The title of my photo project, “Arizona and the End of Five Centuries of Immigration,” is inspired by Arizona, its long history of immigration, and its today’s political climate. Over the last 500 years, the territory has hosted four major waves of immigrants coming into the area: the Spanish Arizona, the Mexican Arizona, the American Arizona, and now the Hispanic Arizona. Nevertheless, current political interests are making scapegoats out of immigrants.
Due in large part to the civil rights movement of the 60’s, the US has made great strides in achieving equality; however, intolerance, hatred, and bigotry still remain—particularly against the immigrant community. While there is a passionate movement for immigration reform, there is equal ardor in the anti-immigrant camp—which blames immigrants for a variety of issues, including the economic crisis and an increase in crime. The immigration battle is seen in multiple cities across the nation with significant and growing immigration populations; however, few match the fervor in the politics of Phoenix.
On April 23, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070, making it a crime to be in the state without proper documentation, and authorizing law enforcement to ask immigration questions if they have “reasonable suspicions” – opening the door to racial profiling. Sheriff Joseph Arpaio of Maricopa County has stirred up controversy with his unorthodox techniques to “fight” undocumented immigration. His irrational and inhumane policies (like the infamous “tent cities” where he forced immigrant detainees to live in the desert at 110º F) have provoked both the ACLU and Amnesty International to file complaints against him.
Minorities are always the scapegoats for a demagogue, which is why producing this exhibition has been a personal endeavour. With my images I can advocate for those that don’t have a voice. It’s asks viewers to take the time to listen to those who live in fear, and give them a hope.
My exhibition aims to capture the emotional issue of immigration reform as Charles Moore did in his coverage of the brutal reality of the struggle for civil rights.
Under this project, I will spend several weeks among immigrants, workers, law enforcement agents, journalists, activists, and religious leaders. My camera will be a voice for the thousands of immigrants living in fear and confusion, who seem to have little power to change their situation. Immigration Reform is the civil rights struggle of our generation, and it is crucial that this struggle is documented through a lens that understands the immigrant experience. The finished product will be available for any one who wants to recognize immigrants as brothers worthy of sitting at the table.
- (29 days)