Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fleeing Arizona: Photographing an Undocumented Immigrant

This past month, the Associated Press took a closer look at the phenomenon of undocumented immigrants leaving Arizona for Washington state, New Mexico and Utah _ the only three states left in the country that provide driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

The story started in New Mexico, where newsman Tim Korte began gathering data from that state. From there, colleagues here and in Utah also pitched in with data.

At the end, I came in. A source of mine here tipped me to a man who had just moved his family from Arizona to Washington. I called him up and explained what I was looking for. He agreed to meet, and over lunch one day he told me the story of fleeing Arizona.

Originally from a small town in Puebla, Mexico, Carlos Hernandez came to the United States planning on only being here a year. Work was hard to come by back at home. Back in 2006, work was easy to obtain in Phoenix. So he settled, and brought his wife here. Soon after, they had a baby. (That's all the kids he wants, he told me. Parents with many kids, he says, can't provide for their children.)

But the immigration crackdown started soon after. Then the economy collapsed in Phoenix along with the rest of the nation. There were layoffs at the plumbing company he worked at. His wife drove an ice cream truck, and one afternoon they were pulled over by police. They were fined for not having the proper paperwork - paperwork he says they can't get without identification. Hernandez was tired of looking over his shoulder. His wife felt powerless.

Finally, they decided to leave Arizona. He sold what he could and packed what fit in his old car. They drove at night to avoid police, only stopping for gas and food. They made it to Seattle in two days. Now he's in a suburb of Seattle, where he hopes for a better future.

 Along with telling his story, I was assigned to photograph him. That's not normal business for me. While I love photography, I don't often get assigned to shoot my own stories, but the pros were out of the office that day. I spent a couple of hours with him as he watched his daughter play. She was beautiful and photogenic.

Perhaps most important to me was that a day or so after the story came out, I got a note from Carlos saying he liked the article.

Read the AP story here.

Carlos watches his daughter play. I crouched underneath the slide to get this shot.
My favorite of the pictures that moved on the wire. I like the mood.
This picture didn't move, but I liked it a lot.
One of the girl's favorite expressions, shrugging to her father.
I didn't notice it when I took it, but I overexposed this picture a bit too much. The girl's shirt is too hot.
Walking back home. Sadly, I didn't get a shot of a Muslim man walking by them soon after. Carlos found an apartment building that is very diverse. African immigrants, indigenous immigrants and Latino immigrants lived there.

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