“Florida’s wild inland region keeps secrets,” writes the photographer Samantha Appleton, who has been documenting migrant workers in the region since 2006. “It is the birthplace of the majority of America’s tomatoes (among other types of produce), and it is the lowest rung of the immigration ladder for thousands of migrant laborers from Mexico, Central America, and Haiti.” It is also, Appleton points out, where the dysfunction of America’s immigration policy lies.
As the immigration legislation introduced this month winds its way through the Senate, Appleton’s pictures bring our attention to a world mostly hidden from view:
As you drive west from the sparkling Gulf Coast of Florida, the three-lane highway, lined with Starbucks and strip malls, quickly empties, and thins into a country road thick with vegetation. Shiny rental cars disappear, and semis laden with mangoes and peppers speed past instead, passing school buses that carry a hundred laborers on their way to the fields. After an hour’s drive, the road improves slightly, and a small town suddenly appears. Homes no bigger or more sheltering than shacks dot a dusty landscape. Workers emerge from the shadows on foot or bike, carrying plastic bags—their belongings for the day.
Central Florida represents the immigration debate in its most vexing form: the scene is as old as America itself, yet should not still exist.
Here’s a look. (And read William Finnegan’s Annals of Immigration, “The Deportation Machine,” in the current issue.) http://nyr.kr/Zj2TwP
Photographs by Samantha Appleton.