Online Game Inspired by Immigrant’s Death in Federal Custody

GamePolitics readers may recall ICED!, an immigration-themed game released earlier this year by human rights organization Breakthrough. ICED! generated a good bit of controversy, including attacks by the Minutemen anti-immigration group.

While the goal of ICED! was to avoid being picked up by the authorities, Breakthrough has launched a new game which explores issues surrounding federal detention of suspected illegal immigrants.

Homeland Guantanamos is an interactive, online adventure which casts the player in the role of an investigative reporter looking into conditions inside federal immigrant detention facilities. As the game begins, players are assigned to follow up on the death of Guinean tailor Boubacar Bah, a real person who died under mysterious circumstances while being held at a facility in New Jersey. 86 other suspected illegal immigrants have also died in U.S. custody since 2003.

The New York Times, which originally broke the story of Bah’s death, looks at the Homeland Guantanamos:

The fictional framework plays fast and loose with traditional rules of journalism — the reporter takes an undercover job as a detention guard and writes a first-person appeal for change rather than an article — but the content encountered along the way is backed by links to real newspaper articles, court documents and other factual material…


Mixing fact and fantasy is familiar territory for Breakthrough, which seeks to galvanize young people by using the new tools of popular culture to put them in the shoes of legal and illegal immigrants.

Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security offered harsh criticism of the game:

[It is] a work of fiction that dehumanizes the individuals depicted and grossly distorts conditions in detention facilities. I believe that most informed people know that they leave reality at the door when they enter the world of video games.

Breakthrough executive director Mallika Dutt, who hopes the game will help generate support for legislation aimed at bringing additional due process to immigration proceedings, told the NYT:

The Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement measures have become increasingly draconian and are leading to severe consequences, including death, for many.

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  1. kyledeb says:

    I love how the only defense of the horrific treatment of unauthorized migrants people offer is that they shouldn’t be hear in the first place.  Anyone that has any human decency knows, being outside of the law does not justify any kind of treatment in the world.  I also encourage people to look further into U.S. immigration law and educate themselves about just how broken the system is.

    The U.S. migration debate has lost sight of justice.

  2. Breakthrough says:


    Every piece of information from the Homeland Guantanamos site comes from real stories of immigrants being detained in immigrant detention centers— there is no fictional information. Please watch the videos from those telling their personal stories:

    In addition, the experience shows that ALL immigrants – legal permanent residents, asylum seekers, students and undocumented people are being detained in harsh, inhumane conditions, and are detained indefinitely in non-criminal custody.

    Please do actually visit the site – to find out what’s really going on and get the facts, as well as our sources for this information:

    In addition, everyone is entitled to human rights and due process, and these conditions are in extreme violation of these principles.

    Thank you and please do visit the site,





  3. MdeG says:


    What you say is not true. It *does* take years to become a citizen. If you’re able to enter the country legally with an immigrant visa, then what you are until you become a citizen is something called a Legal Permanent Resident. You usually have to wait a minimum of 5 years before applying for citizenship. You can keep LPR status for as long as you want — there’s no requirement to become a citizen. You’re legal, though you can lose status for comparatively minor infractions, or for staying outside the US more than 6 months without a special permit. You can work, pay taxes, do everything except hold public office or vote. LPRs are ***no way*** illegal.

    An LPR during the first 5 or so years of presence in the US is ineligible for almost all public benefits. You can get workers’ comp and emergency medical care, and that’s about it. Disability, unemployment, welfare, etc. are all barred. Part of why having relatives here helps, is that those relatives have to prove they have enough resources that they can be your social services system for a few years until you qualify. So from the point of view of benefits being a new LPR is kind of like being undocumented.

    If you are able to get an immigrant visa, the process is indeed long and expensive. The trouble is that there are quite a lot of requirements. There are preferences as to country of origin. If you have close relative in the US who are LPRs or citizens, they may be able to petition for you. (How close the relative needs to be depends on whether they’re a citizen or an LPR). If you are rich, educated, have a business, etc. your odds are much better. The process still takes a good many years and costs a lot of money, and the outcome is not at all guaranteed.

    However, if you are a working person, especially from a country that sends lots of people here, your chances of getting in are really poor. The cost is huge if you’re on Mexican pay, for example, and your chances of success are so low that most people just don’t bother trying. System needs to be fixed.

    It has been the case sometimes in the past that people who were here without papers could get papers by paying a large fine & waiting a long time. This happened in 1985, and it used to be possible for people who married citizens. Neither one of these is the case any more. It’s not just a matter of waiting and doing paperwork. Under present law, if you’ve been here a year w/o papers & you want to apply for residency, you have to go back home and wait ten years before you can even apply. Lots of people don’t do this, because they came from places that are dangerous or where they couldn’t support themselves.

  4. Alexa says:

    Do you know how many years it takes to become a legal immigrant? Until that time, everyone who comes to this nation of immigrants is "illegal."

