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

Presenter: Katherine Benton-Cohen, PhD

Facilitator: Venus Masselam PhD


Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, 9:30AM-4:30PM

(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 history and impact of immigration in the United States is an important focus in today's world.  As mental health professionals it is essential for us to understand how laws and language codify and institutionalize racism and inequity in this country.  This conference will explore the historic basis of our currently held conflicting perspectives about immigration.

The Congressionally mandated Dillingham Commission was the largest ever investigation of immigrant populations conducted in the early twentieth century. The Commission members’ interpretation of its data, now thought to be significantly flawed, was a major contributor to the creation of language and laws that formalized and institutionalized the themes of bigotry and racism in the United States. 

Dr. Katherine Benton-Cohen will help us develop an understanding of how the Dillingham Commission set the stage for the current view of immigration as a “problem” and of immigrants as a potential threat. 

The afternoon viewing of clips from Bisbee ’17 will further deepen/explore these themes. This documentary illustrates how the 1917 trauma in Bisbee, Arizona, lives on 100 years later. 

Small morning and afternoon breakout groups will allow time for the participants to examine their internal reactions to the material presented and discuss how these issues are relevant to their current clinical work and in the larger society. 


Participants will be able to:

1. Describe the Dillingham task.

2.  Discuss what is meant by “inventing the immigration problem.“

3. Describe how the political tactics used by the Dillingham Commission are used today to maintain political power.

4. List 2 political phrases used today that originated from the Commission’s report.

5. Discuss how bias may be seen in your consulting office.


Saturday, Feb. 22


9:00-9:30 Registration 

9:30-9:40 Introductions 

9:40 –10:50 Immigration Policy Then and Now (1919-2019):  Different perspectives from East to West 

10:50-11:10 Discussion/questions

11:10-11:20 Introduction to small groups 

11:20-11:30 Break 

11:30-12:30 Small group discussions 

12:30-1:30 Box lunch in-house 

1:30-2:30 Bisbee’17—short clips from Bisbee’17 and context for current border debates 

2:30-3:30 Small group discussions 

3:30 3:45 Break

3:45-4:30 Participant responses-clinical, practice and personal  


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.  

 Venus S. Masselam is a Developmental Life Span Psychologist and a Marriage and Family Therapist, a supervisor and consultant. She has been on the faculty of the Aging Studies Program at the Washington School of Psychiatry (WSP) for the past 10 years. The experience of being born of immigrant parents from Syria and Lebanon and raised in Boston, MA, before settling in the Washington, DC area almost 40 years ago has motivated her interest serving as faculty and co-chair of the Center for Study of Race, Ethnicity and Culture (CSREC) at 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.

Online Registration