"There's No Such Thing As Illegal Immigration"
Alex Seel | Artist + Activist

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Biography

Alex Seel is a New York-based artist and cast member of Al Jazeera America’s Borderland.

Born and raised in Long Island, Alex Seel became involved in political activism and protests during high school and college.

After studying art in Paris, Seel returned to New York in 2003 to attend the School of Visual Arts, where he received his BFA.

In 2014, Seel was cast as a member of Al Jazeera America’s “Borderland” docu-series. On “Borderland,” 6 Americans are confronted with the realities of illegal immigration by retracing the footsteps of dead migrants who perished in the deserts along to US-Mexican border.

Working in both street photography and installation sculpture, Seel has recently been exploring themes of home and diaspora. He lives and works in New York City.

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Chavez! Chavez is the good one!

So, his full name is Julio Enzo Chavez Matthew Jerald, but he’s from Brooklyn, so we found him on the street in Brooklyn.

He actually runs the house. He collects rent, all that stuff. He’s like the guy here, for real.

Chavez because he’s the leader.

My name is Alex Seel, I’m an artist, photographer from Brooklyn, and most recently I was part of the Borderland series through Al Jazeera America.

Well, I mean I grew up Christian in a pretty strong Christian home. My grandparents were medical missionaries in Korea, so that was like a very big part of my upbringing, like traditional Korean meals during Christmas and stuff like that. It was always this idea of service, like what can you give to the world?

And my dad will love this. In my Christian upbringing, in my like idea of service to the poor and that understanding, I grew up listening to punk. All the punk I was listening to was like politically charged stuff. So, my beliefs are in everything we do.

You know, first off, first of all, you’re first problem is the world illegal because there ain’t no such thing as illegal immigration.

Borders like create divisions in people. It’s like…the face of America has never been white, it’s never been one color anyways.

Like this immigration is a joke, are we still even talking about this? Like yo where did you eat today? Where did you, how did your house get built? Go to any restaurant in NYC, go to any restaurant, like the 5 star restaurants, and tell me who’s making your beef tartare. Tell me who’s like putting together your little appetizer for 60 dollars. I guarantee you it’s a dude who came here from another place and has had a really tough time doing it. And is probably deemed a criminal.

Not to mention this country’s based off that. This country’s based off immigration, and we’re like the symbol for immigration in history you know. And now we’re like playing this funny game – you know, not allowing other people to join the beauty that is America, because America’s pretty cool.

All we hear is “grmph all you gotta do, you know, is do the right things learn english boppety boopity boop, like hey, do all this little song and dance,” but in actuality like that system that’s in place isn’t even ready to deal with the people that we’ve got. So we have people waiting, they’re on a waiting list for 10 years. Oh and p.s. you can’t leave, nah nah nah you can’t leave bro. You’ve been living here longer than Alex has been living here son and you can’t leave! So deep, so deep.

And that’s just one aspect of the story. That’s not even dealing with the people who are here quote unquote illegally. That’s just dealing with the people who played the right games and there’s still this system that’s trapping people and controlling people. Because we’re just not treating people like humans. We’re just putting em through. If you really start looking at the news, really start looking at what’s going on socially, it’s really quite frightening in terms of race relations and how we’re sort of treating each other as people in this country.

I do believe as we grow up, it’s not that we’re becoming more progressive, but we’re just accepting the reality of who we are a little bit more, and it’s not bothering us.

So, I think a lot of it is that we have a shallow engagement with the issue, because that’s how they frame the issue for us. So I think there’s a lot of potential, but we’re not there and I don’t think a lot of us are ready to take steps yet.

[Cats fight off-screen]

Wow, hey guys, so I’m trying to shoot an interview here, and whatever cat drama you got going on, it’s not our issue. So can you chill with that? Jeeze, cats.

Made By

Cinematography: Danielle Calodney

Audio by: Andreina Velazquez

Edited by: Danielle Calodney

Interviewed by: Laura Lehmann




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