Immigrant Dreams and Realities in Somerville

On June 14, 2014, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

immigrant_dreams_1_webBy Sanjeev Selvarajah

How can anyone remain political about a hot button issue when seeing an investment coming from the disenfranchised voice of the population being examined?

Are hard-working young 8th-grade adolescents without a voice: can you tell these youngsters “No, sorry—you’re just a statistic?” Laura Hoguet, Social Studies teacher of Healey School’s 8th grade class, wants her students to open the minds of adults: the seniors, the established, and the oh, so very political hierarchy of their neighbors, from all walks of life, across borders of minds and geography.

Come check out Somerville Museum’s episodic series Project Local. This portion dissects the Immigrant Dreams and Realities in Somerville, open until Saturday June 28. See for yourself what Somerville’s next generation has in store.

Two of the greatest humanist traits of the United States of America are one, the principle of free-speech (everybody is entitled to their opinion), to two, this great nation is historically a hub for immigration. “In class, students are able to share their heritage and whether students are recent immigrants or their families have been here for hundreds of years, we find a common ground in having ancestors who immigrated at some point,” says Ms. Hoguet.

immigrant_dreams_4_webA challenge for any teacher is to be both profound and specific about everything from examples to general scholarship, such as research and the often maligned blessing of creativity. There is room for interpretation as well, and Laura Hoguet instructed her class to discover the virtues of both artistic expression, as well as art criticism.

“The Healey School is a project based learning and arts integration school, so building a museum exhibit was the perfect project for our immigration unit. I contacted the Somerville Museum to help brainstorm some ideas and they graciously gave us exhibit space and helped facilitate building the exhibit,” says Laura.

Another great resource for these students of Somerville is Michael O’Connell of the Somerville Museum. Mr. O’Connell was kind enough to spare some time to elaborate on his perspective of young Somerville academia: “The most important thing for me to remember as the representative of the Somerville Museum is to give the young students the space to find the answers for themselves, in order to maintain the museum as a learning environment rather than as a dispenser of knowledge about Somerville history. The students choose the theme, do the research, design the exhibit and install the display together with me in the museum. Their teacher and I can coach, while making it clear that the students own the research and own the exhibit. The experience becomes important both as a way of teaching local history, but also as a training tool in how to collaborate and work towards a common goal as a group process. That’s a lesson in citizenship. And how to take responsibility. That’s a lesson in personal development.”

Laura Hoguet was quick to point out that arriving immigrants weren’t automatically given a wreath of laurel upon entering the States—a struggle was afoot—hardship was bound to test human dignity. “One of my goals of the project was to get the students learning of the real-world challenges of immigrating to America and then raising questions about how they can help ameliorate the situation.”

What changes would this next generation go through that might alter their perspective? What relationship could be forged between the locals and the arriving? Laura Hoguet shed some light, “They are an incredibly hopeful and optimistic group of students who embrace each other for who they are, which is rare for 8th grade students. Through this project, they learned of many immigrants’ struggles with moving to Somerville.”

Mr. O’Connell swelled with pride and satisfaction of working with both immigrant_dreams_3_webLaura and her students: “One significant impact of the Somerville Museum is its unique ability as a platform for community interests to connect the disparate elements within Somerville. The opening reception for the Project LOCAL: Immigrant Dreams and Realities in Somerville provided another great example of that.” During the opening reception early last week nearly 200 members of the public banded together to share a small fraction of their time and a large dose of their spirit.

For more information, such as hours, and a description of this exhibit go to


24 Responses to “Immigrant Dreams and Realities in Somerville”

  1. one more time says:

    again, the issue is completely misunderstood and misrepresented. People are not against immigration or immigrants. People are against the wholesale disregard for the system in place. People are against illegal immigration. Everyone says the system is broken. So fix it, but meanwhile follow the laws. Everyone who arrives illegally steps on the fingers and toes of people who are following the procedure and doing things legally. Why are you more important than them? I hate to see educators prolonging this giant misunderstanding and helping students feel hurt and “disenfranchised” when they don’t even understand the basics of the discussion

  2. Immigration is not the (absolute) issue at hand, ILLEGAL Immigration is.

    Those who are either incapable or unwilling to realize the significant difference, are truly ignorant.

  3. Michael O'Connell says:

    Thanks to Sanjeev Selvarajah and the Somerville Times for bringing attention to the Somerville Museum as a place of discovery and exploring. The contradictions implicit in this exhibit, immigrant dreams versus realities, are a reflection of the contradictory impulses that we all share with regard to complex social issues such as immigration. Facing intense debate while working through these issues together, the students also learned tolerance and respect for one another. Hopefully, one take away for our students and audience is that developing the capacity to entertain conflicting responses to difficult questions and the ability to listen to opinions that we may disagree with can lead to progress. Far from prolonging misunderstanding or supporting disregard for the legal system, the museum’s Project LOCAL program is designed to help students, as well as our visitors, incorporate unfamiliar opinions and novel ideas into an ever evolving mind set as a means of mastering complexity and change, and, equally important, to gain self knowledge of outworn preconceptions –a reflection on the understanding that how we frame the debate from the outset will have a significant influence on the outcome.

