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The Way North- “An American Life, Lived in Shadows”

The New York Times photojournalism-road trip series on the ways immigration has changed the US, from south Texas to Minnesota, is excellent. Damien Cave, a NYT reporter based in Mexico City, and Todd Heisler, a NYT photographer from New York, are traveling along the I-35 highway from Laredo, Texas to Duluth, Minnesota to document affect immigration has had on the US’s social, cultural, and political landscape. Cave and Heisler speak with and shoot a diverse array of people along the way, from local politicians to construction workers, teachers, factory owners, and gas station attendants. The result is dynamic portrait of the political complexities and daily realities of immigrants in the United States. On Sunday, Cave and Heisler profiled an immigrant family in Oklahoma. The family, originally from Mexico, did not give the reporters their last name because they are afraid of the immigration authorities and don’t want to risk deportation. Ignacio and Maria have four children, two who were born in the US. They used to own and manage a successful beauty salon but after Oklahoma enacted some of the strictest anti-immigrant measures in the country in 2007, they were forced to shut it down. Ignacio and his teenage son work in roofing and construction to make ends meet. Every day, Ignacio drives at exactly the speed limit and prays that he won’t be stopped by the local police on his way to work. Maria goes to Western Union to pay her bills because the family doesn’t have a bank account, because they can’t open one in Oklahoma. Maria couldn’t get her gall bladder removed at one hospital, even though she was willing to pay for the whole operation, because the hospital accepted public funds and wasn’t allowed to treat undocumented immigrants. Maria eventually had the operation at a private hospital and the family is still paying for the $11,000 procedure, $50 at a time.

What comes through in the profile on Maria and Ignacio’s family is that they are hardworking, law abiding and just trying to do their best. Yet, there is a constant cloud hanging over them and everything they do. From the car ride to work in the morning to the major surgery, Maria and Ignacio can never escape the fear of being found and deported. No family should have to live in the shadows. And it’s a shame that such a loving family is being forced to live their lives on the sidelines.