This story is part of Divided America, AP’s ongoing exploration of the economic, social and political divisions in American society.
A woman sleeps in her car, waiting to receive free dental care at a clinic in rural Virginia. Another peers though a fence at the Mexican border to see the grandmother she left behind 18 years before, when she was brought to the United States as a toddler.
Health care and immigration are two of the most contentious issues of this most contentious election year, but they are not merely grist for politics and politicians. Americans like these women, Lesia Crigger and Eva Lara, are dealing with them in nearly every moment of their everyday lives.
A team of Associated Press photographers traversed the country to record those moments. Each set out to capture a single, intimate image to illustrate the human side of immigration, the economy, the environment, gun rights, social values like abortion, gay rights and conservative Christian beliefs, and race.
The result: A mosaic of a people at a singular time, struggling to extend the American project through the treacherous shoals of the 21st century.
IMMIGRATION: Maribel Solache watches her son from her rearview mirror after dropping him off at his high school in San Marcos, Calif., on April 28, 2016. Moments before, Solache had been chatting and laughing with her son, but her light-heartedness changed after he got out and the distance grew between them. “I cannot imagine my life without my kids, without my husband, and I am so afraid to be separated from them _ in front of them _ like for example if immigration stops me or the police stop me,” she said. “But I also fear bringing my kids back to Mexico, because the situation is terrible there.” A former Mexico City lawyer, Solache crossed the border illegally 12 years ago because of the country’s drug violence. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
IMMIGRATION: Tim Foley checks a motion sensing camera he set up along a possible smuggling route during a border surveillance trip in Sasabe, Ariz., on May 11, 2016. A former construction foreman, he founded Arizona Border Recon, a group of armed volunteers who dedicate themselves to border surveillance. “For the most part I think that illegal immigrants are treated better than American citizens,” he said. “Down here on the border, even though they are coming in illegally, ranchers have been sued for detaining them while they are destroying their property. Border Patrol can’t do its job because the illegal immigrants and dope smugglers, according to our current administration, has more rights than even our federal law enforcement agencies that are trying to do their job. So, illegal immigrants have, as far as I can see, more rights than U.S. citizens.” (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
IMMIGRATION: Isabel Ruiz, right, receives a U.S. flag from Supervisory Immigration Services Officer James Fobert after she passed her citizenship interview in Newark, N.J., on Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Ruiz, a native of Honduras who has been living in the United States for 25 years, said she has been working hard to get naturalized before the 2016 presidential election because she wants her vote to count. She fears she will lose her legal status in the U.S. if a candidate like Donald Trump takes office. A school bus driver, she studied for the civics portion of her citizenship test daily during her free time, sometimes while waiting for students to get out of class, but often at home in the evenings. She attended a weekly class at her local library to be quizzed by volunteering high school students. “I want to become a citizen because I love living in this country and I wanted to give my vote for better conditions for the Hispanic people… Everybody comes here for a good life for their family, to pay taxes and work hard. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
IMMIGRATION: On her 21st birthday, Eva Lara and her brother, Bryan, talk through a border fence in San Diego to their grandmother, Juana Lara, standing on the Mexican side, on Sunday, May 1, 2016. It was the first time Eva had seen her grandmother since she left Mexico at the age of 3 with her parents. Eva lives in the United States legally through legislation that temporarily prevents young immigrants from being deported. “This was probably the best birthday gift I could get, you know, just seeing her. It was very emotional,” she said. “It was too much to take in, very overwhelming.” (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
IMMIGRATION: Billy Inman kisses the forehead of his wife, Kathy, as he lifts her out of her wheelchair to help her into bed at their home Friday, May 27, 2016, in Woodstock, Ga. In 2000, a Mexican national in the country illegally crashed his vehicle into one driven by Billy who had stopped for a red light. The impact killed the Inman’s 16-year-old son, Dustin, and the family dog and left Kathy with serious injuries. Since then, the Inmans have become involved in seeking stricter enforcement of laws to combat illegal immigration. “I miss the hugs. I always got a hug from my son before going to bed,” said Billy. “Breaks my heart he’s been gone 16 years and nothing else has been done. His killer is still walking around. It’s not right.” (AP Photo/David Goldman)
IMMIGRATION: John Lazzari Jr., 47, walks along a path on the Naval Outlying Field Silverhill base next to his home in Daphne, Ala., on Thursday, June 23, 2016. Government officials are deciding whether to put an undocumented, unaccompanied children’s camp at the site. Lazzari says that he worries about the safety of his family. “I’m against the refugees coming next to my home because of the unknown, what if they are terrorists or violent youth? Everything I hear about the refugees is bad. I want my family safe.” Lazzari says. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Race in America
