Confiscated items from immigrants go viral on social media
In an effort to give a human face to the thousands of immigrants detained and separated at the border, the media has resorted to publishing images of personal objects confiscated and discarded by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
When it comes to humanitarian crises, the most difficult thing is to give a human face to the thousands of people involved, in an attempt to fragment the cold numbers and make people understand that each person has their own specific, individual story.
For days, the media has published images of personal hygiene items, shoes, belts and even accumulated rosaries after they have been confiscated from the thousands of immigrants who are detained at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The New Yorker published one of those stories after the janitor Tom Kiefer spent months recovering discarded objects at the premises of the Customs and Border Protection where he worked.
Kiefer tried to combine his passion for photography with a generic job that would allow him to survive when he began to compulsively recover thousands of personal objects confiscated from detained immigrants to give them a narrative through photography.
"One day in 2007, he was rummaging through these bags looking for packaged food, which he’d received permission to donate to a local pantry," says the newspaper. "In the process, he also noticed toothbrushes, rosaries, pocket bibles, water bottles, keys, shoelaces, razors, mix CDs, condoms, contraceptive pills, sunglasses, keys: a vibrant, startling testament of the lives of those who had been detained or deported. Without telling anyone, Kiefer began collecting the items, stashing them in sorted piles in the garages of friends. 'I didn’t know what I was going to do,' he said recently. 'But I knew there was something to be done.'"
After organizing and photographing them in several series, Kiefer now presents his work entitled "The American Dream", which he perceives as "counterweight to the dehumanizing practices of Immigration and Customs".
Among several of the objects are even small children's toys, which are also confiscated from the hands of immigrant minors.
According to the Huffington Post, "anything considered non-essential or potentially lethal is confiscated", and "the immigrants are supposed to receive a ticket for each of those items and get them back when they’re released," explained the director of migrant rights and justice at the Women's Refugee Commission Michelle Brané.
But, apparently, that system is not working.
"In those circumstances, those possessions don’t always follow them from place to place," she said. "They're held in some big warehouse, and it's often very very difficult to get them back. They're often lost indefinitely ... I generally have not heard of people being able to get much of them back."
The new family separation measures imposed by the Trump government place minors in separate confinement from their parents - often described as "cages" - without company, and without their favorite toys, one of the few belongings they chose to bring with them once they took the arduous road to apply for asylum in the United States.
Social media has demonstrated against the measures by making the images of objects and children go viral together with the tag #TrumpCamps.
These are rosaries taken from undocumented migrants by US Border Patrol Agents. I don't want to go there, but the historical parallel these horrible, inhuman and morally reprehensible images invoke is damning. #TrumpCamps https://t.co/rrJ2iSydNZ
— Tahar (@laseptiemewilay) 14 de junio de 2018
While the government has announced that it will sign an executive decision to suspend family separation, the detention of minors (together with their parents) will remain standing, as ICE will continue the practice of confiscating their personal objects together with their rights and freedoms.