EXCLUSIVE: NYC school promotes puzzle book with 'subtle messages' for ICE agents

A student created a puzzle book for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that hides subtle messages of the experiences of illegal immigrants in an attempt to influence ICE officers. 

Chiara Treglia, a student at the New York City-based Pratt Institute, proposed the idea for the puzzle book after she visited a courthouse with people seeking to obtain legal status. Treglia noticed that ICE officers have a lot of free time, according to a Pratt Institute news release. This prompted her to develop the idea of a puzzle book to keep them busy and also give them subtle messages about the lives of illegal immigrants.

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Campus Reform obtained pictures of Treglia’s puzzle book.

The cover reads “TRAIN YOUR BRAIN & YOUR MORALS!” Two of the puzzles in the book include a maze to help a separated young child reunite with his family and a “FIND THE DIFFERENCE” puzzle, which depicts an image of a girl on her fifth birthday with two parents, and then an image on her sixth birthday with only the mother as her father is being detained by ICE in the background.

Treglia’s project is part of Pratt’s Undocumented Design studio, taught by Adjunct Associate Professor of Industrial Design and Interior Design Alex Schweder

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“Undocumented Design centers products that address needs of, provide support to, and challenge perceptions of those struggling to obtain legal status in the U.S.,” the Pratt news release reads. “To understand the real human experiences that would drive this work has meant being present—at demonstrations and in courthouses, side by side and face to face with individuals seeking legal status, advocacy workers, volunteers, and immigration agents.”

The Undocumented Design studio partners with the New Sanctuary Coalition, a New York City network that supports illegal immigrants trying to avoid detention and deportation in an effort to keep families together.

“What would you do in their shoes? What would you want people to do for you if you were in that position? That’s why it’s important, the presence,” New Sanctuary Coalition’s Judith Sanchez, said, regarding illegal immigrants. Sanchez works with Schweder to provide feedback for students in the design process, according to the news release. 

Another product designed through the Undocumented Design studio is a transitional mirror. At first, it only displays a message. The example shows the mirror saying “I LOVE YOU.” Over time, the message fades and it becomes a mirror so the user can see their own face. 

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The mirror attempts to boost the self-esteem of illegal immigrants because of “how difficult it can be for someone seeking legal status to maintain a sense of self-assurance.”

Other products include a “JustICE Water" bottle that can fit through a fence, a location-tracking umbilical cord clamp to certify a U.S. birth, and a lapel camera that streams to Facebook.

“The change needs to come from every angle,” Sanchez said. “It’s a long journey, and in that journey [illegal immigrants] suffer so many traumas.” 

Sanchez continued to say that Undocumented Design students, “through their developments, through their art...are willing to fix these anxieties, these traumas, this sense of not belonging...All the art they did was with a purpose, for people to see it, for people to ask, what is this about, what can I do?”

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Campus Reform reached out to the Pratt Institute and Treglia for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ethanycai