Art is often used as a mirror for society, and nowhere is that more true right now than New York City, where a pop-up street art installation is reflecting the worst parts of the United States of America back at itself. The installation is called “No Kids in Cages,” and is comprised of 24 metal cages with what appear to be children inside, all of them covered under tin foil blankets to recreate the conditions migrant children are currently being kept in at the US-Mexico border.
The crisis of child separation is ongoing along the boundary of the two neighboring countries, but with the relentless 24-hour news cycle typical of this digital age, the real story often gets lost in a sea of controversies, crises, and “fake news.” So it falls to organizations like RAICES to remind people that this saga isn’t playing out in some far-off place, but that it is in fact happening right on their doorstep, and that they need to be paying attention.
The 24 metal cages were installed all throughout the city, in heavily trafficked areas, outside major news and media outlets, and in front of big corporations like Google. Each cage comes with a sign that bears the hashtag #nokidsincages, and a quick visit to the RAICES website shows a harrowing video of children being held in shocking conditions at the border.
One child calls their detention center “the icebox” because of how cold it is, with more footage showing kids sleeping on thin mattresses, each covered only with a crumpled foil sheet. It’s this that’s shown to passerby in the NYC installation. Some of the cages even come with audio recordings that are played out loud, similar to the one that was leaked some months ago of a child crying and asking for their father. They’re a gripping and thought-provoking presence on the busy New York streets — and one that’s stopping people dead in their tracks and making them look.
Recent footage shows police officers removing a cage that was attached to a parking meter and ripping up the paper package inside, which was fashioned to look like a sleeping child. A statement on the No Kids in Cages website reads, “This is not history. This is happening now. Hundreds more have been separated. Six children have died.”
“#NoKidsInCages is about the children. We cannot be a nation that separates families. For those who’ve forgotten, it’s time to remember and raise your voice. For those who didn’t know, it’s time to understand the plight of these innocent children.” said RAICES director Jonathan Ryan, adding that: “The litmus test of any society is how it treats children. By normalizing the detention of children in cages, we’re only going further down the path of forsaking the rights of all children.”
Most recently, a Trump administration official declined to confirm that basic sanitation, cleanliness, and sleep were rights that these children were entitled to. The No Kids in Cages installation aims to highlight all these issues and give kids everywhere the happy childhoods they deserve.