RACE: Carde Cornish, rides a skateboard as he takes his son, also named Carde, home past blighted buildings in Baltimore on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Cornish, a young man who has spent his entire life in and around the Baltimore neighborhood where Freddie Gray lived and died, is socially and politicly engaged with the city around him. He works for Taharka Brothers, an ice-cream company with a social mission. “Our race issues aren’t necessarily toward individuals who are white, but it is towards the system that keeps us all down, one, but keeps black people disproportionally down a lot more than anybody else,” says Cornish. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Economy and Income Inequality
ECONOMY/INCOME INEQUALITY: Duncan Wallace drives a golf cart from his house to his golf club as a group of landscape workers take a break in Vista, Calif., on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. Wallace, who owns a medical supplies company, said he’s been a conservative for 50 years, ever since he read Barry Goldwater’s book, “Conscience of a Conservative.” “I think we punish success, actually,” he says. “I know a lot of people who are quite successful, and they are paying an awful lot of money in taxes. They are paying for people who don”t have their oar in the water.” (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
ECONOMY/INCOME INEQUALITY: Hotel owner Elvin Lai inspects a room as he makes his rounds at his hotel in San Diego on Friday, June 10, 2016. A fourth-generation hotelier, Lai has worked his way through nearly every job at the small beach hotel. “Raising the minimum wage doesn’t necessarily raise their ability to live,” he said. “It is uplifting them through certain skills and increasing their ability to earn while keeping minimum wage at a low. What does a minimum wage increase do? It raises everything. As minimum wage is going up, everything goes up. I’ll have to raise my food prices on a week to week basis, as my vendors, and their vendors, increase their prices.” (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
ECONOMY/INCOME INEQUALITY: Mariah Griffin-Hernandez, 25, sits with her 1-year-old daughter, Xy-lena, as she waits for her husband, James, in the lobby of the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles on Thursday, May 5, 2016. Originally from Houston, they moved to California this year with their two daughters to try to find a better future for their family. They want to make enough money to rent a small apartment, but at the moment, they’re staying at a family shelter on Skid Row. “Being homeless is very depressing. I feel like I couldn’t take care of my family, but also being on Skid Row is very depressing, looking at all these people out here addicted to drugs,” said James. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
ECONOMY/INCOME INEQUALITY: Lesia Crigger, 47, left, of Woodlawn, Va., who is hoping to get fitted for dentures, lights a cigarette while waiting with her sister, Rhonda Gravley, 52, of Galax, Va., in a car overnight for the opening of the Remote Area Medical event at dawn Friday, April 29, 2016 in Smyth County, Va. Hundreds of others also waited overnight. Gravley, who is attending for the first time, is also hoping to go the dental clinic. Neither have dental insurance and cannot afford to pay for it on their own. “I want all of my teeth pulled,” says Gravley, “they’re all hurting me.” She ended up having several pulled by volunteer dentist Mark Copas. “I’ve done foreign volunteer missions before,” says Copas, “but never domestic. These cases are just as bad as what I’ve seen in third world countries.” RAM provides free medical care to people in isolated and poverty stricken communities who do not have health insurance, in several states across the U.S. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
ECONOMY: Uber driver Russ Schmidt, 74, picks up his wife’s prescription drugs from Smiths Pharmacy in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 2, 2016. Schmidt, who retired 10 years earlier, said he became an Uber driver after his wife’s fall 2015 hospitalization and uses the money to help pay for her medication. “I’m a fanatical fan of this country. I think it’s the best country in the world and always has been,” he says. “I think we’re in real trouble right now. I have worked, and I still continue at 75 to work my butt off to make a good life for my family. And now that it is almost being stolen from me.” (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
ECONOMY/INCOME INEQUALITY: Buttermilk Bakeshop owner Katie Rosenhouse carries a wholesale order to a customer at her bakery, Wednesday, May 11, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Rosenhouse employs 14 hourly workers both full and part time for two bakeshops in the Park Slope neighborhood. While she understands that the minimum wage needs to be raised, she feels $15 is too high for a small business owner and the raise would affect the price of her product and also cut the number of people she can employ. “Small bakeries can’t afford to pay people that much… That’s a lot of money when you’re selling cupcakes. That’s a lot of cupcakes,” she says. “It’s great to pay people well when you’re in business, but if you’re out of business no one is making anything.” (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
