Understanding San Francisco Bay Area Immigration Through an Exploration of Laws and Images

bySara Stillman

This unit leads students on an investigation of federal immigration laws by blending historical research with visual arts and inviting students to reflect upon the journeys they and their families made to call the Bay Area home while considering the stories of migrants and immigrants who came before them. We will explore personal stories from different time periods and try to understand how the political climate and laws and policies governing US immigration shaped the experiences of immigrants and domestic migrants. Our study will center around three federal laws that reflected and also shaped migration to the Bay Area: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, The Immigration Act of 1924, and The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Additionally students will explore California Proposition 187 and connect the local Bay Area and California debate with the context of changes in federal laws from and the Immigration Reform Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 and the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. Together, through an Art Based Research approach, we create a timeline to visualize the scope of our learning, illustrate new vocabulary, read first person narratives from immigrants, view documentaries, visit the Oakland Museum of California, examine maps, art work, photographs, and newspaper articles to deepen their understanding how federal laws shaped immigration to the Bay Area and how those are reflected in the current debate over immigration.

(Recommended for High School Visual Arts/History/Social Studies, Grades 10-12)

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