  5. wombystar says:

    I have visited immigration detention facilities and I can say firsthand that the game is right on in depicting conditions.  Conditions are often worse, even, than the graphics in the game show.  (For example, often there is overcrowding and up to 50 people sharing one dorm-style room – and people may live for years like this)

    Most immigrants detained have no criminal records and are administrative and not criminal detainees – but these facilities look, feel, and act exactly like real jails.  Detention is not a feasible solution – the VERA institute has proposed an alternative where immigrants have been proven to show up 92% of the time to their hearings and appearances before immigration.  And that only costs $12/day as opposed to the $100/day spend on detention.

    This game is both an excellent exposure of the realities inside detention facilities, and a memorial to those who have unnecessarily lost their lives.  Excellent work, Breakthrough!

  6. Alexa says:

    This is further proof of what Dr. Steven Miles calls "the torture-endangered society" (we are steeped in fictional cruelty and this makes it easier to ignore or diminish the reality). Video games promoting hate? You can do anything to a helpless person. It’s bullying ratcheted up to the nth degree.

  7. Mommy DX says:

    Interesting topic for a game; however, it doesn’t change the fact that illegal immigrants shouldn’t be here in the first place. If they don’t want to endure the harsh treatment in jail – then they should apply for entry into our country the right way and stop trying to circumvent the system.

  8. Father Time says:

    NBC sent an Islamic family to Nascar? That seems oh so freaking pointless. I doubt that most of the ‘bad’ Nascar fans can compare to British Soccer Hooligans though.

    And do you have sources that the ACLU really goes after the minuteman for no reason? It doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch, but still.


    God created alcohol so that the Scottish and the Irish could never take over the world. -Chris ‘Jedi’ Knight

  9. Neo_DrKefka says:


    Listen, in one instance I agree with the Mexicans and believe we should copy the way the protect THEIR southern border. In which Mexico has SHOOT TO KILL orders in which if you’re caught coming into Mexico on their southern border you most likely will be accosted, raped or put in a dark Mexican Prison.
    We need to be more accepting and let people in our southern bored, well so do they.
    Problem with this game, it’s completely upside down. The Minutemen (who most are actually Mexicans Immirgrants who are pissed they came here legally but those who did the wrong thing get a free ride and more rights and prvilages) who actually work with the border patrol. Who actually are there report all illegal activity.
    Yes those who are with the Minutemen actually do trip off alarms but guess who it is? It’s the ACLU who sends investigators or junior college observers who are looking for anything and everything to sue the Minutemen.
    It’s kind of like when the Liberal owned Network NBC sent an Islamic Family to a Nascar event and put in hidden cameras and mics and they hoped some white guy would say something racist
  10. shady8x says:


    I remember playing that.

    That game had a lot of bullshit in it (and a lot of facts)… for example it had a big problem with illegal immigrants not being allowed to register to vote… when I saw that in ICED, I was like WTF?

    That leads me to believe that this game has a lot of bull in it too… and a lot of truth as well…

    Speaking as a legal immigrant, we really should build a border fence with motion sensors… That has nothing to do with Mexicans and everything to do with our economy…

    Not sure how accurate this site is overall but the numbers seem pretty close to what I have seen before:

    Check it out and see the numbers… everything else is your personal opinion…


    Fact: out of 221 countries in the world there are only 50 with a population greater then the amount of illegal immigrants in the USA right now… No economy can support this or survive under these circumstances… Look it up and then tell me if you see a problem or if its just those racist minutemen…

  11. DeepThorn says:

    I just know we need heavy artillery on the Mexican border to shoot those damn drug smugglers and their heavily armed friends, typically the Mexican army. (unless it is pot, haha)   Our border potrol officers are out gunned, and sometimes get killed and dragged to the mexican side so it looks like they were at fault…

    All in all, we have immigration problems, not only the illegal immigrants, but the ones that are here legally getting their stuff taken care of…  As for Hiu Liu Ng, he was late, and most likely knew he had medical problems at the time, which may have been the cause of him being late because sometimes those appointments are strict…  From what it sounds like though, he was doomed, but it would have been better if he was to at least be with his family.

    The other problem in that case is that a lot of people fake illness and injuries to stay in America longer.  If people were honest to begin with, then he would have been believed, but humans do whatever they can to survive, even if it means faking illness.  It is really too bad, and I hope the best for his family…  Getting out of NY might help a lot too, cheaper cost of living.

    Most things that our government runs gets screwed up, then if the government lets someone else run it, they ask for more money than they actually need because someone is pocketing too much of it.  Even if there was a way to keep the money balanced easily without the government needing to fund anything…  greedy A-holes in this world destroy everything.

  12. Zevorick says:

    I honestly don’t know who to believe. One side says how horrendous conditions are, and the other side says how acceptable the conditions are by comparing them to a place that is worse off. The only opinion I have is that these people really shouldnt be there in the first place. I love the lign "The poisoned tree shan’t bear fruit" doctrine. Too bad it’s very much ignored when you aren’t "a homegrown good ole American boy".

  13. Haggard says:

    "I believe that most informed people know that they leave reality at the door when they enter the world of video games."

    This depends entirely upon the game.

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