Children of the Borderlands

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Over the spring, ASU photojournalism students documented the daily lives of Mexican children who live near the border. Students Kelly Karnes and Jeremiah Armenta talk about the project and their experience on the border.

José Cárdenas:
Good evening, I'm José Cárdenas. Welcome to Horizonte.

José Cárdenas:
The impact of proposition 200 at the voting polls. The results of data collected from recent elections this year may surprise you.

José Cárdenas:
And A.S.U. students spending their time with children on the Mexican border.

José Cárdenas:
All this, next on Horizonte.

José Cárdenas:
The local elections held in March and may this year were the first test of the new voter identification requirements for proposition 200 in Maricopa County . It required voters to present valid identification with a name, address, and picture, or two different forms of I.D. having the voter's name and address. Voters without sufficient I.D. were given provisional ballots and then may have been advised to return with valid I.D. to have their ballot counted. The Maricopa county elections department compiled data looking at the impact of prop 200 based on the march and may elections this year. Joining us to talk about the proposition 200 and the information collected from the past two elections is Maricopa county recorder, Helen Purcell. Thank you for joining us on Horizonte.

Helen Purcell:
Good to be here.

José Cárdenas:
We're going to look at specific numbers, but before we get to that, tell us how the data was collected.

Helen Purcell:
We decided after -- with both the march and may elections, we wanted to know what was going to come up in September and November. So we wanted to be sure we were prepared, and we gathered information from the ballots cast from the November of provisional ballots we see, the conditionals, we also gathered information from our registration rolls, trying to set up what people didn't have the proper I.D., who needed to come back to the polls, and in fact did them.

José Cárdenas:
And this was specifically intended as an attempt to measure the impact of prop 200?

Helen Purcell:
Absolutely.

José Cárdenas:
You haven't done this kind of analysis post-preliminary election analysis in the past?

Helen Purcell:
No. We always do an analysis of how many people went to the polls and that type of thing, but not to this extent. Because we knew the impact would be there.

José Cárdenas:
We've got numbers that we want to look at. Total ballots cast in March, 110,802. And in May, 108,531. For provisional ballots in March, there were 1,860, and in may, 2,109. And the number of people who failed to return after the Election Day in March was 86%, and in May, 96%. Those are pretty high Percentages. Did that surprise you?

Helen Purcell:
They're staggering figures. Yes, did it surprise me.

José Cárdenas:
To what do you attribute that?

Helen Purcell:
I don't know at this point. We've not been able to determine why people don't come back. It could be that they -- the races weren't that close and they felt that, well, I voted, but my vote is not quite that important. So I don't have to go back, because there's nothing that's going to be decided by my vote.

José Cárdenas:
What's the process? As I understand it, they can go back to where they voted, but they also had additional time period to go to some other location.

Helen Purcell:
Correct. And a number of them did go back to the polls that day and present the proper identification. Let's say a couple goes to the polls and the husband is driving and the wife doesn't take her driver's license with her. So there's opportunity there for her not to have the proper I.D. And some of those did come back later on Election Day.

José Cárdenas:
What other option they have? If they didn't come back on Election Day?

Helen Purcell:
They had three days in which to return to a number of places throughout the county. We had all the city clerks prepared to accept those identifications, we had our three offices. So we had 20-some-odd places.

José Cárdenas:
And do they get a list -- when they show up and cast the provisional ballot, do they get instructions as to how to come back and when and where they can go?

Helen Purcell:
Yeah. These are the places you can return to. So we want to be sure they have the ability and the knowledge to go back. We're supposed to be, and I think we are in the business of promoting voter participation. Yes, I want to get a person registered. But I also want them to participate.

José Cárdenas:
Let's talk about the composition of those high percentages. Who was it who wasn't coming back?

Helen Purcell:
The majority of the ones that didn't come back were women. Over 65.

José Cárdenas:
Was that a surprise?

Helen Purcell:
Yes.

José Cárdenas:
What about with respect to minorities?

Helen Purcell:
Very small percentages. Very small percentage. Of the provision -- conditional provisionals.

José Cárdenas:
How did you make the determination as to the -- what the breakdown was?

