National Dialogues on Immigration

Program Models

Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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At the Immigration Station barracks, where thousands of Pacific Coast immigrants were detained, dialogue participants will explore how and if contemporary thinking on migration and immigration has changed since 1910. Participants will use the poetry carved into the walls of the Station by detainees, to discuss how we come to create personal and political borders.

Angel Island will also host intergenerational dialogues between middle school-aged children and community elders to share their immigration stories and thoughts on the immigration experience. These dialogues will be filmed and the resulting films will premiere at Angel Island Immigration Station and be posted online.


Arab American National Museum

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The Arab American National Museum seeks to highlight the Arab-American immigration experience within the context of the larger American story through a series of dialogues designed for high school and college students. These dialogues will explore the diverse immigrant and ethnic communities in the Metro Detroit area and incorporate their histories and present-day experiences. The program incorporates the museum’s permanent exhibit, Coming to America, which traces the immigration experience of Arab-Americans from the 1800s up through present day, in order to provide historical context. Dialogues will further explore the treatment of various immigrant and ethnic groups over time, changes in immigration laws, and the social climate developments for Arab-Americans and other groups regionally and nationally.


Arizona State Museum

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Arizona State Museum’s dialogue program utilizes an exhibition of photographs taken by photographer Alejandra Platt-Torres (2009-2013) over a period of four years. Their subject: immigrants and the U.S.-Mexico border. Using the photographs, participants will engage in dialogue about the stereotyping of immigrants in an effort to increase participant empathy and inspire civic engagement.


Atlanta History Center

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In November 2014, the Atlanta History Center (AHC) will host the traveling exhibition, American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music. This exhibition is created by the Experience Music Project and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

American Sabor presents the musical contributions of U.S. Latinos from the 1940s to the present, exploring the social history and individual creativity that produced stars like Tito Puente, Ritchie Valens, Celia Cruz, Carlos Santana and Selena. Latino musicians have had a profound influence on traditional genres of music in the United States, including jazz, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and hip-hop. At the same time, their experiences living in the United States triggered the creation of new musical traditions, such as mambo and salsa. American Sabor explores the influence of Latino musicians in post-World War II America through the lens of five major centers of Latino music production: New York, San Antonio, San Francisco, Miami and Los Angeles.

Middle and high school students (as well as other small groups) will be taken on forty-five minute guided tours of American Sabor. Following their tour, guests will participate in a facilitated dialogue that explores Latino immigration and assimilation through the lens of popular culture. The goal of the facilitated dialogue is for participants to explore their thoughts and feelings surrounding current immigration policy in the United States, and in the Southeast specifically.


Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum

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The Texas Identity Program at The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum includes a guided tour of the Museum’s core exhibit asking visitors to consider and discuss their own constructions of Texan identity as it relates to migration and immigration. Participants will use content learned throughout the exhibit to explore questions that connect Texas history with local immigration topics, such as:

How has Texas identity been shaped by those who did and did not have a voice?

What do you think the future of Texas identity will be as new groups of people obtain more visibility and voice?

How have changing Texas demographics and migratory patterns altered your ideas of a Texas identity?

How do you define migration, and do you see migration today as shifting Texas’ identity?

The museum will offer twenty public programs addressing these larger questions on immigration and Texas identity. Additionally, in conjunction with Austin’s celebration of World Refugee Day, the museum will work with refugee service organizations to develop ESL curricula that will explore ideas of identity and acculturation guided by a central question: How can everyone’s unique cultural diversity add to and complicate the idea of what it means to be a Texan?


Chicago Cultural Alliance

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In Chicago Cultural Alliance’s (CCA) Talking About… series, participants are invited to explore the connections between heritage and contemporary life through a dialogue rooted in the diverse cultural perspectives of CCA members. The 2014 Talking About… series will explore how the journey of immigration and settlement in Chicago influences concepts of American identity and how identity is shaped by laws defining who can become an American.

In a series of four to six dialogues grounded in the immigration experiences of at least eight distinct ethnic communities, participants will explore how different paths to immigration lead to different processes of “becoming American,” both legally and conceptually. Each dialogue will be rooted in a particular immigration experience (adoption, refugee, economic opportunity, and marriage/family unification) and the complexities around these pathways. For example, within the discussion of immigration and marriage, we will examine the experience of same-sex couples in the American immigration system. Participants will be asked to examine their own perspectives of what it means to be American and to discuss how their stories connect to community narratives.


Cultural Alliance of the South

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Throughout 2014, student leaders from colleges and universities across Louisiana and Mississippi will engage in dialogues focused on immigration issues in America.

