The Immigration Debate in the Classroom 2007

Educators across the nation are struggling with the fallout from the highly charged national debate on the issues of immigration reform and border security.  The angst and emotion involved in the conflict are spilling over into schools and classrooms as students stage walkouts and engage in shouting matches.  Wise teachers and administrators will use this time as a valuable citizen education opportunity and a way to connect the history-social science curriculum to real world issues. Interpretation of primary documents, organized debates, editorial writing opportunities, close analysis of news media, and placing the controversy in historical, economic, and political context are all appropriate classroom activities.  SCORE H-SS is providing the following resources to assist teachers in this process. As more materials become available, the site will be updated.

Margaret Hill, Ph.D.
Director SCORE H-SS


Current Issues of Immigration, 2006
This Constitutional Rights Foundation document contains six lessons designed
to put the current controversies about illegal immigration into historical
and political context. They consist of readings, guided discussion
questions, and interactive learning activities. In addition, the materials
include resources for conducting structured discussions with students.

Immigration Reform Resource Directory
This is a 90 page print resource on Immigration Reform developed and
assembled for schools by Los Angeles County Office of Education. It
includes lessons, strategies, and resources to help students and educators
understand, discuss, and address immigration reform issues that affect our

This Library of Congress site has a summary, related laws (including Bill Frist’s S 2454), amendments, sponsors and Congressional actions on the immigration reform bill H.R.4437

Office of Immigration Statistics
The Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for developing, analyzing, and disseminating statistical information needed to assess the effects of immigration in the United States. Its goal is to provide high-quality statistical information that is relevant, timely, cost effective, and customer-oriented.

The Economics of Immigration
Philip Martin, economics professor at the University of California, Davis explains core principles that can help evaluate the arguments that fuel the political debate over immigration.

U.S. Immigration History
This site has articles and timelines about those who immigrated, historical immigration trends and laws, Ellis Island, historical sites and individual stories.

How a Bill Becomes Law 
This Project Vote Smart site describes the process for federal legislation to be enacted into law.

Immigration Debate Links: Historical and Current Issues of Immigration
Here is a set of resources on the current immigration debate reviewed and
annotated by the Constitutional Rights Foundation. Topics include the
history of immigration, Ellis Island, the education of European immigrants
before WWI, immigration policy and the Holocaust, refugees and asylum,
refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia, refugees from the Caribbean: Cuban and
Haitian "Boat People," illegal immigrants, Plyler v. Doe: Can States Deny
Public Benefits to Illegal Immigrants? And California's Proposition 187.


U.S. Immigration Policy
Examine current immigration policies in the United States, at both the state and federal levels. Consider a variety of viewpoints on several controversial issues related to immigration, and discuss these issues in light of past, current, and proposed legislation. Standards 11.9.7 and 11.11.1

American Immigration Past and Present: A Simulation Activity
As part of a presentation to the Commission on American Immigration Policy, you must research the issues and develop an argument for one of four policy options ranging from closing the borders to opening them wider. In the process, you will learn about immigration history since the late 1800's as well as recent trends and their consequences. Standards 8.12.7, 11.2.2 and 11.2.3

Immigration Attitudes in American History: They Are Not like Us!!
This exercise helps students understand that xenophobic attitudes have existed throughout United States history and that our culture has survived and been enriched by each new wave of immigrants. Students should be aware that these biases have been expressed in each generation, especially when large numbers of immigrants have come to our country. Standards 8.12.7, 11.2.2, 11.2.3 and 11.3.3

Huddled Masses Still Yearning to Breathe Free

Examine the experience of modern-day immigrants through learning about the personal experiences of a variety of immigrants. Use a New York Times article as a springboard for discussion about the obstacles often encountered by young immigrants coming to the United States in search of a better life, as well as about related immigration issues. Interview someone who has immigrated to the United States or to another country to further explore the modern-day immigrant experience. Standard 11.11.1

Over the Borderline? Examining and Discussing Different Perspectives on Immigration Legislation
In this lesson, students learn about President Bush's "middle ground" approach to issues of immigration reform presently under congressional consideration. They then take part in a roundtable discussion to articulate their own perspectives regarding these issues. STANDARD 11.11.1

