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Faces Of The Child Migrant Crisis

In the past eight months alone, approximately 50,000 Central American children crossed from Mexico into the United States. These record numbers have pressed the United States with the challenges of state and federal budgets, manpower, housing logistics, and overwhelmed legal systems processing requests for asylum.


Pictured: A Honduran boy at a shelter in Tapachula, a border town in Chiapas. After running away from home, he had no place to go and resorted to prostitution to survive. Now at the shelter, he can attend school and have a safe place to sleep at night. (Photo by Michelle Frankfurter)

This exhibit is comprised of 20 prints by photographer Michelle Frankfurter with additional work by Dominic Bracco, Donna Decesare and Ross D. Franklin.

The images document the children's dangerous travel via freight train, termed la bestia or "the beast," which is the most common travel route for Central Americans fleeing to the United States through Mexico.

This project includes portraits and stories of individual migrants - some as young as 9 - and captures their stops in various shelters along the way.


The photography exhibit Faces of The Child Migrant Crisis opens November 3 at the Richard J. Daley Civic Center and runs through December 5, 2014.

The exhibit also features text and photographs to contextualize the current crisis. Produced by HumanEYES USA, the exhibition has been brought to Chicago by ART WORKS Projects.

"Overwhelmingly I got the sense that, even in their own countries they were insignificant, overlooked, not valued," Frankfurter says. "When in Mexico, it's even worse for the Central American immigrants, they are hounded and despised. They are sometimes kidnapped, raped, tortured or extorted. When and if they to make it to the United States, it's no bed of roses for them either."

Frankfurter and Molly Roberts, the exhibition curator and founder of HumanEYES USA, believe it's important to understand the causes that drive people to flee Central America.

"Gang and cartel violence have spread throughout these countries where they have effectively run all state authority out of town. Children live in fear of gang-recruitment," says Galya Ruffer of Northwestern's Center for Forced Migration Studies.

It is predicted that more than 90,000 unauthorized children will arrive at the United States border in 2014.

"The City of Chicago has committed to welcoming migrant children," says Leslie Thomas, executive director of Art WORKS Projects. "Our hope is that by bringing these powerful photographs to a very public space we will all learn more about our newest neighbors and will welcome them to our richly diverse community.

Says Roberts: "Now is the time for these photographs to be seen so that American citizens can put a face to the refugee crisis occurring at our southern borders."


Thomas is scheduled to host a preview and book signing for Frankfurter's new book, Destino, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, November 3 at 625 N. Kingsbury St.


Comments welcome.


Posted on October 30, 2014

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