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The Roots of our Immigration Crisis

created Jan 19, 2018 10:44 AM

by Shelley Brooks, Ph.D.

Last week, President Trump’s reported use of an expletive during a discussion about immigration reform with members of Congress sparked a firestorm of controversy that dominated the news, endangered a fragile compromise between Democrats and Republicans on the issue, and may lead to a federal government shutdown.   At the heart of the current debate are questions that seek to define America’s immigration policy in 2018:  What do we do about people who are already here illegally (especially those brought here as children) and who should we let in in the future?  And what should we do about the border?

Immigration is a quintessentially American issue, given that immigrants and their descendants make up the vast majority of the U.S. population (the 2010 census indicates that American Indians and Alaska Natives make up only 1.7% of our total population). Of the 98% of the population that is not considered Native American, 13% were born abroad, and later moved to the United States. The United States is an immigrant nation, and so we might ask why immigration is still such a volatile issue?

While the current immigration debate may seem unprecedented, the first federal immigration law was passed in 1882.  To help your students understand both the current debate and the roots of the immigration crisis, check out our latest Current Context:  The Roots of our Immigration Crisis.