1999 Photo Contest, Daily Life, 1st prize

Chien-Chi Chang

Magnum Photos for Time

01 January, 1998

The CIA estimates that 100,000 illegal Chinese immigrants come to the US each year. Many have had to pay up to $48,000 each to gangsters to secure their passage to America. They live Spartan, insular lives with other men from their home village, in tenements like this one in the Bowery.

More than 100 men live crowded in cubicles in the fourth-floor loft. Summer temperatures of 38ºC drive men to sleep on the fire escape. Most work in illegal sweatshops. The men cannot assimilate, because they speak no English, and they cannot go home because they haven't repaid their debts. TV could be a window on America, but most residents watch Chinese videos.

About the photographer

Chien-Chi Chang

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