Coming to America: Immigration Builds This Nation

The story of immigration is inseparable from this country's history. Discover the United States through the waves of immigration that brought our people to America's shores and spurred a nation of change and growth.

All Americans, with the exception of Native American, are descended from immigrants. The greatest number of immigrants -- more than 34 million -- arrived in the United States during the 100 years preceding 1924, when new legislation closed the country's relatively wide-open door.

The first major wave of immigration after 1824 consisted primarily of northern Europeans from Ireland, Great Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia. The second wave of immigrants -- mainly from southern and eastern Europe -- arrived between 1890 and 1924. Today, Mexico and China leads the nation from which most new immigrants to the United States now come.

Immigration, while having its roots in our history, is an important issue for the future of our country. Make a point on December 17th, as a Day of Inclusion of introducing the story of Embracing Our Shared Differences and Common Goals to your school, community, and family today with these resources:

School Resources

Appreciating America’s Heritage The American Immigration Law Foundation (AILF) produces a very valueable Teachers’ resource guide titled “Appreciating America’s Heritage”. Each year, AILF publishes a new edition of this guide because it is important to promote respect, dignity and an appreciation for everyone in this country, regardless of where you were born. By ensuring our children learn that every person deserves respect and that celebrating multiculturalism is at the heart of our American values, the sooner the next generation can end the divisive rhetoric that has divided America for too long.

The latest 2009 edition provides a variety of resources that continue to keep the needs of classroom teachers, community educators and concerned citizens in mind by providing new and innovative lesson plans, book and film reviews as well as a brief history of U.S. immigration. Download “Appreciating America’s Heritage.” (PDF, 4.70 MB)

Facing History and Ourselves delivers classroom strategies, resources and lessons that inspire young people to take responsibility for their world by offering teachers and students ways to confront prejudice, apathy, fear, and violence. Their goal is to teach students to think critically, to empathize, to recognize moral choices, to make their voices heard, we put in their hands the possibility and the responsibility to do the serious work demanded of us all as citizens.

Download An Educator's Guide to Becoming American: The Chinese Experience (PDF, 956 KB) that describes the ways the first arrivals from China in the 1840s, their descendants, and recent immigrants have “become American.” It is a story about identity
and belonging that will resonate with all Americans.

César E. Chávez Model Curriculum The California Department of Education's Model Curriculum - Grade Four: California: A Changing State requires students in this grade to study the history and development of California from earliest times to the present. The curriculum emphasizes the role of immigration, the development of California’s economy, agriculture and infrastructure, its geography and the contributions of men and women of diverse backgrounds. Students will study, in an in-depth manner, “Modern California: Immigration, Technology and Cities”.

Within this unit of study, special attention will be given to the role of labor in industry and agriculture, including how César E. Chávez, through nonviolent tactics, educated the general public about the working conditions in agriculture and led the movement to improve the lives of farm workers through the César E. Chávez Model Curriculum.

Angel Island Immigration Station School Tours School groups can schedule visits to Angel Island year round. Programs about of the Immigration Station are approximately 30-45 minutes long and are led by park staff or volunteers. Immigration Station programs can accommodate 120 people per weekday during the school year.

AIISF has produced an Angel Island Immigration Station Pre-visit Guide (PDF, 274KB) to assist educators in preparing for their trip to Angel Island Immigration Station. This 6-page guide includes background materials, short suggested activities, glossary, and list of resources.

Japanese American Internment Curriculum The National Japanese American Historical Society Education Program provides students the tools to prepare themselves as informed citizens in a constitutional democracy. The study of the Japanese American internment is one that all students should reflect upon and their shared responsibility to protect the rights of all individuals at all times. Particularly in times of crisis, they may be called upon to make difficult decisions that may affect their lives and those of others.

In making such critical decisions, they should be free of prejudice, possess an understanding of due process, and become aware of the constitutional and human rights of all people. The Japanese American Internment Curriculum was developed to help students become aware of, and sensitive to, the Japanese American camp experience.

