These are the looks of people on a mission.
When most of us hear “illegal immigration,” there’s not one face that comes to mind.
Because there isn’t one. Most undocumented immigrants in the United States live in the shadows to avoid deportation. Many have to spend time in “drop houses” — shady locations crammed with undocumented immigrants as they are smuggled into the country.
Whenever there’s a drop house bust and local media show up, those caught coming into the country illegally are usually quick to shield their faces from the cameras. Anonymity is key, which makes this photo series that much more intriguing.
Photographer John Moore managed to put a face — a lot of faces actually — on this important issue plaguing our society.
He shot these gripping images at shelters for undocumented immigrants in both the U.S. and Mexico.
Here are 13 mesmerizing portraits of undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation.
1. Jorge, 62, is from Guatemala. He worked in the U.S. for eight months before being detained and deported.
2. Cruz, 18, is from Sinaloa, Mexico. At the time of this photo, he was planning to cross the border illegally for the first time in a few days.
3. Gilberto, 28, is from Chiapas, Mexico. He worked as a farm laborer in Washington state for five years before being arrested for driving without a license.
4. Flor, 19, is also from Chiapas. She was caught in Arizona by Border Patrol agents on her first attempt to cross the border illegally.
5. This man who chose not to give his name is from Oaxaca, Mexico. At the time of this photo, he planned to try to cross the border into the U.S. in the next few days.
6. Silvia, 29, is from Chiapas. She was abandoned in the desert by a “coyote,” or human smuggler, whom she paid to bring her into the U.S.
7. Eduardo, 23, and Elvira, 22, are from Honduras. They both lost a leg under a freight train while trying to cross into the U.S.
8. Daniela, 20, also from Honduras, is transgender. She’s waiting for agents to process paperwork so she can be deported by bus. It’s considered the safest route because of her gender orientation.
9. Melvin, 16, is from Honduras. At the time this photo was taken, he planned to board a freight train later that night to try and find work in San Francisco.
10. Javier, 14, is from Guatemala. He also planned to board a freight train later that night and try to make it all the way to New Jersey to find work.
11. Consuelo, 42, and her 15-year-old daughter are from El Salvador. They’ve been at a shelter four months awaiting deportation.
12. Carlos, 36, is from Guatemala. He also planned to hop on a freight train and try to make it to New Orleans, where he previously worked in construction.
13. Genenis, 20, and her 25-year-old husband, Jose, are from El Salvador. They also planned to travel by freight train later that night headed to Houston.
We can often forget that these people are human. Yes, they’re breaking the law as they search for a better way of life in the U.S., but at the end of the day, they’re people too. These gripping portraits are a powerful, visual reminder of that.
If you want to see more of photographer John Moore’s amazing work, visit this gallery.