Entry Title: "The Wall"
Name: Griselda , United States
Category and Expertise: Editorial, Professional


Entry Description: My project documents families separated by immigration status who meet on both sides of the border fence at Friendship Park, the only federally established binational meeting place along the 2,000-mile border dividing the United States and Mexico. I examine these border interactions at a time of rising xenophobic political climate. In the US, presidential candidate Donald Trump is campaigning on the promise to build an Iron Curtain to “make America secure again”. As a result of this ultra nationalistic rhetoric and the media’s negative portrayal, immigrants are often conceived of as a fundamental threat to American identity. My aim is to reveal the human side of immigration and to challenge popular assumptions and dominant media discourses. My photographs confront the viewer with a different reality. Families are shattered by immigration enforcement. Immigrants are casualties of a broken immigration system. My goal is to provoke thought and inspire social justice.

Story: Rosario Vargas and her daughter Jannet have been separated by the the U.S.-Mexico Border for almost a decade, only being able to see each other through a steel-mesh fence, every weekend, for the past 2 years. On April 30 this year, they were one of the 5 pre-selected families who participated in a symbolic event called “Opening the Door of Hope”. A small, rusty door built into the border fence was opened and mother and daughter were allowed to embrace for 3 minutes. But once the door of hope was closed, the reality of the border hit them again. ‘The Wall’ is a photography project that documents families separated by immigration status who meet at Friendship Park, the only federally established binational meeting place along the 2,000-mile border dividing the United States and Mexico. When the park was inaugurated in 1971, the fence was just a strand of barbed wire and families would gather on both sides to share a meal and spend time together. Today, a massive metal wall that has been reinforced multiple times separates the two nations. It extends down to the beach stretching out some three hundred feet into the Pacific Ocean. Access to physically touch the wall on the US side is limited to a small area and families lean against the fence trying to catch a glimpse of their loved ones through the steel mesh which is so tightly woven they can barely touch fingertips. Couples quietly whisper in each other’s ears while Border Patrol agents walk back and forth in what appears to be some kind of prison yard on visiting day. Besides serving as a meeting place for families, and because of the historical meaning and strategical location of the park, social events and binational gatherings are held periodically and activists gather to demonstrate and raise awareness for social causes. ‘The Wall’ examines these border interactions at a time of rising xenophobic political climate where border enforcement practices have reshaped public spaces through a logic of detention and containment. As a result of the media’s negative portrayal, immigrants are often conceived of as a fundamental threat to American identity and culture. My aim is to reveal the human side of immigration and to challenge popular assumptions and dominant media discourses. My photographs confront the viewer with a different reality. Families are shattered by immigration enforcement. Immigrants are not criminals but casualties of a broken immigration system. My work explores transnational issues and focuses on concepts of identity and belonging. I want to tell compelling visual stories for a mass audience in a personal unique way, acknowledging the people’s humanity, to provoke thought and inspire social justice. I feel it is my responsibility as a socially concerned journalist to tell the stories of those whose struggles are disregarded, the minorities, the displaced, the underrepresented communities and those who live on the margins of society.

About the Artist: