Immigration Study Guide: Week Two
Faith Development, Immigration

The History of (Im)migration in the U.S.


  • To encourage participants to see the immigration issue from perspectives other than from the legacy of colonialism
  • To think about what it means to be considered “American”

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the history of migration to what is now called the United States
  • Understanding how immigration policy has been tied to race/ethnicity

Handouts for Week Two

  1. 2.1 A Native American Perspective On Immigration (PDF)
  2. 2.2 Story from the Tohono Odham Nation (PDF)
  3. 2.3 A Very Brief Primer on U.S.-Mexican History (PDF)
  4. 2.4 Ten Anti-Immigrant Quotes That Sound...Familiar (PDF)
  5. 2.5 White By Law—Requirement for Becoming “American” (PDF)


5” Chalice Lighting and Opening Reading

10” Check-in

20” Activity 1: U.S. History: Through Whose Eyes?

20” Activity 2: Immigration and Ethnicity Timeline

20” Activity 3: Becoming “American”

10” Debrief

5” Closing

Chalice Lighting and Opening Reading

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

—Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus


Participants are invited to share where they are spiritually/emotionally with respect to the class.

Activity 1: U.S. History: Through Whose Eyes?

Discussion to be held with the group as a whole: In handout 2.1, the author talks about a television commercial that starts with “an image of white people, then it moved on to African Americans, Latinos and finally Asians.” In many ways, the ad mirrors the narrative that is taught in our U.S. history classes. What are the assumptions underlying this version of history? From whose perspective is it being told? How might a Native American tell the story? An African American? A Latino/a American? What would the commercial look like that tried to balance different points of view?

Activity 2: Immigration and Race Timeline

Workshop facilitator(s) choose(s) dates from the links below to create a timeline, written on poster paper and put up in the room. (Create the timeline beforehand.) Pay special attention to the relationship between race and immigration policy. A quick way to add dates is to copy them from the websites into a Word file, print and cut them out, and paste them onto the wall. Add dates about the history of your church. Leave space for members of your congregation to write when they or their fore-parents entered the United States, and post photos if they have them.

Invite participants to share "How long has their family been in the U.S.? From where? Why did they come?"

Activity 3: Becoming “American”

Discussion to be held with the group as a whole: Every generation of immigrants to the U.S. has faced resistance from those who were already here. Historically speaking, these groups have eventually come to be accepted as “American.” Who are the groups who are facing resistance in the U.S. now? It used to be law that one had to be recognized as “white” to be “American.” Since that is no longer the case, what does it mean to be “American”? What are the attributes?


Participants are invited to share anything that strongly moved them during the session.

Closing Reading and Extinguishing the Chalice

Patriot, by Alice Walker

Handouts for Week Three

Further Study

To explore the topics covered in this session, as well as related topics, see the resources listed in section II.B (PDF, 11 pages) of the study guide.

For more information contact

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