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UMN’s #ImmigrationSyllabus provides historical context on U.S. immigration

Historians are collecting material on a single site to aid students, educators, activists and policymakers.
Image by MN Daily

A screenshot from the #ImmigrationSyllabus website, which compiles articles, scholarship, first-hand accounts and books on U.S. immigration.

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s travel ban and public outrage surrounding the policy, a University of Minnesota site is compiling a history of immigration in the United States to give perspective on the issue.

The #ImmigrationSyllabus website compiles articles, scholarship, first-hand accounts and books on the nuanced history of immigration in the United States.

Professor Erika Lee, director of the Immigration History Research Center, wanted to set up the site even before the travel ban was issued. It was co-created by the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, a Minnesota-based group of immigration historians.

The site was created to provide the public with resources on U.S. immigration history, and also to provide students and educators with resources for classes.

Lee said the site could also prove useful for policymakers.

“Anybody who has an interest in understanding the historical roots of our immigration debate [can use the site],” Lee said.

This syllabus is part of a wave of similar academic initiatives — like #FergusonSyllabus from Georgetown University, and #CharlestonSyllabus created by the African American Intellectual Historical Society — to incorporate real-life events into classrooms, Lee said.

Anti-immigration and anti-refugee sentiments are nothing new in U.S. history, and the #ImmigrationSyllabus provides contextual readings on relevant issues in the discourse of today’s political landscape, such as xenophobia, deportation policy and border policing.

“Trump’s [action] is not the first we’ve seen of expressions of intolerance towards immigrants or refugees [in the United States,]”said Eric Schwartz, dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

But the way the ban is being executed is new, Lee said. Before, any ban or restriction on immigration has been proposed and implemented by Congress, and oftentimes voters got a say in the policies, she said.

“[These] dramatic changes in immigration policy are being done in executive orders,” Lee said. “This executive branch taking on so much power and authority to transform immigration policy is really different.”

Trump’s policies are covered on the #ImmigrationSyllabus site, Lee said, with additional topics ranging from the current refugee crisis to context on Trump’s proposed border wall.

The materials and topics on the site are divided into weeks, similar to a course schedule.

Lee said she hopes the site will contribute to the debate on immigration and refugee policies.

Correction: A previous version of this article misrepresented a paraphrased statement as a direct quote.

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