These photographs were taken along the U.S.-Mexican border between San
Diego and Tijuana, where a large number of undocumented immigrants cross
into the United States in search of seasonal work - and hope for more.
Some commute daily between the two very dissimilar countries, while
others seek more permanence in their lives. Some cross into the States
to visit, like tourists, for a week or a day, knowing they would never
be admitted by U.S.authorities. Others sell sweaters or food within a
few feet of the border to those wishing to cross with bare necessities.
Then there are the human smugglers, some good, some bad; apprentice smugglers (usually small children and teenagers); drug pushers as well as thieves of all ages; families with small children, grandmothers, single mothers on their way to meet a distant husband; and a lot of young healthy men looking for work, adventure, relatives - or simply because it's there. The border is a strange mixture of humor, fear, exploitation, everyday life, fortitude, resignation,strength and courage, not necessarily in that order. Every day this narrow stretch of land sees thousands treck across its marshes and dried river beds, and every day it's the same story but with different characters, except for those who were caught and try again. Any permanance or familiarity is bred in those who remain, those servicing this continous migration: border patrol officers, thieves, smugglers and - although they are the minority - a few unfortunate souls lost to drugs, mental illness or to the world.
The photographs in this series attempt to capture the ongoing trials, hardships and good spirits of this continous flow of people immediately before and after crossing the border. I focused solely on the area where a wall,erected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1992, serves as a reminder of the difficulty - futility - of trying to stop undocumented immigration into the States. This story concentrates, not on the interception efforts of the U.S. Border Patrol, but rather on the border as a strip of land where the lives of undocumented immigrants are at their most vulnerable and volatile.
Here their lives become entirely shaped by only one goal: the actual flight across an international border dotted on both sides with obstacles both natural and manmade. This story is about routine events which have taken place and continue to take place every day of every year, an epic struggle that has become almost mundane and habitual and for which no real solution is in sight.
I spent about 10 days living on the border, but daytime on the border is
generally dull and uneventful; instead I photographed between sunset and
dawn. Those nights might have been typical or extraordinary to anyone on
the border at that time. They might have been life threatening,
terrifying or just plain fun depending on whom you talked to. Some might
have been homesick or glad to be away from home, while others prayed,
cursed their fate or laughed at it and moved on. I came away from the
border thinking that there is probably no better way to characterize it
than as a microcosm of both Mexican and U.S. culture, both equally
ignorant of the other and bent on remaining that way. The human traffic
have better things to think about, and Americans have relegated
decisions to their elected representatives, border patrol officers and
a handful of activists on both sides of the political and geographical fence.