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Immigration

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Original author: 
Alfonso Serrano

When viewed from the Franklin Mountains in southern Texas, El Paso and Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez meld into one expansive metropolis. Call it a Texan trompe l’oeil. Look closely, though, and the illusion is disrupted by the Rio Grande, the natural border that snakes through the two cities, carving out very distinct realities.

That proximity is what first drew photographer Reed Young to El Paso, in particular to the city’s Chamizal neighborhood, which he refers to as a sort of “ground zero” for the national debate on immigration. Here, where North officially meets South, the terrain gives rise to something all its own: frontera culture, with its distinct food, music and identity.

“We thought it was important to hear from people who are affected by the United States’ immigration policy today,” says Young. “National debate doesn’t always take into account the complexities of the people’s situations.”

If Washington D.C. is the political epicenter of the immigration debate, then Chamizal is arguably its human face, a place where the nuances of a thoroughly complex issue crystallize into the tangible. Take Araceli, for example. She has not seen her extended family in Juárez since 2009, although they live a few miles away. Claudia, who is transgendered, is another case in point. She is Claudia on the U.S. side of the border but always crossed the border as Ricardo, the name on her ID, until the violence in Juárez convinced her to end the treks.

Ciudad Juárez is the second most murderous city in the world. In 2010 alone, it witnessed over 3,000 deaths. The historic violence has instilled migrants with a special urgency when attempting to cross into El Paso, the safest big city in the United States. On their journey, they will encounter the most tightly enforced border in modern history. The number of Border Patrol agents stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border — 20,000 — has doubled since 2004. And the $18 billion the federal government spent on enforcing the border last year was more than it spent on all other law enforcement agencies combined.

But that didn’t matter much to Araceli. She waded through the Rio Grande with her four children in search of a better life for them. Now she cleans houses and scraps metal after work to supplement her income. And it didn’t dissuade “Goldie,” who crossed into El Paso when she was 16 and now owns Goldie’s Bar, a cantina in El Paso’s industrial section that pays homage to her hero, Marilyn Monroe.

Goldie’s story — and those of virtually everyone profiled in Young’s photo essay—attest to the strength of family ties. In Chamizal, at least, the commitment to one’s family, to the improvement of children’s lives, has proved stronger than billion-dollar physical barriers.

Reed Young is a photographer based in New York City.

Alfonso Serrano is a senior editor at TIME.com.

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Original author: 
By DAVID GONZALEZ

In tiny, rented rooms, Mexican women who work as waitresses amid lonely men tend to their families and their culture. Ruth Prieto Arenas followed them from their jobs to their homes.

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For a new documentary, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and filmmaker David C. Turnley went to Shenandoah, Pa., where he found a town struggling to make sense of an immigrant's death.

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Janet Jarman discovered Marisol, the young woman she has been photographing for more than 15 years, by chance. While working toward her Master’s degree in environmental studies, Jarman took a research trip to Mexico in August 1996. There, activist nuns brought her to a municipal dump in Matamoros, located along the U.S.-Mexico border. Amid the smoke, fires and sewage, Jarman noticed Marisol, then 8 years old, looking for recyclable items to sell with her family, who had dreams of moving to America. “Let the woman take your picture,” Marisol’s mother said. “You might be famous one day.”

They were prescient words, indeed. Jarman’s photograph of Marisol in the dump has received several industry awards and has been published by various publications and non-governmental organizations around the world. Earlier this year, the photographer even discovered that the portrait had appeared in the campaign materials of a Mexican presidential candidate; the country will hold its presidential election July 1.

“I was always upset by how unauthorized immigrants were dehumanized in their depiction,” says Jarman, who has lived in Mexico since 2004. “I wondered what could happen if there was a face to this human issue and people could better understand what was driving immigrants to move across the border.”

The immigration debate won’t just be part of the Mexican presidential elections next month; it will also play a large role in the U.S. presidential elections this November. After the Dream Act—which sought to provide paths to permanent residency and citizenship to immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors—stalled for years in Congress, president Barack Obama announced a policy change that would prevent some undocumented youth from deportation earlier this month. In following Marisol’s life—which has taken the photographer from Mexico to Florida to Texas—Jarman says she’s tried to capture this greater immigration story through the life of an individual. “Marisol’s story represents the story of thousands of immigrants, particularly women in her age group,” Jarman says. “To see her grow up and face so many challenges and still keep a very positive attitude—all while continuing to have this maturity beyond her years—has made me really respect her as a woman.”

Some of those challenges have included unplanned pregnancies that prevented Marisol from graduating high school. Still, Jarman says, Marisol, who lives with her husband in central Texas, strives to achieve the American Dream. “She wants to get out of the poverty cycle, have financial stability and provide a life for kids that’s better than her own,” she says. “And that story speaks to a lot of immigrants, which is why I wanted to follow a family, or individual, over time. One of the best ways to provide an understanding of immigrants is to not treat people as statistics.”

Janet Jarman is a photographer based in Mexico. See more of her work here.

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In Spring 2010, four undocumented students trekked 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington to press passage of the Dream Act, a bill that would offer a path to permanent residency for immigrants who came to the country as minors and achieved certain educational accomplishments. Moved by their courage, Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist who was part of the Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize winning team for their coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting, revealed that he, too, was an undocumented immigrant in an essay published by the New York Times Magazine last June.

A year later, Vargas finds that immigration in America has seen little progress, as he writes in this week’s TIME cover story. On the cover, photographed by Gian Paul Lozza, Vargas stands before 35 other undocumented immigrants living across the country. “They’re living in America—but only in the shadows,” Lozza says. “They’re very much in the dark.”

It was important for TIME’s photo editors to show just how many cultures are represented by America’s undocumented immigrants. ”They come from so many different countries, religions and backgrounds,” Lozza says. “We wanted to bring that diversity to the light. This is not just a problem for Latinos, as we hear about often, but for every culture from around the world.”

It was a poignant topic for Swiss-born Lozza. “For me it was fun to see how motivated the kids were, and how much they wanted to learn,” he says. “They have dreams of being teachers, doctors, lawyers—it was fascinating that they all want to do something for other people.”

Read more on Jose Antonio Vargas in this week’s issue of TIME.

Gian Paul Lozza is a photographer based in Zurich. See more of his work here.

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Damaso Reyes has been following the changes wrought by immigration and the economy in Europe since 2005 for his project "The Europeans." He is going past the daily headlines - and stereotypes - in hopes of achieving a more subtle portrayal. "If everything was about reconfirming what I thought I'd find, why get on a plane?"

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