BackStory

The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

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5 BackStory Episodes on Citizenship and Immigration

Immigration and citizenship have been on the forefront of the political debate most of this year and especially recently. On Tuesday, President Trump announced his intention to end birthright citizenship with an executive action. This comes one day after the Pentagon announced plans to send more than 5,000 American troops to the Southwest border to address the “invasion” of the United States by Central American asylum seekers.

None of the ideas underpinning these events are new. Who should be allowed into the United States and what constitutes an American citizen have been fiercely contested issues since the country’s founding. Check out these episodes of BackStory for the History Behind the Headlines:

To Be a Citizen: The History of Becoming American

Around three quarters of a million people applied to be American Citizens in 2017. But what does citizenship actually mean? The way Americans have defined citizenship has changed over time and many have found their citizenship challenged, undermined, resisted and even revoked. On this episode of BackStory, Brian, Nathan and Joanne discover the path to citizenship has never been easy.

Duplicate Certificates of Identity, 1908 - 1943 - Anna May Wong. Source: National Archives

Duplicate Certificates of Identity, 1908 – 1943 – Anna May Wong. Source: National Archives

 

The Melting Pot: Americans & Assimilation

Brian, Joanne, and Nathan wrestle with a long-running tension in our country’s history: what it means to assimilate and “become American.” We’ll explore the 19th-century notions of who could become an American and the ways they were expected to change. Plus, we’ll discuss how much room there was for a hyphenated American identity in the past and if there is room today.

 

On The Outs: Restricting American Immigration

On this episode of BackStory, Ed, Brian, and Joanne look back at sweeping immigration restrictions in the 19th and 20th centuries, and how immigrant communities navigated these changing rules.

 

Border Patrols: Policing Immigration in America

In the second episode of our two-part series on immigration, we explore how the federal government monitors and polices the undocumented. We’ll consider the origins of illegal immigration, as well as how the government’s deportation powers have grown over time.

Detention pen--on roof of main building, Ellis Island, where emigrants held for deportation may go in fine weather. Circa 1902. Source: Library of Congress

Detention pen–on roof of main building, Ellis Island, where emigrants held for deportation may go in fine weather. Circa 1902. Source: Library of Congress

 

After Hurricane Maria: The History of Puerto Rico and the United States

In August of 2018, officials in Puerto Rico reported that over 3,000 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. One year after the disaster, Brian, Ed and Nathan take a look at the historical relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. Are Puerto Ricans really Americans in the eyes of the federal government?

A damaged Puerto Rican national flag spray painted with the words "Together as One" hangs from the facade of a business, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. The relief effort from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has so far been concentrated largely in San Juan, and many outside the capital say they've received little or no help. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

A damaged Puerto Rican national flag spray painted with the words “Together as One” hangs from the facade of a business, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. The relief effort from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has so far been concentrated largely in San Juan, and many outside the capital say they’ve received little or no help. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

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