Using History to Inform the Modern Immigration Debate in the United States

William David McCorkle


The contentious modern immigration debate in the United States is often void of historical context and thus filled with fallacious narratives. To confront this trend, social studies educators should place the issues of modern immigration within their proper historical framework. This paper looks at three primary themes educators can explore: the increasingly restrictive immigration system, the similarities between the past and present in relation to xenophobic and nativist beliefs and movements, and the changes immigrants have continuously brought to American society. By exploring both the historical continuity and contrasts, students can begin to obtain a more nuanced and embracive view of immigration. History is a powerful tool which educators can employ to undermine increasingly popular xenophobic rhetoric and policies.  


immigration; immigrant rights; nativism; social justice

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