Immigrant Nation

At the heart of Immigrant Nation (iNation) is a simple premise: most people in the U.S. have an immigrant or migrant story to share — whether it’s their own or the story of a relative in the past. The topic of immigration often divides communities across the country, but bringing these stories to the surface has the potential to create commonality between new arrivals and those whose families have lived in the U.S. for generations.

Featured on:
tribeca film institutePOVnew york timesMIT open documentary labthe new york film festivalnational domestic workers allianceellis island national monumentMacArthur Foundation logo

The Platform











desktoptemplate-waveiNation is anchored by a unique immersive online platform where the user is invited to become a co-creator in the process, creating and sharing their own immigration story.  Anyone and everyone can create and share a story on the iNation platform that relates to their experience with immigration. Users can browse other people’s stories, watch the intimate iNation short films, and experience myriad ways that immigration has shaped and formed our communities and country.  The platform is accessible in English, Spanish, and French.





mobile phone showing ination web app



User stories are told through a simple process using photos and a small amount of text. Based on what the user writes, the story is tagged with keywords. For example, these might be words like family, Russian, love, ancestor, or war. The user assigns their story a date, and country (or countries) of origin.  With the creation process complete, the user’s story appears on a visualization displaying a wave of immigration from the country that the user selected. This wave is a data visualization of immigrant arrivals from the user’s country of origin over the last 200 years. It also includes other user stories that were input with the same country of origin.





iNation logo



The user can then browse through the other immigration stories from their chosen country. They can also select keywords from their own story and then discover other stories with similar themes to theirs. The user can also do a search to find other stories based on other keywords. The search returns all the related stories on all relevant waves — in effect creating a zoomed out view of the connections between diverse groups of immigrants who have flowed into the U.S. over the last 200 years.










The Launch



When considering the launch of iNation, we thought, “What better place to catapult iNation into the world than Ellis Island?” So, we did it! The project launched with a huge 2-day live event on the Ellis Island National Monument.  A wide variety of people came out to Ellis Island to share their stories, watch films, and witness the creation of a live mural.  Groups from international schools, Adult ESL classes, Genealogy clubs, and the interactive storytelling community made it out to the island on two beautiful days in April.  To round off the launch week of the project, we also pulled off a big iNation party in Manhattan, and participated in the TFI Interactive Day as part of the Tribeca Film festival.












Live Events



In the course of developing iNation, we quickly discovered that live storytelling events are one of the best ways to engage communities with their personal immigrant stories. Live iNation events usually consist of a community coming together in a physical space and sharing their personal stories either on the iNation platform (mobile or desktop) or in an analog manner on physical storycards. We have collaborated with an amazing graphic illustrator, Anthony Weeks, who then takes the stories told at the event, and creates a live mural, consisting of all the stories told at the event, in real time. It’s amazing to watch. We also often screen the iNation films in conjunction with the live storytelling/mural, as well as give the community a chance to stand up and tell their personal stories in front of each other, which is often a very powerful and moving experience.












Immigrant Nation Educators Guide
Educators across the country are using the iNation online platform, films, and educators guide to spark discussions about immigration issues, approaching the issues first through personal narratives.


Bulldog Tech, a middle school in San Jose, CA, used iNation as a part of a school-wide personal storytelling project and had almost every student in the school create their story on iNation. Check out the 146 stories from Bulldog tech on the Wave HERE.


Download the FREE iNation discussion guide HERE.










Question: How far has your family traveled?

Over 5100 Miles in 36 Years

Countries: Japan, US
By Chris L. on 3/4/2015
Tags: family, APAEverywhere, japan, united states, bulldogtech, 1919

In 1919, my great grandpa moved from Japan to Hawaii in order to get a job in the sugar cane/pineapple fields. He was one of the hundreds of workers to come to Hawaii to work in the fields. He was nervous when he moved, but he knew it would be a much better lifestyle in the United States.

