Home >> Otay Mesa Detention Center Detainee Letter Collection


Los Migrantes Somos

In July 2018, a group of concerned San Diego State University faculty, researchers, and community members formed Otay Allies, a grassroots organization that “seeks to uphold standards of human decency and government accountability by communicating directly with detained refugees at Otay Mesa and SeaTac Detention Centers.” The group regularly write back-and-forth with detainees -- providing first-hand accounts of conditions in the detention centers as well as sharing their experiences prior to detention and their path to seeking asylum.

In October 2018, Allies donated a large and steadily growing collection of letters from detainees held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. To provide access to these important letters, the SDSU Library established, and is maintaining, the Otay Mesa Detention Center Detainee Letter Collection. This living archive tells the hidden stories of hundreds of refugees from human rights hot spots around the world--including Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Brazil, Cameroon, Eritrea and China as they each seek asylum in the United States. This archive is especially unique as it is being updated in real-time. The collection is currently undergoing digitization to make the letters available and accessible to the public online. These letters serve as important primary sources for scholars and the public wishing to study and understand migration patterns, detention center conditions, immigration policy, political asylum, border relations and more.

Due to sensitive content in the letters, all identifying information will be redacted to protect the privacy and safety of the letter writers. Researchers and members of the general public will only have access to redacted digitized copies. Given the number of languages represented in the letters--including Spanish, Portuguese, French, Chinese and others--we hope to provide translations to enhance findability and accessibility to those interested.

Donations will support the ongoing digitization, redaction, creation of metadata, and translation of the letters. We thank you for your generosity in supporting this important project.