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Blurring The Border To See Two Sides

Photo by Dania Maxwell

"I wanted to visit my mom, but you're not allowed to leave the country while on your leave," Victor says in front of his home in Bonita Springs, Fla.

Photo by Dania Maxwell

Liliana (Lily) Ramos reaches over her daughter toward her dog, Linda. Lily had heard pets help people deal with difficult situations, so she got the dog after she was ordered to be deported.

Photo by Dania Maxwell

A framed picture of Lily with her two girls at her home in Bend, Ore. Lily left the picture and her kids — Brian, Ashley and Karleen — with a relative when she was deported to Mexico. "

Photo by Dania Maxwell

Lily asked her mother, Micaela, to move from Los Angeles to Bend to watch over her three children. Micaela quickly found a job as a hotel maid.

Photo by Dania Maxwell

In preparation for her deportation, Lily brought her son, Brian, to a vocational training program about 200 miles southeast of Bend.

Photo by Dania Maxwell

After meeting with an immigration officer, Lily has little to say to her friends. "I have to leave the country."

Photo by Dania Maxwell

Lily stands on top of a hill near her new home in Tijuana. She feels branded as a deportee by others living in the city. "

Photo by Dania Maxwell

Amy Thompson and other sheriff's deputies in Phoenix are required to call immigration control when there is suspicion that someone is an illegal immigrant.

Photo by Dania Maxwell

In 2010, Arizona passed a law that makes it a crime to be in the U.S. illegally. According to law enforcement agents, if they believe they have "reasonable cause," they are entitled to determine an individual's immigration status.

Photo by Dania Maxwell

Two days before her 11th birthday, Daniela Cruz moved to Phoenix from Mexico with her mother.

Photo by Dania Maxwell

Francisco Duran scans the street from his window before stepping out to drive his mother to English class. He had just warned his friends on Facebook that a sherriff's deputy was a few blocks from his home on Phoenix's west side.

Photo by Dania Maxwell

A year after graduating from high school, Francisco became a father to Javier. Between work and his responsibilities as a father, he has had less time for activist causes.

Photo by Dania Maxwell

Dinner is family time for Sandra (center) and her daughters Isle (left) and Carina Montes. The family relocated to the U.S. from Mexico when Carina was 2 and Isle was just 5 months old. The girls have been in the Phoenix school system since kindergarten — and are two of an estimated 1.7 million illegal youth living in the United States.

Photo by Dania Maxwell

Victor Arriaga and his family wait inside the Marine Corps recruiting office before he starts boot camp. Victor decided to join the Marines in the hopes that he could help bring his mother back from Mexico. She was deported when he was a freshman in high school.

Photo by Dania Maxwell

Victor's sister shows her daughter what he will wear when he is a Marine.

Photo by Dania Maxwell

Friends say goodbye to Victor at a party before he leaves for boot camp.

Growing up in Santa Barbara, Calif., photojournalist Dania Maxwell saw two different sides of life.

"I grew up, I feel, with a lot of privilege," she says. "I was given a house, a home, a family that I love."

But her mother, an immigrant from Argentina, wanted to show her that there was "another side" to her hometown.

They would spend time at Latino community centers -- and Maxwell's nanny was an illegal immigrant from El Salvador. Her mother, Maxwell says, "made me think critically about what was happening."

"A lot of people around me immigrated to the U.S. because they wanted something better," she explains -- mostly for their children. Maxwell's mother provided her with opportunity but also curiosity, which has been the force behind her ongoing project about immigration and youth in America.

In 2010, she was at Ohio University when Arizona passed a bill requiring immigrants over the age of 14 to register with the government and carry their documents with them at all times. So she headed to Phoenix.

There she met Francisco Duran, a young man who had lived as an illegal immigrant in Phoenix since he was 3 years old. She met Daniela Cruz, who was present at rallies and working to put herself through classes at a community college. She also met sisters Carina and Isle Montes, two active high school students.

They'd all come to the U.S. as young children with their parents; they had gone through the public education system, but were still unsure of the future.

After finishing grad school in Phoenix, Maxwell got an internship in Oregon, where she met Lilian Ramos. The mother of three had applied for political asylum after living in the United States for 21 years. Although all of her children were born with legal status, Ramos was ultimately deported.

Now a photojournalist at the Naples Daily News in Florida, Maxwell recently met Victor Arriaga, a popular high school student at the top of his class who excelled in band and advanced classes. He joined the Marines, partly hoping to improve his chances of bringing his mother -- who was deported when he was a freshman -- back to the U.S.

"I want people to see the sacrifices and the struggle," she says. "I want audience members to question what might otherwise be perceived as black and white -- right and wrong."

Like her mother wanted for her, Maxwell wants viewers to see more than one side.

Editor's Note: Rebecca Sell was an instructor of Maxwell's at Ohio University, but had no involvement in this particular project.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit

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