Helen Purcell:
We go into our file and look for those that we see are conditional provisionals, and these sur names and that type of thing. We can also determine from our file the age, so we know those that in what category they're in that are set to come back if in fact they do.

José Cárdenas:
I would think that this would be particularly surprising not just by percentage, but the people who vote in these non-major election cycles and primaries and so forth, are typically high efficacy voters.

Helen Purcell:
Absolutely.

José Cárdenas:
And that age group and women over 65 are in particular high efficacy voters.

Helen Purcell:
Yes, they are.

José Cárdenas:
But if they had to come back, they weren't coming back.

Helen Purcell:
That's right. And the thing that worries me, if these are your high efficacy voters that aren't coming back in a city or school election, we're now look at the primary and general election where we're going to elect all of our state offices and so forth. Are these same group of people, a, are they going to come to the polls at all because they came and didn't return in March and may? I'm afraid what it's going to do to our voter turnout.

José Cárdenas:
One of your suspicions is the reason they didn't come back, they figure it's not a close election, why bother, especially if they didn't go back the day of.

Helen Purcell:
That's right.

José Cárdenas:
But are you able to announce election results before that statutory time period has passed?

Helen Purcell:
We can announce some preliminary results. I can't do any permanent results, and there are a number of things we can't even start counting until we know in fact that those people have had their opportunity to come back.

José Cárdenas:
Do the provisional ballots even get counted if it turns out there's not enough of them to make a difference in the election?

Helen Purcell:
Oh, yes, every ballot gets counted.

José Cárdenas:
People shouldn't have the attitude that it doesn't matter, not only because it's not close, but also they're not going to count my ballot?

Helen Purcell:
Every ballot that we have the ability to count we do count. Whether or not the race is close, we don't determine that. We don't care about that. We want to make sure the ballots are counted if in fact they should be.

José Cárdenas:
Now, I understand one of your concerns is for the general election the numbers that you anticipate, if this trend holds, and if something isn't done about it, how many people do you think will not vote, they'll vote provisionally and not come back with the appropriate I.D.?

Helen Purcell:
We think in just doing projections we could be looking in Maricopa County at as many as 6,000 voters. Who would have five days to come back in a general election? And maybe more than that, I don't know. But that's just a projection. And they had these various places, and we will have more of those places where they can come back.

José Cárdenas:
And for the general election, it's a five-year period.

Helen Purcell:
That's correct.

José Cárdenas:
But if knows people don't come back, that could seriously impacts an election.

Helen Purcell:
Absolutely. I think we're anticipating can there will be a number of close races in a general.

José Cárdenas:
And what about -- I don't know if you all checked to see what the party registration was of those who didn't come back.

Helen Purcell:
No, we didn't. 7

José Cárdenas:
Is that something --

Helen Purcell:
March and May elections are nonpartisan.

José Cárdenas:
So you wouldn't have had that opportunity.

Helen Purcell:
No.

José Cárdenas:
Well, one of the concerns that was raised before was whether this would have an impact on minority voting, but you didn't see very much of that.

Helen Purcell:
I didn't see an impact, no.

José Cárdenas:
During the elections themselves, the march and May elections, did you get much -- any kind of trouble, problems reported from the precincts on Election Day?

Helen Purcell:
Probably a little bit more than normal. But we have trouble-shooters throughout there in the precincts. Any time a problem arises, we make sure one of the trouble-shooters gets to that precinct and solves that problem. If someone thought they had presented the proper identification and it wasn't accepted at the polls, we want to make sure we correct that problem if it is. We did not hear any widespread problems across the county.

José Cárdenas:
There are people complaining, and we had a lawsuit filed last week, I believe, challenging the implementation of prop 200 and asking for some specific relief. Fill us in on that.

Helen Purcell:
They're asking for relief where it comes to a federal form. We have been instructed by the secretary of state's office that we cannot accept the federal registration form if it does not contain the proper citizenship designation, or proof of citizenship. There is at the present time a case being decided whether or not there should be a temporary restraining order issued to the secretary of state office who then would tell us whether or not we could in fact accept those forms. In the meantime, we have only had one federal form.

