Talk by Will Katerberg
Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL) Lecture
American immigration policies have changed significantly over the past 200 years, but debates over more restrictive versus more open policies have recurring themes. Should the U.S. restrict immigration to prevent its ethnic, racial, and religious character from changing? Should any immigrant who accepts American political values be welcome? Immigration Debates in America begins in the 1830s and 1840s, with campaigns against Irish-Catholic immigration. Then it turns to anti-Chinese legislation (1870s–1920s), immigration policies about Europeans (1880s–1920s), the rejection of Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Germany (1930s), the Mexican American border region, and Muslim immigration today.
This lecture examines both history’s conflict and adaptation. Native-born Americans and new groups of immigrants repeatedly have grown accustomed to each other. The vision of who can be American has widened and become more diverse over time. By putting debates about immigration in historical context, we can better understand the practical and ethical considerations that shape immigration policies today.
William Katerberg is professor of history and director of the Program in Western American Studies at Calvin University. He is also the Curator of Heritage Hall, the archives of Calvin and the director of the Mellema Program in Western American Studies. Finally, he is the editor of Origins, the magazine published by Heritage Hall.