The idea of America as a “melting pot” of cultures, languages, ethnicities, and religions is virtually as old as the country itself. Throughout our history, immigrants have contributed to the character of major cities, rural small towns, and the country as a whole. Various waves of immigrants have crossed American borders and made this country their home, leading to parallel waves of immigration legislation and policy. This issue has been brought to the forefront of American politics in recent months with the election of President Trump and the ensuing executive orders he’s enacted. What social, political, and economic impact does immigration have on our country, and how is it best regulated by the government? In this lesson, students will research the impact of immigration and create their own immigration legislation in order to evaluate potential solutions to the issues presented by waves of immigrants. They will have the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of various solutions, as well as decide how constitutional principles can be used on both sides of the immigration debate.
- Research immigration through social, political, and economic lenses in order to identify the benefits and challenges that accompany waves of immigration into American communities
- Explain the challenges associated with an influx of immigrants to American communities in order to create legislation to address these issues
- Evaluate both sides of the immigration debate through constitutional principles in order to reflect on their own views on the issue
Note: It is recommended that students complete the Bill of Rights Gilded Age Lesson, Immigrants in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era before starting this lesson.
Warm-up Activity: (15-20 min)
- Individually, students will answer the following question in a Think-Write-Pair-Share format: What do immigrants bring with them to their new communities? (Note: this does not need to be physical goods or items). First, students think about their answer, then write it down on their paper. After 2-3 minutes, students should turn to their partner and in pairs, discuss their responses. Students will then share answers as a whole group, while the teacher creates an anchor chart on the board of the physical and non-physical things that immigrants bring to their new communities. (10 min)
- Students will then complete the Prediction Chart on the “Immigration in America Today Handout” outlining the influence immigrants have on a community physically, economically, socially, and politically. These effects can be positive, negative, or neutral. (5-10 min)
Activity: 40-60 min
- Students will each receive a Lens Role to find an article on immigration. The teacher should assist students in finding unbiased, reliable sources for articles, especially if this is the first time students are researching in the classroom. Together three students (one of each role) will compose a “committee” group in the next steps. Therefore, there should be roughly an equal number of each lens assigned to students. Students will use their lens to research and read an article on immigration, and answer the questions on page 2 of Immigration in America Today. These questions are also found on Gilded Age Handout H. (20 min)
- Political Lens: Find an article on immigration and politics.
- Economic Lens: Find an article on immigration and its economic effects.
- Social Lens: Find an article on immigration and social issues.
- As a “committee” group of 3-4, using the Problems & Solutions Graphic Organizer, students will collaborate to outline economic, social, and political issues that arise from mass waves of immigration (i.e., why is immigration reform considered necessary by some today?). Students will then brainstorm possible solutions to these challenges. (10 min)
- Together, students will create their own version of immigration reform legislation. This should include at least four main points to address the issues they outlined from the article. Students must agree to accept each item into their immigration reform bill. (10 min)
- If time allows, students will propose their bills on the “floor” of the classroom. Other students will have the opportunity to debate the bill on the floor, ask questions about students’ reasoning and perspective on their solutions, and critique the effectiveness of the bills. Students will then vote on each group’s bill; those that can muster the majority of the class’s votes will pass. (~20 min)
Wrap-up Activity: 5 min
- Students should complete the debrief questions:
- What strategies did you use in your “committee” to get your point across?
- What problems did you encounter in coming to a conclusion on your bill?
- How can you explain the disagreements you encountered, both in your committee groups and when presenting your bill in front of the class?
Conclusions: 10 min
Students will answer the following questions to draw conclusions from the activity:
- Why is immigration reform viewed as necessary by some?
- How might critics of immigration – those who believe that immigration policy needs reform – use constitutional principles to defend their side of the debate?
- How could defenders of immigration – those who believe immigrants should be protected – use constitutional principles to defend their side of the debate?
- Which side of the debate most closely reflects your personal views? Explain your reasoning in 2-3 sendences.
Gilded Age Lesson, Immigrants in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
Washington Post – Syrian immigration to the US has been a success, study finds
Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, “The Effects of Immigration on the United States’ Economy
US News & World Report, “The Economic Costs of Immigration”
NPR, “Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration, Annotated”
The Atlantic, “The Truth about Undocumented Immigrants and Taxes”
Migration Policy Institute, “Immigration in the United States: New Economic, Social, Political Landscapes with Legislative Reform on the Horizon”
Economic Policy Institute, “Facts About Immigration and the US Economy”