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Borderless Magazine’s Favorite Photos of 2023 — and the Stories Behind Them

By and December 28, 2023January 9th, 2024Visuals

From a Venezuelan family’s long-awaited reunion to our Black Immigrants Today series, Borderless Magazine’s visual journalists amplified the stories of Chicago’s immigrant communities.

Anthony Jackson for Borderless Magazine
Frank Sandoval hugs his daughter, Massiel Sandoval, 21, as they are reunited at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill., Friday, May 26, 2023. Massiel hadn't seen her father in more than five years.
By and December 28, 2023January 9th, 2024Visuals

From a Venezuelan family’s long-awaited reunion to our Black Immigrants Today series, Borderless Magazine’s visual journalists amplified the stories of Chicago’s immigrant communities.

In a year dominated by the ongoing plight of Venezuelan asylum seekers and a war between Israel and Hamas, Borderless photojournalists worked to capture the humanity of the immigrant communities impacted by the headlines.

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Just like in our writing, Borderless Magazine centers visuals of immigrants in our immigration coverage. Our photographs and illustrations offer readers a chance to see the worlds of others. 

Our visuals team was on the ground when Syrian refugee Amal visited Chicago. They took portraits for our Black Immigrants Today series, captured the joy at a Desi queer open mic and documented the community response as final clean-up efforts are done at a former radioactive site in suburban West Chicago.

The following images, an unranked selection, were carefully curated by Borderless Magazine from the past year as we look to 2024.

Astrid Houze does her friend Ajit Sharma’s makeup for Satrangi: A Desi Queer Open Mic and Storytelling event at the South Asia Institute in Chicago, Ill., Friday, June 16, 2023.Efrain Soriano/Borderless Magazine

South Asia Institute Holds Its First Desi Queer Open Mic Night

Organizers say the event was a first for the institute but hope it will promote more inclusivity while celebrating Desi queer stories and creativity. “As an immigrant and a queer person, I have understood the importance of public spheres,” Ankit Khadgi said on stage. “I want to prioritize helping marginalized voices get a platform, where they can speak and express themselves.”

Members of the Pueblo Unido in Albany Park pack food outside Our Lady of Mercy church. Friday Jan. 21, 2023.Sebastián Hidalgo for Borderless Magazine

As Public Health Emergency Ends, Community Resource Groups Work to Fill the Gap

As Gov. Pritzker declares an end to the public health emergency brought on by the pandemic and subsequent relief funds, four community-led efforts work to make sure their neighbors’ needs are still met.“We are rooted in solidarity, not charity,” said Gerardo Mircino, a founder of the Rogers Park Free Store. “We are a diverse group of people, we have a lot of immigrants among us and we go by the motto that we take care of each other.”

Jean Chrisbene Justin and his son Oliver Ryan Justin, 5, outside Bethlehem Chicago Seventh-day Adventist Church, where they attend services every Saturday, in Chicago, Ill. Feb. 25, 2023.Martine Severin for Borderless Magazine

Black Immigrants Today: Jean Chrisbene Justin

He was a police officer in Haiti. He left with his son after being threatened by gang members. Now he awaits his family in Chicago. “I would have trouble every day after I finished my shift, receiving threat after threat, so I decided that it was time for me to leave. It was enough.”

Max in Millenium Park in Chicago, Ill., Feb. 11, 2023. Martine Séverin for Borderless Magazine

Black Immigrants Today: Max

Max was born and raised in Senegal. But after years of suffering economic hardship and sexual abuse, he was cast out of his family. “I was being discriminated against as a gay man in Morocco. I couldn’t share my true identity as I was. I was afraid of being persecuted.”

Agnes Kanjingo with her sons from left, George and Daniel, outside their home in Skokie, Ill. May 19, 2023. Martine Severin for Borderless Magazine

Black Immigrants Today: Agnes Kanjinga

She left Congo to escape ongoing violence. In search of a safe home for her children, she came to Chicago and found her community.

“My dream was to become a doctor, but my dad passed away and I had to help my mother. So there weren’t that many possibilities for me to go and continue with my education.”

Bilal Shouly. Samer Almadani for Borderless Magazine

Chicago Rapper Shouly Explores His ‘Double Identity’ and Challenges Arab Stereotypes

The Palestinian-Jordanian hip-hop artist talks about identity as inspiration, his growth since his debut album and what’s next.

“At first, I thought [the music] was only talking to my audience in the Middle East, Palestine, Jordan, and Egypt. And then, when it got traction, views, and listenership in Jordan, I realized the music I wrote in my bedroom doesn’t only speak for me; it speaks to other people; going through a similar thing.”

Mustafa Hussain for Borderless Magazine

These Chicago Afghans Have Built a Community on the Soccer Field

After fleeing the Taliban, a group of Afghans in Chicago have found each other – and strength – through playing soccer.

“In this game, we find a common language that transcends all barriers,” said Hussein Rezaee. “We create a united front against the darkness that tries to extinguish our hopes and dreams.”

Little Amal greets a child in Margate Park along the lakefront in Chicago, Ill. Sept. 30, 2023. Little Amal, a 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl, was part of a theatrical show put on by the Chicago Children’s Theatre, in which Little Amal makes “stone soup” with the help of children. Mustafa Hussain for Borderless Magazine

Little Amal Comes to Chicago With a Message of Hope for Refugees

The 12-foot-tall puppet tells the story of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee separated from her family.

“Refugees have dreams and are here to be safe and be educated,” said Samira Alhamwi from Homs, Syria. “They are looking for safety and a home to continue their life.”

Refugio Arias, 55, outside her home of 20 years in West Chicago, Ill., November 1, 2023.Efrain Soriano for Borderless Magazine

After decades of waiting, West Chicago’s Final Radiation Cleanup Begins

While newer residents unearth decades of contamination, some neighbors look forward to a planned public park at the former thorium factory.

Kathaleya Stefania Guaira Perez, 2, opens the door to her new state-provided apartment unit for New Life Centers movers. Stefania and her parents and older sister, live in basement unit. The owner, Jan Favia, lives upstairs. November 17th, 2023Sebastian Hidalgo for Borderless Magazine

A Chicago Faith-based Nonprofit Furnishes Homes for Asylum Seekers

New Life Centers’ New Vecino program, funded by the state, provides asylum seekers with wraparound services and furniture for new apartments. 

“It’s really hard to see it, more so when their kids are outside of shelters and now with the cold, we see them, and I say: ‘My God!’” said Sandra Milena Gallego, a New Life Centers employee who helps move the furniture. “There are people who need basic needs to live a basic human life. A good way of life.”