Cuando Estoy Aqui - PhMuseum

Cuando Estoy Aqui

Brandon Thibodeaux

2007 - 2015

Texas, United States

It is easy to see how scaling the border fence into Arizona or crossing the Rio Grande into Texas is a gamble well worth the risk – that the promise of the unknown outweighs the inescapable certitude of what resides in a migrant’s country of origin. But from the moment their feet land on American soil, they enter a world of enforced anonymity, no closer to the America of the imaginings than when they began the long journey north.

Until President Barack Obama’s speech on Immigration Reform I believed this to be the biggest sacrifice, for where is liberty and justice for even the strongest of men and women when they have no voice? His executive order was a significant step toward mending a failed immigration policy by giving back that voice to those willing to step out of the shadows. But there is still so much to be done.

These images are three chapters of the immigration story I have witnessed in the past few years. They begin with daily life in Ejido Hermosillo located in northern Sonora along the Mexico-Arizona border. The second chapter takes place between the migrant house Senda de Vida in Reynosa, Mexico, and the parched ranch lands of Brooks County, TX, just north of the Texas–Mexico border, where the remains of over 250 migrants have been discovered since 2012. And finally, the third chapter reflects the experience of those living in the shadow of their undocumented status in the city of Irving, TX.

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  • (Ejido Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico - 08.29.2007) -- Field workers walk in single file lines to take their positions in a field of green onion as they begin their day's work, outside of Ejido Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, on Wednesday, August 29, 2007.
    Workers such as these begin their day at 4:00am, having their breakfast in the field. Most will work a full 10 hour day bundling green onion by hand at a price that is easily quadrupled by workers picking the exact same crop in American fields just an hour's drive north across the border.

  • (Ejido Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico - 08.27.2007) -- A young girl awaits the return of her playmates in her backyard in Ejido Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, on Monday, August 27, 2007.

  • (Ejido Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico - 08.27.2007) -- Village residents play football in the streets of Ejido Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, on Monday, August 27, 2007.

  • (Ejido Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico - 08.25.2007) - The wife of a small landowner sits with her granddaughter outside of their home near the border town of San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico, on Saturday, August 25, 2007. The Rio Colorado lies less than one mile from this family’s home. Due to heavy use by the US, the mighty river crosses into Mexico as little more than a large cement-lined drainage ditch used to irrigate northern Sonora’s farmland.

  • (Ejido Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico - 08.29.2007) -- An elderly woman gathers green onion for harvest in a field outside of Ejido Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, on Wednesday, August 29, 2007. Workers such as these begin their day at 4:00am, having their breakfast in the field. Most will work a full 10 hour day picking and bundling green onion.

  • (Ejido Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico - 08.29.2007) -- A pair of work gloves lies on top of a pile of freshly cut green onion as workers tend to a field outside of Ejido Hermosillo, on Wednesday, August 29, 2007.

  • (Ejido Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico - 08.28.2007) -- A village resident plays his guitar in the late afternoon following a day of field work, on Tuesday, August 28, 2007.

  • (Ejido Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico - 08.27.2007) -- A local farmer dances with a prostitute in a bar outside of Ejido Hermosillo, on Monday, August 27, 2007. The bar is operated by the ejido, and proceeds from beer sells go toward running the ejido's school buses and water truck.

  • (Mexicali, Sonora, Mexico - 09.16.2007) -- An unidentified man is seen climbing over the international border dividing Mexicali, Mexico, from, Calexico, California, as his two comrades steady a handmade ladder, on Sunday, September 16, 2007.

  • REYNOSA, MEXICO - AUGUST 22: A sign warning of alligators stands beside the migrant memorial cross at the edge of the Rio Grande, the river that forms a natural border between Texas and Mexico.

  • FALFURRIAS, TX - MARCH 27: A member of the Texas Border Volunteers drives monitors migrant activity with an infrared camera on a ranch outside of Falfurrias, Texas, on Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

  • REYNOSA, MEXICO - AUGUST 22: A migrant and her son from Jacaleapa, Honduras, sit for a portrait at the Senda de Vida migrant house in Reynosa, Mexico. The two have been at the migrant house for a month. She left because of poverty because there was no work in her town leaving one daughter behind. "Sometimes when people gave him food on the bus ride up I would tell him to say thank you but with a knot in my chest."

