John Moore's World Press 2019 Photo of the Year, of mother Sandra and daughter Yanela being apprehended, are a testament to the US flawed policy towards immigration
The Photo of the Year Winner, would ideally be “surprising, unique, relevant, memorable.” This is exactly what can be said of the 2019 Winner of the World Press Photo Of the Year 2019. The picture shows a Honduran girl, a toddler, crying as she and her mother are being arrested by US border officials. The scene occurred on June 12th, 2018 in McAllen, Texas and the toddler has been identified as Yanela Sanchez, while her mother is called Sandra Sanchez.
Vice president Whitney C. Johnson describes the photograph: “The details in the picture are interesting. From the gloves that the border patrol officer is wearing to the fact that the shoelaces have been removed.” The photo reminds us of what has been called a Holocaust of our time and region. A mass movement of immigrants fleeing from violence and poverty in the Northern Triangle of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) towards the United States while having to cross the thousands of miles from Mexico’s South border to the Northern one, a ripe territory for all kinds of physical and psychological violence, from rape, to kidnapping, to murder.
Though migration from the South towards the United States has taken place practically since the annexation of the Southwestern territories, that spotlight has been placed on immigration in recent years, specially since Donald Trump’s ran a campaign on a “crisis” at the border with xenophobic and racist attitudes. This, of course, disregarding the role the United States has had on Central America’s social inequality, historical violence and political coups, even during Obama’s administration.
Sandra and Yanela, for example, had been traveling on foot for a month through Central America and Mexico before reaching the US to seek asylum. But, because of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy and his attempts to make scapegoats out of immigrants, any immigrant caught entering the US could be criminally prosecuted. Many parents were apprehended and thus separated from their children, causing international public uproar.
What the photo lays fair is a completely flawed US foreign and domestic policy. Photojournalist Alice Martins added that the “picture shows a different kind of violence that is psychological,” which is testament to all of the ways the United States uses violence. New York Times opinion columnist David Brooks has said that Trump seems interested in taking in asylum seekers and has purposefully slowed down the bureaucratic process. Facilities are overwhelmed. Over 800,000 people's cases are now pending and new asylum seekers are held only for couple of weeks, then released without much instruction on the streets where they will wait until 2021 to get formal hearings.
On the one hand, the US has, at best, done little to aid these countries; at worst, they have created this situation themselves (Yanela and Sandra were not among the separated families). President Trump reversed the policy on 20 June.
John Moore, the photographer behind the picture and specialist on immigration and border issues said:
“I think this image touched many people's hearts, as it did mine, because it humanizes a larger story. When you see Yanela’s face, and she is more than two years old now, you really see the humanity and the fear of making such a long journey and crossing a border in the dead of night.”
What is great about the photo is that it addresses the issue, not from policy makers' perspective but by giving voice to the immigrants, people that have been so vilified as of late, that we need to hear their stories now more than ever.
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