June Is Immigrant Heritage Month

by Joseph McKeown

Welcome.us, a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating immigrant diversity in the United States, is celebrating June as Immigrant Heritage Month "to encourage every American to tell the story of how they first felt welcomed to the American experience." To that end, the organization is bringing together people and organizations including politicians and celebrities to tell "the stories of individuals that, together, comprise a uniquely American narrative."

With ordinary people from all over the US as well as celebrities, Welcome.us and their YouTube channel feature Americans sharing their immigrant heritage, including Dominican-American actress and Devious Maids' star Dania Ramirez in "An American Alien,” which profiles her Dominican family in New York City and asks the question, "Did you achieve your American dream?" In "Z for Zendaya," Disney superstar Zendaya Coleman discusses her German and African background. Welcome.us also invites people to share on social media photos of their family heirlooms, recipes, traditions, or family photos that celebrate and honor their immigrant heritage.

In his most recent weekly address, President Obama discussed Immigrant Heritage Month:

I think of growing up in Hawaii, a place enriched by people of different backgrounds – native Hawaiian, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and just about everything else.  Growing up in that vibrant mix helped shape who I am today.  And while my father was not an immigrant himself, my own life journey as an African-American – and the heritage shared by Michelle and our daughters, some of whose ancestors came here in chains – has made our family who we are.

President Obama used the address to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform and also encouraged viewers to share their own immigration stories at The New Americans Project, part of the White House Task Force on New Americans, a government-wide effort he established last year that is tasked with "better integrating immigrants and refugees into American communities in three key areas: civically, economically, and linguistically."

Many cities and venues around the country are celebrating the month with related events, including in Pittsburgh where the mayor hosted a naturalization ceremony at the City Council Chambers, in San Fransisco with an exhibit of international artists titled "The Art of Immigration," and in Boston with a Moth storytelling event titled "Roots." We've shared some of our immigration stories. What's yours?