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Current Issues | Immigration in U.S. History | Supreme Court Cases | Proposed Legislation

Current Issues

Information and lessons on current immigration issues. Each issue has an overview of the controversy; a balanced reading for classroom use; and a lesson plan with reproducible handouts. For a PDF of each lesson plan, you will need to login as a teacher.

Handling Controversy in the Classroom

Immigration in U.S. History

Lessons on the history of immigration, the role of refugees from around the world, and the contributions immigrants have made to our nation. Each lesson is self-contained, consisting of a reading, a set of discussion questions, and an activity. For a PDF of each lesson, you will need to login as a teacher.

Supreme Court Cases

Each short article on court cases is designed to give you and your students a one-page summary of an important Supreme Court or federal appeals court decision related to immigration. In each article, you will find:

• An overview of the facts of the case.
• The crucial constitutional issue that the court had to decide.
• A summary of the holding and the reasoning that the court used to reach its decision.

Important terms, government agencies, laws, and constitutional amendments are hyperlinked to a source document available on the web, often from CRF's own website. Here are a four suggested uses for these case summaries in your classroom:

Moot Court. Using any one of the articles, students can conduct research into the background of a particular case and role play Supreme Court justices and attorneys for both sides of the issue.

Jigsaw. Students can each become an expert on a particular case and, in turn, teach others in the class about the case.

Panel Discussion. Students express their views in a format for a structured discussion of the issues brought up by each case.

Civil Conversation. Students explore the issues and seek common ground on the issues using a facilitator.

Go to the Supreme Court Summaries Index page.

Proposed Legislation

Each article on a proposed piece of legislation explains the background and overview of the proposed law. Some of these have been previously rejected by Congress but are still talked about seriously in Washington, D.C. Other examples are bills currently pending before Congress in one form or another, awaiting a vote before they can become law. Either way, the legislation forms a lens through which students can see ongoing hot topics related to U.S. immigration policy and opinion. Discussion questions follow each short article as well as a link to the relevant texts of the law. Below are four suggestions for lessons using these articles in class:

Committee Hearing. Students assume the role of legislators debating the merits of each piece of legislation in a congressional committee hearing.

Jigsaw. Students can each become an expert on a particular piece of legislation and, in turn, teach others in the class about the legislation.

Panel Discussion. Students express their views in a format for a structured discussion of the issues brought up by each proposed bill.

Civil Conversation. Students explore the issues and seek common ground on the issues using a facilitator.

Go to the Proposed Legislation Index page.

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Proposed Legislation: DREAM Act
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Overview:

In this lesson, students consider proposed legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for young people who arrived as undocumented children. First, students read about and discuss the legislation. Then in small groups, students role play state legislators, supporters, and opponents of the proposed legislation.

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Arizona v. United States
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Overview: Students will examine a controversial law passed in the state of Arizona that directs law enforcement officers to investigate suspected unauthorized immigration. They will recognize the constitutional issues of preemption, reasonable suspicion, and equal protection and relate them to the facts of the Arizona law. Students will then judge whether several sets of facts are valid examples of reasonable suspicion. They will also evaluate the law in a simulation using the GRADE policy-analysis rubric.

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Current Issues Lesson 1: Unauthorized Immigration and the U.S. Economy
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Time: One to two class periods.


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NOTE: It may be helpful to do the following lesson with your students before this doing lesson:

“Issue of Unauthorized Immigration” in Current Issues

 

Overview: Students will role play editors at a newspaper. They are given the task of evaluating four letters to the editor sent in response to recent legislation from Congress. The legislation streamlines the process for unauthorized immigrants to become permanent residents. Students focus on the economic arguments in the letters and choose two letters that will help show the newspaper is balanced (i.e., choose two letters with opposing viewpoints).

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Current Issues Lesson 2: The Debate Over Guest-Worker Programs
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Time: One class period


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Overview: In this activity, students evaluate various proposals to amend the system of visas given to immigrants in guest-worker programs. They discuss the proposals and decide which are best and worst, with reasons for each decision.

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Current Issues Lesson 3: Immigration Enforcement Raids
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Time: One to two class periods.


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Objective: Students will evaluate the practices and rationale of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

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Current Issues Lesson 4: Local Police and Immigration Law: The Case of Special Order 40
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Time: One class period (or one-and-a-half if students do the reading in class)


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Overview: The Panel Discussion activity provides teachers and students alike with a format for structured discussion of controversial issues. In this discussion, students enrich their understanding of immigration policy in the article on Special Order 40 in Los Angeles.

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Current Issues Lesson 5: Driver's License Task Force
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Time: One to two class periods.


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Overview: Students evaluate a variety of proposals that state governments have made to address the issue of granting driver's licenses to immigrants. They will vote, as a group, to advise the government about the different proposals. Students with dissenting opinions also have an opportunity to express themselves.

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Current Issues Lesson 6: Naturalized Citizens and the Presidency
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Time: One to two class periods.


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NOTE: It may be helpful to review the process for amending the Constitution with your students before doing this lesson. You can use the following lesson from CRF:

Do We Need a New Constitutional Convention?

