard,”* says **Christina Fialho**, an attorney and the co-founder/executive director of CIVIC.   In line with the report’s findings, CIVIC is launching IMM Print, the first blog to feature writing, art, and poetry from people in detention supported by news and commentary. It provides a platform for stories rarely heard, such as Alexandra Gologusova’s, a poet and writer who was detained in Eloy, Arizona, for 444 days and is an Associate Editor of the blog.   IMM Print Editor-in-Chief **Tina Shull** and author of the report says, *“We are in an age when our president calls the media the ‘opposition party’ and relies on lies to push an anti-immigrant agenda. We hope that our findings provide tools for advocates, journalists, scholars, and those directly impacted by the immigration detention system to challenge the myths that perpetuate punitive immigration enforcement models through storytelling that is both effective and empowering. IMM Print is a space for stories to be told in their own right, and storytelling is also the Achilles heel of a system striving to remain secretive.”* Shull is a Soros Justice Fellow at CIVIC and a History Lecturer at the University of California, Irvine. She became a scholar of immigration detention policy after her husband was detained and deported from the United States ten years ago.   *“The U.S. immigration detention system is designed to isolate people from the outside world. It thrives on secrecy and minimal public accountability. Now more than ever, we need journalists across the globe to expose the truth of Trump’s growing detention regime. We need the voices of those who are detained to be heard. We look forward to working with journalists to ensure they have the access they need to deliver accurate news about immigration detention,”* says Fialho.   Shull says, *“We will keep telling stories about the immigration detention system until the system ends and there are no more stories to tell.”*   Link: [Immigration Detention the Media: Missing Migrant Voices and the Need for Humanistic Storytelling](https://www.dropbox.com/s/p2mov8td2dkl6nb/CIVIC_ImmigrationDetention_Media_Final.pdf?dl=0)

*CIVIC is the national immigration detention visitation network, which is working to end U.S. immigration detention by monitoring human rights abuses, elevating stories, building community-based alternatives to detention, and advocating for system change. CIVIC has affiliated visitation programs in over 40 detention facilities, and a national hotline that allows people in all 211 immigration detention facilities to call CIVIC at no cost to them. Learn more at *www.endisolation.org.