We need to tell modern immigrants’ stories

The museum at Ellis Island says little about nonwhite immigrant communities.

by Keelia Moeller

Immigration politics have lit up televisions and filled newsfeeds a great deal in recent months — even more so with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spewing his extremist standpoints against Latin American immigrants. 
However, rather than only hearing about the political side to immigration, we ought to enlighten ourselves to a more personal side of it. 
Instead of using personal stories of immigration as a political weapon, we should use them to teach each other about whom we have living in our country and where these people come from. 
Ellis Island, for example, is a museum with more than 3 million annual visitors. It features the stories of immigrants who came to this country years ago. This is a place that people know, appreciate and respect.
But the problem is that these are mostly stories told by white immigrants — and that’s a cultural factor that just doesn’t match the statistics of immigrants today.
The fact is that we cannot afford to continue telling the stories of immigration from only a white point of view. That misrepresents modern immigration and leaves us blind.
Our country’s level of diversity is growing. In fact, Mexicans make up about half of the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States today. Undocumented immigrants are also coming from El Salvador, Guatemala, South Korea and China, to name just a few other countries. Minnesota is also leading the nation in the number of Somali immigrants who call our state home.
Lucky for us, there are people who realize just how important this modern diversity is. Green Card Voices is an organization that emerged two years ago in the heart of Minneapolis. It aims to listen to and digitize the stories of immigrants living in the U.S. 
GCV’s director, Tea Rozman-Clark, has dubbed the group a new Ellis Island. In just two years, GCV has recorded more than 130 stories by immigrants from 70 different countries. 
If you think about the popularity and cultural relevance of Ellis Island, you can see how important stories of immigration can be. People respond to them, and they want to hear more. 
But if we apply this method of thinking to GCV and its aims, it leaves me asking why more organizations like this don’t exist. 
It’s wonderful to have GCV’s home base right in Minneapolis. However, I believe that if more locations were established throughout our state and others, it could lead more people to realize that immigration is a story of human perseverance — not a political stab at the U.S.
GCV is about reporting the stories of immigrants in a way that remains true to each storyteller. It doesn’t believe in altering stories in a way that makes them more relatable to whites.
I think the U.S. would benefit from having multiple groups like Green Card Voices. When it comes to immigration, we need enlightenment, not hatred.