Immigration policy in the United States has been a hot topic for decades and will continue to take center stage in the upcoming 2016 presidential election. Although the US population is comprised of people from all over the globe, illegal immigration (specifically from Latin American countries), has been the focal point of much of this debate.
Photographer Tom Kiefer was working as a part-time janitor at a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facility in southern Arizona when he began documenting confiscated items of migrants and smugglers. Entitled “El Sueño Americano” (American Dream), the project consists of composite photos of similar objects grouped together from necessities like water bottles and toothpaste to superfluous yellow rubber duckies.
“These personal effects and belongings represented their choice of what was important for them to bring as they crossed the border to either start or continue their life in the U.S.”
While it is easy for the viewer to be emotionally detached from a grouping of blue combs on a cobalt background, the images of well-worn work gloves and military canteens can’t help but arouse thoughts about poor working conditions and the often fatal journey of being smuggled into America. Regardless of your feelings about the current immigration policy, Kiefer’s photos provide a look into the vulnerable human aspect of a topic that is often trivialized by political campaign banter.