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This COLD CASE explores the incarceration of migrants in cramped freezer-like cells in US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention centres along the US/Mexico border from 2003 to the present. According to law, temperatures in the temporary holding cells must be maintained at between 20-24 degrees. Yet repeated testimonies from former ‘icebox’ detainees corroborate accounts of the dire conditions experienced in these cells—all emphasising how frigid it gets with air conditioning blasting throughout the facility. When guards met out punishment, it is often a threat to turn the temperature down. Under detention, modulation of temperature becomes another mode of governance over migrant lives. An instrument of abusive control aimed at dissuading migrants from claiming formal asylum, which would move them from their temporary holding cells into permanent Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities (ICE).


TEMPERATURE RANGE  Legally must be between 69° to 76° Farenheit (20° to 25° Celsius)
Five CBP Detention Centers along the US/Mexico border
DATES 2003 to present

Excerpt from video (14:18 mins), Susan Schuppli with researcher Henry Bradley and Forensic Architecture / Omar Ferwati, Kishan San, 2021