  4. Whether the liberal-elitists, “progressives” or social-Marxists agree or not, the Indian Wars concluded in 1890 with the final, absolute victors being European-Americans, and therefore, European-Americans ARE the TRUE Native-Americans.

    Thus, since European-Americans are still (some how) the American Majority, and also the undisputed founders of our (once) mighty nation, they are to be treated and respected as such.

    However, always remember that all men & women are to be treated with dignity and respect, as well.

  5. Somerbreeze says:

    @ P.M. Mitza – “Might makes Right,” eh?

    Didn’t you appear in one of those episodes of Firesign Theater in the 1970s?

    If not–YOU SHOULD’VE!

  6. Lisa says:

    Animosity is growing because the thousands of illegal aliens that are allowed to enter this country are greeted with open arms and open purses. There is a legal system in place which should be followed. What kind of an example are we setting to everyone by allowing our laws to be blatantly broken. I don’t want to hear the company line ‘what difference does it make’.

  7. irony says:

    I love the use of terms like “disenfranchised” and all the talk of opening minds and reaching out to people. Then you hold it in a place that’s impossibly inaccessible for anyone with the slightest disability. So you’re all about your struggles and just don’t care about anyone elses?
    There are so many choices of accessible places, but I’m guessing it was never even a thought. Thanks!

  8. sally says:

    This issue continues to be treated as though we, those who do not break the law, are somehow in the wrong. I will never understand how elected officials, those who are sworn to uphold the law, can so blatantly ignore it being broken. Others who follow the process pay thousands of dollars to get here legally, and then are stomped on by the state and federal administration. To allow this sort of ‘discussion’ to take place in one of our schools is highly offensive to me. I do not wish my tax dollars to be spent to convince children that they are being discriminated against or are somehow disenfranchised. This is also more than about our immigration laws. It is about jobs, terrorism, and affirmative action. Not only are these people breaking our laws, but once they begin applying for college, jobs, scholarships, housing, etc., they receive affirmative action status. Now, there is a system that is broken. As the poster above stated so well, why not hold a discussion concerning the disenfranchisement of disabled citizens, elderly citizens, military citizens, unemployed citizens, or addicted citizens?

  9. don't you think? says:

    “It’s not immigration, it’s ILLEGAL immigration I have a problem with.”
    “My parents came here the right way, why can’t they?”
    “Why can’t they get in line like everyone else?”
    These are the comments of people who have absolutely no idea how the immigration system in America works. You may know there are the concepts of legal and illegal, but that is where it ends. If you had any knowledge, you would know immigration in America has always been based on race. Prior to 1965, we worked on a quota system that disproportionately favored Europeans and “illegal” was literally defined by how light or dark your skin was. So your ancestors actually had it EASIER than the people coming here now. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was supposed to fix this, but instead created layers of bureaucracy that make it more difficult for millions of people to come here legally. Now it takes years and thousands of dollars to come here legally, which is not in the cards for someone trying to stop their family from starving.
    People talk of these liberal dreamers with unrealistic expectations, but what of your expectations? There are 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country. What is the conservative solution? Mass deportations? How much would that cost? How many workers in farms, restaurants and construction sites would disappear? I personally would rather not live in a police state where families are torn apart in night raids. Isn’t it easier to give people a pathway to citizenship? You can fingerprint and catalog everyone, screen out the criminals who are here regardless of what we do, and get the law abiding people paying taxes and voting like everyone else.

  10. MarketMan says:

    one more time: Just curious… how exactly do we fix the broken system? You make it sound like changing immigration laws is easy to do in your spare time. Plus, the people who face the broken system and would like it changed are the immigrants themselves, who clearly are not in a position to make changes.

  11. I do think says:

    don’t you think? I have only one question for you, “don’t you think?”…..
    Ted Kennedy has been destroying this country since 1965 when he ‘fixed’ the immigration system. We used to get productive, educated, working people and now we get criminals. The people who have almost ho hope of coming here illegally are the Europeans. If you are Spanish, Portuguese, or Muslim, you can get here easily whether legal or illegal? Who said anything about night raids or tearing families apart? If you are here illegally you get deported, you are welcome to take your family with you. Right now, we are not even deporting illegal killers, rapists, identity thieves and other criminals. The cost of mass deportation? Probably less than the cost of welfare, food stamps, bilingual education, etc. I would like to live in a state where my children have a hope of a job, any job, without losing it to an illegal immigrant.

  12. Matt C says:

    Geeze… Somebody should probably give our big thinker a map. Spain and Portugal are both in Europe. Also Muslim isn’t a national identity or racial identity despite what the fox news says.. It’s a religion… Where the vast majority of people just want to live their lives in peace.

  13. don't you think? says:

    I do think, you know nothing. I shouldn’t even argue, but I’ll make a few points:
    1: Portugal is in Europe.
    2: There is no massive immigration from Europe because they don’t need to immigrate. There are no wars, famines, or job losses that would make them move.
    3: Criminals get deported all the time, as well as imprisoned.
    4: Most countries teach bilingual education. You should sign your kids up to have a fighting chance in this job market.
    5: There are many jobs your kids can do that an undocumented
    immigrant would not even qualify for. I hope you aim higher than menial labor for your children.
    That’s all. I think your ignorance is pretty evident to anyone who bothered to read. Kudos for knowing Ted Kennedy failed at immigration reform, though.

