Question/Discussion: materials for an Immigration in US in the World since 1945 course?

David Fitzsimons's picture

Dear colleagues,

I am a diplomatic historian without expertise in US immigration. My chair wants me to have the last of my main three units to be about immigration to the US since 1965. It is a writing intensive class for first-year students at RISD, an elite art school with average writers from all over the world.  Lots of Chinese, Koreans, and Americans from East Asian ancestral backgrounds, by the way.  I would like to have a module with a pro-immigration essay contrasted with an essay more critical of immigration along with primary sources students can cite to bolster their analysis of these two secondary sources. I discovered Roy Beck, The Case against Immigration (Norton), chapter 1, for the latter, but wonder if I could do better.  My model here is Pearson Publishing's Major Problems series, but I cannot find what I want in what the series provides on this issue.  Any suggestions would be much appreciated, including ideas for lectures, video, or other classroom activities.

Thank you for your help!


David M. Fitzsimons, Ph.D.
Department of History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences
Rhode Island School of Design
Two College Street
Providence, Rhode Island, 02903


Maria Cristina Garcia has co-edited with Maddalena Marinari and myself A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered US Society in an Age of Restriction, 1924-1965 (UIP 2019) which brings together Eiichiro Azuma, David Cook-Martín, David FitzGerald, Monique Laney, Heather Lee, Kathleen López, Laura Madokoro, Ronald L. Mize, Arissa H. Oh, Ana Elizabeth Rosas, Lorrin Thomas, Ruth Ellen Wasem, and Elliott Young contributing articles on main themes such as citizenship, policy, and labor for the four decades leading up to 1965.

I am a US and the World historian specializing in post-WWII migration. For a good overview of immigration policy and trends since 1965, I would recommend "Immigration Nation" or "Deported" by Tanya Golash-Boza, the final chapters of Aristide Zolberg's "A Nation by Design" or Dan Kanstroom's "Deportation Nation," Maria Cristina Garcia's book "Seeking Refuge," and anything by Yen Le Espiritu on Asian-American migration/refugees. Mike Davis and Justin Akers Chacon's book "No One is Illegal" is a well-written explanation and take-down of the myths surrounding immigration, as well as Jane Guskin's fantastic "The Politics of Immigration."

Finally, when it comes to "both sides" of the immigration debate, I want to warn against using Roy Beck, or anything affiliated with Numbers USA or the larger John Tanton network (which includes the organizations Center for Immigration Studies and FAIR). Such literature is not scholarly or credible; all of these organizations were founded and funded by white nationalists and designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and pose as faux immigration "think tanks" (akin to climate science denial literature). (A bit on Roy Beck here: If you do assign such readings to students, I implore you to couch it within this context/history, and actually tracing the funding/backgrounds of these organizations could make a very fruitful classroom exercise and discussion about credible sources and research, if done responsibly. For a non-partisan, credible source on immigration policy and statistics, I recommend the Migration Policy Institute out of DC.

Thank you for your very helpful post and list of good sources in the first paragraph. I am indeed trying to teach them research literacy by having people like Beck in the mix and then discussing what can and cannot be seen as credible sources. Is there anything similar to Beck on "the other side" of the debate?

I'm not sure if I would classify any of the suggestions below as "pro" or "con" but the following pieces provoked excellent classroom discussion when I taught an upper-level undergrad U.S. immigration history course last spring. To be frank, I have not found ANY pro-immigration-restriction scholarship to be credible/in-good-faith. Most of these that I have encountered seem to have some kind of racist agenda at their core. I fear that you may be setting up your students for a straw man argument, but that's perhaps my own bias.

Francisco Cantu, _The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border (Riverhead Books, 2018) (Students loved the excerpt I gave them from this memoir of a writer who spent a year as a Border Patrol agent.)

Roberto G. Gonzales and Steven Raphael, "Illegality: A Contemporary Portrait of Immigration, _The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences_, Vol. 3, No. 4, Undocumented Immigrants and Their Experience with Illegality (July 2017), pp. 1-17.

Patrick Radden Keefe, “The Snakehead,” _The New Yorker_, April 24, 2006,

Eithne Luibheid, _Entry Denied: Controlling Sexuality at the Border_ (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2002):
--Chapter 4: Looking Like a Lesbian: Sexual Monitoring at the U.S.-Mexico Border
--Chapter 5: Rape, Asylum, and the U.S. Border Patrol

Douglas S. Massey and Karen A. Pren, “Unintended Consequences of US Immigration Policy: Explaining the Post-1965 Surge from Latin America,” _Population and Development Review_, Vol. 38, No. 1 (March 2012), pp. 1-29.

See also: Margaret Sands Orchowski, The Law that Changed the Face of America: The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015).

For context of the debates over immigration between 'Western Civ' advocats and white nationalists/racists on the one side and 'neo-liberalists' and 'multiculturalists' on the other, see the short section on "The Post-Cold War and Post-9/11 Turn" within R. Charles Weller, "'Western' and 'White Civilization': White Nationalism and Eurocentrism at the Crossroads," in 21st-Century Narratives of World History: Global and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, ed. RC Weller, 35-80 (Palgrave, 2017), with the section mentioned on pp. 44-61.