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After he saw American Apparel’s ad featuring a white college student posing with a very tanned “California farmer,” artist Julio Salgado could barely contain his feelings. While he thought the ad was “so unrealistic,” it also became the inspiration for his latest collection, “Undocumented Apparel.”

Within hours of seeing the ad, Salgado, a graphic artist and activist, began posting his “Undocumented Apparel” designs on Facebook and Tumblr, and many began to share the images, which make biting comments about the state of undocumented immigrants.

One ad quips, “You backpacked across Europe and they called you adventurous. I crossed a border to save my daughter’s life and they call me a criminal.” While another exposes a harsh reality: “I’m just a little immigrant. You go on living your hopeful-politician lives. God bless Amerikkka.”

Salgado knows how it feels to live life on the edge. He and his family came to the U.S. legally in 1995. But after his little sister’s kidney condition worsened, they were faced with a tough choice: stay in the U.S. illegally while she got better, or return and risk her conditioning deteriorating because of the trip. They stayed and have been undocumented ever since.

Lost in all the talk about immigration reform, self-deportation (as Mitt Romney suggests), and some state’s tough discriminatory laws are the stories of those affected by living life on the margins.

While Salgado insists that undocumented people have a voice but are just not using it, he is determined to help those who are too afraid to speak up and have their perspectives heard.

See more of Salgado’s “Undocumented Apparel” series on his I Exist blog, and read more about his story at Colorlines.

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