Lawmakers Push for an Immigration Museum on the National Mall

Two congressional lawmakers are expected to introduce legislation Thursday asking for a commission to examine the creation of an immigration museum in Washington D.C.

The legislators, Virginia Rep. Jim Moran, a Democrat, and Tennessee Rep. John Duncan, a Republican, want the museum, tentatively called the National Museum of the American People, to tell the story of immigration to the United States.

In an editorial published Wednesday, Moran said he’d been moved to sponsor the legislation by concerns over the fact that “the last remaining places on the National Mall are becoming filled with museums that deliver stories of a specific ethnic group – like the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the proposed National Museum of the American Latino.”

“This museum, covering accurately and adequately each group’s story in the context of the American experience,” Moran said, “should help stem the trend of groups having their own individual, specific ethnic museums.”

Moran has said the museum should be built without any federal taxpayer funds.

Proponents of the proposal for an immigration museum says more than 130 minority groups support the idea.

But Cid Wilson, a member of the presidential commission that studied the idea for a Latino museum, which would be added to the Smithsonian Institution, said museums have failed to tell the story of Hispanic immigration, their history here, and their role in building the United States.

“To imply that these museums are separatist doesn’t capture the reality that, if anything, it’s inclusive to have a Latino museum,” Wilson said. “The story of Latino immigration and contributions to this country is  an American story, and it has not been told.”

The commission submitted its report on the feasibility of a Latino museum to President Obama and Congress in the spring.

“This museum would be for everyone, for all visitors, not just Latinos,” Wilson said. “I am not Jewish, and I have gone to the Holocuast Museum to learn more about the Holocaust.”

Others, however, support an immigration museum that tells the story of different groups.

“Aren't we supposed to be an all-inclusive nation, so then why must we just build another museum just for Latinos when our country has has had a tremendous immigration of Italians, Scandinavians, Irish, Jewish, and many others?” asked Rich Pedersen, who lives in New Jersey. “Let's try to bring people together instead of trying to keep them separate. “

“It would be nice and informative if the museum told why each group came to our country,” he said, “how they adapted and assimilated, why they initially stuck together with ‘their own kind,’ the natural effects of the predjudices that occurred, and how we as a country overcame those prejudices.”

This story contains material from the Associated Press.

Follow Elizabeth Llorente on Twitter: @LlorenteLatino

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