Securing the Borders: Immigration Policy Throughout U.S. History
Marcie Hutchinson, History Education Consultant Arizona State University
Contextual Paragraph for Resource Set: Today, few issues can get Americans more riled up than that of immigration. What many Americans forget is that we’ve been having this immigration debate since the founding of the Republic. Historian Roger Daniels has described our love/hate attitude toward immigration and immigrants as, “ . . .on the one hand reveling in the nation’s immigrant past and on the other rejecting much of its immigrant present.” This lesson allows students to analyze the historic arguments for and against the Chinese Exclusion Act (1880), which initiated an age of restrictive American immigration legislation. The more we know about securing the borders in our past might help us pose more thought-provoking questions, assess arguments better and formulate more articulate commentary in today’s immigration debate.
Teacher should utilize the National Archives “Photo Analysis Worksheet” for the first two documents that are photographs: “Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Record of Accounts” and “Two Boys with Older Sister in Doorway.”
Teacher could use the National Archives “Poster Analysis Worksheet” for the documents entitled “Sing Fat Co. Inc.” and “Boycott Brown’s Bakery and Restaurant.”
The National Archives “Cartoon Analysis Worksheet” can be used to analyze the two cartoons “The Last Obstacle: Will it Stop Him?” and “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner.”
Against restriction: Chinese have money to save, have knowledge of banking system, Chinese are prosperous: well dressed, gigantic commercial enterprises in San Francisco, all immigrants can be prosperous at the American “table”
Political Arguments: For restriction: Chinese will gut the immigration laws of the U.S. by using the courts, chaos will result
Against restriction: All people should be welcome to the U.S. and universal suffrage should be for all, America should live up to its ideals
Social Arguments: For restriction: immigrants are not literate, immigrants cling to their old customs and traditions- won’t become American, racism- Chinese take jobs of white workers
Against restriction: immigrants retain identity, but are proud to be American, immigrants can learn English and will use it.
America is a nation of immigrants and should welcome all peoples.
Students will evaluate primary sources for author’s main arguments to determine point of view.
Students will apply analysis to current issues.
Students will compare present events with past events.
Students will assess how changing patterns of immigration influenced American legislation in the late 19th century.
Students will demonstrate how limited resources and unlimited wants influence choice at individual, national and international levels
Students will describe how government policies such as the restriction of immigration can influence the economy.
Students will analyze the influence of special interest groups on legislation and policy making.
Students will describe the voting rights of American citizens.
Students will identify and describe the economic, political, and social arguments for and against immigration restriction using primary source documents.
Students will determine how the historical arguments for and against immigration restriction relate to the current immigration debate.
Students will explain the major provisions of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882).
Students will describe the economic arguments for and against immigration restriction.
Students will describe the effects of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Students will demonstrate how public opinion was reflected in the Chinese Exclusion Act and its extensions.
Students will describe the voting rights of American citizens under the 15th Amendment.
Students will complete a National Archives Analysis Worksheet for the document they are assigned. Class discussion will then focus on the arguments for and against restrictive immigration discovered by the students.
Assign the article “Landmarks in Immigration History” from DigitalHistory for homework. Discuss the essential characteristics of immigration policy pre- and post- Civil War. How did World War II cause a change in immigration policy? www.digitalhistory.uh.edu
Students will read and analyze the arguments made for and against immigration restriction realized in the Chinese Exclusion Act using the Primary Source Analysis Worksheet provided, These arguments can be found at the website, “History Matters.” http://historymatters.gmu/browse/manypasts
Students will read and analyze the Chinese Exclusion Act using the Primary Source Analysis Worksheet. The legislation can be accessed at the website: www.ourdocuments.gov
Students will meet in groups after analyzing the arguments for and against the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Act passed in 1882 and complete the following tasks:
Identify the major provisions in the law.
Determine how public opinion was reflected in the law.
Discuss the historical context of the legislation.
Investigate the effects of the law.
In groups, students will correctly categorize arguments for and against restrictive immigration made in the documents by economic, political and social reasons.
Students will develop a PowerPoint presentation which outlines an answer to the following essay question:
Assess the degree to which the issues of the debate were reflected in the Chinese Exclusion Act.
As an extension, students could research the current debate on immigration for homework. Ask them to find a recent article for or against a restrictive immigration policy. Each student should read the article using the structure of the group work activity to take notes. Students will draw parallels to the current debate with the historic ones by identifying and analyzing current social, economic, and political reasons for restricting immigration.