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The Great Immigration Debate

As we near Election Day, one of the concerns on the minds of many Americans is how the incoming president will handle the issue of immigration. Some feel that neither of the policies proposed by the major party’s candidates fully address the concerns of the complex issue of immigration. The question at the center of the immigration debate is: How can the safety and security of the American people be balanced against the promise and opportunity the United States has sought to offer immigrants?

This eLesson will assist students in understanding the challenges faced by elected officials when forming immigration policy. Through research, students will better understand some of these proposed policy solutions and some of the concerns surrounding them. Students will analyze the effectiveness of these proposals and apply their analysis through participation in class discussion and creation of their own plan for an effective immigration policy.


Bill of Rights Institute: Voices of History: The Modern Debate on Immigration

Handout A: The Nature of Citizenship and Solving Illegal Immigration

Handout B: Graphic Organizer – Policy Research

Background or Warm-Up Activity
(Homework or in class as time permits)

Print and distribute copies of Handout A: The Nature of Citizenship and Solving Illegal Immigration found on Voices of History: The Modern Debate on Immigration. Assign the reading as homework. Students should come to class prepared for a discussion on possible solutions to solve the modern challenges that immigration policy must address.

Activity: Jigsaw Discussion and Critical Thinking Questions

(Approximately 35 minutes)

  1. Assign students into groups, one for each of the immigration proposals below.
  2. