The American dream has turned to nightmare for thousands of documented and undocumented immigrants in the United States, who sit incarcerated for months and years in immigration detention facilities across the country awaiting trials and deportations, often having committed no bigger crime than a traffic violation or misdemeanor.
A new interactive online game by human rights organization Breakthrough uses video to illustrate the injustice many detained immigrants and their families have faced. In Homeland Guantanamo, players assume the role of a journalist trying to get more information on real life detainee who has died in custody.
By navigating around a 3-D model of a detention facility, and watching video interviews with real detainees, players pick up clues while learning important facts about the injustices suffered by immigrants caught up in a judicial system seemingly designed to deport as many people as possible.
One of the videos in the game features a woman from Saint Lucia whose 17 year-old daughter was jailed for 3 years, having once been caught and fined for smoking marijuana.
A New York Times newspaper article about a 54 year-old tailor from Guinea who died in a detention center in New Jersey is the source of inspiration for the Homeland Guantanamo game.
Once the mystery at the end of the game is solved, players are invited to view the “memorial garden” devoted to all those who have died, and can post comments, write their own testimonials or upload photos.
Online voices for the voiceless
Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 300,000 people have been deported from the U.S. for non-violent minor offenses (as compared to 140,000 for violent offenses) since 1996.
There is not much public awareness about this issue in the United States, in spite of the fact that 87 men and women have died in detention centers here since 2003.
Last year, Breakthrough gained access to interview three legal permanent residents inside a detention center for another computer game with a similar goal, called I.C.E.D. (“I Can End Deportation”).
Many other activists campaigning on behalf of immigrants in the United States also turn to online citizen media to spread awareness.
On the blog for the organization, One America with Justice for All, Pramila Jayapal invites people to read their report on human rights abuses at a detention center in Tacoma, Washington saying:
I believe America is so much better than this. And I believe that most Americans, if they knew what was happening in their name at our detention centers across the country, the would stop this injustice. Most Americans want people to be treated fairly and humanely.