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“Stories of Belonging” Immigration Project Featured in NYC’s Photoville Festival

Cornell ILR’s Worker Institute (WI) will feature a community-engaged research project at the 13th Annual Photoville Festival at Brooklyn Bridge Park from June 1-16, 2024.

Stories of Belonging: Central American TPS Workers & the Defiant Struggle to Stay Home in the U.S. explores the historical struggle of Temporary Protective Status (TPS) migrant workers for union organizing and American citizenship.

Featuring field interviews, timelines, photography and video, the project explores the idea of home and whether, after decades of working and contributing to America’s economy, these workers feel like they belong in America.

TPS is an immigration status that gives workers from certain countries a legal work permit. TPS removes the immediate threat of deportation; however, it only gives workers a right to work legally for 6-18 months based solely on foreign policy considerations. The status does not provide a path to permanent residency or citizenship.

Roughly 325,000 Central American TPS workers have built their lives in the U.S., owning homes and businesses, paying taxes, engaging in civic organizations, and advocating for their children’s future. TPS workers families have mixed immigration family households, meaning their kids might be American citizens, DACA holders and/or undocumented children.

As American workplaces become more diverse, discussions of citizenship and belonging become critical research areas. Immigrants work side by side with American workers while lacking access to permanent residence and a path to acquiring citizenship rights.

Patricia Campos-Medina and Sol Aramendi will present the study's initial findings at a free community lecture at the Brooklyn Bridge Park exhibit on Saturday, June 8, at noon. 

The exhibit will travel to Cornell ILR’s Ithaca campus from Sep. 16-20, 2024, and New Jersey City University’s Jersey City campus from Oct. 7-11, 2024.

The project was funded by the Cornell Migrations Global Challenge and the Cornell Vice Provost for International Affairs to engage communities via research and learning spaces that explore the intersections of racism, dispossession and migration. The community partner for this project was the National TPS Alliance, whose local leaders are TPS holders and lead a national campaign to Save TPS.

The research team was led by Dr. Patricia Campos-Medina, Prof. Aileen DeVault, artist Sol Aramendi and photojournalist Francely Flores. Additional field research team members include WI Extension Associate Natalia Navas, Graduate Research Assistant Julia Garcia Guell and WI Research Fellows Elle Michel and Carly Ann Powers.