José Cárdenas:
In the march-may election it would have been an issue only with one person?

Helen Purcell:
That's correct.

José Cárdenas:
So perhaps this may not impact anything, the results of the litigation.

Helen Purcell:
It may not.

José Cárdenas:
Ok. Last question. What are you doing to deal with this problem and make people aware that -- of the need to come back and vote?

Helen Purcell:
As we did prior to the March election, we will have as much publicity out there trying to educate the voters on what they need to take with them when they go to the polls. And we'll probably step that up tremendously before the September and November elections. It's very important that we inform the voters what they need to do. But we're going to send them a couple forms they can use. If they don't have the proper picture I.D., we will send them a new voter registration card and that will have the -- they will be able to take that with them. We're also 10 days before the election going to send them a bright yellow card that's going to have what they need to bring with them, but it's also going to show their polling place and a map to the polling place. And if they just take those two pieces with them, they will have the proper identification.

José Cárdenas:
There won't be a need for a provision.

Helen Purcell:
That's correct.

José Cárdenas:
Helen Purcell, thank you for joining us on Horizonte.

Helen Purcell:
You're welcome.

José Cárdenas:
Students of the "Wallace & Ladmo" -- Walter Cronkite School of journalism were -- did a project called the Buffett foundation photojournalist project is made possible through a grant from the Howard g. Buffett foundation, the foundation found by the photojournalist, author and philanthropist. With us are Kelley Karnes, Jeremiah Armenta, and Kristin Gilger. Kristin is the director of A.S.U.'s student media and an associate faculty member at the Cronkite School of journalism and mass communication. Welcome to all of you. Kristin, we had the privilege of having Howard Buffett on the show about a year ago talking about his own project. Filming migrants crossing the boarder, but this is different.

Kristin Gilger:
He is visiting here, and I think in preparation for that project. And while he was here he did an exhibit of his photographs and talked to journalism classes and some of our photojournalist students and got interested in what the Cronkite school was doing, so when he left he decided to fund a project that would be just taking some of our top photo journalism students in the program and letting them have an international experience where they can go to another country and do some photography, do some in-depth photo stories.

José Cárdenas:
And how did that initial concept evolve into the borderlands project?

Kristin Gilger:
Initially we looked at, Jeremiah, weren't you interested in going to Africa ? We thought, wow, I don't know about that, it's hard to supervise a student in Africa . So we decided for the 1st time to try closer to home. And of course the closest border to us is the Mexico border and there are many wonderful stories there. And then we kind of picked a theme. We said, well, we want the students to pursue what interests them. Their own projects, so to speak. But we wanted to have a theme for all the students to focus on. And we picked children of the borderlands. Then we picked our best students, got them in the project and said, ok, we're going to do this cool program and so you have to go kind of figure out what you want to do. What project you want to take on. What children's story you want to tell. And they did the research and found their stories. And then made many trips in some cases to Mexico to their locations, they all went to different cities, different places to do the actual work.

José Cárdenas:
Did the foundation or Mr. Buffett have much of a role after the initial decision was made to fund the project?

Kristin Gilger:
Not really. We kept him very informed about what we were doing. They gave us free reign, and we told them what we were doing, and he said, wonderful, very supportive all the way along. We'd send him pictures every once in a while, and he actually hasn't seen the work yet. He's coming to visit this summer and will see the work in the gallery where we have it displayed. But we made him a great videotape that shows all the students' work.

José Cárdenas:
Let's talk about how the students were selected. You had four ultimately.

Kristin Gilger:
Yeah. We actually asked for programs from them. They had to fill out, write a proposal, basically, on what they wanted to do. And then we knew -- in student media I've worked with all of the students who were in the program. We know who the best students are, what their work is, if they're ready for this, and Chris, the other instructor who worked on the project, has taught here and knew the students, so we kind of knew who we were going after and then we made them do all this work and submit proposals.

José Cárdenas:
It was a combination of what they wanted to do and their background. Jeremiah, tell us about yourself.