Changing Face of America
The United States has always been a nation of immigrants, but in recent years the racial and ethnic composition of the country has begun to change as immigrants have arrived from different areas than in the past. From colonial days, immigrants have shaped our national culture and left their mark on the landscape. But as new groups gain prominence, what changes can we expect? How will the national culture be affected? Students need to understand the implications of changing patterns in immigration at multiple scales (national, state, and local) so that they will be able to participate in informed decision making in the future. Standard 11.11.1

U.S. Immigration Policy: What should we do?
Many of the values that unite Americans as a nation are tied to immigration. The idealism surrounding immigration explains in large part the deep feelings it evokes in the public policy arena. In recent years, these sentiments have jostled with concerns about the economy, ethnic relations, social services, the environment, security, and other issues to recast the discourse on U.S. immigration policy. U.S. Immigration Policy: What should we do? is an interactive lesson plan by Brown University’s Choice for the 21st Century program. It engages students in consideration of divergent policy alternatives concerning this topic. This online lesson is excerpted from the larger  U.S. Immigration Policy in an Unsettled World.


Tips for Teaching Controversial Issues
There are many methods that can be used to teach controversial and emotionally charged issues in the classroom. This is a very brief list of guidelines for handling controversial issues to help facilitators and teachers maintain control of the situation so that the lesson proceeds smoothly.

Teaching Controversial Issues
Teaching controversial topics is an especially difficult aspect of being an educator. The goal is for teachers to know that they have accomplished something very special—helping students learn to engage the tough questions and issues they will face in their lives. The resources on this page, developed by the University of Oregon Academic Learning Services, will hopefully help more of the days be good ones.

Conflict Resolution – The Third Side
The Third Side is a way of looking at the conflicts around us not just from one side or the other but from the larger perspective of the surrounding community.

Healing the Hate
This curriculum has roots in effective practices stimulated by in-depth research in both violence prevention and prejudice reduction. The approaches involve combining current methods of prejudice reduction with violence prevention strategies to provide a comprehensive unique curriculum to reduce crimes based upon intolerance.

Toward a More Perfect Union in an Age of Diversity: A Guide to Building Stronger Communities through Public Dialog
When people have the opportunity to deal directly and openly with their differences, they learn to appreciate and respect each other. They also discover common concerns and develop strong networks to work together on those concerns. The result of these efforts is more than "getting along" -- it is the healing and renewal of our civic life. This guide's purpose is to help people of diverse cultures come together and have honest, productive, democratic conversations.

Skills and Concepts of Conflict Management
This set of resources by the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management provides an outline and links to an array of information regarding skills and concepts of conflict management. Included in the outline are actual lesson plans and suggestions for teachers to use in order to introduce conflict management into their curriculum.


SNN Newsroom Writing Editorials and Columns
Here is a step-by-step process for writing editorials to the local newspaper or the school newspaper.

Authentic Writing – Editorials
Editorials are a great way for students to defend a position on a controversial issue.  Editorials are also a good way to work through the writing process with the students.  This process will include pre writing, drafting, peer editing, revising, and finalizing the piece.

Write Your Legislator
Letter writing is still the most popular choice of communicating with Congress. This can come in the form of a personal letter from an individual or from a more organized  campaign in the form of a letter or a postcard. A letter can be mailed, faxed, or emailed (although many offices do not have the capability to  provide personal responses to emails). Each method has different positives  and negatives associated with it. The most important thing is that your  message gets to Congress. Find your legislator's contact information at

Debates in the Classroom
Using debates in the classroom can help students grasp essential critical thinking and presentation skills. Among the skills classroom debates can foster are abstract thinking, citizenship and etiquette, clarity, organization, persuasion, public speaking, research, and teamwork and cooperation. Here are resources for various grade levels.

Believe It or Not? Evaluating News Sources in Print and on the Web
Here are useful classroom resources for evaluating news sources, detecting bias in the news, and holding classroom discussions about the reporting of information in the media.

Print Resources
The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigrants by Bill Bigelow
This book explores the history of U.S. - Mexican relations and the roots of Mexican immigration in the context of the global economy. Order the Book at

SCORE H-SS 2007©