The Supreme Court struck down parts of Arizona's immigration policy on Monday. And earlier this month, the Obama administration announced that it will grant deferred action to certain illegal immigrants who arrived as minors. That does not pave a path to permanent legal status or citizenship, but does delay the threat of deportation for many. Photographer Mae Ryan at member station KPCC in Los Angeles has been following undocumented youth to tell the story.
I started photographing illegal immigrant students and graduates in April for a short feature about Isaac Barrera, who is in college and has been living in the U.S. since he was 4 years old.
While driving about nine months ago, Isaac was pulled over for a broken headlight. He was asked for his license, ticketed and later arrested for failing to appear in court. Now he is out on bail but could face deportation.
Barrera's bedroom is covered in photos and drawings by fellow beneficiaries of the California DREAM Act, which has given conditional permanent residency to students like him.
From the day I showed up at his house and met his family, I realized that I wanted to share the faces and voices of these people who had been living in the shadows for so long.
When President Obama announced the deferred action plan a few months later, I called up some of them and was surprised by the varied reactions. Some were ecstatic that they might finally get work permits; others still say it's not enough — and a few won't be eligible for the benefits at all. All of them made one thing clear: To finally leave behind the fear of deportation is a relief, but citizenship is the goal.
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