The New Colossus

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

– Emma Lazarus (1883)


The New Colossus, written by Emma Lazarus’ and inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, is often used as support for the idea that the United States is a ‘nation of immigrants’. In reality, this poem and the ideology it buttresses masks many ugly truths about immigration. The truth is that we don’t welcome all immigrants with open arms or desire for them to stay permanently. These truths lead to contradictions in U.S. policy on immigration and the material consequences immigrants face as a result. Moreover, as immigration enforcement efforts increase with each new presidential administration, the resulting patterns of deportation and exclusion call into question the intent of policies that claim to protect American citizens at the expense of immigrants of color. This course addresses these complicated dynamics demonstrating how the United States plays dual roles protecting its image as a nation of immigrants while simultaneously determining the boundaries of who belongs often along racial lines.


By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Apply the sociological imagination, (the ability to see how individual biographies are linked to larger social structures and institutions), to an analysis of various immigration issues.
  2. Understand the core sociological debates, methods, and concepts in immigration studies.
  3. Demonstrate knowledge of U.S. immigration history including changing laws, flows, groups, and destinations.
  4. Analyze and discuss race as a central organizing principle of American immigration.


There is no required text for this course. All course readings can be found on this open educational resource (OER) site. Please see the menu above for the Syllabus, Readings, and other pages.

Unless otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This course website contains copyrighted materials available only for your personal, noncommercial educational and scholarly use. This site is used in accordance with the fair use provision, Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act where allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Every effort has been made to provide attribution of copyrighted content. If you wish to use any copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain expressed permission from the copyright owner. If you are the owner of any copyrighted material that appears on this site and believe the use of any such material does not constitute “fair use”, please contact Professor Donna Granville to have the content removed, if proven necessary.

This open educational resource was created as part of the CUNY and SUNY 2017-19 Open Educational Resources Initiatives. Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NY State Legislature awarded CUNY and SUNY $16 million to implement open educational resources to develop, enhance and institutionalize new and ongoing open educational resources across both universities.

Special thanks to the CUNY Office of Academic Affairs, the CUNY Office of Library Services, Brooklyn College Administration and Professor Miriam Deutch, Coordinator, Brooklyn College Open Educational Resources Initiative. Site design and formatting by Colin McDonald, OER Developer.

Header image: Michael Righi on Flickr, CC