Can An Art Project Speed Up An Immigration Status?

By Gabriel Richardson

“This is not the only story that I’ve heard, this is the closest one to me… but there are so many other people—families— that don’t have their complete family here in the United States…

– Itzamary Dominguez
Picture Time, 12″ x 16″, Color Pencil, 2018 by Itzamary Dominguez
Picture taken by Gabriel Richardson

On February 7, 2019, I walked into the well-anticipated art gallery Reception for the Senior Thesis Exhibition II. The exhibit featured art projects of many different styles and themes from the Senior class at Marymount Manhattan College. The walls painted white, the floor tiled white and black, the vibrant colors of the art pieces shined through the hall. I almost glazed over this simple, yet delicately put together work of art. “Missing Moments,” the title read, and I continued to read what seemed to be the most emotional and captivating story in the exhibit.

It all made sense. The uncompleted, outlined child next to the heavily shaded adult man represented a missing relationship between father and son. The statement explained as follows:

“In April 2018, President Trump enforced the Family Separation Policy on immigrant families. In response, I was moved to tell my own family’s story. My husband Victor migrated to the United States at the age of eighteen years old, leaving his new born in Ecuador. After sixteen long years, he is still waiting for the approval of his son’s US Visa. This story is similar to many other immigrant families, and it has become an issue for the Hispanic community. I hope to show the heartbreaking reality of what it is to be separated due to country borders.”

Itzamary Dominguez

Heartbreaking it was, and still is. Many immigrants of all nations have traveled to America for a better life or to give their family a better life. More often than not, they travel alone in order to not risk the lives of their family members. Ever since the “Zero Tolerance Policy” became enforced in April 2018, adults caught illegally crossing the Southern border were taken immediately to court for prosecution; if they had children with them, the children were sent to federal shelters, not knowing if they would ever see their parents again. According to a New York Times article, “the enforcement of the policy led to the separation of nearly 3,000 children from their parents, setting off weeks of national protests, with Democrats and many Republicans calling on President Trump to end it. The president eventually relented and moved to halt the family separations, though the government struggled in some cases to reunite those it had already separated.” The strategy of separating families was meant to deter outsiders from coming into the U.S. Unfortunately, the flow of migrants did not stop, and the American people became angrier at the sight of such ruthless behavior.

For parents, the decisions are endless and tough. For 18 year old parent, Victor, the decision to leave could not have been tougher.

I had the privilege of sitting down with the artist of “Missing Moments,” Itzamary Dominguez. She had spent many months meditating in her husband’s shoes for her piece; needless to say, she had much to say about immigration. Being Hispanic herself, she made it very clear that this kind of story is the norm for her. Attending a Predominately White Institution (PWI), her classmates and friends (non-Hispanics) were surprised to find out that separated families exist outside the media’s portrayals. Dominguez explained to me, “they were like ‘This doesn’t happen in real life,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, this is the reality of it. This is what I see everyday. This is not the only family. There’s more families that do–that hav–that go through this.'” Her main purpose with “Missing Moments” was to emphasize the separation of families due to borders.

One way she illustrated this separation was with the removal of the child, spatially and physically. She allowed the imagination of the child to exist with the father. Dominguez found inspiration from an artist who, painting a crime scene, removed parts of the scene and evidence to tell the story. She put six scenes together as the “parent relationship should’ve been, but isn’t.” Another way she communicated a separation was with the colors. The father figures have cool tones, whereas the son’s figures have warm tones. This could also allude to the father growing weary, losing emotional resilience, having waited so long. Victor has waited 16 years, trying time and time again to get his son a Visa, just to be rejected and cast aside. Dominguez said, “He doesn’t like to think about these hard moments . . . he’s a very happy person, you can’t tell that this is going on to him when you see him. Um, so he doesn’t think about the situation much. But I started doing that. I started thinking for him.”

Soccer Lesson, 12″ x 16″, Color Pencil, 2018 by Itzamary Dominguez
Picture taken by Gabriel Richardson

She talked about the times where he interacted with her little nephew and how she drew from those moments. They would play soccer together and have fun as if they were father and son. Victor’s own relationship with his son is not normal according to Dominguez. She’s grateful for technology and video chatting, but she could still sense that there is not that father-son relationship as in one where they are in the same country.

“It’s interesting how people with same circumstances have different solutions to things. Because my husband decided to wait for the government to say ‘Okay he can come with a Visa,’ and other people are just like ‘No, let’s bring them over in the most difficult circumstances.’ *laughs* But um, what can you do? You know?
My husband basically risked the relationship of his son and him, by waiting. . . I was even thinking of asking him, ‘Okay when he gets here is that relationship gonna build?’ Is it? It’s gonna be harder to be built, that father and son relationship, but I don’t know. You know? You can only wait and see what’s actually happening. I think, I think the son is pretty scared, Yeah.”

Itzamary Dominguez

During the process of creating the drawings, Dominguez was trying to get the son’s U.S. Visa. She cared for the son as if he were hers. Being able to travel, she had a meeting set-up in Ecuador which she thought would be the last meeting before Victor’s son could come to America. At the meeting, Immigration extended the waiting period because they needed more proof that the son had a real relationship with Dominguez. Coming back home, devastated, all she could do was draw with tears flowing down her face. Drawing the images of togetherness, unity, and reconciliation, she expressed her emotions and longing. If others could just see the suffering and the pain that the Hispanic community go through because of man-made borders.

Dominguez took photos of her art work, along with other documents of proof, and sent them to Immigration, demanding that they reconsider the extension of the waiting period. She pleaded, “Look, this is a whole project I’m doing on him.” She even sent the dates of the exhibit and petitioned that they “bring him before **taps the table twice** these dates.” Ever since, Dominguez has seen a considerable change in pace as she had received a call, not too long before the interview date, telling her they needed more documents and how she should hurry up in order to make the deadline she wanted. Although Immigration services probably would not own up to it, Dominguez believes they were moved by the artwork. She believes they saw the heart and soul that Dominguez put into it, the family that has waited long enough, and the effects of separation. Dominguez is hopeful that her husband and his son will be able to reunite soon.

Hug, 12″ x 16″, Color Pencil, 2018 by Itzamary Dominguez
Picture taken by Gabriel Richardson

A Powerful Dance Gives A New Perspective On Black History Month

National Archives. “Caribbean Histories Revealed.” The National Archives, The National Archives, 10 Nov. 2006, http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/caribbeanhistory/slavery-negotiating-freedom.htm.

Monae Greene — Student Leader and Choreographer at Marymount Manhattan College
Rebecca Pinard — Chief of Diversity Officer at Marymount Manhattan College

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