Middle Eastern Immigration Post 1965

This lesson focuses on the Middle Eastern immigrants who came to the United States after 1965. In that year, Congress eliminated the quotas passed in 1924 that favored immigration from Western Europe. After 1965, more Middle Easterners were able to come to America. The activities look at the variety of reasons immigrants came here since the change in policy. It examines issues of identity and assimilation.


  1. Students will be able to identify the nations of the Middle East from which the post-1965 immigrants came.
  2. Students will be able to locate the nations of origin on a map of the world.
  3. Students will be able to list the push and pull factors that brought immigrants from the Middle East after 1965.
  4. Students will be able to explain the difference between refugees and people seeking asylum.

National Standards for Civics and Government


B. What are the distinctive characteristics of American society? Diversity in American society: Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding diversity in American life.


A. What is citizenship?

Becoming a citizen: Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding the criteria used for naturalization.

B. What are the rights of citizens?

Personal rights: Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding personal rights.

California Standards for Principals of American Democracy
12.3 Students evaluate and take and defend positions on what the fundamental values and principles of civil society are (i.e., the autonomous sphere of voluntary personal, social, and economic relations that are not part of government), their interdependence, and the meaning and importance of those values and principles for a free society.

  1. Explain how civil society provides opportunities for individuals to associate for social, cultural, religious, economic, and political purposes.
  2. Explain how civil society makes it possible for people, individually or in association with others, to bring their influence to bear on government in ways other than voting and elections.


12.10 Students formulate questions about and defend their analyses of tensions within our constitutional democracy and the importance of maintaining a balance between the following concepts: majority rule and individual rights; liberty and equality; state and national authority in a federal system; civil disobedience and the rule of law; freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial; the relationship of religion and government.

California Language Arts Standards


1.1 Demonstrate an understanding of the elements of discourse (e.g., purpose, speaker, audience, form) when completing narrative, expository, persuasive, or descriptive writing assignments.

2.3 Write reflective compositions: a. Explore the significance of personal experiences, events, conditions, or concerns by using rhetorical strategies (e.g., narration, description, exposition, persuasion).


  1. U.S. Census: A survey of the people living in the United States.  It is required under the Constitution of the United States in order to determine the number of representatives each state should receive.  It includes other questions that deal with issues such as education, income, occupation, and ancestry. 
  2. Arab: A person speaks the Arabic language and identifies with the Arab culture. 
  3. Data: Information often in the form of numbers and statistics.
  4. Push Factors: Reasons people leave their country to go live in another country.
  5. Pull Factors: Reasons why people want to move to a particular country.
  6. Refugees: People fleeing their country because of wars, persecution, or natural disasters.
  7. Asylum: A safe place to live.  People seeking asylum in the United States must prove they will be harmed if they return to their country of origin.
  8. Race or Ethnic Group: A group of people with a shared history and culture.
  9. Militia: A group of private citizens who form an army and attack civilians to gain control over a country or part of a country.
  10. Entrepreneur: A person who establishes his or her own business.



PDF  Handout #1  PDF  Handout #2  PDF  Handout #3

A. Nations of Origin for Middle Eastern Americans
  1. Have students read Handout #1 (Chapter 3)
  2. Using an outline map of the world and an atlas, have the students label the countries from which Middle Easterners have immigrated to the United States.
  3. Ask the students to make a list of the push factors that caused Middle Easterners to come to the United States after 1965.
  4. Possible Answers: economic problems, civil wars, repressive governments.
  5. Ask the students to make a list of the pull factors that caused the Middle Easterners to want to come to the United States after 1965.
  6. Possible Answers: chance for a better education, job opportunities, reuniting with family that immigrated earlier.
B. Personal Stories
  1. Ask the students to read Handouts #2 and #3. 
  2. Have the students make a list of the push and pull factors that brought Iraj Bighash to the United States from Iran.
  3. Possible Answers: The push factors were escaping the repressive regime in Iran, and a chance to choose his own career.  The pull factors were the image of America as a beautiful and clean country, and the belief there were many opportunities here.
  4. Have the students list the push and pull factors that brought the Iraqi refugee in Handout #3 to the United States.
  5. Possible Answers: The push factor was that he was escaping the constant violence in Iraq at that time. The pull factor was his belief he would be safe in the U.S. and could afford things like a house and a car.
  6. Ask the students to write a composition about a member of their family who immigrated to the United States.  If no member of their family immigrated to the U.S., the students should use a library book about an immigrant to do their composition.  The composition should include:
  7. Why the person did come here?
  8. What did he or she expected before they arrived
  9. What there last days in their country origin were like
  10. The differences and similarities between the immigrant experiences of the person they are writing about and Middle Eastern immigrants in Handouts #2 and #3.





♦ Retrospectives

♦ Celebrating Ethnicity

The Last Harvest
The Last Harvest: The Yemenis of the San Joaquin

Voices from the Heartland
Voices From The heartland: Young Yemeni Americans Speak

Middle Eastern American Youth