In Sight

Photos from a decade at the border

Getty Images special correspondent John Moore spent the past 10 years photographing all sides of the immigration debate. He traveled to Central America, along the border and into the United States with immigrants who completed the journey north. A book with his reporting, “Undocumented,” was released last week.

We talked to Moore about what he witnessed during the past 10 years and asked him to explain the stories behind seven photos. His answers were edited for clarity and length.

Cover photo: John Moore/Getty

John Moore/Getty


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“I took this picture at an immigrant shelter in Tabasco on the border with Guatemala. Immigrants who were taking the journey north would stop at this shelter to rest. Most immigrants who make this journey north are doing it for their families — and really as an act of love.”

“People leave everything behind for an uncertain future. Many don’t make it all the way to the U.S., and others who do either reunite with family members or send money home to Mexico or Central America. This picture still gives me joy and shows me the love of family.”

John Moore/Getty


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“A patchwork of fencing, levees and canals augment the Rio Grande as border defenses. One of the first places the Trump administration plans to build the wall is in Texas’s Rio Grande valley. That is the hot spot for both human and drug smuggling along the entire border.

“The Rio Grande weaves back and forth, so the actual logistics of building a wall are tricky. In some places, the fencing along the border is effective. In some places, like this, it’s ridiculous.”

John Moore/Getty


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“I was flying that day in a Customs and border control helicopter. … In this case, they had spotted a group of undocumented immigrants in the brush, and border control agents in the helicopter were directing agents on the ground. This agent tried to catch this immigrant and missed. ... Three agents ran him until they were worn out. But they did eventually catch him.”

John Moore/Getty


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“This was the only time I was able to photograph inside a detention center for minors. This child is essentially in a cage. He was from Honduras. For me, the sort of cold and sterile environment of this detention center struck me then and stays with me now.”

John Moore/Getty


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“They don’t like to be called vigilantes, but essentially they’re vigilantes. This was an [AZBR] volunteer, and he only gave me his first name: James. He was a college student in California.”

“The drug cartels now control both narcotics smuggling and human smuggling, and so they have very deep pockets. The narcos have observers all along the border. And, yes, these zealous part-time warriors are there for a week, but the smugglers have more patience than that. They wait until they leave.”

John Moore/Getty


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“A chapter of the book is spent showing life for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. This is a picture I took in northern Colorado as a group of Mexican and migrant workers harvested organic parsley.”

“Many U.S. farmers are worried about our deportation-minded federal government, because they rely very heavily on migrant labor. Many predict crops will rot on the vine if they don’t have a workforce to harvest them. A lot of Americans would never work in a strawberry field. They simply won’t do it.”

John Moore/Getty


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“The pictures we remember most are the ones that make us feel, and this one makes me feel. I had spent the day photographing border control when they got a call that a ground sensor had gone off. They called in a helicopter that was flying above. They had a canine unit on the ground, and they began chasing this group. I ran behind, and when I finally caught up, the agents were pulling people from underneath thorny branches.”

“I still wonder where they came from, who they left behind and why. Where were they planning to go? I wonder if they even came together at all or if they just met in that moment and were handcuffed together randomly. I don’t know that answer.

“Sometimes our photographs answer questions, and sometimes they beg more than they answer. This picture still leaves me with questions. It moves me, regardless.”