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Restricting Immigration to the US

A color cartoon showing laborers, among whom are Irishmen, an African American, a Civil War veteran, Italian, Frenchman, and a Jew (all caracatures), building a wall against the Chinese. Labels on wall indicate that Congressional mortar connects blocks of prejudice, non-reciprocity, law against race, fear, jealousy, anti-low-wages, competition, etc. Across the sea, a ship flying the American flag enters China, as the Chinese knock down their own wall and permit trade of such goods as rice, tea, and silk.
The Anti-Chinese Wall : The American wall goes up as the Chinese original goes down, 1882. Library of Congress item
Year Start
Year End

This lesson uses the 21st century “travel ban,” ruled constitutional in 2018, as an entry point to explore previous shifts in US immigration policy. More specifically, students will use primary sources to examine social contexts of three specific immigration laws (Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Immigration Acts of 1921 & 1924, and Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952) in order to understand who was banned or excluded from the US and why. Lesson materials and activities are designed so that English learners and others who may struggle with written text are able to fully participate in exploring the primary sources and evaluating connections between policy and historical context. The teaching notes at the end of the lesson outline provide support for teaching the topic of immigration and other potentially charged and controversial issues in American classrooms.  Lesson PDF