Undocumented Youth Pay Tribute to the Original DREAMers [Photos]

In the fight for immigration reform, the parents of undocumented youth are regularly chastised for their immigration misdeeds. An undocumented Arizona photographer wants to change the conversation.

By Julianne Hing Mar 29, 2013

As a member of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and a self-taught photographer, Carla Chavarria, 20, has been capturing images of fellow undocumented youth for about three years. Her parents, who are currently undocumented, brought her to the United States from Mexico City when she was 7. As a kid, she didn’t understand the concept of immigration status. "I grew up in Arizona in a predominantly white neighborhood. I didn’t really know what it meant to be undocumented because I just went to school," says Chavarria, who received temporary status through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in February. 

But when the federal DREAM Act failed in 2010, Chavarria says she started taking pictures in protest. "Art has always been my passion, and I wanted to do something that could help the movement even though I’m not that into the politics and policy side. That’s why I started the iDREAM campaign–photographing DREAMers and telling their stories. ."

The photos below are from "Por Ella," (For Her) a series Chavarria created this month to highlight the Arizona immigrant youth movement as the so-called Gang of Eight senators hammer out the terms of a comprehensive reform bill. Chavarria says the photos represent a more expansive message: "We may have DACA now, but our parents are still waiting. They were the ones who have been pushing for reform all along. So this is us saying, ‘It’s [our] turn to take care of you.’"

Here are some new faces of the immigrant movement, through Chavarria’s eyes:

Mom: Carmen Irene, 56, stay-at-home mom
Daughters: Asuzena Castro, 12, student; Maria Castro, 19, Arizona Dream Act Coalition treasurer and Arizona State engineering student 
Says Chavarria: "Maria [isn’t] undocumented but she’s a great leader in the Arizona immigrant movement; her little sister is as well. [I] shot them sort of standing behind their mom, like, ‘I have your back. You’ve always raised me and had my back. … So now it’s time for me to stand behind you.’ Their mom is undocumented but not them. So them holding hands is representing the bond they all have. It looks so much stronger that way."

Mom: Rosa Maria Soto, 59, undocumented
Daughter: Dulce Matuz, 28, legal resident, former undocumented DREAMer, Arizona Dream Act Coalition co-founder
Says Chavarria: "Dulce is always talking about her mom, Maria, who is trying to learn English and go back for GED classes aside from being a mother, grandmother and being involved in the movement. I’ve seen Maria involved and at protests; she’s always there. In the photo Dulce is just admiring her."

Mom: Olga De la Rosa, 43, undocumented, part-time caregiver and housekeeper
Daughter: Ileana Salinas, 23, Arizona Dream Act Coalition co-founder and Arizona Worker’s Rights Center co-director
Chavarria says: "Iliana is in the process of receiving her deferred action but she’s still going to fight for her mom, who is undocumented. So she’s standing behind her with the other hand holding her shoulder. You know [that phrase], ‘I had a shoulder to cry on?’ That was the inspiration for this picture."