Five minutes away from El Paso, Texas lies a crisis ignored. And every now and then, when the mainstream media tires of saturating our televisions with U.S. political rhetoric, we catch glimpses of the truth. We see children in cages. We see families torn apart. And we see a type of suffering that many of us (most of us) will never experience. All because of a border. And dirty politics.
If you want to know even more, though, you’ll have to work for it. You’ll have to dig into the depths of the Internet to find the reality that is life on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Photojournalist David Peinado has been documenting this border crisis reality for years. Based out of Ciudad Juarez and traveling to other border cities across Mexico, he is always positioned within the shadows of the U.S., and spends his days following migrants as they head towards the United States, seeking asylum.
To learn more about this ongoing crisis, we interviewed David and asked him about his time by the border.
Tell us how you became interested or involved in documenting the migrant crisis at the US/Mexico border?
The migration phenomenon in Juarez has always existed; this is a transit city for many migrants who try to cross the US border and a point where thousands of people get deported.
A lot of people here are deportees who found a job and ended up staying, or people from other Mexican states who were seeking a better life quality than in their hometowns.
Lately, the Central American crisis and new migration policies have caused the arrival of more and more migrants from different countries, so I started to visit the shelters where they stay in the city and talk to the people who were there. I started following their stories and tried to capture what I could with my camera.
Your photography is powerful and brings out a lot of emotion in people. How do you personally stay resilient while witnessing trauma and people in crisis?
It is always hard to witness people suffering and not be able to do anything about the situation makes you feel powerless.
But these people have stories that need to be told; their lives have a meaning, and this journey they are going through, as painful as it is, is something that I believe needs to be known.
Giving them a voice through my pictures helps me keep going.
Explain to us the atmosphere at the US/Mexico border right now.
More than 9,000 migrants are waiting for an appointment to ask for political asylum at the US Consulate, the shelters are at capacity, and more people keep coming.
Meanwhile, Mexican military forces (Guardia Nacional) have been deployed along the border to avoid illegal crossings. This action being the result of a recent agreement between both countries.
For me, it feels like a putting a bandaid on a big cut.
Is there a particular photo that stands out to you?
I tend to say all of them have a story that sheds light to a certain aspect of human migration, but last month I took a picture of a little Guatemalan girl who was crossing the river with her family.
We don't understand the magnitude of the problem until we see all of it reflected in the eyes of a child.
What do you hope your photography will do for others?
Question themselves and raise awareness. I would like for people to question their privilege and understand that social inequality is a real problem, that these people are making the incredibly hard decision to leave all they know behind for the hope of a better life; that the journey they decided to embark on is in no way an easy exit. I hope my photography helps in building the collective consciousness of all this.
Rachel Ruiz-Oakley is the Managing Editor of Slide Night.