John von Hartz ’55

John von Hartz offers a compelling and beautifully written narrative on his immigration legacy. With evocative detail, he brings to life the stories told among his family members and creates a narrative with sensory details that spark the historical imagination. His is a narrative of emotional intimacy with this past, and demonstrates just how powerful story telling can be.

Polly Walters Legacy

Polly Walters offers a detailed accounting of her family’s legacy in colonial America. Her narrative traces the movement of her ancestors from Europe to eastern colonies and further west to Ohio, California, and eventually Hawaii.

Her story also goes further to explore genetic connections.

Policy Groups

Quota Group

—Document all undocumented workers, in order to equal the playing field in terms of wages

—Should family reunification be emphasized to the same extent? How should we determine skill levels for labor market, and how should we determine refugee policy

—have a ceiling and a goal about how far we want to grow through immigration

—Is an immigration policy designed in 1965 still appropriate? American exceptionalism, environmental issues, population growth—what do we want going forward? People want to come here, and we don’t want to pick winners, but still need to be aware of skills that individuals can contribute to strengthening the nation.


Can immigration policy respond to events, i.e. war, climate catastrophes?

QG—we have responsibility to open doors for refugees that come from places where the U.S. has interests or is at war

QG—are we discussing temporary or permanent refugee status?

How to then make undocumented workers documented?

Do you have statistical support for idea that undocumented workers suppress wages of domestic workers?

Guest Worker Program

H2B—guest workers who come in and work at resorts should be abolished, need to hire domestic workers, H2B visas

3 million people incarcerated, and we should focus less on mass incarceration and more on employing people who are living in the country.

“It’s a program to benefit rich people”

There should be a bureau established to monitor and regulate foreign worker guest workers program–a W visa which would have annual caps, require employers to pay a fee, whose wages would be indexed, there should be a set time period of work, there should be vetting of employers, this should include both chamber of commerce and labor unions

There should be  inspectors for this bureau

Undocumented Residency/Path to Citizenship

All undocumented persons, could receive a purple card, signify permanent residence (undocumented workers)

All purple card workers in good standing (after 10 years), or who serve the nation in the military or through another talent (7 years) can apply for citizenship.

They should have same access to welfare, resources, and services as domestic residents, and pay taxes and demonstrate good moral character,

If they violate terms, i.e. break laws, then they lose their purple card and lose their chance.


Homeland Security, reports to Executive branch

Politics of Fear

What do they do? 2/3 undocumented people have been in U.S. for over a decade

Reduce the power of ICE

  1. Safe communities act—safe areas for undocumented workers to go
  2. Amnesty—staged priorities, as to which undocumented immigrants should be left alone and allowed to work toward citizenship

implement an exemption program like the “military draft”  for those who are married, those who have children, and those who are provided essential work.   People who are here with their families, low priority, those who have been living and working successfully for x number of years—low priority for deportation

Employers could apply for a certificate of need for their employees

3 Take away federal power to help states help them with enforcemen

4 Enforcement and Removement Operations (ERO), ERO must go


current cap: 48,000  refugees

  1. Increasing capacity of administrative/legal—in order to expedite, low on judges in this area, attorneys for this system.
  2. Consider better ways to offer social services
  3. No for profit detention centers, turn detention centers in non-profit community systems where refugees could find useful and productive ways to use their time while waiting for a hearing, have a community focus


No cause of their own, considered illegal aliens, but this is a “rotten deal”

  1. Make DACA into law, turn it from an executive order into law
  2. Amend DACA law to include key elements of the Dreamer Act provides a path of citizenship (going to army, getting job, passing tests) (700,000)
  3. Fed. Judge in Houston, TX, upheld DACA and turned down attempt to halt the program

Next Steps

The following are activities that you can engage in now that our short class is over.

  • Send your files (jpeg or pdf) to so that she can post them.
  • promote corporate responsibility
  • make safe spaces for interaction between diverse groups of people
  • write your congressperson/advise your politician on immigration policy
  • share stories, including your own
  • focus on local institutions and create your own
  • create a focus group that meets for coffee, tea, or bridge
  • create a book group
  • write a policy paper that you share with a politician or an organization working on migration issues
  • meet an undocumented person
  • volunteer with an immigration organization
  • work to educate others and to ensure curricular focus on immigration


First Immigration Narrative Posted

Ingrid Stanlis offers a highly detailed account of three generations of her family who immigrated from Denmark and Lithuania. She introduces this narrative with a question about why her Lithuanian grandmother Annelle has a French name. She details how she went about tracing her ancestors’ migration through name changes and ambiguous accounts. Ingrid demonstrates that persistence and creative methods can pay off. Yet, she also points out that this is a process. She states, “There are still lots of puzzles to be worked through.”

Required Texts

Daniel Tichenor, “Lyndon Johnson’s Ambivalent Reform: The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 3 (2016), 691-705.