From Haven to Home Three hundred and fifty years ago an ancient people first took haven in a new land. From those beginnings until today, Jewish life in America has presented both opportunities and challenges. In the early years, Jews fought to be treated like everyone else, seeking the "equal footing" that was theirs by law but not necessarily in practice. More recently, like other minorities and ethnic groups, they have asserted their right to be different and to have those differences accommodated and accepted by society-at-large. From Haven to Home examines the Jewish experience in the United States.

Korean Americans: A Century of Experience The Smithsonian Institution Asian Pacific American Program details the history of Koreans in America with the Korean Americans: A Century of Experience when the S.S. Gaelic arrived in Honolulu Harbor, carrying the first significant group of Korean immigrants to the New World.

Today, Korean American populations exist throughout the United States, with the largest communities residing in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Northern Virginia. The 2000 U.S. Census reports that the population of Korean Americans is well over one million and that number is growing briskly.

Community Resources

The California Immigrant Policy Center is a clearinghouse of reliable information, advocacy tools, education and research materials regarding California’s immigrants and their economic, social, and demographic impact on our state and nation. Under both federal and state law, undocumented immigrants who are victims of human trafficking, domestic violence or other serious crimes may be eligible for certain benefits or social services designed to allow them to escape their abusers.

The California Immigrant Policy Center has issued an excellent booklet titiled, Benefits for Immigrant Victims of Human Trafficking (PDF, 1.36 MB) explaining those benefits and how undocumented immigrants who suffer from abuse may apply for them.

The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy showcases progressive policies that have worked to advance social and economic justice. The debate over the future of immigration policy in this country is expected to become one of the most pressing policy conversations in the year ahead. That debate can be a positive one that helps us to define our future as a nation or a negative one that draws upon fears and inaccuracies for the purpose of dividing people who should be united in the common cause of preserving access to the American Dream. The institute offers an evaluation of immigration policy that operates from the basic principle that immigration policy is sound only if it also helps to strengthen and expand America's middle class.

The institute offers Principles for an Immigration Policy to Strengthen and Expand the American Middle Class: A Primer for Policymakers and Advocates (PDF, 468 KB) in response to current conversations about immigration.

Muslim Americans: A National Portrait The national conversation about Muslim Americans went from a whisper to a roar as the United States attempted to protect itself and heal after the horrific terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Suddenly, a group that had long been overlooked became a subject of scrutiny. However, viewing the diverse Muslim American community primarily through the prism of national security would be an unfortunate oversimplification of a great American story.

In the first-ever nationally representative study of a randomly selected sample of Muslim Americans that was derived from more than 300,000 interviews of U.S. households, Gallup’s Center for Muslim Studies offers a snapshot of this community. Muslim Americans: A National Portrait (PDF, 5.36 MB) is meant as a foundational document to highlight Muslim American ethnic, economic, and political diversity and set the stage for future research.

In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a national research library devoted to collecting, preserving and providing access to resources documenting the experiences of peoples of African descent throughout the world. In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience presents more than 16,500 pages of texts, 8,300 illustrations, and more than 60 maps chronicling the African-American Migration Experience including the Transatlantic Slave Trade from 1450-1867, the American Domestic Slave Trade from 1760-1865, and the Western Migration of Black Americans from 1840-1970.

Armenian Americans in California More than a century ago, Armenians began to leave their country as a result of genocide in their homeland. There are more than one million Armenians in the United States today. Approximately half of this population resides in California, largely in the cities of Glendale, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The first Armenian to arrive in California in 1874 and had a key role in the development of the fig industry in Fresno and exported them worldwide. Similarly, Armenian Americans in California played instrumental roles in the development of the bulgur (cracked wheat), grape, and raisin industries.

Filipino American History In 1763, Filipino seamen established a settlement in what is now known as Louisiana. Waiting to be told are the stories of the descendants of those "Spanish Colonial" Seamen, early workers in sugar plantations of Hawai'i, men who served in the U.S. Navy since World War I, workers - who toiled in Alaska canneries, farms in California, Arizona, Washington and Montana; the railroads, kitchens and restaurants, as hotel workers or houseboys, war brides and countless others who constitute the subsequent groups of immigrants from the Philippines. The Coalition of Collegiate Pilipino American Organizations has created snapshot of Filipino American History and their role in the history of California.

