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California Dreamers

Due east of California’s coastline is a whole other world—one made up of red-meat conservative voters and large immigrant communities. Here are a few of the folks who are surviving in this seemingly hostile territory.

Olive harvest, Woodlake, California.

In California’s agricultural Central Valley, an estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants work the fields. Despite dependence on immigrant labor to drive its $50 billion farm economy, the area is, politically, a red island in a sea of blue. Kern, Inyo, Mariposa, El Dorado: all of these counties, which ring the city of Fresno in the middle of the state, turned out for Trump in last year’s election. We visited the area and met with both older residents and the younger generation—the DREAMers, whose immigration status is currently in grave peril—to learn how farmworking residents are living and surviving in this slice of red America.

“The work undocumented workers do is a heavy hand for California. If they deport every undocumented immigrant, California will come crashing down.” Josefina Lemus Diaz

Josefina Lemus Diaz, farmworker, Visalia, California.

“I didn’t know until later in life that I was undocumented—maybe when I was 12 or 13. You might be treated the same, but you don’t feel the same. You know you can’t go back, because you don’t know the language, or you don’t know how it is over there.” Carlos Lopez

Carlos Lopez, Porterville, California.
Olive harvest, Woodlake, California.
Olive harvest, Yettern, California.
Vianey Q. Gomez, Fresno, California. “We got our hopes up, thinking, Okay, now we’re going to be able to work legally, we’re gonna be able to go to school, or continue school. But that ended,” says Gomez.
Jose Manuel Lemus Diaz, Visalia, California. “I don’t really have a backup plan. I’m scared. I have a good, stable job right now. I’m scared I might lose it,” says Diaz. “We just come here to make a better life. Once DACA ends, I’m afraid I’ll lose everything. I’m just going to be a nobody again.”
Lindsay, California.
Yard sale, Tooleville, California.
Pasture, Ducor, California.
Burned field, Porterville, California.
“Dreamers don’t quit, we don’t back up, and we stay to a challenge ... In the respectful way, we have shown that DACA is a big influence for our nation, and it has shown that people do want to strive for success, and they don’t want a free ride.” Bryan Garcia, Porterville, California

“It’s about what you’re willing to overlook. I’m not willing to overlook people treating other people badly just because of where they were born. So why are we trying to enslave other ethnicities now? We’re trying to take away people’s papers, and what is that going to lead to?” Jessica Macias Mercado

Jessica Macias Mercado, Visalia, California.

“Without the farmworkers, who would work the fields? They’re the ones who dare to work in a job so hard. Without them, it would not be the same. We do everything that a resident or citizen does: pay taxes, stay out of trouble, follow laws.” Javier Trinidad Sanchez

Javier Trinidad Sanchez, Fresno, California.
Downtown Fresno, California.
Olive harvest, Woodlake, California.
Downtown Pixley, California.
Olive harvest, Yettem, California.
Olive harvest, Woodlake, California.
Discarded clothes, Lindsay, California.
“My opinion of America has changed by thinking it's going to be harder on some people than others. I have hope in the end. It is the people's power that makes the government. It proves the point that there are no dictators. Even the amendments say pursuit of happiness, the right to live.” Jesus Fidel Valerio Valentino, farmworker

“Americans will not do the work we do. It’s too heavy. We stand the heat, we put up with the rules the foremen put in place, and an American will not withstand all of that.” Ciro Avianeda

Ciro Avianeda, farmworker, Porterville, California.

“I’ve worked in the fields with my parents. Once, I went to the store after work, and people would just stare at us weird, like, ‘They’re dirty, they’re nasty,’ with that expression ... I feel like now there are more racists, because if people see the president speaking like that about other people, they feel like they can do it, too.” Margarita Santiago

Margarita Santiago, Fresno, California.
Reyna M. Castellanos, Visalia, California. “When I saw [Trump] being supported by many of the people that I’ve been surrounded with a lot of my life—and some of the people that I even looked up to—I was like, ‘You have got to be kidding me,’” says Castellanos. “Throughout all this process, I’ve lost many, many friends.”
Diego San Luis Ortega, Visalia, California. “It made me more of who I am,” says Ortega, a DREAMer. “My parents raised me with morals: regardless, treat everyone how you want to be treated. It is still the land of opportunity.”
Olive orchard, Lindsay, California.
“The pain that our community feels every single day, the fear, the tears that are wept—it’s not okay. As an individual, I’m going to stand up for what’s right. This country will always be for immigrants, and about immigrants, and it will always be on the fact that you have an opportunity here to be better.” Daniel Peñaloza, community activist, Porterville, California
Pistachio orchard, Ducor, California.

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