Immigrant youth express fears, determination through self-portraits

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Catholic Charities of Oregon

By Katie Scott

Ore. (CNS) — “I want my dad to stay with me.”

are not giving up. We keep going.”

words of first- and second-generation immigrant students in Portland are
written across bold self-portraits, conveying fear and courage during a time of

are afraid they might lose a friend, an uncle or grandmother; one student has a
dad in deportation proceedings,” said Kat Kelley, director of operations for
the Pope Francis Center, an initiative of Oregon Catholic Charities and the
Archdiocese of Portland.

portraits are part of “Ni de aqui, ni de alla” — a collaborative project
between the Pope Francis Center and El Programa Hispano Catolico. The goal is
to give voice to youths affected by immigration and support the expansion of
Catholic Charities’ low-cost and pro-bono legal services for families at risk
of forced separation. The agency has the only full-time nonprofit attorney in
Oregon handling immigration cases.

Spanish phrase “ni de aqui, ni de alla” translates to “not from here, not from
there” and frequently is used by bilingual and bicultural young people to describe
the complexity of being both American and immigrant.

artwork, created last fall by 11 students from Reynolds High School in
Troutdale, allowed participants not only to express their thoughts and feelings
but also to take action, said Adriana Lopez Garcia, youth services program manager
for El Programa Hispano Catolico, who coordinates a mentoring program for the

were very happy and proud at the chance to raise money for (legal services),
because sometimes they feel powerless,” Lopez Garcia told the Catholic
Sentinel, Portland’s archdiocesan newspaper.

artist Patricia Vasquez Gomez, a longtime immigrant advocate, guided the
students through six printmaking classes. The students took photos of
themselves, traced their silhouettes and then painted the images.

November, the art series was released in several galleries in downtown
Portland, including Portland Center Stage, through a partnership with the
Portland Art Dealers Association. The pieces will be installed temporarily in
the state attorney general’s office this spring.

said the fear of deportation is a daily experience for the students, with many
wondering: “Am I going to come home from school and find my parents gone?”

they don’t want to burden their families with their concerns, added Lopez
Garcia. “This project is a way for them to share in a safe way their anger,
frustration and sadness. It’s powerful for them to be able to let that out.”

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is special projects reporter at the Catholic
Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

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