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The Golden Door

The Golden Door

America is a country founded and built by immigrants. From the beginning, most have come looking for a better life for themselves and their families.

Manuel, a Mexican migrant worker, cannot tell us his last name. He is one of millions of Mexicans who illegally cross America’s borders every year. It is a dangerous journey, but for most, America is their best, possibly their only opportunity for economic survival.

Manuel's story is put into historical perspective by looking at the sweep of immigration across more than 350 years of American history, focusing on the early history of Mexican immigration, the Norwegian immigrants to the Midwest and the Irish famine.

The Art of Departure

The Art of Departure

Creative spirits have come to America from all over the world, drawn to the possibilities of a free society, but it has neverbeen easy to leave home.

Fang-Yi Sheu always loved to dance, but the island of Taiwan was too small for her ambition. She wanted to dance on the world stage—which meant she had to leave her uncomprehending parents behind and come to New York City, the capital of dance. It has been a long and difficult journey, but today she is the star of the Martha Graham Dance Company.

After Russia's most famous artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov fled the oppression of the Soviet Union, they never thought they would return—until they were offered the chance to exhibit their work at the Hermitage, Russia's greatest museum. The exhibition was an extraordinary success, but it brought back memories of why they fled.

The Art Of Departure also tells the story of the unprecedented array of scientists, artists, and intellectuals who fled fascism in the 1930's, focusing on Arturo Toscanini, the world's most renowned conductor, the maestro who defied both Mussolini and Hitler.

The Earth Is the Lords

The Earth Is the Lords

Ever since the Mayflower pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, immigrants have come to America to escape religious persecution: Amish and Mennonites, Jews and evangelical Christians, Huguenots from France, Baha'is from Iran, Chinese practicing their esoteric Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhists. The idea of America as a haven for those seeking freedom to worship looms large in the American imagination.

Tsering fled Tibet in the year 2000, a victim of religious persecution by the Chinese communists like everyone in her family. Her escape is a harrowing tale and resonates with the flight of Gehlek Rimpoche, the Tibetan leader who escaped in the 1950's with the Dalai Lama.

Jews have found a haven in America since 1654, but D'vorah and Hirsch Spira never wanted to come here. Even as Hitler rose to power in Germany, they wanted to stay in Europe. They are Hasidic Jews, who feared their religious traditions would be destroyed in America.

John Ruth is a Mennonite minister and historian. He tells the story of his ancestor, Hans Landis, the last of the Anabapist martyrs, and how his death is connected to the immigration of the Amish and Mennonite people to America more than 300 years ago.

Breaking Free: A Woman's Journey
Breaking Free: A Woman's Journey

In the world they left behind, women were second-class citizens, dominated by law and custom by men. Some feared for their lives. Others were searching for new opportunities.

Guatemala native Rodi Alvarado fled after a decade of beatings by her husband. Her petition for political asylum may become a landmark case. If she is granted asylum, she will be the first woman in America to win a case of precedential value.

Rosa Cavalleri left Italy in 1887, a simple woman married to a brutal husband. Today, she is celebrated in her home town as a woman who challenged tradition, who broke away and made a new life for herself in America.

Ferdows Naficy and her two daughters, Mahnaz and Farah became independent women in America. Their story of why and how they left Iran is a chilling, instructive tale of what it takes to break free.

Sources: Immigrants on ship-Courtesy National Park Service, Series: Destination America

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