American Immigration Experience

 

As a member of the 2016 Leadership Advancement Scholarship cohort, I was required to take a writing intensive course called The American Experience. Over the course of the 2017 Spring Semester, we discussed and read a lot about the immigration history into America and the way the citizens of the United States perceived those entering from foreign nations seeking refuge and citizenship. Through discussions, readings and documentaries I was exposed to a larger understanding of the changes that have occurred in our nation over the centuries.

One of our assignments was to choose a chapter in the book and write a 5-paged paper about the contents of the chapter as well as what we found through additional research. I chose to write on the immigration into America that occurred during the Cold War, and I was notScreen Shot 2017-04-08 at 5.23.47 PM.png expecting to find what I did in my research. After the cease of World War II until 1991, “the cold war brought over 3 million refugees into the United States” (Immigration- The Cold War and Beyond). WWII brought guilt onto the U.S. and because of what had happened in the world, they began to have a more ideological outlook on immigrations and try to provide a safe-haven to the millions that were displaced by European powers. Due to the large amounts of immigration from around the world, the United States was provided with a diverse culture and became what we now see as a melting pot of differences.

My next assignment was for our midterm exam, in which we had to write two two-paged papers on topics of our choosing (off of a list of course). The first topic I chose was to “discuss attitudes toward citizenship and aliens in America before the Civil War”. This topic
was one that I had previously discussed in a classroom setting on many occasions but I had never taken the opportunity to write it out. The United States was Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 5.49.45 PM.pnga very new nation before the Civil War and because of that, the states were in charge of their own immigration and citizenship policies which caused confusion and conflict. Acts were put in place to attempt to expand the nation while also controlling who was coming into the borders, ending in the Naturalization act of 1790, allowing “free white person” easy access into the new nation, this act was generous of the U.S. in governments early legislation. “Any alien, being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for 2 years may be admitted to become a citizen thereof” (Major Problems in American Immigration History). The second topic that I decided to write on was “how did the territorial expansion in the southwest influence public discussion of America’s future, and how did that affect the U.S. relations with Mexico?” The expansion southwest in the 1830s and 40s is what we now consider “manifest destiny” meaning that American expansion was inevitable which inevitably sparked conflict between Americans, Indians and Hispanics among the Western territories.

My favorite assignment was by far theone that we had full reins on what we wrote about. In a group with Angie Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 12.41.41 PM.pngand Blake, we wrote about an immigrant who came into America that had leadership within the U.S. We decided that the best person to write about was John Lennon, a man who even in his role was not afraid to speak his opinion and even put it into his music. He stood for peace but recognized the hatred and war in the world, he truly was a man of his word and it is sad that his life was cut so short. John Lennon changed the world with his music, and that is not something we see everyday now.

If it hadn’t been for the material we were supposed to be learning in this course, I don’t think I would have been able to stand going to class every Monday. This class was from 3:30pm until 6:20pm and the majority of the time we would either be talked at or shown a video where the narrator would be very monotoned. My success in this class was very independent, there were never any rubrics or guidelines to what you had to do so you had to try to include everything that may have value but at the same time, try not to go off topic. I do think  that there were a few people in the class who continuously contributed to conversation, Blake being one of them and this act showed leadership within the class period. He had a lot of knowledge and was always willing to share.

Now What?
As mentioned before, this class opened my eyes a lot to the way that citizens felt towards immigrants in our history, but now I am beginning to realize that those feelings haven’t changed very much in today’s world. For example, our current president is trying to eliminate immigration and deport those who are not legal citizens in the U.S. but what he and many others do not realize is how important immigration is. Being a diverse nation, a nation in which we accept all people willing to do their part , a nation in which we provide a safe place for those fleeing danger. All of these things are so important if we want to be seen as the strong and powerful America that we had been in the past, or were we ever actually great? According to our history we haven’t really been all that great. So now, I want to educate people and try to show them that without immigration, the majority of our nation wouldn’t exist. Our ancestors were technically immigrants that pushed the native people out so that they could take over. How is that great? I want our nation to acknowledge the fact that people are people, no matter what their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, language or any other differences that may arise.

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