“The Newest Americans” Exploring Citizenship & Immigration In The Trump Era Opened April 3 At The California Museum

New Exhibit Capturing Experiences Of Immigrants Prompts Discussion On The American Dream Through July 8th Before Embarking On A 5-Year National Tour

Following the 2016 election, America’s political climate was polarized by the Trump Administration’s efforts to build a border wall, enact a Muslim ban and enforce mass deportations. Against this backdrop, photographer Sam Comen with interviews by Michael Estrin set out to capture the experiences of new Americans in the moments following their naturalization after two Los Angeles, CA ceremonies held in February and March of 2017. Their resulting portraits and interviews led to the development of “The Newest Americans” as a traveling exhibit created in partnership with the California Museum.logo

The California Museum’s  The Newest Americans,” exploring U.S. citizenship and immigration in the era of President Donald J. Trump, is now open. The new exhibit prompts discussion on America’s legacy as a nation of immigrants and the future of the American dream through July 8, 2018, before embarking on a 5-year national tour managed by Exhibit Envoy.


Maria Teresa Cervantes (right), country of origin Mexico, pictured with daughter Lorraine (left) and grandson Jonathan Anda (center). CREDIT: By Sam Comen, courtesy of photographer.

I commend the California Museum for presenting an exhibit examining the immigrant experience at this critical time in California and U.S. history,” said Secretary of State and Museum Board of Trustee Alex Padilla. “The display prompts much-needed discussion on civic engagement, citizenship, and civil rights, as the Trump administration enacts restrictive immigration policies that not only impacts families, but all California communities.”


Breznil Ashton, country of origin St. Vincent & the Grenadines. CREDIT: By Sam Comen, courtesy of photographer.


Maria Villagordoa, country of origin Mexico. CREDIT: By Sam Comen, courtesy of photographer

Illustrating a range of ages and walks of life, the 28 exhibit participants represent 23 countries of origin, including Mexico, Rwanda, China, Russia, and Syria. The exhibit includes photographs accompanied by text panels presented in English and Spanish sharing the subjects’ views on why they chose to become American citizens and what the American dream means to them.


Caixia Yang Phillipe, country of origin China. CREDIT: By Sam Comen, courtesy of photographer


Michael Jordan, country of origin Canada. CREDIT: By Sam Comen, courtesy of photographer.

Highlights include:


Freddy Castro, country of origin Ecuador. CREDIT: By Sam Comen, courtesy of photographer.

  • Freddy Castro, Ecuador: “I am transgender. I am able to be who I am without being discriminated against, at least that’s true here in California. So, I’m looking forward to being involved in the politics here so I can help people like me be protected by the law.”
  • Ghassan Merrawi, Syria: “A lot of people say an immigrant can’t be a Trump supporter, but I am. I love politics, and being a citizen means I get to be part of that, so I registered to be a Republican.”


    Paulina Larson, country of origin Mexico. CREDIT: By Sam Comen, courtesy of photographer.

  • Paulina Larson, Mexico: “My American dream, when I was undocumented, was just to make sure my family and I were safe and that we could live comfortably. Now, my American dream is to pay it forward to other people who were like me.”

We wanted to explore the definition of ‘American’ and who has the right to become one in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election,” said Comen. “We wanted to document the stories of new Americans, to know why they came to this country, what the American Dream means to them. While their answers varied widely, to our surprise all the participants share the belief that America is still the land of opportunity and the hope that their futures will be brighter as naturalized citizens of this country.”

Felipe Ramirez, Mexico: “I was supposed to be born here. My mom had legal status, but she wasn’t a citizen. She was pregnant with me when she decided to go on vacation to Mexico. Then I popped out early. I was born in a place where we had no family, no connection.

My whole life, except for the first few weeks, has been here. I was raised in Orange County. When I was 19, I got in trouble with the law. I had a piece of wood in my car and the cop said it was a deadly weapon. I thought that was crazy; it wasn’t a deadly weapon. But they sent me to jail, maybe because the cops were a little more racist back then, I don’t know. Anyway, my public defender said, just plead guilty and you’re out. So, I plead guilty, but I thought I was just pleading guilty to the speeding ticket, not the deadly weapon. Small mistakes can make a big difference. When I realized the mistake, I thought there goes all my hopes. And so, all this time, I’ve been in limbo. But my wife researched it and she said, we can clear this up.

But to become a citizen, I knew I would have to take a test, and that made me nervous because my reading wasn’t good. So, I did adult literacy classes. Once I got that done, I was ready for the citizenship test. It’s not a hard test, I thought it would be hard because people like to say it’s hard to discourage you. But it’s basic questions I already knew from going to high school here. My whole life here I never felt good enough or comfortable enough to say I could be an American. That’s on me. But once I got that confidence, I went for it. That’s why today is so exciting. It’s excitement you can’t explain, because you’ve accomplished something really big

The California Museum opened on Sept. 9, 1998, through a unique partnership with the State of California as a private non-profit institution focused on California history and culture. Under the development of the Secretary of State’s office, the Museum was created to be the public showplace for contents of the California State Archives. The California Museum educates visitors on California’s diverse history, arts, culture and unique influence on the world. Through interactive exhibits and engaging public programs, the Museum inspires visitors to make their mark on history.

In 2003, former First Lady Maria Shriver began working with the Museum to expand its vision and mission. In 2004, “California’s Remarkable Women” opened as the first of her many collaborative efforts with the Museum. Since then, the Museum’s exhibitions have continued to emphasize stories not presented to reflect all aspects of California’s diverse population and culture, with an emphasis on the contributions of women and under-represented groups.

In 2006, former First Lady Maria Shriver and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger became Honorary Co-Chairs of the Museum and co-designed the California Hall of Fame as the Museum’s annual gala and an official award from the Governor of California.

In 2011 after the change of administration, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. and First Lady Anne Gust Brown became Honorary Co-Chairs of The California Museum and the California Hall of Fame. As active leaders, the Governor and First Lady continue to work with the Museum in the selection of California Hall of Fame inductees and bring their appreciation of California history and the educational mission of the Museum to their honorary position.


Adults (18+) $9.00
Students & Seniors (65+) w/ID $7.50*
Youth (6-17) $6.50
Children (5 & under) FREE¹
MuseumNARM & Time Traveler members  FREE^                                                                              
Monday                                                        Closed        
Tuesday-Saturday Open 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday     Open 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm              
2018-19 Holiday Schedule:
New Year’s Day January 1, 2018              Closed
Private Event April 20, 2018 Open 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Independence Day          July 4, 2018  Closed
Thanksgiving  November 22, 2018    Closed
Christmas Eve December 24, 2018 Closed
Christmas Day December 25, 2018 Closed
New Year’s Eve December 31, 2018 Closed
New Year’s Day January 1, 2019 Closed

*Students & Seniors 65+ must show valid ID at time of admission. ¹Children 5 & under free with paid adult admission. ^NARM reciprocal admission not extended to members of institutions that restrict California Museum members or on fundraising and ticketed events.