How Educators Are Rethinking The Way They Teach Immigration HistoryHistorians in the News
tags: teaching, education, immigration, immigration history
In the summer of 2017, before her senior year of high school, Isabelle Doerre-Torres met Carlos,* a Salvadoran immigrant on the verge of deportation. Doerre-Torres was an intern at a legal rights organization. She soon learned that Carlos came to Boston nearly two decades ago after he fled gang violence. He’d put down roots in a working class community, where his two daughters were born.
But like millions of immigrants in the United States, Carlos was undocumented, making his future in the U.S. precarious. When Carlos went to a routine immigration check-in that summer, he was told he had two options: buy a plane ticket and leave or be deported.
Through Carlos, Doerre-Torres discovered a part of history that her textbooks were eerily silent about: El Salvador’s civil war from 1980 to 1992 that killed more than 75,000 people—and the depths of U.S. involvement. The U.S. funneled more than $4.5 billion to the right-wing Salvadoran government in the name of fighting communism. Salvadoran troops trained by the U.S. military carried out brutal massacres and caused the disappearance of alleged dissidents. All the while, the U.S. government, mainly under the Reagan administration, ignored human rights abuses in favor of carrying out their own limited foreign policy goals: containing the spread of communism.
Doerre-Torres was shocked by what she learned. She was further astounded that she had never studied this history in high school, particularly at a time when immigration debates fill the news.
“You hear about deportations and detention all the time—but along the border in Texas,” Doerre-Torres says. “But it’s happening in Boston, and that made me realize that people do in fact need to know about why people are coming here and why it’s unsafe for people to go back.”
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