It’s been nearly six months since the Immigration Project, a collaborative reporting effort spearheaded by NJ News Commons, debuted. The project was initiated to cover the under-reported topic of immigration in the Garden State, which ranks fifth nationwide in the number of foreign-born residents and third by percentage.
The project seeks to understand the laws, hurdles, indignities and opportunities that immigrants encounter in the Garden State. It consists of articles written specifically for the Immigration Project as well as additional articles aggregated through a Creative Commons license. The members of the collaboration come from a variety of news organizations, big and small: WBGO, NJ.com, The Jersey Journal, NJTV, Glocally Newark, Survey USA.
Among other things, the project plans to look at immigrant labor being used to rebuild the shore post-Sandy, new African populations in Newark, the Elizabeth Detention Center, how immigrants fare in higher education, and the symbolic role of Ellis Island.
Since its launch, the Immigration Project has yielded a vast amount of participants from across New Jersey including journalists and students. Reports such as “Survey: 54% of New Jerseyans Say Undocumented Immigrants Should Be Allowed to Stay” and "Clergy Are Often Immigrants' Biggest Advocates" have generated conversation across the state, and contributors like founder Debbie Galant have participated in immigration issue discussions on NJTV.
Recently, documentarians and students involved in The Immigration Project screened oral histories at Constitution Day (September 17) at Montclair State University. The project hopes to create a website that compiles its video oral histories into a collective library in the near future.
The Immigration Project is currently working with Jay Rahman of the Paterson Times on a story about a Bangledeshi immigrant who seeks political asylum.
The project continues to gain contributors and has received an abundance of praise. NJ News Commons Director Debbie Galant talked about a graduate from Nairobi who approached her at Constitution Day and is working on an essay about what it is like to hear, just weeks after arriving in Montclair, about the Westgate Mall attack in his hometown. "People continue to find what we are doing compelling and want to join the project."