Using a series of videos, documentaries and exercises as a common experience, the Cultural Alliance of the South will seek to: promote a better understanding of issues around immigration, stimulate active discussion on constructive strategies to address these issues, and encourage the millennial generation to commit to taking appropriate and needed actions.


Jane Addams Hull-House Museum

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Using tours of the exhibits in the historic Jane Addams home as a starting point, members of the general public and college students will participate in dialogue connecting immigration to other social issues including labor rights, women’s rights, and questions of democracy and social change. The dialogue program will provide participants an opportunity to hear from each other, reflect on the tour, consider or define their own views on immigration or social change, and, like the reformers at the Hull-House Settlement, identify how they can respond to needs they see in their communities.


Levine Museum of the New South

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In the spring of 2014, under the umbrella of Destination Freedom, Levine will host, Out of the Shadows: Undocumented and Unafraid, an exhibit exploring the experiences of undocumented immigrants in the American South and the rest of the United States. In alignment with these programs and exhibitions, the museum will cultivate dialogues in Charlotte and the surrounding community that will further explore the complexity of immigration and the changing demographic in the region.

The southeastern U.S is now experiencing the nation’s highest percentage growth in Latino newcomers, and scholars suggest that this demographic and cultural shift may be the “biggest story” in Southern history since the Civil Rights movement. To address these tremendous demographic changes, Levine will initiate exhibition-based dialogues in 2014 that recognize multiple perspectives and different backgrounds of local residents to explain the past, evaluate the present, and project the future.


Lowell National Historic Park

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What does it mean to be an American? The city of Lowell, like our nation, is fundamentally shaped by immigration and the experience of negotiating immigrant identities in American society. A century ago, thousands of families from around the world settled in Lowell, navigating work in the city’s textile mills, life in its culturally diverse neighborhoods, a charged political climate surrounding immigration, and efforts to “Americanize” the newcomers. Today, Lowell remains a city deeply characterized by immigrant experiences, a community wrestling with questions of who has access to “Americanness” in a continued political landscape.  On a dialogue-driven walking tour of Lowell, Lowell National Historical Park invites visitors into dialogue on how our communities approach integrating new Americans, and how we each fit into the larger landscape of creating American identity.


Museo Urbano/University of Texas El Paso

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The Museo Urbano Border Immigration Dialogues provide students and other community members an opportunity to reflect on issues of immigration in a place that historically has been, and is still, shaped by immigration. Our program grounds the dialogues in a specific place and space: the U.S.-Mexican border.

For Museo Urbano, the entire 2,000-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico is a Site of Conscience. The border is a place where communities and individuals experience social, political and economic struggles on a daily basis. It is also a place that reflects a long history of conquest, labor exploitation, denial of basic human rights and other tragedies. It is a place where generations have struggled for human rights. It is a unique site of memory, inspiration, vision, and creativity.


Museum of International Folk Art

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Using folk art as a starting point for dialogue, MOIFA’s Imagining Home dialogue program provides visitors and targeted community groups the opportunity to engage with each other around the twin humanities concepts of “home” and “belonging” through the words and works of folk artists from around the world on all sides of the migration continuum: those who have left their homes to begin anew in a new land, those who are left behind, and those who receive the newcomers in their midst.

Through traditional and relatable forms of storytelling (including both visual and performing folk arts) participants will address issues that can be difficult to directly confront, either because of stigma, taboo, language barriers, stereotypes, or conflict. The Imagining Home program provides participants with opportunities to engage directly with works of master-level traditional artists who have dared to speak out through their arts, to share their own stories and personal experiences evoked by the art, to enrich their understanding of different points of view surrounding questions of home and belonging for immigrants, and to identify how they can respond to needs they see in their communities.


Museum of Tolerance

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The Museum of Tolerance program is based around the museum’s interactive Finding Our Families Finding Ourselves exhibit, which was originally created in 2003. Finding Our Families Finding Ourselves celebrates the shared experiences common to being part of an American family, and encourages visitors to seek out their own histories, mentors and heroes.

The program enables 4th and 5th grade students to apply critical thinking skills, and introduces children to a broader way of thinking about immigration in the past and present. The two-hour program includes anonymous voting mechanisms, facilitated dialogue, personal stories, and arts-based learning to engage students in examining their assumptions and foster empathy for diverse experiences. Students learn the meaning of immigration and related terms, the varied immigration history of California, and examine common myths and stereotypes about immigrants. Ultimately, the program promotes wider thinking on what it means to be an American.


National Hispanic Cultural Center

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(Ex)Change explores the immigrant experience within New Mexico and, more broadly, the over 3000-year Hispano experience. The program builds on Mundos de Mestizaje, a 4000 square foot mural at the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC), which presents the stories of powerful agents of history as well as the stories of everyday men, women, and children who have shaped Hispanic identity and cultural exchange. (Mundos is Spanish for “worlds;” Mestizaje refers to the hybrid nature of cultural identity).

