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.