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Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Culture

The Immigration Problem: The Dillingham Commission and Its Legacy

Presenter: Katherine Benton-Cohen, PhD

Facilitator: Venus Masselam PhD

Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, 9AM-5PM

(Registration and continental breakfast, 9-9:30)

Lunch will be included. Indicate vegetarian or other need in the "note to WSP" space of the registration form.

CE/CME continuing education

5.5 credit hours, diversity or cultural competence credits


Regular fee $190

Current WSP Member $135

Current WSP Student $70

At the Washington School of Psychiatry, 5028 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington DC 20016

For your comfort, remember to bring a sweater or to dress with layers. 


The School is fortunate to have the  author of this informative insightful book to help mental health professionals understand  our country's  long standing historical development of increasing citizens fear of the other. Too often, the immigrants who helped build this country are cast as someone to be feared, a threatening  immigrant problem. Come and join us as we learn about the architects of the Dillingham studies creating language,  laws, principles which continue to plague us today.

Katherine Benton-Cohen, Inventing the Immigration Problem: the Dillingham Commission and its Legacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018.

This comprehensive book does not attempt to cover every facet of the Dillingham Commission’s 41 investigations beginning in 1907, but rather emphasizes the evolution of the pervasive perception of the immigrant as a threat to the United States and its far-reaching impact. In reading this book, one gains insights into the creation of language, themes and ultimately laws that formalized and institutionalized the bigotry and racism of white America.  Granted, all of the same political, religious, racial, economic and personal differences have been used to exert power since the first days in the founding of the United States.  It was not until the early twentieth century, however, that the Dillingham Commission’s reports introduced phrases like “the American way of life,” “the standard of living,” and ”the rights of the American wage earner.” They have since become embedded in our American institutions, language, culture and minds. The Dillingham Commission described immigration as a  ”problem“ and it has been re-ignited as a problem whenever needed by those in power. The “Immigrant Problem” allowed those in power and on the Commission to openly question who was deemed acceptable and capable of becoming a TRUE American citizen.

This is an important documentary and history bursting with useful information for the mental health community, which has been mandated by the government and required by associations to become culturally competent about diversity of any kind, be it ethnic, racial, or cultural.  It will also be meaningful to anyone who is an immigrant in this country, or the child of immigrants, or related to anyone who is an immigrant, or who might have a boss who is an immigrant, or who employs or knows anyone who is made to feel like an alien, the “other.” No one is unaffected by immigrants, including a privileged white person who can use this book to understand where immigrants’ internal conflicts arise as it sensitizes readers to the realties that others contend with on a daily basis.


Saturday, Feb. 22

9:00‐9:30 registration
9:30‐9:45 Introductions – Different perspectives from East to West
9:45 – 10:45 ‐ Lecture
10:45‐11:15 Discussion/questions
11:15‐11:30 Break
11:30‐12:30 Small groups
12:30‐1:30 Lunch in house ‐ box lunch
1:30‐2:15 The Borderland (or just Bisbee)
2:15‐ 2:45 Clinical Vignettes ‐ examples of cases and presenters response/ questions/comments
2:45‐3:00 break
3:00‐4:00 Small group
4:00‐4:30 Wrap‐up and closing



Katherine Benton-Cohen, PHD is associate professor of history at Georgetown University.  She is the author of Inventing the Immigration Problem: The Dillingham Commission and Its Legacy (Harvard, 2018), Borderline Americans: Racial Division and Labor War in the Arizona Borderlands (Harvard, 2009), and served as historical advisor to the documentary feature film Bisbee ’17. Benton-Cohen was a fellow at the Wilson Center for Scholars in 2009-2010, and currently serves as an Organization of American Historians (OAH) Distinguished Lecturer.  



Select Appropriate Level
note to WSP

Cancellations and Refunds

Refunds will be made for cancellations received at the School office in writing at least 10 days before the seminar date and are subject to a non-refundable administrative fee of $50.

Who should attend?

The workshop is intended for psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, licensed professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, physicians, medical students, and other graduate students.


The Washington School of Psychiatry is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Washington School of Psychiatry maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

The School is approved by the Social Work Board of the State of Maryland as a provider of continuing education for social workers in DC, MD, VA and WV.

The Washington School of Psychiatry has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 6388. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. The Washington School of Psychiatry is solely responsible for all aspects of the program.

The School is accredited by MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The School designates each session for a maximum of 5.5_ AMA PRA Category I Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Disclosure of Commercial Support and the Unlabeled use of a commercial product. No member of the planning committee and no member of the faculty for this event have a financial interest or other relationship with any commercial product.