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The College of Arts Sciences

New website offers context on American immigration

By: Linda B. Glaser,  Cornell Chronicle
January 31, 2017

The 2016 presidential election and recent presidential actions have brought attention to immigration and immigrants in American society, with much of the debate perpetuating harmful stereotypes, stoking fears about outsiders and echoing a nativist rhetoric that many believed had disappeared from public discourse.

In response, Maria Cristina Garcia, the Howard A. Newman Professor of American Studies and Latina/o Studies, in collaboration with other  immigration historians, has launched the #ImmigrationSyllabus website.

“The current immigration debate ignores century-long conversations about who is allowed into the country and what it means to be an American,” says Garcia. “Anti-immigrant rhetoric and immigrant surveillance, detention and deportation have been a defining feature of American politics and state and federal policy since the 19th century.”  

Many Americans have a romanticized idea of the nation’s immigrant past, Garcia says, including politicians, public commentators, critics and journalists. “We hope our suggested readings, primary sources and multimedia sources will help educators and citizens in their teaching and public discussions. The syllabus might even help policymakers avoid the mistakes of the past," says Garcia.

- Linda B. Glaser

The Main Building on Ellis Island, 1905.  Prints and Photographs Division/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg. no. LC-USZ62-37784)