Unaccompanied: Youth Seeking Refuge


“Unaccompanied” introduces viewers to ten adolescent immigrants who number among the thousands fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries.

Since President Obama’s 2014 executive order to reform immigration policy, these youths have captured the national spotlight. Countless articles relate stories of tragic and violent journeys. Noticeably absent from much of the discourse are the voices of young immigrants themselves. What circumstances drove these children to seek refuge on U.S. soil? What challenges do they face adapting to a new life? How do they hope to contribute to their new society?


Photographer Oliver Contreras hopes his portraits will compel viewers to acknowledge immigrants as human beings with characteristics more complex and sincere than “illegal.”

Unaccompanied child immigrants represent an entanglement of issues in both their native and new countries. This project seeks to demonstrate the realities that youth immigrants face – the doubts, aspirations, complexity and humanity of their experience – to establish a dialogue surrounding their often traumatic journeys.


**Some names in this series have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.


-Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.

-Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

-The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

-MaryMount University, VA.

-South Texas College, McAllen, TX

-Malcom X Park, Washington, D.C.



Story created by Oliver Contreras.

Captions written by Elliot Blumberg.