Teaching About the Immigration Debate

Introduction

Immigrants make up a significant portion of the United States population. However, Democrats and Republicans have been split on immigration reform. Therefore, Congress has been unable to agree on how immigration challenges, such as border security and undocumented immigration, should be addressed. By teaching about the U.S. immigration debate, students will be able to better understand current and future immigration issues. Because immigrant issues impact many people nationwide, it is important for students to understand the immigrant experience, U.S. legislation on immigration, and the opinions that members of the American public have about immigration.

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching about the immigration debate in the United States. Because immigration is a political issue, educators should keep in mind which news outlets tend to lead towards which political party when having students read articles.

Lesson Plans

  1. Teaching the Stories of the Immigration Debate: PBS LearningMedia has put together a collection of resources for teaching the stories of the immigration debate. Educators will find first-person accounts, historical context, lesson plans, and more that explore the current challenges and complex history that influence the modern immigration debate. For those who want their students to have more background about immigration in the United States, PBS also has an Immigration 101 collection.
  2. Lesson Plan – The Great Immigration Debate: Junior Scholastic provides a lesson plan that walks educators through teaching their students an article on the Great Immigration Debate. The lesson gives direct instruction on what to do with students before reading, while students are reading and analyzing, and after reading to extend the lesson and assess students on how well they understood the article.
  3. Teaching Ideas to Address Immigration and Current Events in Your Classroom: Facing History and Ourselves offers two resources and activities for teaching students about the ongoing debate over who can come to the U.S, who can stay, and what it means to be American. 
    1. The lesson Many Voices, One National Identity asks students to begin an identity chart for the U.S. and revise it after researching information about the identity of the U.S. and exploring common knowledge and values among Americans. 
    2. The reading The Debate in Congress provides arguments about the 1924 National Origins Act, which instituted strict immigration quotas for each country. The reading may help educators start a conversation with students about how today’s immigration debate is both similar and different from the one nearly a century ago.
    3. The Modern Debate on Immigration: The Bill of Rights Institute has put together a lesson plan on immigration and citizenship in which students will create and share their own plan for dealing with immigration in the United States. In the process, students will learn about the current immigration debate and consider the consequences of different proposals.

Articles

  1. An Educator’s Guide to the Immigration Debate: Learning for Justice offers a magazine feature that will help educators facilitate classroom conversation about the immigration debate. The features explains a history of immigration in the United States and describes how the process of becoming a citizen has changed over time. It also provides conversation starters for discussing today’s debate on immigration.
  2. The U.S. Immigration Debate: The Council on Foreign Relations has published an article on the U.S. Immigration Debate. Some of the topics discussed in the article include the size of the immigration population in the U.S., how Americans feel about immigration, the legislation Congress has considered in recent years, the actions both the Obama and Trump administrations took, and more.
  3. The Blind Spot in the Immigration Debate: CNN offers an article on the blind spot in the immigration debate. The article discusses how the U.S. will see a decline in economic growth and a slowdown of population growth without legal immigration. However, when reading this article, educators should keep in mind that CNN tends to lean towards the Democratic side of politics.
  4. How Immigration Became So Controversial: The Atlantic provides an article that explains how immigration has become such a controversial issue in politics. The author discusses whether immigration really splits the country or whether it just splits the Republican party. Again, educators should keep in mind that the Atlantic tends to lean towards the Democratic side of politics.
  5. Where the 2020 Candidates Stand on Immigration: U.S. News provides an article that discusses where the 2020 candidates stood on immigration. Even though this news article is slightly old, reading it will give students a better understanding of where President Biden, former President Trump, and other former candidates stand on immigration policy.
  6. The U.S. Border Immigration Problem: npr’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks with Doris Meissner of the Migration Policy Institute on the challenges that the U.S. has implementing a border policy that is humane but also discourages illegal immigration. Educators can access this by listening to a five-minute podcast or reading the transcript of the conversation.

Informational Sites

  1. Immigration: ProCon.org provides explanations of common terms related to immgration, such as illegal immigration, legal immigration, and immigration amnesty. The website also offers several lists of pros and cons on the topic of borders, birthright citizenship, crime, DACA and the Dream Act, the deportation debate, economic impact, immigration quotas, and more. This may help students understand both sides of the arguments regarding some of these hot topics!
  2. Myths and Facts About Immigrants and Immigration: The Anti-Defamation League, ADL, has compiled several myths and facts about immigrants and immigration. This resource will help students understand the most common misconceptions that many people have about immigration!

Conclusion

Teaching about the immigration debate is very important and extremely relevant. When teaching about this sensitive topic, educators should be aware of their audience and the experiences they may have with immigration. Depending on your classroom, some students may be immigrants themselves or may have family members or friends who are.  It is important to present the facts of both sides of the immigration debate in a safe space and let students decide for themselves on which side they stand.

Additional Resources

  1. Introducing Students to Legality vs Morality Through the Lens of Immigration. This Educators 4SC blog post uses the resources provided on this page along with an Academy 4SC video explaining the Legal vs Moral distinction and suggests ways it can be used to help students understand and interpret US immigration policy. 

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