Episode 47: Give Me Your Tired... — Study Guide for Middle School The U.S. is a nation of immigrants. But historian Maria Cristina Garcia says many of us have lots of misconceptions about earlier waves of newcomers.

Episode 47: Give Me Your Tired... — Study Guide for Middle School

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"America is a nation of immigrants." This saying carries weight in American politics, history, and identity. Even though we recite this idea often, immigrants are not always welcomed into this country. Sometimes people are not allowed to immigrate to the United States; other times people are not treated with respect once they get here.

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The statue of liberty is a symbol of American immigration.
Chad Riley/Getty Images

Shankar Vedantam talks to the historian Maria Cristina Garcia about America's complex relationship to immigration. They discuss patterns we see across history and how this relates to the immigration we see today.

Garcia tells Vedantam that certain stereotypes about immigrants have stayed the same over generations. She also tells us about how immigration has changed.


Study Guide Questions

1. Shankar Vedantam describes the saying "we're a nation of immigrants" as more than a fact, but a foundational story. Have you heard this saying ("we're a nation of immigrants") before? What does it mean to you?

2. Based on this context, what do you think a "foundational story" means?

3. Another example of a foundational story or American national mythology might be the idea of the "American Dream." What does the American Dream mean to you? Why do you think it is seen as so important?

4. What tension/contradiction does Garcia say has always been a part of the politics around immigration?

5. What was the "know-nothing" party?

6. What was Garcia's immigration experience like? Compare it to the experiences of other immigrants that she saw.

7. What does Garcia's research tell us about the idea that immigrants today are less likely to learn English and become part of American culture than immigrants from previous eras?

8. Has there always been a difference between legal and illegal (or documented and undocumented) immigration?

9. Why did many Americans see Irish immigrants as a threat to national security?

10. Christina Maria Garcia says that "during periods of national emergency, immigrants become likely scapegoats." What examples does she give?

11. Can you think of examples from current events?



Look at some of the political cartoons about Irish immigrants from the 19th century. Talk as a class or in small groups about what statements these cartoons communicate. What were the stereotypes about the Irish? How are they portrayed (e.g. threatening or weak; desirable or undesirable)?

Look at some of the political cartoons about immigrants today. Compare these cartoons to those about Irish immigrants.


This slideshow from US News and World Report includes cartoons that are both pro- and anti- immigration, mostly relating to refugees from Syria.

This article from NJ.com shows many examples of cartoons that are both pro- and anti- immigration, mostly relating to refugees from Syria. For use in the classroom, focus on the images and not the text around it.

An anti-immigration political cartoon from The Daily Mail.

A conservative blog with many anti-immigrant cartoons, mostly relating to immigration from Latin America.