In Plain Sight: Documenting Immigration Detention in Canada

  • Carrie Dawson Dalhousie University


In December 2013, Lucia Jimenez was caught paying less than the full fare for a public transit ticket. An undocumented Mexican national, Jimenez was taken into custody by the Canadian Border Services Agency. She hanged herself shortly thereafter. Following Jimenez’s death, a friend argued, “Lucia ended up being a ghost here.” Like so many non-status migrants for whom banal daily rituals—like accessing public transit—are dangerous, Jimenez practiced a necessary invisibility. But it wasn’t until her undocumented status came to light that she really disappeared: she entered the state’s “apparatus of disappearance, and vanished in plain sight” (Nield).  Given the technologies of surveillance at work in detention facilities, it seems counterintuitive to constitute them as places where one can vanish, but such is the case in Canada, where there is no upper limit on the length of immigration detention. Tings Chak takes up these issues in her 2015 graphic essay, Undocumented: the Architecture of Migrant Detention, arguing that there is a pressing need “to make visible the sites and stories of detention.” With attention to Chak’s book and to the circumstances surrounding Jimenez’s death, this essay takes up the call to instigate a public conversation about immigration detention in Canada.


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Author Biography

Carrie Dawson, Dalhousie University
Carrie Dawson is an Associate Professor in the English Department at Dalhousie University.


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