“The Detention Lottery” reveals immigration court in immersive theater experience


On March 7th at 7:00pm, the Immigrant/Refugee Rights Group of Indivisible Vashon and Open Space for Arts and Community are proud to present “The Detention Lottery.” “The Detention Lottery” is an engaging courtroom theater experience with a cast of working immigration attorneys and eight audience members. This presentation, the first on Vashon Island, is designed to engage and inform the community about the unbearable difficulties detained immigrants and refugees face at the Northwest Detention Center, and to raise funds for Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest (AID NW), a non-profit that supports detainees inside and upon release.

Immigration courtrooms hidden away in detention centers throughout the United States, decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants every year in the United States. Immigration judges, appointed as employees of the federal government’s Department of Justice, are the sole decision-makers for the detained, eighty-four percent of whom don’t have lawyers to represent them or explain the process to them. The public is not welcome to observe. Outcomes vary wildly depending on the judge assigned to the case, and the most recent Administration-mandated interpretations of the law. For many, the Bill of Rights, which applies to all in the country regardless of immigration status, lies in tatters. Seattle playwright and immigration attorney Margaret O’Donnell wrote “The Detention Lottery” as part of an effort to open the immigration enforcement system to public witness. The show provides a first-hand look inside one such courtroom.

According to Indivisible Vashon Immigrant/Refugee Rights Group member Janie Starr, this show is designed to make an impact: “Having experienced ‘The Detention Lottery’ last summer, I can attest to the power of this immersive experience. It inspired me to want to do more, which included bringing this theatrical event to Vashon. My fervent hope is to fill Open Space on March 7th so that learn together, open our hearts (and wallets) in support of immigrant justice, and be inspired to act in solidarity with our friends and neighbors.” Lending to the powerfully interactive nature of the performance, audience members are cast as actors on the spot. In order to simulate the reality of the courtroom setting, eight audience members are detained upon entry, assigned identities as immigrants, and must defend themselves against deportation as best they can in court, without preparation.

The performance will be followed by a talk-back and Q&A with the actors and the audience, and a rousing Raise-the-Hand to procure much needed additional funds for Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest (AID NW), a non-profit that supports detainees inside and upon release. Food will be available for purchase from Iyad’s Syrian Grill and beverages from the Hardware Store Restaurant.

This performance is sponsored by The Hardware Store Restaurant and supported by local individual donors. All ticket sales and additional donations will support the Tacoma non-profit Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest (www.aidnw.org).

The event will take place at Open Space for Arts and Community on March 7th. Doors open at 6:30. The program will begin promptly at 7:00. Tickets are available at www.openspacevashon.com and are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Students are free. This performance is recommended for middle school-age and above. For more information, contact immigration@indivisiblevashon.org.