September 24, 2008
By Armondo Vega
On Sept. 15, Lincoln Land’s James S. Murray Gallery was host to the work of Abel Uribe, a photojournalist with the Chicago Tribune. Titled “Snapshots in Immigration,” the reception highlighted some of Uribe’s best work on the subject.
Photo taken with permission of Abel Uribe
A native of Jalisco, Mexico who immigrated to the US as a child, Uribe was among those who’d been placed on the pathway to citizenship with the Reagan amnesty measures of the 1980’s. With the Tribune for the past six years now (he’s previously staffed the Jacksonville Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican newspapers), Uribe was led to make immigration the focal point of his life’s work when, in 1994, the state of California introduced the punitive Proposition 187, which would have cut off access to public education and other services to undocumented residents.
Some of his portfolio’s have chronicled the travails of Elvira Arrellano, the sanctuary seeking immigrant who made headlines last year, or of high-school valedictorian girls facing the prospects of deportation (titled “All-American Girls.”) His project, “Throwaway Workers,” won the 2006 Best in Business Projects Giant Award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. It portrays the dangerous work that illegal immigrants are often called to do, while being exempted from any sort of worker’s compensation or health-care benefits. While nationwide workplace accidents have dropped 16% in recent years, among Latino’s the rate has actually skyrocketed 72%.
Uribe noted immigration as a worldwide phenomenon, not something unique to the U.S. Rural dwellers move into cities, and city-dwellers often emigrate to more developed neighboring countries, all in the name of seeking greater opportunities abroad.
“Every day we are telling the world how great we are,” said Uribe, in explaining the draw of America to immigrants abroad, as well as noting that the passage of NAFTA also contributed to immigration from Mexico into this country after the massive corn industry in Mexico was largely wiped out with its passage.
Still, he noted that most Americans want a fair deal in place to address the immigration issue, but that the strident anti-immigrant “vocal critics are a minority…strong voice in this country, and so the government appeases them.”
On journalism, Uribe lamented the decline in newspaper readership across the country, and the subsequent dumbing down of the news, both in print and in television. “The News that You Want,” he said of the slogan hosted by many local media outlets. “Now isn’t that true?”