In Sight

Children, the border and a familiar mix of emotions

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

The plight of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border has taken over the news, stemming from a "zero-tolerance" policy announced in April by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. When families cross the border without documentation, mothers and fathers who would previously be released from detention to await court hearings are now being jailed. Their children are taken to Department of Health and Human Services shelters.

The emotional toll for migrant children caught at the border is not new. A year ago, staff photographer Salwan Georges documented the same kind of heartbreak, exhaustion and conflict still unfolding at the border today.

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Last June, single mother Karina Lopez, her teenage niece and toddler daughter crossed illegally into the United States and were detained by Border Patrol in McAllen, Tex.

The same day, another group made up of mostly children was detained after coming from Mexico and crossing the Rio Grande. A set of twin sisters wore matching outfits. Both had chicken pox. A boy from El Salvador wept.

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Per policy, Border Patrol agents tasked with safeguarding the border took Lopez’s shoelaces. These law enforcement officials are both guards and detectives who, like supervisory agent Marlene Castro, search the desert sands for signs of immigrant crossings, such as empty water bottles and wooden ladders used to climb over the border wall.

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

At the border, there are those who want to cross, those who want to stop crossings and a third group who witnesses all the above: border neighbors. Some who live where the United States meets Mexico see the wall as frivolous. Landowner and naturalized citizen Pamela Taylor, 89, voted for President Trump. But she opposed his wall — and leaves coolers of water outside her home for immigrants who walk by.

Some Texas ranchers want the wall to keep diseased Mexican cows from roaming across the border and prevent immigrants from hiding on their land.

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

A year after these photos were taken, tensions captured here still captivate the border and the country. Immigrants are still traveling north. The wall and its merits are still being debated. Parents and their children are crossing together only to live apart.

Credits: Photos and reporting by Salwan Georges. Words by Katie Mettler; Photo editing by Nick Kirkpatrick.

Salwan Georges/The Washington Post