Overview: Students will role play state senators from their home state. Imagine Congress has just passed a joint resolution to amend the U.S. Constitution to allow naturalized citizens to run for president. The terms of the resolution are close to Senator Orrin Hatch’s proposal in 2004. The students have the task of deliberating the resolution, coming up with arguments for and against it, and deciding whether to support it. Students have the option of suggesting changes to the resolution.

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Current Issues Lesson 7: Issues of Unauthorized Immigration
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Time: One to two class periods.

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Overview:

You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about unauthorized immigration. It is often also referred to as illegal immigration or undocumented immigration. For the last 30 years, unauthorized immigration has been a major political issue. It remains one of the most difficult to resolve.

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Current Issues Lesson 8: Federal Policy and Immigration
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Overview: The federal government is in charge of the nation’s policies on immigration. The current proposals before Congress on immigration are examples of the making of public policy.

Public policy consists of laws, rules, regulations, and agreements establishing how the government operates. When Congress passed the U.S.A. Patriot Act in 2001 and put immigration under the control of the Department of Homeland Security, it was establishing public policy. When an executive agency such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adopts immigration rules, it is setting public policy for all immigrants.

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History Lesson 1: History of Immigration Through the 1850s
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Overview:

This lesson traces immigration to the United States through the 1850s. Particular attention is paid to the initial European immigration, the bringing of black slaves from Africa, Irish immigration and nativism against the Irish, and the Mexican-American experience and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo. In the activity, students create posters relating the experiences and contributions of the different immigrant groups that have come to America.

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History Lesson 2: History of Immigration From the 1850s to the Present
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Overview:

This lesson continues the history of immigration from 1850 to the present. Special emphasis is placed on the experience of Chinese immigrants, the "new immigrants" from Southern and Eastern Europe, nativism and restrictive quotas, the 1965 immigration act, and the "new immigrants" from Asia and Latin America in the contemporary era. In the activity, students research, write, and report on a notable immigrant to America.

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History Lesson 4: Educating European Immigrant Children Before World War I
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Overview:

This lesson explores the challenges in educating immigrant children at the turn of the 20th century. It specifically looks at the efforts of William Maxwell, the Superintendent of New York public schools, in providing for the needs of the new immigrants. In the activity, students participate in a simulated school board meeting on how to go about educating the newcomers in New Chance, a hypothetical city with a large immigrant population.

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History Lesson 3: Ellis Island - The "Golden Door" to America
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Overview:

This lesson tells the history of Ellis Island, how and why it was developed, and the experiences of those immigrants who passed through it. In the activity, students write the story of an immigrant passing through Ellis Island in 1907 or of an immigration inspector working on the island.

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History Lesson 5: U.S. Immigration Policy and Hitler's Holocaust
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Overview:

This lesson examines the struggles within the Roosevelt administration and the reasons behind its policies toward Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust. It tells the story of the St. Louis, an ill-fated passenger ship full of Jewish refugees that was not permitted to land in the United States. It looks at the work of the War Refugee Board. In the activity, students role play members of a United Nations conference meeting after World War II and create an international treaty on refugees.

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History Lesson 6: Refugees: International Law and U.S. Policy
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Overview:

This lesson looks at international law and U.S. policy on refugees. It tells about the international treaties on refugees, how the United States has responded to refugees since World War II, and current U.S. refugee policy. In the activity, students look at some refugee policies of other countries and decide whether they violate international law on refugees.

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History Lesson 7: Issues of Asylum in the U.S.
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Overview:

This lesson looks at issues of U.S. asylum. It covers U.S. and international law on asylum and the difference between refugees and asylees, the debate over asylum reform, and the controversial cases of Walter Polovchak and Elian Gonzalez. In the activity, students decide whether to grant asylum for particular refugees.

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History Lesson 8: Refugees From Vietnam and Cambodia
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Overview:

This lesson explores the massive immigration from Vietnam and Cambodia begun in the 1970s resulting from the end of the Vietnam War. It focuses particularly on the crisis caused by boat people fleeing the region, the Geneva Conference called to address the situation, and the subsequent resettlement of many of these refugees in the United States. In the activity, students look at refugees from Afghanistan and explore whether the United States owes a special obligation to refugees from countries in which it has fought wars.

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History Lesson 9: Refugees from the Caribbean: Cuban and Haiti "Boat People"
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Overview:

This lesson looks at the incidents of "boat people" refugees from Haiti and Cuba in the 1980s and 1990s and the different U.S. policy responses to the incidents. It provides a brief history of each nation, an overview of U.S. foreign policy toward the two nations, and story of the "boat people" crises and their aftermaths. In the activity, students role play presidential advisers and decide on a policy for Cuban and Haiti refugees to recommend to the president.

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History Lesson 10: Plyler v. Doe: Can States Deny Public Benefits to Illegal Immigrants?
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Overview:

This lesson focuses on the 1982 Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe on whether a state may deny public education to the children of illegal immigrants. It gives the background on the case and the arguments for both sides. In the activity, students take part in mock hearing before the Supreme Court on this case.

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Lesson Plan 1 Lesson Handouts 1
Lesson Plan 2
Lesson Handouts 2
Lesson Plan 3
Lesson Handouts 3
Lesson Plan 4
Lesson Handouts 4
Lesson Plan 5
Lesson Handouts 5