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July 28, 2014  
 
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The Immigrant Experience:
Ellis Island

Grade Level:

4-12

Overview:


Students need little prior knowledge of immigration history to complete this exercise. They will first be introduced to Ellis Island and its functions, then will embark upon a more in-depth assessment of the role of immigration in American history.

Time Frame:

3 hours

Objectives:

  • Learn about what immigrants to America during the late 19th and early 20th century had to undergo.
  • Understand our country's historical ambivalence toward immigrants and immigration in general.

Extensions:

  • America has been described as a "nation of immigrants" because (except for those of Native American heritage), everybody came to this country from somewhere else. Research your own family and construct a family tree that traces your ancestry back to 1900 (or as far as you can). Did anyone in your family emigrate to America during the 20th century? If so, find out where they entered the country and what type or inspection or interview they had to undergo. How does their immigrant experience compare to the Ellis Island experience?
  • Research the Immigration Act of 1924, then write an essay in which you compare anti-immigrant sentiment at that time to the debates over illegal immigration taking place today: and answer this question: If America prides itself on being a "melting pot," then why throughout our country's history have so many people been opposed to allowing immigrants into the United States?

Reproducible student sheet for this exercise


 
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