Our partners at the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network recently released two videos that we are proud to have collaborated on. Check out the other video case study here. Check out our collective learnings and more behind-the-scenes information here.
The video is a vehicle for people in detention to share their experiences and voice their demands. It has re-sparked the local conversation on immigration detention and ensured that as the media focuses on the manufactured “crisis” at the border, we aren’t forgetting that thousands of individuals remain in immigration detention and their lives are still in danger. – RGV EVN
After audience mapping, there was consensus on Congressman Vela as the target audience because he had the power to make change and he was movable. He did not have a clear position on this issue. They wanted the constituents to be able to show what was wrong and unjust and deliver him the message: “You could be the one to change this story.” One demand considered early on in the process was for him to visit the local detention facilities. With the new administration there was the potential for Vela to step up in a bigger way.
Q+A WITH RGV EVN
What were your initial aims of this project? How did this change throughout the process?
The goal of this project was to produce a video that could be used to further advocate for the release of everyone facing the risk of COVID in immigration detention. After thinking through how this project could fit into our Free Them All campaign, we decided it was most strategic to share the testimonies of people in detention and their families to push Congressman Vela to be their champion and call on ICE to free everyone.
How were you able to make the process and product reflective of your goals and values?
The process of putting the video together consisted of consulting with the groups and individuals who had been supporting and contributing to our campaign work and allied groups doing similar work. We talked to folks in detention about the video and its purpose. This process reflected our value of creating this video in a way that was open, collaborative and participatory. The finished product features the testimonies of folks who have experienced detention themselves and their family members, because we value creating opportunities for directly affected folks to speak on their own behalf and communicate with elected officials and members of our community.
What were the biggest challenges you faced with the (a) planning (b) distribution and (c) production process?
Planning – Aside from the challenges of coordinating schedules to convene a group of folks, the planning went pretty smoothly! The folks at WITNESS were incredibly helpful in providing resources to get our creative juices flowing and guidance for developing the strategy and content of the video and how it would fold into our campaign work.
Production – Production was relatively more challenging. One issue was that none of us had experience with this before so we were trying things out for the first time and experimenting outside of our areas of expertise. Another issue was capacity. We all had multiple projects to juggle and this made the production process go rather slowly and in fits and starts. A final challenge was cutting down all of the content gathered during the interview process into a 2-3 minute video. We gathered so many compelling and important testimonies that it then felt really difficult to select a few sound bites from among all of those interviews. But of course we wanted the video to actually be viewed! So that required trimming things down to a digestible but still compelling narrative that featured key points from the folks we interviewed but still communicated the urgency and intensity of their testimonies.
Distribution – Distribution is an ongoing process and one that has highlighted the importance of timeliness, in terms of the moment we are in and what’s going on with detention policy now. We had initially planned to release the video in the fall of 2020, but with the production process taking longer than that, we released it in the spring of 2021. By this point, the national conversation on immigration detention had started shifting away from COVID in detention and the Free Them All messaging. Advocacy groups are of course still fighting to end immigration detention, but campaigns have stopped focusing so much on the threat of COVID as well as talking about detention as a public health issue. Since the folks in detention were interviewed in the middle of the pandemic, that’s very much what they’re highlighting.
What other organizing strategies does this video fit into?
This video is part of an effort to hold local Congressional leadership accountable to people in immigration detention and their demands for freedom. The video focuses on the threat of COVID in detention and is targeted at a particular member of Congress, but it speaks to the cruelty of detention generally and the need to end it. For that reason, I think this video will continue being useful to our advocacy and the long-term push to shut down local facilities. The interview content gathered for this project can also be repurposed as our campaign targets and strategy shift.
How do you feel about the final product? What has the response and impact been so far?
I really appreciate the final video because it’s a vehicle for people in detention to share their experiences and voice their demands. We have shared the full videos as well as shortened versions of them on all of our social media platforms, and they have been shared by our partners at Detention Watch Network, Freedom For Immigrants, and the Texas Civil Rights Project. We have also screened the NBW video at a meeting of our local No Border Wall coalition and members of the group then shared it on their personal social media pages. Not Another Foot has shared the NBW video with members as well; the content is tied to a Teach-In video on the dangers of border surveillance technology. We paired the FTA video with a letter-writing campaign so that folks can email Congressman Vela directly with a link to the video and a personal message urging him to intervene and work to secure the release of everyone in detention. Most recently, La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) shared both videos for the virtual end of their annual Cesar Chavez March.
The response has been positive on social media but has not yet translated into folks taking action and reaching out to Congressman Vela to advocate for mass release. It has re-sparked the local conversation on immigration detention, though, and ensured that as the media focuses on the manufactured “crisis” at the border, we aren’t forgetting that thousands of individuals remain in immigration detention and their lives are still in danger.