Divided Families

About This Project


A young mother whose son is already beginning to forget his father. U.S. children abandoned in a Mexican orphanage. Two men who have searched for their missing brother for years. Border patrol agents who toil miles from their families.

These are the some of the people whose lives and whose families are divided by the U.S.-Mexico border.

The line drawn between Mexico and the United States has always meant divisions that go far beyond geography or nationality. For many years, families have lost loved ones to distance and the desert, to the pull of new lives and the rejection of old ones.

This is more true now than ever. As it has become more difficult to cross the border _ legally or illegally _ it has become increasingly difficult for families to stay together.

It was with this in mind that that a group of advanced students in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University set out to do a semester-long reporting project in fall 2007. Seventeen students _ reporters, videographers and photographers _ made more than 30 trips to the border, deep into Mexico and to various parts of Arizona to find and tell the stories of divided families.

The students’ work was supported by a grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Illinois-based nonprofit organization founded by the international photojournalist, author, environmentalist and philanthropist. It is the second time that Buffett, who has said it’s important for journalism students to explore countries beyond their own borders, has supported a Cronkite School student journalism project. In 2006 his foundation underwrote the “Children of the Borderlands” project in which students produced photo documentaries depicting the lives of children along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Participating in the “Divided Families” project gave students “the opportunity to see border issues first hand and share stories about the lives of people directly affected by immigration policies,” said one of the photojournalism students in the project, Courtney Sargent. “The importance of covering immigration issues became clearly evident after seeing the dichotomy between the two sides of the border.”