Before entering Mexico, leaving the U.S. for good, Jorge Lerma takes this photo. Lerma, 32, was an undocumented immigrant for nearly half his life before deciding to return home for better opportunities.
As Jorge Lerma approached the Mexican border from the U.S. side, he felt like he was hooked to a bungee cord, ready to leap into the unknown.
Jorge had lived in the U.S. for 16 years, attended high school and college in California, but his status here as an undocumented immigrant thwarted his dreams to be an engineer. So he decided to move back to Mexico.
Jorge Lerma sorts through his neckties. Dozens are draped across the couch; others get tossed into the give-away pile.
Jorge rents a tiny room at this house in Bellevue, Washington. The landlord pops in to check out possible bargains and buys a flat-screen TV and a light-weight tripod. The discard pile shrinks, but on top remains a crisp American flag that Jorge used to hang in his room.
In the western Mexican state of Michoacan, civilian militias have challenged a powerful drug cartel known as the Knights Templar. The vigilante uprising, which spurred the Mexican government to send soldiers and police to help counter the cartel, was fueled by migrants who returned to Mexico after years living north of the border.
Reny Pineda, who was raised in Los Angeles, is one of those migrants. When he returned to his homeland in Mexico, he found a new life fighting drug lords.
Community activist Nestora Salgado lives in Renton, normally.
She grew up in Olinala, Mexico, and over the last few years she’s been returning frequently and getting involved in the community – so involved that she ended up running a legal community police force. Mexican law allows indigenous communities to form such groups.
Tucson sits in the borderlands, the desert landscape where America and Mexico meet. This place is crisscrossed by boundaries, visible and invisible — from the US border wall that cuts the Sonoran desert in half, to live-wire political divides in Tucson itself. In this episode, we tell stories about what happens when people cross borders, risking their lives and their reputations to take a chance on the other side.