In 1955, my grandpa took a JetProp plane from Honolulu to San Francisco for a better job. There was a large party before he left Hawaii. He didn’t have very much money when he arrived, so his parents sent money every month to help. He raised a family in San Francisco, then later moved to San Jose.

Question: Although I was born here, I still feel like an immigrant. Do you?

Surviving Immigration

By Glenn Aquino on 11/13/2013
Country: Philippines, US
Tags: philippines, 1925

estanislao martinez in a suit and hat

In 1925, my grandfather, Estanislao Martinez, left the Philippines when he was 15 years old. He traveled on a ship for one month and arrived in San Francisco. He told me some people died on the ship from various ailments and the conditions were harsh, “The ocean was your restroom.”

glen's mother

In 1973 my mother immigrated to the U.S. and soon after my father came in 1974. Their immigrant experience was far less harsh than my grandfather, however, they similarly experienced challenges of racial and economic discrimination.

Question: What culinary dish represents your past?

Kimchi and Borscht

By Anna Chang on 10/20/2014
Countries: Canada, South Korea
Tags: south korea, canada, cjmteens, APAEverywhere

Anna's grandma and grandpa

It is 1941 and at 18 years old, my maternal grandma marries my grandpa in Moldavia. They successfully escape the Holocaust, go to Sweden then Canada. My grandpa makes watches and my grandma makes borscht. In 1982 my mom moves to San Francisco for medical school.

Anna's family

It is 1949 and my paternal grandparents are both refugees from the Korean War. In 1959 my dad is born in Seoul, South Korea, and his parents scrape together their money to move to New York City. My grandpa makes wigs and grandma makes kimchi. In 1982 my dad moves to San Francisco for medical school.

Question: What’s your family hi(STORY) ??

The Homeland

By Ata on 10/17/2014
Countries: American Samoa, Samoa
Tags: samoa, 1970, american samoa, baymnfest, APAEverywhere

Ata's mother

My story begins with my mother who migrated to America from Samoa with her siblings after she graduated from high school. Our whole family was taking the long journey for a better chance of education and employment. There wasn’t a lot of work, so moving just seemed natural for the family.

Ata's family

Today she stands and proudly says the journey was well worth the struggle. Coming from sharing a pair of slippers between 8 siblings, to making her own family with children who are successful in their own way. Now we can travel back home and proudly share our story of the big place called America.

Question: What was your journey?

My Family’s Journey From Cambodia

By PJ Rich on 3/4/2015
Countries: Cambodia, US
Tags: family, opportunity, happy, strength, inspiration, separation, opportunity

PJ's grandmother and a child

Years ago in 1979, my grandma escaped the communist war in Cambodia. While fleeing to Thailand she lost her whole family including her kids. There she met my grandpa. After a few years they had my father and were sponsored by a church in Texas to come to the US. This is my dad and grandma.

PJ, his mother, and father

Today my grandma and grandpa now have 5 kids who are all grown up now. They also have 7 grand children, including me. I am the only child of my father and mother. I also am a 8th grade honor roll student at Ley Va Middle School. This is a picture of my father 33 years later with me and my mom.

Question: Are you grateful for becoming who you are today because you live in a different country??

Growing Up Here Instead

By Klaine Stephanie on 10/17/2014
Countries: Philippines, US
Tags: philippines, 2010, united states, APAEverywhere

Klaine at 5 years old

“When I was 5 years old, my lola left for the US. “”The States””, my lola would say to me over the phone. Fast forward a decade, I came home from school and my parents said the family would migrate to the US that year. 9/21/10: We lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Daly City, all 21 of us.”

Klaine Stephanie

Today, I live in a suite in San Francisco and pay my rent. I ride my bike for commute to work & school. I go to a public library for free books. I’ve met creative & inspiring people. I learn so much. I live, love & laugh. I grow & do things, go to places, meet people. I’m fortunate to be here today.