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‘I Have A Name’ exhibit focuses on journey of undocumented immigrants

Images from the "I Have A Name" exhibit.

The traveling “I Have a Name” exhibit that highlights the struggle of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America is scheduled to be on display at the Landmark Center in St. Paul in April.

The exhibit is a collection of 30 life-size photos and a booklet detailing the perilous journey each immigrant undertook in search of a better life in the United States. 

“I’ve a keen interest in immigration reform for our country,” said Bobbi Megard, former St. Paul city councilwoman and longtime member of the League of Women Voters Minnesota who played an instrumental role in bringing the exhibit to the Twin Cities. “So, this exhibit really puts a face on migrants and what they go through as they come into this country.” 

Writer Robert Adler and photographer Tom Feher created the exhibit after visiting a shelter in Mexico for over two years to interview the migrants, who were then journeying to the United States.

The exhibit aims to restore dignity to the estimated 11.7 million undocumented immigrants nationwide. “‘I Have a Name’ seeks simply to give a few of those immigrants from Mexico and Central America a face, a name, their own story,” writes Adler on the exhibit’s web page.

He continues: “We believe that these few, brave enough to let us take their pictures and tell their stories, can stand for the hundreds of thousands … who have suffered what they have suffered, sacrificed what they have sacrificed, in search of the opportunity to free themselves and their families from the deadly grip of poverty, crime and corruption.”

Adler explains why he embarked on the project:

In 1948, a planeload of deportees flying from California to Mexico crashed in Los Gatos canyon, killing all aboard. The news reported, “they were only deportees.” There were no names, no attempt to notify next of kin, no burial markers.  It wasn’t until 2013 that a memorial marker with all their names was finally erected in a Fresno cemetery.



On a more personal note, a neighbor of mine hired a Latino man to do some chores, and refused to refer to him as anything but “the Mexican” or “Jose.” When I spoke with “the Mexican,” I learned he was from Guatemala and his name was Juan, but he didn’t want to correct the “jefe” because he thought it might anger him. This man was not even given the simple human dignity of an identity.  

Megard, who spends each winter in Mexico, has been aware of the stream of Mexicans as well as migrants from Guatemala and Honduras who are heading north.

Soon after she learned about the exhibit documenting the stories of these migrants, she wrote a proposal to the League of Women Voters Minnesota, asking to bring this exhibit to the Twin Cities to raise awareness on the issue of immigration-reform.  

Over the years, reform activists and local leaders have been fighting to pass a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants get a Minnesota driver’s license.

“We’re asking that people look at these policies with coherence and to figure out a way in which these young adults can really start to make a sense of their lives,” said Susan Tucker, executive director of League of Women Voters Minnesota. 

To shed light on the immigration-reform, the League has partnered with other local organizations to present “I Have a Name,” which has already shown in Seattle and Boston.

“We’re seeing a huge change in the faces of Minnesota,” Tucker said. “I think it’s important then that Minnesotans start to get more familiar with the changing faces. Just like when the Norwegians and the Swedish came, we’ve always been open to welcoming new immigrants and allowing them a pathway to being successful.”

Megard added: “This is about families seeking a better life, seeking a safer life and seeking a way to raise their children. These people want what all of us want: families that are safe. Children that are educated.”

The exhibit will be on display at Landmark Center April 2-17 and is free and open to the public.

Ibrahim Hirsi can be reached at ihirsi@minnpost.com. Follow him on Twitter at @IHirsi.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/23/2015 - 03:43 pm.

    The Norwegians that came to America went through Ellis Island; so did the Poles, the Latvians, the Italians, the Czechs and the Irish. None of them made breaking the law their first act upon stepping foot in America. Why is it Latin Americans feel they have the right to do so?

    • Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 03/23/2015 - 06:04 pm.

      no law breaking

      Like most of us here, your ancestors did not come here legally either. Prior to about 1910 there were no laws regarding immigration. Ellis island only recorded names, and country of origin, nothing else (and they only kept criminals and the chronically ill out). So the lie that your ancestors came here legally is just that; a lie. Before 1910, there were no laws, so people like your ancestors came here without being legal or illegal.
      Its easy to check out the facts, you might want to try that sometime instead of demonizing brown people like you do.

    • Submitted by Don Honda on 03/24/2015 - 11:17 am.

      You’re right

      The immigrants in the past did come legally. They had to pass health tests and prove that they would not be a burden on society. They had to be sponsored and have a job waiting for them. This was when we needed more in the work force. We do not have that need now as Millions of US Citizens are underun-employed. And yes, they will do and have done the work that Illegal Aliens take.

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 03/24/2015 - 10:00 am.

    If there is no law how can you break it? To get into the USA prior to 1910 you had to be healthy and sign in at Ellis Island. Both sets of my grandparents went through this process to get here. Today there are laws in place to get to the USA legally, if you break these laws you are here illegally.
    What I don’t understand is if you are here illegally and get picked up by police why you are not deported immediately.

  3. Submitted by Don Honda on 03/24/2015 - 11:11 am.

    Not Broken

    “No, Our Immigration System Is Not Broken”

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/no-our-immigration-system-is-not-broken/article/2552534

  4. Submitted by Don Honda on 03/24/2015 - 11:14 am.

    See what Liberals and Progressives say

    The Liberals’ Case Against Illegal Immigration:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/11/25/the-liberal-case-against-illegal-immigration.html

    This is the Progressive Case Against Illegal Immigration:

    http://www.salon.com/2015/03/01/the_1_percents_immigration_con_how_big_business_adds_to_income_inequality_pits_workers_against_each_other/

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