Ten images depict local Hispanic families who appear safe and happy for the moment. The portraits exhibited at Junta For Progressive Action on Grand Avenue belie their fragility, as the specter of family disruption looms over their lives and the lives of countless others every day.
The exhibit at Junta, entitled “Faces of DAPA,” will be traveling to Washington, D.C. for an expanded exhibit as part of a national conversation about immigration policy and pending DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) litigation before the Supreme Court.
Juancarlos Soto, the organization’s community and youth organizer, is also a graphic designer and graduate of Paier College of Art. He designed the exhibit’s digital images after interviewing ten families and selecting fragments of conversations that emphasize their deepest concerns — and in some cases, fears. Their words are integrated with the images, which are presented in monochromatic, tonal patches.
The controversial DAPA program, which builds on the previous DACA program aimed at protecting qualifying undocumented immigrant youth with two-year worker permits and exemptions from deportation, stands to affect the lives of some 28,000 parents in Connecticut and five million nationally. The program is being challenged by 26 attorneys general of Republican-governed states who contend that President Obama’s DAPA program is a case of presidential overreach and violates the Constitution and federal statutes.
DAPA grants deferred action status to qualifying undocumented immigrants, those who have lived in the United States since 2010 and have U.S.-born children or are lawful permanent residents. The program would create a three-year, renewable work permit and remove the threat of deportation during the three-year window for adults.
While it does not provide a path to citizenship or the degree of resolution to immigration policy that advocates of reform seek, the policy does move in the right direction in providing some stability to families who have developed roots in their communities — including their U.S.-born children and undocumented family members.
With its mission of empowering the Latino and low-income community, Junta has been a nonprofit stalwart of community-building since 1969. Executive Director Sandra Trevino said the organization is presently focused on its dual goals of providing tangible, direct services and advocacy affecting immigration policy and legislation, including the DAPA case.
Ana Maria Rivera-Forastieri, an attorney and Junta’s director of advocacy and program development, said that since 2012, the social service agency has focused on the root causes of inequality, immigrant rights, community organizing, and affecting policy change. “Junta,” she said, “has been providing workshops to help prepare people in organizing the necessary documentation to qualify for DAPA.”
Rivera-Forastieri also noted the misconceptions that many hold, that people can enter the country legally any time they want. “There is no line. Laws are antiquated and unfair with huge backlogs. Many are escaping violence in their countries, poverty, and lack of economic opportunity.” Without a positive outcome in the DAPA case, according to Rivera-Forastieri, worker authorizations will not get issued and deportations would continue.
“The families love this country and want to remain in this country” she said.
Soto said there is a symbolic aspect to the photographic technique used in the poster creations. “From a distance we look different, but when we are up close, we see that we are all made of the same stuff,” he said. The individual images come into greater focus with distance. Up close, they all share similar abstract qualities of simplified shapes and tone.
The strength of the imagery, however, lies in the message each family portrait coveys.
Maureen Gaffney, a volunteer English teacher at Junta who attended the one-night exhibition, said she especially likes that the images represent families.
“They are units,” she said, “not only individuals.”
While the exhibit images are no longer being exhibited in the pop-up Junta gallery, reproductions are available for purchase in two sizes at reasonable cost. For more information contact Junta or visit the Junta Facebook page.