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'Dreamers' Of Oregon, Captured In Portraits

Navigating life after the March 5 DACA deadline means a deepened feeling of life between worlds.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” said Gustavo Martinez. He’s 24 and lives in Washington County, Oregon, working at a credit union. Martinez is one of an estimated 11,000 Oregonians who will have to leave the country if Congress can’t come to some kind of agreement on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — or DACA. (Martinez’ parents brought him from Mexico, undocumented, when he was 8.)

“I’m still kind of fearful of putting my application in," Martinez said. "Mine expires in August, so I really hope I get a chance to continue doing what I love and working with the community.”

He and others can apply to renew their status under DACA (under the old law, they were obliged to renew their status every two years), but no one knows how immigration officials will process them with other enforcement actions pending on work permits and driver's licenses — or if they’ll process them at all.

Lives lived in liminal space were the inspiration for a new photo exhibition on view this week, “Dreamers of Oregon: Out of the Shadows.” A collaboration between photographer Holly Andres and the nonprofit Bienestar. Andres created big, dramatic black-and-white portraits of Martinez and five other DACA recipients, part in light, part in shadow.

Brianda Alcazar is another of Andres’ subjects. She graduated from Pacific University last year with a degree in chemistry and is on track to start pharmacy school this fall. A mother of two, she works at a local nonprofit. She says she doesn’t experience a lot of day-to-day anxiety about her status, but says the instability is on her mind. This is really the first year she’s been public about her status, but she was glad to sit for the portrait.

“A few people have asked me, ‘Are you sure about this?’” she said. “I understand where they’re coming from, but I’m OK with doing it. This is something I need to do.”

The visualization of DACA students coming out of the shadows, unafraid, Alcazar said, holds power. “It’s saying, ‘We’re here, I’ve grown up here, and I belong here’.”

“Dreamers of Oregon" is on view in an atrium at Pacific University's Hillsboro Campus.

It moves to the Forest Grove campus for an April 4 opening and will travel to Portland in late April.

<p>Holly Andres' portraits of "Dreamers of Oregon" are on view at Pacific University through late March and April.</p>

Holly Andres


Holly Andres' portraits of "Dreamers of Oregon" are on view at Pacific University through late March and April.

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

April Baer