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Witness at Tornillo


The following text was pulled from the Carbon Trace Productions website.

Film Synopsis:

One man from Brooklyn sits alone in the West Texas desert, feeling morally compelled to witness the horrors of family separation and child detention on the southern border. His goal is to shut down an American internment camp and free 2,800 migrant teenagers kept against their will. Witness at Tornillo follows 66-year-old Josh Rubin from Brooklyn, an activist who has become a fixture of the #FamiliesBelongTogether protests. He helped draw national attention to the Tornillo facility, moving on to a similar youth detention facility in Homestead, Florida. Rubin defines witnessing—the “radical act of seeing”—as a necessary form of protest. He has been covered by news outlets including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and HBO’s VICE News. He is still working to shut down these facilities and bring awareness to the Central American asylum-seekers stranded in Mexican refugee camps.

“Josh’s indomitable witness at Tornillo was the decisive factor which galvanized the combination of local and national organizing that led to the closing of the child detention facility there, and inspired equivalent efforts at Homestead.” – Camilo Antonio Perez Bustillo, former Director of Research & Advocacy, Hope Border Institute.


Director: Shane Franklin

Executive Producer: Dr. Andrew R. Cline

Producers: Shannon Cay and Shane Franklin

Director of Photography: Taye Taye

Camera Operators: Dr. Andrew R. Cline, Taye Taye, and Shane Franklin

First Editor: Taye Taye

Second Editor: Dr. Andrew R. Cline

Sound Editor: Matt Foster

What’s next for “Witness at Tornillo?”

Our coverage of the Witnesses has continued, even after the eventual closing of Homestead and Tornillo. With an even greater leadership team developed, the Witnesses turned their eye on the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which have effectively stopped leal asylum from Central-American countries. In 2019, the “Return to Mexico” policy, as many call it, has resulted in more than 60,000 asylum seekers being turned back to wait in makeshift refugee camps on the banks of the Rio Bravo (Grande).

The Carbon Trace coverage of the sequel film Witness at the Border continues where “Witness at Tornillo” leaves off.

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