Educate Yourself: Immigration

Understanding the rights, history of immigrants in America is understanding the country in itself



American history is (among other people) built on the history of immigrants.

JOEL KEMEGUE, Evergreen mint editor

As it is so often said, America is a nation built on immigration (among other things), and the history between America and immigrants is understated most of the time, considering just how much this country owes them. Whether it’s been for the benefit of America, the immigrants or both, this country has relied on them for as long as it’s been a country. Which makes its tumultuous (to say the least) relationship with immigration weird in a way.

Understanding the history of immigration and what rights immigrants are fighting for today is integral to understanding America. While it is impossible to make a definitive list for understanding the role immigration plays in America, hopefully these recommendations will enlighten you a little.

Along with recommendations by yours truly, WSU history professor Lipi Turner-Rahman has contributed two.

Frontline: Immigration Battle

This episode came out in 2015 and mainly follows former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez as he pushes for immigration reform, while also spotlighting young immigrant activists and organizations like the National Council of La Raza. While it may be a little old, it’s still a very relevant look into the people fighting for immigration reform and the obstacles they face to carve out a place for themselves in America.

I think it’s also important to learn about immigration before our current president. We all know how charged of a topic it is now, but this episode reminds us that a lot of what immigration reformers are fighting for hasn’t changed, hence the “very relevant” part.

“Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay In 40 Questions” by Valeria Luiselli

Tell Me How It Ends is 71 pages long, so even if you don’t like to read, it doesn’t take a long time to finish. The book is framed through the forty questions Luiselli, as a translator for unaccompanied child migrants, has to ask. Through those questions, Luiselli ponders what these children have gone through and also takes time to reflect on America’s history with immigration, as well as her journey to become a citizen.

There are a lot of hard parts to read for such a short book, from the hard facts Luiselli mentions about history or the immigration process to the personal experiences she describes. Those hard parts are what makes this book so important, and such an essential read.

Tell Me How It Ends is a soul-crushing look into immigration, why so many come to this country and how we treat them before, in travel and after they get here.

“Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America” by Vivek Bald

Turner-Rahman’s first recommendation traces the history of South Asian immigrants coming to American in the early 1900s, how they came to cities such as Harlem and Baltimore, and integrated with the communities of color.

“This is a wonderful book that highlights the intermarriages, collation building and alliances that communities of color have had to make in America to survive,” Turner-Rahman said.

Pioneering Punjabis

Turner-Rahman’s second recommendation comes in the form of a historical archive by UC Davis, detailing the history of Punjabi Americans in California in the early 20th century. The archive looks into the personal experiences, the people, and most interestingly, how the Punjabi American community impacted California.

This archive also serves as a good representation of how immigrants have been a constant throughout American history, how they’ve been making minor and major contributions that are often too quickly forgotten. It’s an interesting look into a part of history you likely didn’t know.