The History of Immigration Law in the United States150 min
- Students will learn about the debates over immigration during the Founding era, and how Founders differed on the benefits and drawbacks of unrestricted immigration.
- Students will understand the basic process of immigration into the country in the 1700s and 1800s and come to understand naturalization.
- Students will understand the contested nature of the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, and how it applies to ongoing immigration controversies in the 2000s.
- Students will understand how strict immigration controls in the decades before and after 1900 favored certain ethnic and national groups over others.
- Students will understand the nature of anti-immigrant backlash in the first half of the 1900s, and how it manifested itself in federal policy and on the home front in both World Wars.
- Students will understand how immigration policy radically changed after World War II and learn more about the reasoning for this transformation.
- Handout A: Background Essay—The History of Immigration Law in the United States
- Handout B-1: Debating Immigration in the Founding Era
- Handout B-2: Comparing and Contrasting the Founders’ Views
- Handout C: Cartoons on Immigration in the 1800s
- Handout D: Transforming Immigration Policy in the 1900s
- Naturalization Act of 1790
- Fourteenth Amendment
- Natural-born citizen
- 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act
- Immigration Act of 1917
- Asiatic Barred Zone
- Emergency Immigration Act of 1921
- National Origins formula
- Immigration Act of 1924
- Internment camps
- Korematsu v. U.S. (1944)
- Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965
As homework for the night before the in-class lesson, distribute Handout A: Background Essay – The History of Immigration Law in the United States.
Have students read the background essay and ask them to formulate their own written questions about the reading and the historical events it highlighted. They should also bring their written responses to the homework questions provided with the essay.
In class, lead a student discussion about Handout A: Background Essay – The History of Immigration Law in the United States. What were the major things they learned? You may use the questions asked in the lesson, as well as students’ own questions as a basis of the discussion.
Have students turn in their homework responses.
Activity I » 35 minutes
- Distribute Handout B-1: Debating Immigration in the Founding Era. Have students read and analyze the material independently and complete the critical thinking questions in preparation for a discussion. Students should read the passages as if the authors are engaging in a direct, back-and-forth debate with one another about the nature of immigration
- Distribute Handout B-2: Comparing and Contrasting the Founders’ Views. Ask the class to compare and contrast what Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton wrote by identifying their ideas and arguments.
- On a separate sheet of paper, students should restate each passage in their own words. In small groups, students will share their summaries with one another.
- Using the Venn diagram, students should answer the following questions: where did the Founders disagree on immigration policy? Where did they find common ground? In what ways did their opinions change?
- Ask students to compare and contrast what the Founders said about immigration with what people say in immigration debates today.
Activity II » 30 minutes
- Distribute Handout C: Cartoons on Immigration in the 1800s. Have students analyze and discuss these images in small groups or individually, using the critical thinking questions as a basis for their discussion.
- Distribute blank paper and challenge students to create their own editorial cartoon on immigration, as if they were an editorial cartoonist in the 1880s. You might offer them the option of working in groups. If so, be sure there is at least one visual thinker in each group.
- The cartoon should address the debates happening in the 1880s.
- Students should explain the images they create using arguments from both sides during the time period.
- On another blank sheet of paper, ask students to express their own perspectives by drawing a cartoon commentary on the immigration debate in the present year. Challenge them to share their cartoon with the class and explain their perspective.
Activity III » 25 minutes
- Distribute Handout D: Transforming Immigration Policy in the 1900s. Have students read and analyze the passages using the attached critical reading questions as a basis for the discussion.
- Ask the class to compare and contrast the messages of Presidents Wilson, Coolidge, Truman, and Johnson. Then connect the learning loop by asking them to analyze how presidential positions have changed in some ways and remained the same in others. Students should also compare the views of more recent presidents with those at the Founding. Important background discussion topics may include Progressivism, the First and Second Red Scares, the Cold War, and President Johnson’s “Great Society” reform agenda.
Ellison DuRant Smith, “Shut the Door,” 1924
Use this primary source text to explore key historical events.
Continuity and Change: Immigration in the United States
Use this lesson toward the end of the unit with the Barack Obama, Keynote Address at the Democratic National Convention, July 27, 2004 Primary Source to discuss the idea of the "American Dream" and its impact on immigration.
Immigration in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
The late nineteenth century experienced one of the largest mass migrations in history, tens of millions of immigrants came to America from Europe, Asia, and North America. Immigrants settled in the United States primarily for economic opportunity afforded by the growing industrial economy and faced challenges upon arriving. The influx of so many immigrants changed American culture and presented unique tensions in American society, leading to a debate over immigration, citizenship, and the restriction of immigration.
Irish and German Immigration DBQ
Use this Lesson to introduce students to the push and pull factors that led to high levels of immigration from Germany and Ireland from 1830 to 1860. Facilitation Notes: This activity is designed for groups of five students. The activity works best if each student only sees their printed primary source. The students should have some background knowledge on the European industrial revolution and its impact on urban growth and immigration in the United States.This lesson targets the foundational skills of analyzing documents, grouping documents, and constructing a thesis as required of the DBQ essay on the AP exam.
Industry and Immigration in the Gilded Age
Use this Lesson with the Cartoon Analysis: Immigration in the Gilded Age, 1882–1896 Primary Source to highlight the way immigrants were regarded and treated during the Gilded Age.
The History of Immigration in the United States
In this lesson, students will study the nature of immigration and trace the history of immigration in the United States from its founding to the first half of the twentieth century. They will gain an understanding of the experience of immigrants in the 1800s, the factors that brought them to the United States, and the challenges they faced upon their arrival. Students will thus be better equipped to engage in the modern conversation on immigration in the United States.
Stephanie Hinnershitz: Chinese Immigration & Exclusion | BRI Scholar Talks
Tony Williams is joined by Dr. Stephanie Hinnershitz, author and assistant professor of history at Cleveland State University, as they discuss her thought-provoking essay on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 in BRI’s new digital textbook, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. She chronicles the social, economic, and political factors that compelled many people to immigrate to the United States from China in the late 19th century, as well as the tragic violence and xenophobia that Chinese laborers routinely suffered. How did these tensions culminate in the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, and what impact did this discriminatory law have on society?
Immigration to America | BRI’s Homework Help Series
The rise in immigration to the United States in the 1840's altered the economic, cultural, and political climate of the nation in the first half of the 19th century.
The Anti-Chinese Wall: Immigration Images in the Gilded Age | BRIdge from the Past
Have American views on immigration changed over time? In this episode, Mary walks through "The Anti-Chinese Wall" cartoon by Friedrich Graetz to understand the discriminatory reasons why many Americans objected to Chinese immigration in the late 19th century, and what they revealed about many Americans' beliefs during the time. How did the debate against Chinese immigration turn into the Chinese Exclusion Act?