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Earlier this year I had the honor of spending the day with Marigeli Roman and her husband, Erick Gamboa, at their home in Milwaukee. The couple, who had three young boys, had just been through a traumatic experience after Gamboa was unexpectedly detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and spent about six months in the Kenosha County Detention Center. He had illegally crossed the border from Mexico in 2010, but the family was unprepared for an early morning knock on the door from ICE.
The day I visited their home with Wisconsin Watch reporter Natalie Yahr, Erick had been home for less than a week, and he and Marigeli appeared to still be recovering from the shock of their separation. They spent a lot of time holding hands on the couch, and Erick cuddled his 2-year-old son Adrial close. Marigeli told us that the separation had been extremely challenging for their family, as she suddenly had to get a job, and her older son grew despondent, even having suicidal thoughts, during his father’s time away.
With the help of a lawyer, Marigeli was able to secure Erick’s release, but many other detainees are not as privileged. Yahr’s reporting showed that of Wisconsin immigrants whose deportation cases were initiated between 2010 and 2015, those who had lawyers were far more likely to be allowed to stay in the county.
This was a fact that Marigeli and Erick wanted to share, and despite going through a personal extreme hardship, they still opened their lives in the hope that they could help others by sharing their truths. Natalie and I spent the day with them as they picked up their children from school, cooked a meal, watched a movie, and went to Gerald’s indoor soccer game — and they allowed me photograph every moment it.
The resulting story: Stuck in detention: For immigrants without lawyers, justice is hard to find, showcases that intimate photography, and shows the quiet moments of Erick and Marigeli’s life to help readers have a clear window into the effects of immigration detention on one real family.
This sort of photojournalism is critical to the work we do at Wisconsin Watch, but it’s expensive to produce. In addition to the cost of purchasing and maintaining professional camera equipment, our reporters and photographers travel across the state to spend quality time with the people whose stories we tell. Later, we spend time editing, toning, captioning, and fact-checking the material to make sure that everything we publish and distribute to our media partners is of the highest quality.
Wisconsin Watch also trains young reporters in photojournalism. This year reporting intern Emily Hamer produced photos for a significant number of stories in our Cannabis Question series, which explored marijuana legalization in Wisconsin — as well as the series Beyond Bail that explored the use of cash bail.
Without the investment in equipment, software, travel, and training, Wisconsin Watch couldn’t provide such in-depth, intimate glimpses into our subjects’ lives.
You can see a round-up of this important work in our Top 10 photo gallery from 2019, and we urge you to continue to support our photojournalism which appears in newspapers and websites across the state, as well as being distributed by the Associated Press.
We are excited to again be a part of NewsMatch, a national campaign to encourage grassroots support for nonprofit news outlets like ours. Until Dec. 31, NewsMatch will match any gifts, up to $1,000 per person. (Bonus: New recurring monthly gifts are added together and counted as an annual donation for the match.)