CLIMATE CHANGE: A bull leaps over an electronic fence as he is driven back into the pasture after escaping onto a road in Turner, Maine, on Sunday, May 29, 2016. Ralph Caldwell, 73, right, sold off his dairy business because of the high price of corn needed to feed his dairy cows. He blames the government for subsidizing ethanol and says corn that could be used to feed people is being used for fuel. “We think we are so rich and arrogant that we can burn the world’s food supply in our automobiles.” Caldwell has lived at the same farm his entire life. “I do believe in climate change but it isn’t our fault. The climate changes all the time. The world isn’t coming to an end over climate change.” (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
CLIMATE CHANGE: Lobsterman Richard Sawyer, Jr., waits for his sternman after a disappointing day of lobstering off Groton, Conn., on May 2, 2016. The 73-year-old, third-generation lobsterman is one of the few remaining working on Long Island Sound. He blames climate change and government regulations for the collapse of the lobster population. “Luckily I’m getting out of it, but as far as my kids and my grandkids, I recommend that they not even get into it or back into it, or stay with it. Whether they ever come back is really up to man. Either you’re going to behave yourself and recycle and do the right things instead of pollute,” says Sawyer. “The people of the earth are not taking care of Mother Earth. It’s pure and simple. It’s greed.” (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
CLIMATE CHANGE: In the evening twilight, Diane Cowan, a marine biologist who has been studying lobster behavior and ecology for 30 years, ties up her skiff on the shoreline of Friendship Long Island, Maine, on May 10, 2016. Her life on the island is often dictated by the changing tides – and now, she says, by climate change. Her research has produced data on post-larval and juvenile lobsters that is crucial to understanding the future abundance of lobsters in the state. “I am definitely bearing witness to climate change… For the first 18 years I could predict at least the seasons I had a strong seasonal cycle… And then all of a sudden that was gone because a rapid rise in sea level that change things overnight. And that was like a jolt to me. I should’ve known. I mean, I read about climate change, I knew the sea level was rising. But until I saw it, until it impacted me directly, I didn’t feel it the same way, I didn’t understand what it would do,” said Cowan. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
CLIMATE CHANGE: In this May 15, 2016 photo, Rev. Rick Edmund walks to a boat that will take him to a church service in the community of Tylerton on Smith Island, Md. As the pastor of the island’s three United Methodist churches, he preaches in each one every Sunday, making his circuit by golf cart and boat. Located less than four hours from Washington, and perched in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, Smith Island is so isolated that many of its residents still bear a unique accent that descended from its first European settlers 400 years ago. Its population, which has dwindled to a few hundred and is largely dependent on commercial fishing, is threatened by a combination of sea level rise and erosion. A sticker on his guitar case bears a quote by Native American Chief Seattle: “The Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth.” Edmund says the impact of climate change is going to be felt for centuries. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
CLIMATE CHANGE: Coal miner Scott Tiller eats a sandwich during his lunch break in a mine less than 40-inches high in Welch, W.Va. For over a century, life in Central Appalachia has been largely defined by the ups and downs of the coal industry. There is a growing sense in these mountains that for a variety of reasons – economic, environmental, political – coal mining will not rebound this time. The slump is largely the result of cheap natural gas, and older coal-fired power plants being idled to meet clean-air standards. According to the Labor Department, there were 56,700 jobs in coal mining in March, down from 84,600 in March 2009, shortly after President Barack Obama entered office. “I have four grandchildren who are going to have to have some kind of a future,” said Tiller. “I don’t want them being coal miners. It’s a hard, tough way to make it and I just don’t want that for them.” (AP Photo/David Goldman)
SOCIAL VALUES: Denise Wilkes, left, looks at baby Noah Burton sitting on a fellow worshiper’s lap during a church service in Birmingham, Ala., on Sunday, May 22, 2016. Wilkes, 46, an anti-abortion, Christian musician and mother, had two abortion procedures when she was young, and now says she has had a change of heart and regrets her past decisions. “I want people to see me as God sees me – a broken and lost vessel who made a lot of bad choices, including abortion, and was in need of a Savior. I have His forgiveness of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus,” she says. Wilkes now plays her guitar in front of Planned Parenthood in an effort to go into an area filled with death and release the sound of life through music and also to face her own past, she says. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
SOCIAL VALUES: Brooks Brunson, left, passes a bottle of formula to his husband, Gregg Pitts, as they prepare their son, Thomas Brunson-Pitts, 6-months old, for bed at their home in Washington on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. Originally from Texas and Ohio, they were married in the District of Columbia in November 2013. Brunson and Pitts always knew they wanted to have a family together, and were delighted when they were able to start the adoption process for their son shortly after beginning to look for a match in 2015. Although it’s an open adoption, the mother has chosen not to be involved in her child’s life and had no problem with a same sex couple adopting her son. “We’re an interracial same sex couple family,” says Brunson, “But our day-to-day life is picking up dry cleaning, getting to work on time, making sure Thomas has his bottle prepared – we’re the most boring people I know. But then when I take a step back I realize we are very unique. But I believe this is exactly where God wants me to be.” The District of Columbia legalized gay marriage in 2010. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
