We in the United States live in an era of superheated politics and a superheated news cycle where media attention flits from issue to issue, outrage to outrage. The president’s remarks on immigration from African countries and Haiti have put the spotlight squarely on him. The attitudes underlying his remarks deserve scrutiny. At the same time, the policies under consideration affect millions of people in the United States and also deserve our careful consideration. How can we help our students make sense of the moment and the larger issues that rocket past them on their screens and in sound bites? One way for educators to teach about this topic is by putting the issues surrounding immigration in their broader historical context.

The Choices Program’s curriculum unit, Immigration and the U.S. Policy Debate provides teachers with a way to help students consider the history of immigration to the United States and prepares them to articulate their own views on the future of immigration policy. Readings review the history from the colonial era to the present and introduce the economic, cultural, and security issues that influenced these flows. Exclusion and discrimination for racial and/or religious reasons are part of this history.

Immigration and the U.S. Policy Debate does not shy away from the history of racial and religious exclusion and discrimination in the United States. But we think it provides a  responsible way for teachers to include this essential element of the story of immigration. Listen to the podcast below about how the Choices writers wrestled with the decision to include these essential issues in this curriculum. The podcast also includes suggestions for approaching these issues in classrooms.


In addition to readings for students, Immigration and the U.S. Policy Debate  includes lessons for use in classrooms.

  • Oral Histories of Immigration
  • Primary Source Analysis: The Immigration (Dillingham) Commission
  • Data Analysis: Immigration to the United States
  • Understanding Immigrant Experiences
  • Refugee Stories: Mapping a Crisis
  • Quotation Analysis and Persuasive Writing


There are fifty short videos that can be used in conjunction with the readings and lessons. In the one below, Professor Bob Lee of Brown University answers the question “How has race affected the experience of immigrants?”

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