We Are Witnesses

Journalism, and Immigration

A powerful group of testimonials from the Marshall Project draw us closer to what’s often missing in our conversation around immigration: our shared humanity.

The United States has “always been a nation of contradictions,” writes Neil Barsky, founder of the nonprofit criminal justice news organization the Marshall Project, in introducing the organization’s powerful new video essay series “We Are Witnesses: Becoming an American.” And perhaps nowhere have those contradictions been more starkly evident than in America’s bifurcated attitude toward immigration: We are at once a country composed almost entirely of immigrants and their descendants—proud to live in the great melting pot—and yet our national policies have sought to close the gates behind us. As a country, we are a symbol of hope and prosperity for countless people around the world, and simultaneously capable of shocking cruelty to those whose greatest wish is to be let in.

As the political fight over immigration grows more and more intractable, “Witnesses” offers a new lens through which to view the issue: Neither partisan nor ideological, it is profoundly human, presenting testimonials from 12 people telling their own stories on coming to America and offering perspective on the current immigration system: There‘s the Yemeni-born grocer-turned-activist, the Colombian survivor of domestic abuse, the Honduran teenager who swam across the Rio Grande. And there‘s the border patrol agent-turned-ICE officer, the ex-immigration judge, the immigration lawyer. As Jose Antonio Vargas, author of Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, writes of the subjects in the series, “They tell truths that challenge and illuminate our understanding of how we got to where we are.” Taken together, these stories paint a picture of immigration unlike the one we are accustomed to seeing on the nightly news. Instead, it’s one of resilience, determination, and tremendous generosity.

Watch “We Are Witnesses: Becoming an American” here.