Shelbyville Sparks Immigration Discussion in Washington

By Roseli Ilano, National Community Engagement Coordinator

On the heels of the national broadcast premiere of Welcome to Shebyville on Independent Lens, ITVS partnered with The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration to host a special screening of the award-winning documentary at the George C. Marshall Conference Center in Washington, D.C. The documentary is currently streaming free online at

Patricia Harrison, the president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, provided the opening remarks to the packed auditorium, setting the stage for a unique convening of policy makers, advocates, service providers, and government officials working at the heart of refugee resettlement.

Fimmaker Kim Snyder at a post-screening panel at the State Department

The screening of Welcome to Shelbyville provided an entry point to understanding what happens to refugees once they are resettled, and cast a light on one community’s efforts to come together during profound demographic, economic, and cultural change. The post-screening panel discussion was moderated by Eric P. Schwartz, assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; and featured Ken Tota, deputy director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who provided background information on how both agencies aid in the resettlement process.

Assistant Secretary of State Eric P. Schwartz with Shelbyville resident Marilyn Massengale

Welcome to Shelbyville’s director and producer Kim A. Snyder shared her process in making the film and her goal to make a film that would be a conversation starter. Marilyn Massengale, a fourth generation resident of Shelbyville and a subject featured in the film spoke of the need for communities to come together and celebrate commonalities, not differences. Abdishakur Mohamed, board president of Tennessee Immigrant Refugee and Rights Coalition and Employment Coordinator for Catholic Charities in Nashville, Tennessee, shared his own experience as a resettled Somali refugee.

Welcome to Shelbyville is currently streaming free online at

The film was received with applause and the audience engaged in the opportunity to talk about the role of government-community partnerships in the localities where refugees settle.