SOCIAL VALUES: Dr. Bhavik Kumar, 31, listens to a question from a patient considering abortion during her ultrasound at the Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, on Friday, June 3, 2016. Women considering abortion are required by the state to have a sonogram that they must be offered the chance to view, although they can refuse to look. There is then a required 24-hour waiting period after the initial consultation. Some must now travel long distances twice in order to complete the procedure. This patient, who was 6-weeks pregnant and has a previous child, took the sonogram photograph home with her and scheduled the abortion procedure for the next day. “We know the need is there,” says Kumar. “I feel morally and ethically obligated to do this work.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
SOCIAL VALUES: Richie Clendenen, lead pastor at Christian Fellowship Church, left, and his wife Jenny, say evening prayers with their son, Trey, 11, as he goes to bed at their home in Benton, Ky., Sunday April 10, 2016. “I worry about the country he’s going to inherit. I feel our rights are slowly being taken away from us,” said Richie Clendenen. “I pray if Christianity could lose all rights in his future, I question what that’s going to mean for him?” Even in this deeply religious swath of western Kentucky – a state where about half the residents are evangelical – conservative Christians feel under siege. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Muslims in America
MUSLIMS IN AMERICA: Karen Fagan, right, and husband, Ian, hold hands with Karen’s two daughters, Kate and Elizabeth Bowman as they pray to celebrate Elizabeth’s birthday in Upland, Calif., on Saturday, May 7, 2016. Fagan’s ex-husband, Harry Bowman, the father of her two daughters, was killed in the previous year’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif. But the tragic event didn’t change her beliefs, and she began participating in interfaith community events. Fagan still thinks that the county should accept Muslim refugees. “America is full of lots of different people from lots of different places,” said Fagan. “It saddens me that America is no longer the place where people can come to escape oppression… It’s our obligation as Americans and Christians.” (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
MUSLIMS IN AMERICA: Hannah Shraim, center left, poses with Ashley Riddle, center right, as their group for the Northwest High School senior prom prepares for a “fun” photograph for their parents in Germantown, Md., on Friday, May 13, 2016. Shraim and Riddle both went to prom solo while others in the group brought dates. Senior class president and an observant Muslim, Shraim prays five times a day and hopes to become an advocate for Muslims in the United States. Since 10th grade she has worn the Islamic headscarf as part of her personal faith. It was a decision her parents were concerned about, even discouraging due to their fears of how their daughter might be treated by strangers. “If Trump becomes the president then not just Muslims but a lot of people will live in fear of the future for themselves and their children, given the scapegoating technique of pushing out minorities rather than focusing on how we can benefit everyone.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
GUN RIGHTS: Dorothy Johnson-Speight visits the grave of her son, Khaaliq Jabbar Johnson, in Philadelphia on Monday, May 9, 2016. Johnson was killed in 2001 – shot seven times over a parking space dispute. “We’re losing our loved ones at an alarming rate. I don’t think that folks that are fighting and talking about the second amendment understand us. We don’t want to take the rights of responsible gun owners away from those people. We just don’t want our loved ones to be murdered on the streets of Philadelphia and cities across the country because they have the opportunity to get guns so easily,” she says. “People with long criminal history records like the person who killed my son, like people with mental health challenges, they should’t have guns.” Johnson-Speight is the director of Mothers In Charge, a group that “advocates for families affected by violence and provides counseling and grief support services for families when a loved one has been murdered.” (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
GUN RIGHTS: Gun-rights advocate, restaurant owner and mother of four sons Lauren Boebert wears her usual gun on her hip as she brushes the hair of Roman, 3, as the family gets ready to leave home for church in Rifle, Colo., on May 1, 2016. “When we first opened Shooters Grill, we were one month in, and I was there alone a lot, and there was actually a man who was beat to death in the alley. He lost his life that night, and it kinda shook me up. I was there alone a lot and I thought, ‘what am I gonna do, what am I gonna do if something happens, what if somebody comes in here, my husband isn’t here to protect me, I’m all alone,’ and really, that’s what got me to open-carry.” (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
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Text from the AP news story, DIVIDED AMERICA: Images of American’s Dealing With the Issues .
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