Dilley, Texas, best known at one point as the unofficial watermelon capital of the country —“come get a slice of the good life,” the slogan went — is a town of 4,000, an hour south of San Antonio. A sprawling, rural community in Southern Texas, its residents are currently enjoying the second oil boom in as many decades.
Fearing the inevitable downturn, last year administrators announced Dilley would be home to the South Texas Family Residential Center — or as its detractors call it, “baby jail,” — the largest immigrant detention center in the country. Built on a former man camp for oil workers, it houses 2,400 women and children, many of whom fled violence and persecution in Central America.
In addition to the thousands of asylum seekers, the center brought 600 jobs to Dilley. All over town low-paid workers in dead-end jobs eye the positions posted each Wednesday. In the Days Inn just off the highway, every week a new batch of lawyers and volunteers take up residence and head to the detention center to help gain release for the women and children housed inside.
Though the reality is wreathed in euphemism (guards are “resident supervisors,” and detainees live in neighborhoods named after cute animals), former detainees are quick to call the place a prison. And so, the town has gained notoriety across the country for an honor not quite as pleasantly banal as “a slice of the good life.” Welcome to Dilley.
Jake Naughton When We Were Strangers 278 Backers, $25,047 Raised
Jake Naughton is a Mexico City-based visual artist and journalist making work about queer identity in the present moment.
This takes the form of long-term, in-depth projects like This is How the Heart Beats, about East Africa’s LGBTQ community, Both Sides of the Veil, which showcases a strange limbo for India’s queer community, or When We Were Strangers, which explores and deconstructs love through the prism of his own relationship with his partner.
Alongside his artistic practice, he makes commissioned work for editorial and commercial clients like Airbnb, The New York Times, WIRED Magazine, Instagram, and more.
United Photo Industries (UPI) is a New York based nonprofit organization that works to promote a wider understanding of, and increased access to, the art of photography.
Since its founding in 2011, UPI has rapidly solidified its position in the public art landscape by continuing to showcase thought-provoking, challenging, and exceptional photography from across the globe. In its first seven years, UPI has presented the work of more than 2,500 visual artists in gallery exhibitions and public art installations worldwide.
Welcome to Dilley
LocationsView Location Details Download a detailed map of this location Brooklyn Bridge Park – Emily Warren Roebling Plaza
1 Water St
Brooklyn, NY 11201
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