Jeremiah Armenta:
I was born here in phoenix. I went to school here. Joined the air force. I was in the air force for four years and stationed in Europe . And then I got out of the air force and started coming to school using my G.I. Bill, and then I got interested in journalism about a year and a half ago, because I was in the art program. And then I just got into shooting journalism-type photos and I've been doing it since then.

José Cárdenas:
What interested you in this particular project?

Jeremiah Armenta:
I had been -- I wanted to travel. I wanted to do something not just here -- .

José Cárdenas:
You wanted to go to Africa .

Jeremiah Armenta:
I wanted to document some people's lives and how they lived, just to go to a different culture and see a totally different culture. I'd been to Mexico plenty of times with my wife's family, but I had never been down like I was able to go on this project, and see how people live, other than my family members.

José Cárdenas:
Tell us about your background, Kelly.

Kelley Karnes:
I also grew up in Phoenix . I got involved in journalism in high school, came to college, wasn't sure what I was going to do, and I got involved in the state press, which was a great learning experience for me. And then I got involved in the project because I had never done a documentary project before. I thought it would just be a really great experience, and it was.

José Cárdenas:
The borderlands project, we're talking about children on the Mexican side of the border. And we've got some of the pictures that the two of you did that we are going to put up on the screen. I want you to tell us, this first one, what's the significance of this one?

Jeremiah Armenta:
These are some of the children I worked with in San Luis. They range from 13 to 18, and they work in the fields. And they have the lowest of all the jobs. They pick all the weeds that are in the fields. This is them coming up the -- one of the rows of the fields.

José Cárdenas:
And they're working on the U.S. side of the border?

Jeremiah Armenta:
In Mexico .

José Cárdenas:
And how much time did you spend in San Luis?

Jeremiah Armenta:
I probably spent a total of 30 days there all together.

José Cárdenas:
Over how long?

Jeremiah Armenta:
Over the whole last semester, spring semester.

José Cárdenas:
Tell us about this picture.

Jeremiah Armenta:
This is one of the boys worked with, on their morning lunch break, around 9:
00. It's only their only break during their day of work. That's him just eating his breakfast with everybody else.

José Cárdenas:
And this one?

Jeremiah Armenta:
That's at 5:
00 in the morning in San Luis, on the way, everybody packed in the truck, getting gasoline to head out to the fields. Usually 10 to 15 people are stacked in the back of that little truck.

José Cárdenas:
Kelley, we have some of your pictures that are going to be coming up. This first one, what can you tell us about it?

Kelley Karnes:
I followed a family that -- it was a single mother and she was raising four girls, and two of them go to school in the U.S.

José Cárdenas:
This is in Sonora ?

Kelley Karnes:
Yes. And she's feeding some of the other girls in their carpool. Some of the parents, because so many of them go to this same school in Nogales , they carpool together, and this is just an afternoon snack after they had gotten home.

José Cárdenas:
We've got this next shot, and who are these children?

Kelley Karnes:
These are the girls, some of the kids that go to the school at sacred heart catholic school in Nogales , Arizona . And these kids are all coming over legally. They're paying the fee; they have their student visas and stuff like that.

José Cárdenas:
This last picture?

Kelley Karnes:
This is a wild art photo. It didn't really fit in with my story, but it was a grandfather and son, the grandfather owns a boot store.

José Cárdenas:
When you say your story, what was the story you were trying to portray?

Kelley Karnes:
The story was about families -- I don't know how to word it. Trying to better their kids' opportunity in life. They were working hard to get their kids' education in the United States .

Kristin Gilger:
And they also spend hours a day traveling across the border. How many hours a day, three or four a day traveling, taking their kids across the border, waiting in that line to cross, and then taking their kids to school and picking them up and coming back across each day because they're so committed to education.

José Cárdenas:
And were you with them as they're making this t-rex back and forth?

Kelley Karnes:
Yep.

José Cárdenas:
So what impact did that have on you?

Kelley Karnes:
Just -- I got to spend a lot of time with them in their house, during their family activities, and it struck me they really weren't much different than my family except they just had to work so much harder to get to these opportunities.

José Cárdenas:
Now, how did you communicate? Do you speak Spanish?

