Entrapped: Visiting migrant detainees in western Massachusetts


“Entrapped: Visiting Migrant Detainees in Western Massachusetts” is a collectively written reflection by Mount Holyoke College faculty and students about our visit to and tour of the Franklin County Jail in Greenfield, Massachusetts. This visit was part of our effort to develop a permanent visitation program and learning community among immigrant detainees who are held at the county facility, the students, staff, and faculty at Mount Holyoke College, and local community organizations in our region. In this piece, we collectively comment on the experience of entering a carceral facility, engaging with staff at the jail, and understanding the nuances in the relationship between county and federal enforcement bureaucracies. Most importantly, we reflect on our interactions with largely (but not exclusively) Latino male detainees teetering on the verge of deportation.

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    Migrant detainees, nationally, consist of undocumented persons, asylum seekers, and legal permanent residents who, on average, have lived in the US for over 10 years. Over 90 % are of Latin American origin. They are detained for administrative (that is, not criminal) reasons pursuant to their deportation.

  2. 2.

    In Southern California, there is a segregated detention unit for transgender persons.

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    CIVIC’s website: http://www.endisolation.org/.

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    As authors we recognize the shifting nomenclature signaled by the use of Latinx in contemporary academic writing. We support the inclusiveness of the term, especially its ability to be inclusive of multiple gender identities beyond the binary of male and female. We see the potential too for over-stating inclusiveness–that is, being inclusive rhetorically, but not materially. We also recognize that we are in a period of transition and that there still isn't consensus on the use of Latinx—similar to the debates about Latina/o/x versus Hispanic, or, Mexican American versus Chicana/o/x.

    In the collective narrative, we've primarily utilized Latino to identify detainees of Latin American origin. Although we did not take a census of detainees' gender identities, our understanding was that this was a male population of detainees. In the individual quotations from contributors, each co-author uses their own terminology, including Latinx and Latina/o/x.

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    The lieutenant told us that detainees do not take part in the work programs because of differing standards between detainees and county prisoners, the temporary nature of their length of stay, and other bureaucratic barriers.


  1. Castillo, A. 2017. Franklin Sheriff: Detained Immigrants Treated Well. Daily Hampshire Gazette, 16 August, B1.

  2. Fialho, C., and C. Mansfield. 2012. CIVIC: A Guide to Touring U.S. Immigration Detention Facilities and Building Alliances. San Francisco: CIVIC.

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  3. Flores, A. 2017. Another Immigrant Has Died in ICE Custody and Critics Worry It’s Just the Beginning. BuzzFeed News. 2 June. https://www.buzzfeed.com/adolfoflores/another-immigrant-has-died-in-ice-custody-and-critics-worry?utm_term=.ggE3R0AlD#.xjZxw3DZ0.

  4. Simanski, J., and L. Sapp. 2013. Immigration and Enforcement Actions: 2012. Annual Report. Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ois_enforcement_ar_2012_1.pdf.

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We would like to thank Christina Mansfield from Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) for helping organize and facilitate our visit to the Franklin County Jail (FCJ). We also offer our gratitude to the people held in detention at FCJ who shared their stories with us.

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Correspondence to David Hernández.

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Hernández, D., Houston, S., Allen, A. et al. Entrapped: Visiting migrant detainees in western Massachusetts. Lat Stud 16, 250–258 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41276-018-0124-0

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  • Immigration
  • Detention
  • Deportation
  • Community based learning