Sept. 24, 2019 – Two years ago I was driving through Texas, my final stop as I filmed immigration detention centers across the country. I was struck by the size and geographic range of these facilities, and the massive profits being made from the incarceration of immigrants. How did a system designed to process new arrivals swell from holding a little more than 2,000 people in 1979 to over 52,000 people today?

“Detained”—published today in partnership with The Guardian—answers that question. Combining documentary film with archival footage and data visualizations, our latest story takes the viewer on a 40-year journey that begins with a makeshift response to a humanitarian crisis, and ends with the emergence of the largest immigrant detention system in the world.

In this immersive documentary, we hear from those who helped build today’s system and those who have been inside it. They include Doris Meissner (former INS commissioner in two administrations), Michael Chertoff (former Secretary of Homeland Security) and Leon Panetta (former Secretary of Defense), as well as people like Roxana, who was caught up in America’s immigration dragnet and separated from her children a year before the national outcry over family separations. Previously unreleased videos from early detention centers, historical footage and animation, and data visualizations illustrate the remarkable growth of the system.

A year in the making, “Detained” chronicles the rise of immigrant incarceration, two issues at the heart of what we do here at The Marshall Project. As a result, this story will give you a view into our immigration system unlike anything you’ve seen before.

The Marshall Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system.