Kelley Karnes:
No. The kids -- the two girls in school spoke English really well. The mother tried very hard and I tried very hard to speak Spanish, so it was a joint effort.

José Cárdenas:
Let's talk about your experience, Jeremiah. What was your story you were trying to portray, and what did you take away from this experience?

Jeremiah Armenta:
I focus order two stories. Did I a story that children that live in the dump region of San Luis, and some of their parents work there making their living collecting cans and metals, and they take them to recycling places. And the other story I focus you'd -- focused on was children who work in the actual fields. They go to school also, and I just showed how -- what they have to do from the early morning routine until going to school in the afternoon, what they do, pretty much.

José Cárdenas:
Kelley, in discussing her experience, noted some of the similarities between families on the U.S. and the Mexican side of the border wanting to better opportunities for their children. What about cultural differences? Anything that stood out for you?

Jeremiah Armenta:
Big-time. Just the way people have to live. Some of their houses, little teeny 10 by 10 shacks made out of pallets, just the property they live in, it's two miles across the border, and how they -- they don't have food to eat for dinner, they make $10 a day working full day, 10 hours. And it's just so much different. People in the United States have no idea how people live just across the border.

José Cárdenas:
The project is children of the borderlands. What about with respect to children? How is the Mexican culture that you observed different than it might be in the United States ? As it relates to children?

Jeremiah Armenta:
It just -- the way the children live down there is so much -- they have so much more respect for what they have. Compared to I think children in the United States . Just some of the toys they have, how they have to grow up is tougher life that they have to go through.

José Cárdenas:
Kelley, same question. What did you notice with respect to the Mexican culture and its treatment of children versus the United States ?

Kelley Karnes:
These girls are -- study really hard, they were very focused about school. There are a lot of similarities. These girls were more of a middle class family, and they did tie kwan doe, they listened to similar music that I know young girls here listen to. But they're very, very hard workers when it came to their schoolwork.

José Cárdenas:
Is this a project you would get involved in again?

Kelley Karnes:
Oh, yeah.

José Cárdenas:
Jeremiah?

Jeremiah Armenta:
Of course.

José Cárdenas:
Kristin, tell us about what's happening with the project we have. It's a much bigger show than the six pictures we saw. Describe it and tell us where --

Kristin Gilger:
We had four students involved, and the other two aren't in the state of Arizona right now. One, Daniel Peterson was in Mexico ; she stayed with a family through a very elaborate ceremony.

José Cárdenas:
You're talking about a ceremony for girls who turn 15.

Kristin Gilger:
Right.

José Cárdenas:
Debutante --

Kristin Gilger:
Yes. But also they're very religious ceremonies, and with a lot of meaning. And then the other student is plan done cluster, who shot -- Brandon cluster, who shot a story, it was a fascinating story about twin girls 11 years old who -- one of whom was born with a severe disability, so stays at home, very poor family, the parents are devoted to taking care of her, but they have to feed her. She's very disabled. The twin sister spends her weeks at what they call an orphanage in town, which actually serves as an orphanage for children who don't have parents, but also serves as a day school. A day school for children who are disadvantaged. So he documented these two very different lives of these two sisters. The project, all of those, the photos you've seen and those two projects, were displayed at the north light gallery. We had an opening in May and invited a lot of people, and we have a beautiful exhibition of the photographs at the gallery. The gallery is closed over the summer --

José Cárdenas:
People can still view it later this year?

Kristin Gilger:
Absolutely. It opens again when school opens, and anyone can come to the gallery, which is right in the middle of the A.S.U. campus. And it should -- it will be up for more than a month.

José Cárdenas:
Thank you all for joining us. Thank you for joining us on Horizonte.

José Cárdenas:
For information on upcoming shows or shows that have already aired, please visit our website at www.azpbs.org and click on Horizonte. You will find all the information you need there.

José Cárdenas:
That's our show for tonight. We hope you'll join us next Thursday for a special edition of Horizonte on immigration.

José Cárdenas:
I'm José Cárdenas. For all of us here at Horizonte, have a good knight evening. Hope to see you next week.

Kelley Karnes: ASU student;

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