(Ex)change uses Mundos de Mestizaje to actively involve teen and adult community members in telling their own stories on their own terms. The program gives an opportunity for facilitated dialogue on the topics of immigration, “cultural layering,” and history.


New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors

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Routes and Roots, the NMHM dialogue program, is designed for 9th through 12th grade students and includes a guided tour of Telling New Mexico, the Museum’s core exhibition on New Mexico history. This tour will highlight the making of New Mexico through interconnected histories of movement and settlement with an eye on how immigration continues to transform society and shape our shared experiences as Americans. Students will explore questions such as: “What is a homeland?” “Who is a New Mexican?” “Why do people create maps and mark territories?” “Who draws these boundaries and who or what is left outside of them?” “Who belongs and who does not?”  and “Who decides?”


Pauli Murray Project

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Program Model coming soon.


Statue of Liberty National Monument & Ellis Island Immigration Museum

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The Ellis Island Immigration Museum’s dialogue program, Speaking of Immigration, allows participants to explore the immigration experience of a century ago and invites them to consider what similarities and differences exist in immigration today. Conducted in cooperation with New Jersey City University, the program takes college students on a series of interactive tours of Ellis Island that focus on different aspects of immigration during the island’s heyday, including: the inspection of new arrivals, the life immigrants would find at work and at home in the United States, and the efforts of immigrants to achieve assimilation and citizenship. Each tour’s historical narrative provides a starting point for facilitated dialogue in which participants thoughtfully consider their own experiences with immigration and their views about current policy issues. Students from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to formulate their own ideas, listen respectfully to different viewpoints, challenge prejudices, and consider ways to take civic action in their communities.


The Lower East Side Tenement Museum

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The Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s Tenement Talks are thought‐provoking events and conversations about—and with—New York City’s newcomers, notables, politicians and scholars. The Tenement Talks series connects past and present, illuminating contemporary ideas while exploring the City’s vibrant history. Held at the Museum’s Visitor Center at 103 Orchard Street, Tenement Talks are open to the public and also free.

In 2014, Tenement Talks will be offering programs on food, architecture and politics, all with an eye toward exploring contemporary immigration, and how it shapes our city and nation. A particular goal of Tenement Talks is to stimulate conversation and debate by hosting panelists with varying viewpoints, and by carving out space for a public square, inviting our visitors to actively take part in discussion.


The National Center for Civil and Human Rights

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The National Center for Civil and Human Rights will be convene a group of local, diverse community members who will meet semi-weekly for two months beginning in September 2014.  Group members will be coming to the table with varying levels of knowledge and perspectives on past and present immigration issues. The cohort will participate in four programs that highlight specific media, including: lecture, film, music, and performance. After each experience, the group will engage in dialogue (led by a facilitator with guided questions), synthesizing what they learned during the experience and tying that to their own experiences and feelings. At the end of each session, participants will leave with one “action item” to complete before the next meeting. Action items will be small, simple assignments intended to allow participants to apply their knowledge to everyday life. At the conclusion of the series, the group will work together to develop a joint set of goals and measurable outcomes to further bring the lessons learned from these dialogues to the broader community.

Because the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is central to The Center’s mission,its articles and overarching themes will also be woven throughout the program and there will be basic training on human rights principles for all participants. The dialogues will seek to contextualize issues around immigration in a broader discourse of human rights and social justice, focusing on the intersection of race and ethnicity and immigration status.


Wing Luke Asian Museum

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In early 2015, The Wing will open a small exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, uncovering its legacy and exploring the ongoing issues carried on in its wake.

The Asian-Pacific American community has grown dramatically in size and diversity since this landmark Act, which swept away years of discriminatory exclusion laws. In Washington State, the Asian-Pacific population swelled from 53,400 in 1970 to 323,000 in 1995, a six-fold increase in 25 years. Now, the population is more than 530,000, and Asians are the fastest-growing ethnic group in Washington State.

Rooted in The Wing’s community-based exhibition model, community members will gather in a series of workshops throughout 2014 to determine the main messages, themes, stories and design of the exhibition. Participants will explore questions such as: “How did the Immigration Act of 1965 change the lives of individuals, families, communities and the face of America?” “What values did it reflect?” “Which values have endured, and which have not carried on?” “What legacy did the Immigration Act of 1965 leave behind, and how should we move forward in the next 50 years?” The Museum plans to offer six dialogue sessions with core participants to lay the foundation for the exhibition, which will then engage the broader community and the general public in issues of immigration then and now.