Still Moving: Migrant Families
A generation of Latin American children and adolescents are being impacted by U.S. immigration policies in ways that will determine the course of their lives.
Their experiences are a critical piece of the migrant experience, so I am making a documentary photo essay that tells the stories of these young people at transitional points along the journey north.
Migration stories are complex, with many factors influencing both personal experiences and larger trends. The goal of this ongoing photo project is to show the significance of individuals in this situation – the connections, barriers, routes and movements – and to look at difficult situations directly with intimacy and context.
I traveled to Chiapas in December 2016 to photograph fleeing Central American families waiting for an asylum that might never come. In shelters along Mexico’s porous Southern Border, I met entire families who had arrived with little more than backpacks, desperate to escape gang threats against their teenage children.
Women and children were particularly vulnerable: increased enforcement on freight trains has driven migrants to ride buses and walk on isolated routes where they face robbery, assault and sexual violence. Conditions for these migrants were dire even before the Trump administration's extreme positions. The U.S. attempted to stop the flow of asylum seekers at its border during the 2014 family and unaccompanied minor crisis by augmenting Mexico’s immigration enforcement. But the deadly conditions driving families from Central America didn’t improve, nor did those in violent regions within Mexico, so migrants continue to make the journey north.
Next, I went to Tijuana to photograph families that represent the border city’s multinational identity. The teenagers I met were born in the United States and are U.S. citizens, but their parents are not, and their lives are shaped by conflicting realities of family obligation and the opportunities of dual citizenship. Dislocated and overwhelmed, these recent arrivals to Mexico are at risk for perpetrating or becoming victims of gang violence, sexual exploitation and crime. And there are many others like them: since 2010 more than 40% of all U.S. deportations have gone through the city.
I'm currently photographing my adolescent neighbors living in immigration limbo in the now-uncertain sanctuary of Brooklyn, New York. But these aren't the Dreamers we've heard about. They're undocumented college student activists who run a program called Wall of Hope, a "youth-led political power organization." These young people are deeply unsure and afraid, but they see speaking up as their privilege and responsibility.
I plan to continue photographing this project for the next year, and then to bring it back to the communities where I photographed as a teaching and discussion tool.
(Published by the Intercept with support from the International Women's Media Foundation.)