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Death, Life, Home

The story of a young man, trying to provide for his family, who died trying to illegally cross the border

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On Jan. 12, somewhere between Bisbee and Douglas, a U.S. Border Patrol agent shot to death a young man named Francisco Javier Dominguez Rivera.

Afterward, the words used to describe Dominguez Rivera and his behavior could not have been more generic or murkier. Undocumented immigrant," said the media. "A scuffle," announced the Border Patrol: "Rock throwing."

Or maybe not: Some official reports mentioned no rocks. The news agency Reuters ran a post-mortem photograph. Instead of depicting a face, it showed a cardboard box used to ship the corpse to Mexico.

A few days after he was buried, I was doing business near Cuautla, the city in Mexico that I learned was Dominguez Rivera's hometown. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I took a bus there and found his mother and father in deep mourning. They were too distraught to pose for portraits, but they let me take pictures of their son's personal effects. Most important among them was the new house he financed for his family and helped design. Dreams of it lured him across the border. A job in California bankrolled it, little by little. The desire to see how it was turning out brought him home. The desire to build more took him once again over the international line.

These photographs show why Francisco Javier Dominguez left, and what he left behind.

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