DBQ: Immigration: Then and Now

Historical Question: How were immigration issues in the late 19th century to the early 20th century similar or different to immigration issues today?


  • This DBQ primarily has students focus on the skill of determining causation, which requires students to identify and analyze cause and effect relationships among events. In particular, students will be exploring the causes and effects of large-scale immigration policies and experiences.  To further engage students, the DBQ requires students to then research current immigration events, and compare them to those of the late 19th to early 20th centuries.  This Historical Thinking Skill is comparing, in which students will have to identify and analyze similarities and differences. The Literacy skills students will employ are their Close Reading Skills, which can be broken down into a four phase reading model.  The first read requires students to find the main gist or central idea of the text.  The second read has students looking at how the text works, such as author’s craft.  During the third read, students are reading for what the text means, making inferences and drawing conclusions to get the author’s deeper intended meaning.  The final read is for what the text inspires them to do, and in this case, students are going to create a final product of their choice to communicate their learning of the causes and effects of large-scale immigration now and in the late 19th to early 20th century.
  • This DBQ addresses the concept of large-scale immigration as specified in the 2011 South Carolina College and Career Ready Social Studies standards for 5th grade. The culminating project requires to students to apply their knowledge of the events leading to and following large-scale immigration during the late 19th to early 20th centuries to formulate an opinion about whether Americans should have built a wall to prevent immigrants from entering the United States.  This DBQ is designed to engage students through their choice of medium for their final product and through the real-life, modern-day relevance.
  • The DBQ supports that Profile of the SC Graduate by requiring students to look apply their World-Class Knowledge of Social Studies and ELA reading and writing content. Students employ their World-Class Skills through the choices they make in their final product, communicating their understanding of immigration throughout different periods of history.  Finally, embedded throughout this DBQ are opportunities for students to be able to model Life and Career Characteristics, as they take ownership of their own learning, make sense of the world around them, and collaborate with peers in their learning communities.
  • This DBQ covers at least two Social Studies indicators, close reading, and possibly explanatory writing. It is designed to take at least two weeks, but this may be adjusted as needed to meet the needs of the students who will benefit from this learning experience.  Collaboration with an ELA teacher (unless the teacher is self-contained) may allow for some portions of this DBQ to be integrated into the ELA block.  If the teacher is self-contained, he/she may have more flexibility to cover certain portions of this DBQ in other curricular areas, outside of the Social Studies block.  Teacher discretion is advised.


Standards | VocabularyContext | QuestionsDoc #1 , #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7

Time Required: This DBQ is designed to take at least two weeks, but this may be adjusted as needed to meet the needs of the students who will benefit from this learning experience.

Click here to download the full DBQ with attached handouts. Immigration: Then and Now,  standards 5.1, 5.2 and Sources with Questions

South Carolina Standards (2020)
Targeted Standards: 5.1, 5.2


● Anglo Saxon
● Catholics
● Jews
● Protestants
● economic
● resistance
● prejudice
● corruption
● radical
● temperance
● Social Darwinism
● superiority
● segregation
● diplomatic
● Gentleman’s Agreement
● reformer
● assimilate
● monopolies
● agrarian
● Progressive
● Prohibition

Historical Context and Background Information

Immigrants came to the United States because of both push and pull factors. Often they were pushed out of their home countries because of war, poverty, or discrimination. They were attracted or pulled to the United States because of promises of economic opportunity, religious freedom, and political and social equality.Often, immigrants faced resistance from native-born Americans for a variety of reasons, including fear that new immigrants would take their jobs or drive down wages. Despite this resistance, immigrants continued to find political, social, and economic opportunities in the United States. In turn, immigrants have made many contributions to the growth and development of the United States.

Prohibition outlawed the production and distribution of alcohol and was intended to control the immigrant population.

More background information can be found using: Meet Young Immigrants. Retrieved from http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/immigration/young_immigrants/

Guiding Questions and Sources

Document 1: Photo of Crying Immigrant Girl.


      Guiding Questions:

  1. What is large-scale immigration?
  2. What is happening in this image?
  3. What sides of today’s immigration issues are represented here?
Citation: Sternitzky-Di Napoli, D., & Moore, J. (2018, June 22). [Crying Immigrant Girl]. Retrieved July 16, 2018, from https://www.chron.com/news/nation-world/article/crying-immigrant-child-photo-John-Moore-together-13017756.php#photo-15761033


Document 2: Immigration Chart, 1870-1920.

    Guiding Questions:

  1. What is large-scale immigration?
  2. From 1895 to 1915, where did the most immigrants come from?
  3. Why do you think there were so many immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe between 1897-1914?
  4. Why do you think there was a dramatic decline in immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe around 1914?
Citation: Immigration to the United States, 1870-1920: http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/ellis-island/immigration-1870-1920.jpg


Document 3: The New Colossus,  Emma Lazarus November 2, 1883.

    Guiding Questions:

  1. How do lines 9-14 help readers describe immigrants’ push and pull factors?
Citation:  Allen, A. (n.d.). Emma Lazarus: “The New Colossus” by Austin Allen. Retrieved July 16, 2018, from https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/144956/emma-lazarus-the-new-colossus








Document 4: Don’t Bite The Hand That’s Feeding You

    Guiding Questions:

  1. Based on the songwriter’s lyrics, what is America’s attitude towards immigrants?
  2. How does the songwriter perceive immigrants’ attitude towards America?
  3. What perspectives are not represented in this song?
Citation: Morgan, J., Van Brunt, W. & Hoier, T. (1916) Don’t Bite the Hand That’s Feeding You. Orange, N.J.: Edison. [Audio] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/00694050/.





Document 5: “The Stranger at Our Gate” cartoon

    Guiding Questions:

  1. How does the title reflect America’s resistance to immigration?
  2. How does the artist communicate the immigrants’ opportunities and resistance they faced upon arrival to America?
 Citation: Beard, Frank. “The Stranger At Our Gate.” Cartoon. Ram’s Horn. 1896. Retrieved from : https://ehistory.osu.edu/exhibitions/rams_horn/content/StrangerAtOurGate





Document 6: Prohibition and Americanism.

Guiding Questions:

  1. What is Prohibition?
  2. What attitudes are represented in these documents?
  3. Whose perspective is left out of these documents?
 Citation: Nast, T. (1867, April 6).) St. Patrick’s Day/ Th. Nast. April 6.



Document 7: Excerpt from an article called “Trump Outlines Immigration Specifics”

    Guiding Questions:

  1. What word or phrase could the author have used as an alternative title to this article?
  2. Reflecting on Source G, has the President kept his promises?
Citation: An excerpt from an article called “Trump Outlines Immigration Specifics,” published in 2015 during President Trump’s campaign for presidential office.
Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2015/08/16/politics/donald-trump-immigration-plans/index.html


Digital Collections Information                    

This DBQ is based on images and/or documents from several institutions including the University of South Carolina Libraries, The National Archives, and The Library of Congress. See individual images for institution information.

To see other collections that may be helpful to your search, visit the Digital Collections homepage or visit SCDL’s collection.

DBQ created by Brittany Daniels,  2018

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