In 1751 Benjamin Franklin ranted and raved against German immigrants: “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.” Still today, despite the welcoming image of the Statue of Liberty, America remains deeply ambivalent and divided about the pros and cons of immigration. This interdisciplinary course will consider public policy as well as examine fiction and film that convey the lived experience of twentieth and twenty-first century immigrants.

Our discussion of immigration policy will consider two main topics: immigration control and integration of immigrants. We begin with a threshold question about the rationale and morality of migration control: why do we have borders? After reviewing the history of U.S. immigration and the current system of visa allocation, we will discuss current policy issues. These include the tenuous status of undocumented workers; the challenge of responding to the recent wave of unaccompanied child migrants; and the criteria for extending asylum to political refugees and sex abuse victims. We next examine immigration reform, focusing on President Obama’s executive orders proposal deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) and for parents of citizens and lawful permanent residents (DAPA).

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to

• Understand the history of U.S. immigration, both the idealist myth and the harsh reality, often stained by nativism and racism

• Understand the current regime of US visa control based on employment categories and family ties

• Be able to articulate a pro and con on leading policy issues including treatment of undocumented aliens; the Obama reform package; proposals to increase high-tech visas, and Dream Act tuition reform. The objective is not to reach a consensus but to understand the arguments and to be able to offer an informed critique

• Be able to articulate the evolution of assimilation theory and take a position on its (in)applicability to 21st century immigration

• Acquire familiarity with relevant research organizations, advocacy groups, web sites, and library data bases

• Appreciate how the immigrant experience has enriched postwar American fiction and film

• Through literary and visual narratives, gain an appreciation of the extent to which the immigrant experience, while often sharing common elements, reflects the origins and perspective of specific migrant populations

Assignments include:

• Essays on short fiction and/or personal account; presentation on policy issues; option for original short fiction; periodic contributions to course blog and class participation. Students who have a direct connection with immigration are encouraged to enrich our course with their own individual and family experience.