1 min readJun 21, 2018


Quotes from A Janitor Preserves the Seized Belongings of Migrants:

Tom Kiefer was a Customs and Border Protection janitor for almost four years before he took a good look inside the trash.

He hadn’t spent much time thinking about these policies, and he hadn’t realized how broadly they were applied, or just how many of the confiscated items — including cell phones and wallets, many still containing I.D.s, prepaid debit cards, and cash — were ending up in the trash, never to be returned.

But Kiefer sees his Project as a counterweight to C.B.P.’s dehumanizing practices, which yank everyday objects from the contexts that imbued them with meaning.

I’m presenting these deeply personal objects in a way that is reverential and respectful.

One day in Ajo, he ran into a secretary from his old job: the C.B.P. agents, she told him, were “furious” that he’d spent his on-the-clock time “stealing” government property for a private project.

He thought about the name on the contraceptive pills. He was sure these nice people at the border would be taking Trump’s anti-immigrant invective as license for new cruelties.

Kiefer, for his part, has thrown away none of the possessions he collected. Maybe, he says, they could someday be housed in some sort of Arizonan Museum of Migration. Barring that, he plans to keep them.