El Sueño Americano ~ A Photographic Essay on the Seized and Discarded Belongings of Undocumented Migrants at the Mexican Border

El Sueño Americano
The CBP confiscate and discard all non-essential personal items. | Deodorant and Lighters

El Sueño Americano

Photographs by Tom Keifer

El Sueño Americano, a photographic essay by Tom Keifer, evokes an empathetic feeling from the viewer. It began when Kiefer was a janitor working for the Customs and Border Protection in Ajo, Arizona. In 2007, after having worked there for nearly four years, he discovered that the seized property of the detained undocumented migrants was just being tossed away by the CBP officers.

A Janitor Preserves the Seized Belongings of Migrants 04
Rosary Beads

Feeling angry but not knowing what to do about it, he began taking the stuff home. The wallets, toothbrushes, keys, clothes, mix CDs, condoms, contraceptive pills, sunglasses, rosary beads, testaments to the lives of the detained, he kept taking it home and photographing it. The collection became so large that he had to enlist his friends’ garages to house it. In 2014, seven years after starting the project, he quit his CBP job to work full-time on El Sueño Americano.

El Sueño Americano
Plastic Bags
El Sueño Americano
A Collection of Wallets
El Sueño Americano
Toilet Rolls
El Sueño Americano
Beads, Makeup and Toothpaste Tubes
El Sueño Americano
A Collection of Belts
El Sueño Americano
Nail Clippers
El Sueño Americano
An Array of Cutlery
El Sueño Americano
Condoms
El Sueño Americano
Shoe Laces
El Sueño Americano
Spools of Sewing Thread

Link to Keifer’s website and more photographs.