Family Resources

Why I Wear a Turban With 1.5 million in North America, Sikhs can be found in almost all countries of the world. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), gave the Sikhs their distinctive appearance of unshorn hair, beards, turbans and kirpan, a short dagger intended to make them easily recognizable as staunch defenders of the weak and oppressed.

The first Sikhs came to the United States over a hundred years ago. They were involved in the construction of railroads in the Pacific North-West, and the Panama Canal in 1904. Today, Sikhs continue to make significant contributions to American society and are amongst the most educated and prosperous groups of Americans. Learn more from the Sikh Communications Council's " Why I Wear a Turban," Powerpoint slideshow for your 6th grade to middle school age child.

Teaching Your Family About Diversity We all want children to grow up in a world free from bias and discrimination, to reach for their dreams and feel that whatever they want to accomplish in life is possible. We want them to feel included and never to experience the pain of exclusion.

But the reality is that we do live in a world in which racism and other forms of bias continue to affect us. Discrimination hurts and leaves scars that can last a lifetime, affecting goals, ambitions, life choices, and feelings of self-worth. Ultimately racism and discrimination erodes the peace of our communities.

How can we best prepare our families to meet the challenges and reap the benefits of the increasingly diverse world we live in? We can raise children to celebrate and value diversity and to be proud of themselves and their family traditions. We can teach children to respect and value people regardless of the color of their skin, their physical abilities, or the language they speak. You can begin by Teaching Your Family About Diversity.

Everyday Democracy Everyday Democracy is a national leader in the field of civic participation and community change helps people of different backgrounds and views talk and work together to solve problems. As a family we can create communities that work for everyone. The following family resources are provided by Everyday Democracy:

Toward a More Perfect Union - The pressures of an increasingly diverse nation are visible in many of our most complex public issues, such as education, taxes, welfare, and immigration. Dialogue-to-change programs help people from diverse backgrounds and experiences develop trust, understand each other's experiences, and work together on solutions.

Facing Racism in a Diverse Nation - Families need to face racism head-on in order to have healthy communities and a strong country. Families working together to address racism and inequities can help people from a variety of racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds examine the gaps among racial and ethnic groups where they live, explore approaches to creating greater equity, and create lasting change in their community. The infomation is also available in a Spanish version.

Changing Faces, Changing Communities - For many of us, immigration is not a distant national issue; it is part of our everyday lives. Study circles bring people from diverse backgrounds to decide together what to do about issues such as the effect of immigration on racial tensions, jobs, and schools, language differences, and prejudice against immigrants.

Individual Resources

Write a Letter of Support for ACR 76 ACR 76 needs you help. Now is the time for you to get involved. ACR 76 will soon be heard in the California State Assembly Judiciary Committee. Please do your part in support of ACR 76 by writing a letter of support.

Download and Distribute Our Day of Inclusion Postcard This Day of Inclusion Postcard is a quick reference guide that provides ideas as to how individuals, organizations, and communittes can celebrate a Day of Inclusion.

Tolerance 101 Founded in 1991 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation's children. Tolerance 101 (PDF, 1.33 MB) provides vital information to promote these goals.

Explore Hidden Bias It is well known that people don't always speak their minds, and it is suspected that people don't always know their minds. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology.

Project Implicit blends basic research and educational outreach in a virtual laboratory at which visitors can examine their own hidden biases. This new method is called the Implicit Association Test, or IAT for short.

Hidden Bias Tests measure unconscious, or automatic, biases. Your willingness to examine your own possible biases is an important step in understanding the roots of stereotypes and prejudice in our society.

Explore Hidden History Historical and modern day images often contain hidden messages about us, about others and about our world. These subtle lessons lie just beneath the surface. In order to see them, we must replace passive consumption of images with critical analysis. Make a point to Explore Hidden History

Volunteer in a Diverse Community in Your City CaliforniaVolunteers is the state office that manages programs and initiatives aimed at increasing the number of Californians engaged in service and volunteering.