  • FALFURRIAS, TX - MARCH 27: A group of male migrants is led to a Border Patrol transport unit on a ranch outside of Falfurrias, Texas, on Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

  • FALFURRIAS, TX - MARCH 27: An airplane spotlight can be seen in the night sky as border patrol agents detain a group of migrants that were making their way north through a ranch outside of Falfurrias, Texas, on Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

  • FALFURRIAS, TX - MARCH 27: Border Patrol agents detain a group of migrants that were making their way north through a ranch outside of Falfurrias, Texas, on Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

  • FALFURRIAS, TX - MARCH 27: A Border Patrol agent loads a group of migrants that were detained by the Brooks County Sheriff's Department into his transport truck at the Sheriff's Department headquarters in Falfurrias, Texas, on Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

  • FALFURRIAS, TX - AUGUST 20: Eduardo Canales, director of the South Texas Human Rights Center in Falfurrias, Texas, installs a new red cross flag above his organization's water barrels on a ranch outside of Falfurrias. The STHRC installs these barrels along known migrant paths and keeps them stocked with 12 individual gallons of fresh drinking water.

  • FALFURRIAS, TX - AUGUST 19: Eduardo Canales is the organizer for the South Texas Human Rights Center in Falfurrias, TX. The organization aims to end death and suffering among migrant border crossers. Their efforts include maintaining water stations along known migrant trails in Brooks County.

  • FALFURRIAS, TX - AUGUST 18: Alonzo Rangel of Funeraria del Angel Howard-Williams inspects and covers the body of a deceased migrant. The man's wife reported his death by way of a 911 call when she and 5 other immigrants broke away from a larger group of 20 crossing through a Brooks County ranch on Sunday morning. This is the 48th body discovered in Brooks Co. this year.

  • FALFURRIAS, TX - FEBRUARY 26: Brooks County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Benny Martinez sits beside a stack of books that contain the files on the remains of the 127 immigrants discovered in Brooks County in 2012, in his office near Falfurrias, Texas, on Tuesday, February 26, 2013.

    The department has only four deputies charged with monitoring the 944 sq. miles of county land. An annual budget of roughly five-hundred thousand dollars keeps the Sheriff's Department from expanding the force which it says is sorely needed to keep up with the border issues facing the county.

  • FALFURRIAS, TX - FEBRUARY 26: Brooks County Judge Raul Ramirez stands over the graves of unidentified migrant remains buried in the county's cemetery in Falfurrias, Texas, on Tuesday, February 26, 2013.
    The remains of 127 immigrants were discovered in Brooks County, nearly 60 miles north of the Mexican border with Texas, in 2012. Judge M. Ramirez says that the county has run out of room to bury future unidentified remains which also places an even tighter strain on the already stressed county budget. Should the rising trend of migrant death continue the county will be forced to acquire more land for a new cemetery.

  • FALFURRIAS, TX - FEBRUARY 27: A sign reading "bones" serves as a marker for the grave of unidentified migrant remains that are buried in Brooks County's cemetery in Falfurrias, Texas, on Wednesday, February 26, 2013.
    In 2012, the remains 127 immigrants were discovered in Brooks County, which is nearly 60 miles north of the Mexican border with Texas, and considered to be the last stop before illegal immigrants make their way to larger cities like Houston. Judge Raul M. Ramirez says that the county has run out of room to bury future unidentified remains which also places an even tighter strain on the already stressed county budget. Should the rising trend of migrant death continue the county will be forced to acquire more land for a new cemetery.

  • WACO, TX - AUGUST - 21: Lori E. Baker, Ph.D., a forensic anthropologist with Baylor University in Waco, TX, examines the skull from what is assumed to be the skeletal remains of an unidentified migrant found on a ranch in Brooks County, TX. Dr. Baker is the Founder and Executive Director of the International Consortium for Forensic Identification, Reuniting Families Project.

  • SAN MARCOS, TX - AUGUST 21: A cold storage unit used for holding the unidentified remains found in Brooks County, TX, is seen at the Texas State Forensic Anthropology Center, a part of Texas State University in San Marcos, TX.

