60% of New Yorkers are immigrants or children of immigrants. Millions more in this country are directly affected by immigration policies.

The story of migrants is that of markets, demographic trends, political instability and climate change. It plays out in the global North as well as the South. Migrants seek better lives and this benefits receiving countries. To this end it is essential to reject persistent myths about migrants which are both wrong and lead to violations of their human rights.

Myth 1: Immigrants take jobs from Americans. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, "immigrants significantly benefit the U.S. economy by creating new jobs and complementing the skills of the U.S. native workforce." 

Myth 2: Undocumented immigrants commit crimes. Immigrants are incarcerated at a much lower rate than native-born Americans and as immigration has increased in the US, crime has decreased

Myth 3: Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes but get benefits. Undocumented immigrants pay sales and property taxes. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, in 2013 undocumented immigrants paid $13 billion in payroll taxes for benefits they would never receive. 

Myth 4: Immigrants are overrunning the US. According to PEW Research Center, immigrants made up 15% of the population in the late 19th century compared to 13.5% in 2016.

US immigration policy has a history of excluding immigrants based on ethnicity/race, nationality and religion. The Chinese Exclusion Actrefusal of Jewish asylum seekers during WWII and expulsion of Mexicans are cases in point. However, recent immigration has been marked by great diversity. This is once again being challenged by anti-immigrant sentiment. In recent years, the “othering” and scapegoating of immigrants as outsiders responsible for many of America’s problems have served to justify an increasing number of inhumane policies.


"(un)DOCUMENTED" tells the stories of migrants who fled poverty and violence only to be met with racism in the US, questions the notion that humans can be illegal, debunks myths of immigrants as "bad hombres" and job stealers, shines a light on the human rights impacts of immigration policies and profiles local activists who have brought about positive change.


The exhibit was created by 2016 students from 8 different high schools in NYC. The program was a partnership between the United Nations International SchoolPROOF: Media for Social Justice and the NYSYLC. It provided students with the opportunity to explore the experiences of immigrants in NYC through a social justice lens. Students trained with photographers and met with lawyers and activists working on immigration reform. They listened to and transcribed the stories of immigrants and took their portraits.

UNIS Human Rights Project 2016

"(un) DOCUMENTED" at Photoville 

©2020 by UNIS Human Rights Project