What priorities should determine U.S. immigration policy?
Second edition. September 2018.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the Current Issues Series that summarize the historical context, student readings, and skill development are available on this MIRO BOARD.

The United States often defines itself as a nation of immigrants. The idealism surrounding immigration helps explain the deep feelings it evokes in the public policy arena. Today, these sentiments jostle with concerns about the economy, national security, social relations, and other issues that shape the discourse on U.S. immigration policy. In Immigration and the U.S. Policy Debate, students wrestle with the complex relationship between immigration policy, the responses of various stakeholders, and the experiences of immigrants in the United States throughout history. The unit explores the history of immigration to the United States and recent U.S. immigration policy. It is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills (including at least one that focuses on building geographic literacy) and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson and additional synthesis lessons that allow students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“I used your immigration unit on parent visiting day and it was a smashing success! The parents really gave wonderful feedback on the debate we had. Especially great was how up to date the material is.”Christopher, History Teacher, Michigan

Part I: Immigration and the U.S. Experience

Part I discusses the earliest phases of immigration to the United States up until the 1920s. There are two lessons aligned with Part I: 1) Oral Histories of Immigration, and 2) Primary Source Analysis: The Dillingham Commission.

Part II: U.S. Immigration in a Changing World

Part II examines immigration from the 1920s until the turn of the century. There are two lessons aligned with Part II: 1) Data Analysis: U.S. Immigration Trends, and 2) Immigrant Experiences in U.S. History.

Part III: Immigration in the Twenty-First Century

Part III explores immigration in the twenty-first century and the state of the debate today. There are two lessons aligned with Part III: 1) Refugee Stories: Mapping a Crisis, and 2) Syrian Refugees: Understanding Stories with Comics.


Oral Histories of Immigration

Students discuss factors that lead to immigration, conduct an interview, and research experiences and histories of immigration.

Primary Source Analysis: The Dillingham Commission

Students examine the values and beliefs that influenced immigration policy in the early 1900s.

Data Analysis: U.S. Immigration Trends

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

Immigrant Experiences in U.S. History

Using a selection of first person immigrant accounts, students learn about and compare the motivations and challenges involved in the process of immigration.

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

Students analyze comics about the experiences of individual Syrian refugees and draw conclusions about what individual experiences reveal about larger political contexts.

Options for U.S. Policy

The Options Role Play is the key lesson in the unit, and it asks students to examine four distinct options for U.S. immigration policy in preparation for writing their own option.

Source Analysis and Persuasive Writing

Synthesis Lesson: 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.

Resettlement Challenges and Solutions

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

Synthesis Lesson: Students use primary sources to compare and contrast Japanese American incarceration in WWII and contemporary migrant detention, and explore how knowledge of history can inspire activism and build solidarity. 

Back to top