During the 2016 election and now under the Trump administration, U.S. immigration has been hotly debated, and immigration historians have been stepping up to provide critical context. In the Washington Post, for example, historians have published pieces in recent months on the diversity visa lottery, mass deportations, the role of the courts in shaping immigration policy, and constitutional issues at the border. And historians from around the country collaborated to produce the #ImmigrationSyllabus, a valuable tool for anyone teaching about such issues at the university level.
In a similar vein, a colleague and I decided to create an immigration history resource geared toward high school teachers. Dr. Joanna Yip, who has a Ph.D. in urban education and long experience teaching in New York City’s network of international high schools, and I pulled together a guide to smart, accessible materials on U.S. immigration for teachers to use, though our hope is that it will be useful for anyone teaching about immigration these days, as well as advocates, activists, and others. The guide consists of a thematically-organized list of brief, publicly-accessible online materials. It also contains suggestions for how to use these materials in the classroom as well as a short list of texts for further reading.
We focused particularly on materials that provide historical context for critical issues in current political debates. We wanted to give teachers tools to address questions such as:
- Where did ideas about “undocumented” or “illegal” immigration come from?
- What are the historical roots of American nativism?
- How did the United States define and start to police its borders?
- How do ideas of immigration connect to the construction of race in American history?
- What is the history of immigrant detention and deportation in the United States?
Libby Garland is assistant professor of history at Kingsborough Community College, The City University of New York. She is the author of After They Closed the Gates: Jewish Illegal Immigration to the United States, 1921-1965 (University of Chicago Press, 2014). She is the recipient of the 2017 Germany Residency Program Award in American History at the University of Tübingen, awarded by the Organization of American Historians.