Define American Releases Groundbreaking New Research - Define American

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Define American Releases Groundbreaking New Research

Define American partners with The Norman Lear Center to Examine Immigrant Portrayals on Popular TV Shows

Press Contact: Noelle S. Lindsay Stewart, [email protected]

LOS ANGELES, CA – During an event at the Writers Guild of America’s Beverly Hills Theater, Define American announced the upcoming release of its inaugural research study, Immigration Nation: Exploring Immigrant Portrayals on Television.

The full study, Immigration Nation: Exploring Immigrant Portrayals on Television, contains initial findings showcasing that immigrant characters are disproportionately tethered to crime and incarceration, with over one-third of immigrant characters being associated with crime. The study additionally breaks down the ethnic representations of immigrants on TV, finding that deportation and ICE-related storylines focused overwhelmingly on Latinx immigrants. It goes on to highlight the lack of representation of immigrants who are Asian-Pacific Islander, despite API immigrants being the fastest growing immigrant population in the United States. The study also found that undocumented Black immigrants are almost completely absent on our screens; even though 16% of Black immigrants are undocumented and they are detained and deported at alarmingly high rates.   

“We know that the representation of people from marginalized communities on TV and film directly affects how those communities are treated in everyday life,” says Define American CEO and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Jose Antonio Vargas. “We hope this data can encourage creators in the entertainment industry to craft better developed and diverse immigrant characters and continue to inspire humanity in our country.”

Immigration Nation was conducted through research spearheaded by USC’s Norman Lear Center, a nonpartisan research and public policy center that studies the social, political, economic, and cultural impact of entertainment on the world.

“We’re honored to have partnered with a well-respected research entity like The Norman Lear Center,” says Elizabeth Grizzle Voorhees, Define American’s Managing Director of Creative Initiatives. “For many Americans, what they know of immigration and immigrants is limited to what they see on television. The way immigrants are portrayed in this space is more important than ever as we face the rise of anti-immigrant sentiments across the country.”

The panel event, Setting the Story Straight: Rewriting the Narrative on Immigrants in Television, featured Nico Santos (Crazy Rich Asians, Superstore), Mando Alvarado (Vida, Greenleaf), Chris Hollier (Once Upon A Time, The Originals), Cristela Alonzo (Cars 3, Cristela Alonzo: Lower Classy)  Rafael Agustín (Jane The Virgin, Rafa the Great) as they discussed their own experiences trying to tell immigrant stories on and off screen and how the industry can continue to improve in this space.

Multi-platform digital and print magazine The Hollywood Reporter, one of the entertainment industry’s leading media outlets, is the official media partner for Immigration Nation, with Senior Reporter Rebecca Sun serving as the moderator for the panel.


About Define American

Define American is the nation’s leading nonprofit media organization that fights injustice and anti-immigrant hate through the power of storytelling. Through event curation, media consulting and creation, and grassroots organizing, Define American jumpstarts widespread and culture change around citizenship, race, and identity in a changing America. It was founded in 2011 by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas.

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