What priorities should determine U.S. immigration policy?
First edition. September 2016.

To say that the United States is a country of immigrants is an acknowledgment of history. It is also how many U.S. citizens think about their country: a refuge and a place of opportunity for all. But immigrants have not always been welcomed with open arms. Debates about immigration have been omnipresent throughout U.S. history and continue to the present day. Immigration and the U.S. Policy Debate explores the history of immigration to the United States and prepares students to articulate their own views on the future of immigration policy.


The readings prepare students to consider the complexities of the U.S. immigration policy. Part I reviews the history of immigration to the United States from the colonial era to the early twentieth century and introduces students to the economic, cultural, and security issues that influenced these flows. Part II examines how the United States’ changing role in the world during the twentieth century affected immigration policy and immigrant experiences. Part III explores the complexities of U.S. immigration in the twenty-first century, preparing students to formulate their own ideas on the future direction of U.S. immigration policy.


Oral Histories of Immigration

Students assess motivations for immigration, conduct an interview, and research experiences and histories of immigration.

Primary Source Analysis: The Immigration (Dillingham) Commission

Through a reading from the 1911 Dillingham Commission report, students examine the values and beliefs that influenced immigration policy in the early 1900s.

Data Analysis: Immigration to the United States

Students analyze U.S. immigration statistics for the years 1821-2000 and draw conclusions about the events and policies that have shaped trends in immigration.

Understanding Immigrant Experiences

Students read from a selection of first person immigrant accounts, comparing the motivations and challenges involved in the process of immigration.

Refugee Stories: Mapping a Crisis

In this online lesson, students gain an understanding of the current refugee crisis by mapping data and exploring personal accounts of refugees.

Quotation Analysis and Persuasive Writing

Students write a persuasive essay demonstrating their ability to critically analyze a primary source and take a stance on whether they agree or disagree with the source's author.

Identifying Problems and Solutions for Resettlement

Students design and develop ideas for a mobile app that addresses a specific challenge that refugees face in the process of resettlement.

Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support.


Chomsky, Aviva. Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal. Boston: Beacon Press, 2014.

DeSipio, Louis and Rodolfo O. de la Garza. Immigration in the Twenty-First Century: Making Americans, Remaking America. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2015.

FitzGerald, David Scott and David Cook-Martín. Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.

Gonzales, Roberto G. Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2015.

Lee, Robert G and Wanni W. Anderson. Displacements and Diasporas: Asians in the Americas. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005.

White, Michael J. and Jennifer E. Glick. Achieving Anew: How New Immigrants Do in American Schools, Jobs, and Neighborhoods. New York: Russell Sage, 2009.

Zolberg, Aristide D. A Nation By Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

A U.S government website that offers statistics and information about government policy.
An immigration rights organization that advocates for public policies that welcome immigrants and refugees.
Links to articles, statistics, and public opinion polls on the topic of immigration.
Reports, articles, profiles, and graphics discussing groups that espouse hate in the United States—including anti-immigration and Islamophobic groups.
Reports, statistics, photos, videos about the UNHCR and refugee experiences.
Reports and statistics from a refugee advocacy organization.
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