Mae Ngai, “The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law: A Reexamination of the Immigration Act of 1924,” The Journal of American History. 96, No. 1 (1999), p. 67-92.


Mae Ngai, “This is How Immigration Reform Happened 50 Years Ago. It can Happen Again,” The Nation, Oct. 2, 2015.


Mae Ngai, “Why Trump is Making Muslims the New Chinese,”, January 17, 2017.

Why Trump is making Muslims the new Chinese

Powerpoints for the class

These powerpoints are both in power point or .pptx and pdf. Feel free to download the powerpoint and use the slides for your own purposes.


Alumni College Session 1    alumni college session 1 pdf

Alumni College Session 2&3  Alumni College Session 2 & 3 pdf

Alumni College Session 4    alumni college session 4 pdf

Alumni College Session 5    alumni college session 5 pdf

Alumni College Session 6    Alumni college session 6 pdf

Syllabus: Immigration, Race, and Law in the United States: Historical Roots of Contemporary Immigration Debates


This course will focus on three legal monuments that have had a significant impact on U.S. immigration history. Beginning with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, we will explore the foundational role of the Chinese Exclusion Act in shaping subsequent immigration ideology, policy, and bureaucracy. The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first immigration law to exclude an entire race based on an argument of national defense and sovereignty. Second, we will discuss the Immigration Act of 1924 which imposed strict immigration quotas based on racial preferences. These eugenically-derived quotas privileged northern European “nationalities,” while severely limiting immigration from so-called less desirable areas. Third, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act was a Civil Rights Era legislation ending national origins preferences with a new system privileging work visas and family reunification. We will discuss the role of the Cold War in shaping this significant change. As a result of the 1965 Immigration Act, the immigrant population has shifted dramatically with the greatest numbers of immigrants arriving from Asia and Latin America.  This course will also address subjective experiences of immigration by investigating a variety of immigrant stories drawn from the participants. By the end of the course, you should have a clearer understanding of the content and context of these three legal monuments. You should also have a sense of development and change in immigration law and policy.

Required Texts

  1. Rick Burns and Li-Shin Yu, The Chinese Exclusion Act, DVD (PBS Distribution, 2018).
  2. Mae Ngai, “The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law: A Reexamination of the Immigration Act of 1924,” The Journal of American History. 96, No. 1 (1999), p. 67-92.
  1. Mae Ngai, “This is How Immigration Reform Happened 50 Years Ago. It can Happen Again,” The Nation, Oct. 2, 2015.
  2. Daniel Tichenor, “Lyndon Johnson’s Ambivalent Reform: The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 3 (2016), 691-705.


By the end of the class, you should have completed a draft of your immigration narrative. You should also have a personal immigration binder.

Class Policies


8 formal class sessions

2 small group sessions

Computer/Cell Phone policy

Please do not take photos or record sessions without explicit permission of the instructor and the class members. Please ask express permission of all those included in a photo prior to circulating anything on social media. Please respect the right to privacy of all members of the course.

Rhetorical Resilience and Community Standards

Immigration is a hot topic of political debate, and many feel passionately about this topic. I do hope to have informed conversations based on evidence while avoiding personal attacks and emotional appeals. We know that learning cannot take place in a space where individuals feel defensive or attacked. Any statements that demean and dehumanize groups and individuals will not be accepted. I respectfully request that those with a tendency to speak freely and frequently restrain themselves from dominating discussion while working toward a practice of active listening and inclusion of all in the conversation. I reserve the right to dismiss any individual from session who violates Middlebury community standards.

Accessibility Services

Please do not hesitate to let me know what I can do to facilitate your participation in this course. There are a number of accommodations that can be incorporated into the course and the classroom spaces to ensure everyone’s full participation.


All readings are listed on the session in which they take place

Thursday, August 30

1:30-3:30 p.m.

Session 1

Introduction to the Course


Broad Overview of U.S. Migration Studies 

Friday, August 31

Meet in Small Groups over breakfast—Person 1 & 2 present

8:45 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

Session 2

The Chinese Exclusion Act: Contexts of Labor and Race

10:45 a.m.-12 p.m.

Session 3

The Chinese Exclusion Act: Legal Precedent for Immigration Restriction

1:30 p.m.- 3:30 p.m.

Session 4

The 1924 Immigration Act (Johnson-Reed Act): Eugenics and Race

Saturday, September 2

Meet in small groups over breakfast—person 3 & 4 present 

8:45 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

Session 5

1924 Immigration Act: Immigration myths and Illegal aliens

10:45 a.m.-12 p.m.  

Session 6

1965 Immigration Act (Hart-Cellar Immigration Act)

Cold War Civil Rights

Long term Consequences

1:30 p.m.- 3:30 p.m.

Class Session 7

Is immigration reform possible? Policy implications for today

Sunday, September 3

10-11 a.m

Class Session 8

Next Steps