Interviews with Immigrants & Refugees in Metro Phoenix

This Migration & Culture digital ethnography project takes its inspiration and design from a terrific book about migrants in the borough of Queens in New York City.


Crossing the BLVD: 
Strangers, Neighbors, Aliens in a New America


by Warren Lehrer & Judith Sloan 
(Norton 2003) 

In spring 2005 we were lucky enough to have author/artist Judith Sloan visit with our class. She presented some of the interview stories from the book, and gave us some pointers for doing our own interviews.

See their awesome web site at

As a model for our own collaborative project, we draw inspiration from the authors’ fascinating interviews with recent immigrants and refugees who have settled in Queens, a borough of New York City, one of the most diverse places on earth! We also  take inspiration from the book’s exciting graphics and informative factual asides and explanations to create our own web-based migrant interview stories.


Sandra Day O'Connor US Courthouse
Sandra Day O'Connor US Courthouse

And as our interviews show, migrants come from many countries and world regions, although the majority of the Valley's migrants have origins in neighboring Mexico. Every week dozens of these Phoenix area migrants become newly minted US citizens in emotional and moving ceremonies at the federal courthouse downtown and at other sites. It is worth noting that many of the students who enroll in this class are themselves immigrants or refugees, or grew up in migrant households, mirroring the growing percentage of the Valley's foreign-born and first-generation residents). Others have a spouse, partner, or even children who are migrants. Every student's ancestors migrated to the United States at some point in history, whether recently or long ago (students document their ancestral migrations in their Family Migration Artifact projects elsewhere in their web portfolios.)

At this time when anti-immigrant sentiments and policies grab the headlines, it is worth remembering that migrants are our neighbors, friends, coworkers, classmates, professionals, service providers, customers, clients, employers, employees, parents, spouses and children.

Building from the interdisciplinary social science approaches and perspectives on im/migration patterns and processes that we studied in our course, we “document the signs of migratory life, normally hidden within the seemingly mundane, sometimes hideous urban landscape” of  metropolitan Phoenix, aka the Valley of the Sun. We look for migration stories “in the shadows between the superstores” and cookie-cutter residential developments where we find that the global has moved right in to our local communities. In conducting close-to-home expeditions, each student contributed an interview-based case study telling one migrant's story. Taken all together we've created a collaborative, synergistic whole that is more rich and complex than its separate parts. Welcome to this fascinating project!