By Rohan Kumar
The Immigrant Heritage Month initiative was set up by Welcome.us, a pro-immigration advocacy group, during the month of June to celebrate and show solidarity with an extensive cross-section of the US population.
The events held to celebrate the immigrant population of Boston are as diverse as the people themselves.
One of the events that headlined Heritage Month in Boston was the Faces of Refugees exhibit in City Hall. The exhibit profiles 20 Syrian refugees who fled their homeland and have resettled in Europe and North America. Boston is the first stop for the exhibit, before it travels across the country for the next year.
The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Advancement, headed by Alejandra St. Guillen, was the organizer behind the Boston events.
The goal of the program, according to St. Guillen, is to “recognize the contributions of immigrants and the children of immigrants. We want to show how immigrants have shaped the United States into what it is currently.”
“A further goal is to diffuse the American and non-American idea by spreading the idea that we are all Americans and on a certain level, immigrants,” added St. Guillen.
The events happening in Boston during June are only a part of the nationwide program. Immigrant Heritage Month was organized by Welcome.us, the non-political wing of Forward.us, a non-profit political action group. The intent is to mobilize the tech community to promote policies that keep the US competitive in a global economy, by “fixing our broken immigration system,” according to the group’s website.
Additionally, this year marks the start of a broader year-long Welcome.us program called ‘I Stand With Immigrants’. According to the Welcome.us website, the program, “provides new avenues for individuals, companies, organizations, and public leaders – to take action in support of their immigrant employees, colleagues, constituents, neighbors and friends.”
Welcome.us has similar goals for Heritage Month, saying: “Immigrant Heritage Month gives people across the United States an opportunity to explore their own heritage and celebrate the shared diversity that forms the unique story of America.” Additionally, the organization aims to “celebrate the monumental contributions that immigrants have made.”
The impetus for creating the Heritage Month, according to Leezia Dhalla, who is the spokeswoman for Welcome.us, was to “recognize that, on some level, we are all immigrants and to reflect on our unique heritage.”
When asked about the success of Immigrant Heritage Month, St. Guillen said, “We did well pushing our events through social media and our event last week [Syrian refugee exhibit] was a great success.”
“We have seen an incredible response to this initiative. I have seen hundreds of proclamations from congressmen and governors declaring June to be Immigrant Heritage Month,” added Dhalla.
“The more that people push the conversation and highlight immigrant contributions is a positive and I think we helped make that happen.”