  • IRVING, TX - FEBRUARY 03 - Sophia Buenrrostro cries as she tells the story of how her husband, George Buenrrostro, was caught and deported while working out of town in Abilene, TX, in mid December 2008. With no other family nearby, Sophia, a U.S. citizen from Oregon, and 30 year old mother of two, is now forced to work at two different lavanderias to raise her son and daughter. "My son, who shares the same name as his daddy, sometimes asks me why I can't give his birth certificate to his father so he can come back to us. My babies are always asking me why he's not at home," Buenrrostro said. Buenrrostro is one of thousands of women in the U.S. turned single mothers as a result of having a husband that has been deported.

  • IRVING, TX - FEBRUARY 1 - A crowd gathers around the Lucha Libre wrestling ring inside the Irving Bazaar, in Irving, TX, on Sunday, February 01, 2009. The wrestling matches are a staple in the Sunday afternoon lineup for entertainment at the Irving Bazaar. What once was a Wal-Mart, has come to be known as "little Mexico" due to the high number of Hispanic attendants that frequent it's shops and restaurants on the weekends.

  • IRVING, TX - FEBRUARY 7 -Diana Guel, 24, stands overlooking her 14-month-old daughter, Jennifer Martinez, and neighborhood children, at the doorway of her apartment, in Irving, TX, on Saturday, February 7, 2009. Guel migrated to the U.S. three years ago from the Mexican city of San Luis Potosi. She, like many young women whom migrated to Irving, works as a cleaning woman for businesses in the city.

  • IRVING, TX - FEBRUARY 03 - Hispanic students at Gilbert F M Elementary School, in Irving, TX, participate in their fifth grade math class on Tuesday, January 03, 2009. Gilbert Elementary falls just above the Irving School District's 2008 average for Hispanic enrollment, with 83.8 percent of it's 770 children being Hispanic. In the fall of 2008, 70 percent of the students who enrolled in kindergarten through fifth grade in Irving's schools were Hispanic, and 56 percent of the students in those grades were classified as English language learners.

  • IRVING, TX - FEBRUARY 04 - Local Hispanic residents, whom Carlos Quintanilla claims are mostly undocumented, attend a meeting held by Quintanilla, where participants were encouraged to sign a petition seeking help from the U.S. Justice Department against what they claim to be unjust and warrantless acts of aggression against them by the the police department and city government of Irving, on Wednesday, February 4, 2009.

  • IRVING, TX - FEBRUARY 09 - Day laborers gather near a well known "work corner", in Irving, TX, on Monday, January 09, 2009. The men gather seven days a week, pacing the parking lot, or conversing in small huddles, all the while keeping an eye out for sign of a slowing truck or car holding the promise of work. Most claim that they stand to make an average of $80 a day, though one is lucky to get picked up more than twice a week.

  • IRVING, TX - FEBRUARY 04 - Members of the Irving Police Department stand guard inside the city's jail, on Wednesday, February 4, 2009. The City of Irving, TX, has caught the national spotlight since 2007 for it's decision to institute round-the-clock residency checks for everyone booked into it's criminal system, with those whom are found in violation of immigration laws being referred to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Activists against the city's actions say that innocent, law abiding, though undocumented, Irving residents are getting caught up in the system and unfairly deported.

  • IRVING, TX - FEBRUARY 04 - Filemon Robles, an undocumented worker living in the U.S. since 1999, sits in his home in Irving, on Wednesday, February 04, 2009. Mr. Robles, claims he was involved in an auto accident while working in 2006, and that despite his having paid a portion of his paychecks for a company insurance policy, his former employer refused to file a claim, leaving Mr. Robles to pay thousands of dollars of medical debt on his now eight dollars an hour wages. Because of his status as an undocumented worker, claims like his go unheard for fear that what little financial gain they've made while living in the U.S. will be lost, or worse, they will be turned over to immigration officers and swiftly deported.

  • IRVING, TX - FEBRUARY 01 - A framed image of the Our Lady of Guadalupe hangs behind the fence of a booth inside the Irving Bazaar, in Irving, TX, on Sunday, February 01, 2009. What was once a Wal-Mart, has come to be known as "little Mexico" due to the high number of Hispanic attendants that frequent it's shops and restaurants on the weekends.

  • IRVING, TX - FEBRUARY 01 - A woman sits with her sleeping child inside of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, in Irving, TX, as members of the congregation visit with one another during Sunday mass, on February 01, 2009. St. Mary's claims some 500 members, 95 percent of which is Hispanic.


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