From the Chinese Exclusion Acts of the 1880s and '90s (the country's first major immigration restrictions), to the birth of mass detention camps for immigrants in the 1990s, longstanding fears of supposedly “dirty” and “dangerous” foreigners have shaped nearly every aspect of U.S. immigration law and policy. This course explores the intertwining of public health, race and immigration policy in U.S. history. We will examine the concrete ways that blurring of “fear of disease” with “fear of racial Others” undermined public health efforts, deepened social divides and left long-lasting marks on immigration law and policy. The lecture ends with a reflection on what the COVID-19 crisis might mean for the future of the U.S. immigration system.


Aaron Bobrow-Strain
Professor of Politics

Aaron Bobrow-Strain is a professor of politics who teaches courses on immigration, the U.S.-Mexico border, food and environmental politics, and political economy. He is the author, most recently, of "The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story."

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COVID-19: A Liberal Arts Approach to the Study of a Global Pandemic was created in the spring of 2020 as a special one-credit course for Whitman College’s most newly admitted students, offering them an opportunity to get to know our distinguished faculty and to study a significant event in human history.