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

Chad Riley/Getty Images
The Statue of Liberty has become an iconic image of American immigration. In this episode, we challenge some of the assumptions we have about immigration to the United States.
Chad Riley/Getty Images

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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 often met with hostility, or prevented from entering the United States at all.

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

Garcia says certain stereotypes about immigrants have stayed the same, even as nationalities change with each successive wave of immigration. Garcia also discusses the ways immigration has changed over time.


Study Guide Questions

1. Shankar describes the saying "we're a nation of immigrants" as more than a fact, but a foundational story. Christina Maria Garcia agrees and says that "immigrants and refugees are central to the American national mythology." In your own words, what do these statements (e.g. American national mythology) mean?

2. Think of another example of a foundational American story.

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

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

5. What was Garcia's immigration experience like? How did it compare to the experiences of other immigrants she saw?

6. What does Garcia's research tell us about the idea that immigrants today are less likely or willing to assimilate than immigrants of previous eras?

7. What does Garcia's research tell us about the distinction between legal and illegal (or documented and undocumented) immigration?

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

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

10. 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 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. Be sure to relate this discussion back to Garcia's points from the podcast. For example, are immigrants/refugees portrayed as wanting to assimilate? What threat are they (or aren't they) seen as posing? What motifs do you see across various cartoons? How do those motifs relate to American national mythology?


This slideshow from US News and World Report includes cartoons that are both pro- and anti- immigration; they mostly relate 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.



Books by Maria Cristina Garcia