El Sueño Americano/The American Dream
During my fourth year working as a janitor at a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol processing facility near Ajo, Arizona, I asked my supervisors for permission to retrieve from the trash the cans of food carried by migrants and bring them to our local food bank. When I started collecting the food, I saw what was also being thrown out by border agents: migrants’ personal items such as rosaries, bibles, wallets, shoes, toothbrushes, clothing, belts, and family photos. These confiscations of personal belongings struck me as wrong. The cruelty of stripping away such personal items from vulnerable people is dehumanizing for both those whose belongings are taken from them and those who enforce this unjust policy. But being a janitor, I was in no position to speak up, fearing risk of being fired.
After years of experimentation on ways to photograph these belongings that visualizes both my respect for those who chose to carry them north towards our country’s border and my outrage at this arbitrary and inhumane practice, I present for your consideration El Sueño Americano/The American Dream.
It is my hope that this work encourages people to connect with their own sense of human decency, and to advocate for the better treatment of immigrants not just in the United States but everywhere.