Mobilizing support for immigrants in detention

About the Project

“Active Voice’s Social Action Campaign with The Visitor truly engaged a whole new level of public support, and we believe it played an important role in boosting advocacy and prompting much-needed federal reforms.” Mary Meg McCarthy, National Immigrant Justice Center

In this touching story about two unlikely friends who meet by chance encounter, The Visitor provides a glimpse into our nation’s immigration detention system, which holds an average of 32,000 men, women, and children on any given day. In conjunction with the 2008 theatrical release, Active Voice and Participant Media launched The Visitor Social Action Campaign with a series of word-of-mouth screenings to inspire audiences to learn more about the U.S. immigration detention system and due process. After the theatrical release, we worked with a network of partners to use the film to shine light on real detainees, local detention centers, and legal networks in 30 communities around the country. Through a series of screenings, trainings, and resource materials, Active Voice energized the national dialogue about post-9/11 security policies by raising values of justice and due process among audiences who were new to the issues.

Our Work

  • National partnerships and strategy development
  • Word-of-mouth screenings with advocacy organizations
  • More than 30 community screenings in partnership with local advocacy groups
  • Peer networking among screening partners
  • Continuing Legal Education trainings for attorneys in major U.S. cities
  • Discussion guide, screening toolkit, law school viewing guide, and action brochure
  • Campaign case study


  • Increased capacity for advocacy organizations
  • Stronger coalitions and brand new alliances in 30 communities
  • Heightened awareness and involvement by audiences "beyond the choir"
  • Heightened visibility of local detainees
  • Sustained use of campaign materials among law schools and NGOs

Key Partners

  • Participant Media
  • Open Society Foundations
  • Detention Watch Network
  • National Immigrant Justice Center
  • Church World Service
  • Amnesty International USA
  • O’Melveny and Myers
  • Public Counsel

Film Trailer

Filmmaker Tom McCarthy

Film Website



  • The Visitor Discussion Guide

    Created in collaboration with Detention Watch Network, National Immigrant Justice Center, and Participant Media, this guide provides resources for using this critically acclaimed feature film as a tool for dialogue in a range of settings, from community screenings to at-home discussions. It includes discussion questions, background on U.S. immigration detention, a walk through the legal process, and action steps for those concerned about U.S. immigration. Download the guide here.

  • The Visitor Case Study

    Read a case study on how The Visitor movie fueled a movement. Download the case study here.