This summer I had the opportunity to collaborate with Church World Service Lancaster (CWS) on a photography project that features the images and stories of young immigrants in our community. Having worked in the immigration program at CWS previously, I am passionate about the issue of immigration and telling stories of undocumented immigrants. I could not be more proud to be a part of this amazing project, especially after hearing the stories of these incredible young people. I am sharing just a few of the 15 stories and images that will be on display for a gallery show this First Friday, September 2nd at The Community Room on King in Lancaster City. In a similar style to the well-known Humans of New York, the viewer encounters the portraits as if they were meeting the subject on the street in everyday life. Some of the individuals chose to remain anonymous. For more information, I suggest following the inVISIBLE Americans Facebook page.
"As an 11-year-old crossing the border, I had two dreams: first, to become a Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger and second, to see my mother’s face again because I was afraid I would forget what she looked like. After 9 months apart, I finally reconnected with my mother, but that only began the struggle of being an undocumented immigrant. I’m 30 now, and I succeeded with the incredible support of family, friends, and church community (and some new policies). I am a high school mathematics teacher and am ready to marry a wonderful and supportive guy. I have accomplished many dreams in my 19 years in the U.S. from graduating college to hiking the Appalachian Trail to playing my violin on a big stage. Challenges continue to arise, but that hasn’t stopped me from dreaming."
"I breathe, I love, I cry, I laugh, I have emotions, I am human. Why does one piece of paper make me any different than you? I was 3 when I came here- this is all I know. This is my home, yet why do I feel like such an alien living in the shadows of fear with nothing changing year after year."
"My biggest challenge has been the one that has un-apologetically constrained my life in the U.S.: a political deadlock over immigration policies. The story of every undocumented family has a long convoluted narrative, which is many times labeled with unfair and unreasonable prejudice from others. I never sought to be judged based on my birth certificate, but one day, to be judged based on my contributions to society – just as my parents taught me all my life. My family came from nothing, but my parents worked hard to survive. My father was a brain surgeon in Argentina but eventually the situation there forced our family to leave. When we arrived to the U.S. we ended up living in the shadows. Until recently, I felt that I was living as if I was riding a roller coaster with towering goals along with deep hopelessness. I would not have survived without the support of my family and friends. I finally graduated with B.S. in biology which has energized me tremendously to fight for my dreams and those of others. I will not stop until I become a doctor, an activist, an entrepreneur, a citizen of this society."
"I simply smile when people call my parents criminals. What was their crime? Loving me unconditionally? I simply smile when people call me an “illegal.” I wish those people knew how agonizing it has been to be undocumented for 15 years. I simply smile when every day I am reminded of how insignificant and powerless I feel because of my status. I wish people understood what it is like to want to be someone else all the time. I don’t want anyone to ever feel how I feel, but I simply smile because sometimes it is better to just smile and try to forgive and forget."
"People don’t realize how being undocumented can tear at the fabric of your own self-worth.