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Blurring The Border To See Two Sides

Growing up in Santa Barbara, Calif., photojournalist Dania Maxwell saw two different sides of life.

"I grew up, I feel, with a lot of privilege," she says. "I was given a house, a home, a family that I love."

But her mother, an immigrant from Argentina, wanted to show her that there was "another side" to her hometown.

They would spend time at Latino community centers — and Maxwell's nanny was an illegal immigrant from El Salvador. Her mother, Maxwell says, "made me think critically about what was happening."

"A lot of people around me immigrated to the U.S. because they wanted something better," she explains — mostly for their children. Maxwell's mother provided her with opportunity but also curiosity, which has been the force behind her ongoing project about immigration and youth in America.

In 2010, she was at Ohio University when Arizona passed a bill requiring immigrants over the age of 14 to register with the government and carry their documents with them at all times. So she headed to Phoenix.

There she met Francisco Duran, a young man who had lived as an illegal immigrant in Phoenix since he was 3 years old. She met Daniela Cruz, who was present at rallies and working to put herself through classes at a community college. She also met sisters Carina and Isle Montes, two active high school students.

They'd all come to the U.S. as young children with their parents; they had gone through the public education system, but were still unsure of the future.

After finishing grad school in Phoenix, Maxwell got an internship in Oregon, where she met Lilian Ramos. The mother of three had applied for political asylum after living in the United States for 21 years. Although all of her children were born with legal status, Ramos was ultimately deported.

Now a photojournalist at the Naples Daily News in Florida, Maxwell recently met Victor Arriaga, a popular high school student at the top of his class who excelled in band and advanced classes. He joined the Marines, partly hoping to improve his chances of bringing his mother — who was deported when he was a freshman — back to the U.S.

"I want people to see the sacrifices and the struggle," she says. "I want audience members to question what might otherwise be perceived as black and white — right and wrong."

Like her mother wanted for her, Maxwell wants viewers to see more than one side.

Editor's Note: Rebecca Sell was an instructor of Maxwell's at Ohio University, but had no involvement in this particular project.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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