August 27, 2017. Rescue workers and civilians waited for emergency crews in the Meyerland area of Houston. Photo: Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times.

American Refugees: On that Harvey Portrait by Alyssa Schukar

Harvey has changed the United States. Including what and who a refugee is.

by Michael Shaw

At this still early point, it feels like Alyssa Schukar’s photo might become one of the most essential images of the Harvey disaster. It was included in Harvey In Pictures, a New York Times gallery featuring multiple photographers.

When we tweeted it, we wrote:

Harvey is going to change America. Including what and who is a refugee.

This country has remained detached from the decade’s historic refugee crisis. That great migration has inextricably bound the Middle East, Africa and Europe, and reshaped the culture and politics of so many European countries and the Euro Zone. The reality of the refugee has been held even further at bay in America by the xenophobia governing Trump’s immigration policy, his Muslim Ban and his stepped up deportation efforts.

Even still, in one incredibly lashing from the heavens, we now face our own refugee crisis. A completely internal one. (The catastrophe in Texas is even more fateful when you stop to consider how many people afflicted now were forced to migrate to Houston after Katrina.)

As the truck in Schukar’s photo more perceptually becomes a ship, here (echoing all those photos we’ve seen from the Mediterranean) are our own boat people.

A law enforcement officer asks people at the George R. Brown to make space to allow EMT to tend to a medical emergency, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Houston. Photo: Marie D. De Jesus, Houston Chronicle.

Meanwhile, this is was a little scary. The photo ran in a Houston Chronicle Harvey slideshow yesterday. At first glance, it appears that an ICE officer is helping manage the situation at the George R. Brown Center in Houston, which has been converted into an enormous shelter. Before I realized I was only seeing one side of a POLICE windbreaker, I was praying they weren’t asking flood survivors for their papers.

Reading The Pictures is the only site dedicated to the daily review of news and documentary photography. Sign up for the Reading The Pictures Week in Re-View email. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.