From March 4 through April 19, photographs of young adults are hung on the walls of the first floor of Lynn Library. The exhibit area is known as the Southern Light Gallery on the Washington Street Campus.
In the photographs, the young adults are in their rooms with their faces hidden from the public eye.
Inspired by her parents, Lupita Murillo Tinnen began taking photographs of undocumented students who have come to the country at a young age without a choice of their own. They have the desire to go to college and later get a career but cannot because of their migratory status.
They also are known as the “Dreamers.” With these photographs, she created the portfolio called “American DREAM” in order to advocate for these students.
Her parents were legalized in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which was signed into law by former President Ronald Reagan. They became citizens in 2008.
“I’ve always been interested in immigration and the undocumented, because I grew up in that culture,” Tinnen said.
Tinnen teaches photography and humanities at Collin College in Frisco. In 2006, she became the faculty adviser for LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Through LULAC, she met many undocumented students and wanted to do more than call or write letters to senators.
“I decided to use my photography to help advocate for the DREAM Act and make people aware that these students exist, that they have an identity,” Tinnen said. “But then, they also don’t exist and they do not have an identity.”
She said the project started out slowly, but she wanted people to trust her.
“I want to show that it can be anybody. It can be somebody that is in school with you, it can be somebody that you’re sitting next to on the bus. You just never know,” she said.
In summer 2012, President Barack Obama approved Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, which may give a work visa, among other things, to only those who both apply and qualify.
According to the official website of the Department of Homeland Security, “Individuals who demonstrate that they meet the guidelines below may request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and may be eligible for employment authorization.”
A few of the prerequisites to apply are being under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, have come to the country before the 16th birthday, and currently being in school.
In a Spanish interview, Marco Malagon, co-founder and president of the North Texas Dream Team, said he knows Tinnen through the college where she teaches. Malagon said the organization was created in 2010.
NTDT has around 30 active members who plan strategies and coordinate actions and around 150 inactive members who present themselves when help is needed, Malagon said.
They also have helped about 1,095 people fill out the Deferred Action application, he said.
They went to Joplin, Mo., to help clean up after the 2011 tornado, and they have done campaigns to motivate voter participation and presentations at high schools to motivate students to keep studying.
NTDT also has a campaign called “Education No Deportation,” or END.
NTDT has a network of lawyers who help students who are about to be deported.
The lawyers, Malagon said, are either of low cost, if the student does not have the resources, or pro bono.
He said the project is important because the photographs she takes describes what words cannot.
“When she takes the real images of what is happening right now, the despair that every person has, that is what she is doing, sending the message of the reality of many of us in this country,” Malagon said.
He said he got involved with the project when Tinnen asked for a picture of him.
“She asked me if I would allow her to take a photograph of what I did,” he said. “Many of my friends were in her photo session as well.”
Malagon said he would like the people to know their stories as well as their families’ stories.
“At the end of the day, their stories with our stories are not different,” he said. “Parents want to give their children the opportunity to study and exceed and to be someone productive for the country.”
Ashlyn Mannis, a photography major, is a photography tutor and work study assistant. She helped set up the exhibit in the Southern Light Gallery and said people should come see the exhibit because it affects the community socially.
“It is about being conscious about what is going on around us and what is happening in the population and really, what affects us as Americans,” Mannis said. “Because that is what America is about, right? The community, the people and the diversity. ”
She said it is part of her heritage, which is something she takes seriously.
“This deals with history,” said René West, an assistant professor of photography, as the Visual Arts Common Reader Competition works were being taken down. “And this deals with contemporary, right-now moments in American politics,” she said as the exhibit “American DREAM” was being put up.
West was one of the people who helped choose the exhibit.
“It’s cool to have that social awareness that hits home, because this is not only for America, but it’s also, look at the area that we are in, so densely populated,” Mannis said. “And the amount of people locally that it will affect.”
She said she has a friend in Houston who is undocumented and did not find out about her situation until they were friends for a year.
“She can’t move, she can’t continue going to school; a lot of her life really rides on the decisions that are being made in politics,” Mannis said.
“It’s a situation affecting not only her, but her entire family. Her father was just deported months ago, and they don’t have any hope of him coming back.”
She said she likes how Tinnen gave the undocumented a face and voice without exposing their faces or voices.
“It affects all of us, because when we start making decisions, who is American and who is not, that is tricky for me,” she said.
For more information on the NTDT, visit its home page, ntxdreamteam.org, or its Facebook page by searching for North Texas Dream Team.
For more information on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, visit http://www.dhs.gov/deferred-action-childhood-arrivals lupitatinnen.com. To see more of Tinnen’s portfolios, go to.