Kirsten Luce did not have an easy assignment when she traveled to the border city of Laredo, Texas. She traveled with Julia Preston of The Marshall Project and a producer from This American Life to report a story about an immigration court, but photographers are not allowed to shoot in the court or inside the detention center where it is located. Still, Luce, who has worked along the border for 12 years, quickly saw an opportunity to capture the cycles of migration playing out in Laredo.
At the U.S. border station, she found a rare image of the moment when two migrants, a couple from India, approached an officer to ask for asylum. Like other asylum seekers, they would be be taken to a detention center, their first stop before their case heads to immigration court, where only some win their cases.
Hearings are erratic, case files go missing — and people simply get lost. Read Julia Preston's story of chaos in immigration court.
In another moment, she saw Mexicans being deported from Laredo, delivered in shackles to a bridge to walk back across the Rio Grande, even as everyday Americans and legal immigrants were moving back and forth between the countries, a constant flow of life in a border town.
Luce began her career as a staff photographer at a regional newspaper in McAllen, Texas. Now based in New York, she returns often to Texas and Mexico to pursue stories about immigration, including a piece for Bloomberg Businessweek about the no-man’s land north of the border and south of the wall. Her work on immigration has appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times, National Geographic, and in European publications.
They knew that busloads of deportees were dropped off and escorted over the bridge to Mexico where they are left to their own devices. Luce and Preston asked around in Laredo to find out where exactly the deportations happen. They were given a general area but had no idea when it would happen, so Luce was prepared to wait all afternoon. After only a couple hours, she saw a bus arrive with the deportees. Since this all happened on public property, officials couldn’t stop her from photographing the process.
“As a journalist, I think it’s more important than ever to seek more transparency in this process so that Americans understand how our immigration laws are being interpreted and applied, “ said Luce. “Millions of lives are affected by these processes, and it’s important that we understand them and report them accurately.”