Undocumented Immigrants’ Living Spaces

Guinea-Bissau – Brockton, Massachusetts
The man is from the West African country of Guinea Bissau, spending time first in Cape Verde before coming to the United States. He works nights doing factory work, and studies English as a Second Language.

 

Writer, Educator and  Photographer Mary Beth Meehan is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of  this documentary photography.  From the project ‘ Undocumented’.  To see Mary Beth’s body of work, click on any image.

 

Guinea-Bissau – Brockton, Massachusetts
Preparing dinner for friends from Guinea-Bissau.

 

Mexico – Central Falls, Rhode Island
The young Mexican couple spent five years working in Rhode Island with false Social Security numbers before they had saved enough to buy their own home, four years ago. They are active in their church and at their children’s schools. At a kids’ birthday party in the fall, the mother sat in the corner with tears in her eyes: her father had died in Mexico, and if she had tried to attend the funeral, she would not have been able to return.

 

Mexico – Providence, Rhode Island
The young man grew up in the United States to Mexican-immigrant parents, never realizing that he was illegal himself until he became a teenager. He now studies economics at an Ivy League university in Rhode Island, but struggles with the fact that he will be unable to find legal employment in this country. He was active politically in the Dream Act movement, working to secure legalization for American-raised students in his position.

 

Colombia III – Central Falls, Rhode Island
Basement laundry room of an apartment building housing undocumented Colombian families.

 

Between 11- and 20-million undocumented immigrants live in the United States today, sparking national fury – and violence – over questions of immigration policy, citizenship, and belonging. Many of these are people who are deeply embedded in our communities, who pay taxes and contribute to our economy, yet have been painted as criminals by politicians on the national stage. Because they cannot come forward to defend themselves, their true identities as people remain in the shadows.

These images were made inside the homes of undocumented residents in New England, with the goal of using the texture of their living spaces to make visible these human beings, and to provide a window into the very personal paths they have chosen.

Image titles refer to the country of origin of the people whose home is pictured, and the location of that home in the U.S., where the photograph was made. All images were made in 2010.

 

Colombia – Central Falls, Rhode Island
The Colombian woman’s children have begun to question her about why they continue to live in the United States with no clear path open to them. “We try to keep our kids busy and not think about the situation, and try to do the best we can,” she says. “Here is a great opportunity for them. They need to work hard, and focus on the future.”

 

Colombia II – Central Falls, Rhode Island
The family came from Colombia in the 1990s, raising their son in a rented apartment while the father found factory work using a false Social Security card.

 

El Salvador – Central Falls, Rhode Island
The teen-aged sisters are from El Salvador, high-achieving students and aspiring artists who dream of going to college in the United States. Although it is possible to attend college as undocumented immigrants, they have not found their way there, and are now working in a local restaurant that caters to the Spanish-speaking immigrant community.

 

Colombia IV – Central Falls, Rhode Island
Colombian family, before taking a voluntary deportation. The mother, a member of her church group and school PTO, was held for over thirty days in a private detention center after trying to renew a driver’s license. The community threw the family a tearful going-away party.

 

Guatemala – Providence, Rhode Island
The mother left the rural poverty of Guatemala in search of money to raise her six children. She left them behind and walked nine hours from the Mexican border to Phoenix, where she then headed to relatives in Rhode Island. Since then, she has sent money home monthly, succeeding in bringing four of her children to the U.S. Two of them she has not seen since she left, in the 1990s.

 

All images and text © Mary Beth Meehan

 

 

See also:

Silicon Valley

 By Mary Beth Meehan

 

 

 

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