  14. one more time says:

    MarketMan, many Americans feel the system is broken, and they can follow the procedures outlined in our laws to change these things. I’m not going through the whole process here. I’m not planning to do it, as I don’t agree it’s broken. I think it’s not what people want, so they just disregard it. and don’t you think–you want to say people only come here because of ‘war, famine, etc.’? What war is going on in Mexico? the largest of our immigrant groups. How about the US use its economic power to force Mexico to share its oil wealth with its people? We have the power to change things there. War, famine in Brazil? another top importer. I’d agree to liberalizing the laws if each person signs off on receiving any benefits once they arrive. They are breaking the back of schools, human services, and social programs, and it’s unsustainable.

  15. don’t you think–

    You’re wasting your time, they know all there is to know about immigration.

    Historical Timeline of Immigration. As you will see, immigration has gone back a few hundred years and the major reason — free labor.

    There is no consistent pattern on the laws, except that it seemed to only be concerned with — free labor.

    Don’t worry too much about the immigrants in our city, as soon as the San Francisco techies move to NY and Boston, you will be wishing we had more family oriented, working class immigrants in our neighborhoods.

    Check out what the techies have done to San Francisco’s housing market. It won’t be long now. It’s a tech-boom, just like the boom, remember how that ended?

    Don’t forget the comments, you get a real look at what it’s done to that city:

  16. rags says:

    Pixi. Posting the same like twice? Anyway. Half of SfS problems at because of a mix of nimbyism and antiquated laws. Nimbyism in the sense that there is a drive to preserve the ‘feel’ of the city that prevents new growth of housing stock. This is coupled with rent control where land lords end up paying tens of thousands of dollars to remove tenants paying a fraction of what it costs to maintain their property.

  17. josh101 says:

    Why not institute the same immigration laws as Mexico? We are allowing them to keep a Marine imprisoned there for accidentally crossing over their border. Yet they have the gall to lecture us on accepting their immigrants. We are allowing these other countries to walk all over us and send us their least productive citizens to decimate our economy. Well played, liberal apologizers.

  18. MarketMan says:

    josh101: least productive citizens?? are you serious? everywhere I look, I see much of the labor being done by immigrants.

  19. PixiePocahontas says:


    Reading comprehension is wonderful thing.
    One link is the article the other lists comments.

    The destruction of the working class is real, spin it anyway you like. There is no excuse for driving millions into poverty. This is not capitalism, this is fascism. People who cannot afford to move and look for other jobs (which by the way are overseas with more slave labor, ie India, China, etc.)should not be driven from their homes. This is a continuation of what we saw in the late 90’s to 2009 when WS crashed.

    Guess where the working/middle class will be if the same happens here in Boston to the same degree of SF and NYC. They will all be reduced to relying on the govt. for services. What will you say then? There were millions out of work, still are, has nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with the tax breaks to the elite who many get a free education on scholarships and also get grants for start ups. Many do not give to charities or create jobs, it’s insular, you know like the old boys club we have right here in good ole Mass. They take care of their own, and screw the rest.

    People with no soul is how the developers and their enablers are described and they are right. They can’t even pay for the rat control at Assembly, or for redesign of our roadways which surround property they build and make millions from.

    Let me guess, you still get your news from Faux News.

  20. Johnnie Jazz says:

    What part of ILLEGAL are people missing? Really? Can you liberals be this stupid? WTH. It’s like trying to discuss simple concepts with drunk, retarded monkeys.

    Oh and Joey “tickets” Curtatone should be happy:

    On our tax dollars too. Pissa. What a cesspool city and state we live in now. Thanks Deval …. thanks Curtatone.

  21. PixiePocahontas says:

    Just keep voting for the double digit trillion dollar tax breaks to those who have abandoned middle America. While your at it, Wallstreet and corporations need more $50 -$100 million dollar bonuses. They are too special to be denied, so hand over all your pension funds, social security checks, lifetime savings, homes, and first born. If you need a place to live, I’m sure they will donate a cardboard box. Whatever you do, don’t ask for healthcare. The hospitals, nursing homes and pharmaceuticals won’t be able to reap their trillions in profits. You talk about welfare–what about corporate welfare??? The auto industry and their $20k ride to DC asking for millions in bailouts, because they failed to produce a vehicle worthy of foreign competitors who surpass in every way. They are dinosaurs, greedy, lazy, freeloaders. Extreme wealth is killing our society, why can’t you get that?

  22. PixiePocahontas says:

    Really, Jazz– is this the best you can do? Fraud News fear mongering– where is Rush when you need him.

  23. Post/Fox says:

    Always throw out the Fox news barb. While you quote endlessly from NY Times, one of the most dishonest news sources around! It never ends.

  24. D says:

    How about taking a break from the arguing and give kudos to the students and teacher that put in hard work on this project.

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