The impact of incarceration on the migrants in the federal immigration facility in El Centro, California, which operated from 1945 to 2014, is obscured by limited-access government records that emphasize the efficiency of the non-punitive immigration holding center. Direct observation revealed a restrictive environment, an authoritarian regime, and dehumanizing protocols. These discrepancies led to a search for information on the emotional impact of the facility on migrants incarcerated there. This required the collection of data from alternative sources, including interviews, private collections, photographs, activists’ correspondence, journalists’ investigations, and Mexican officials’ inquiries—an emotive archive.

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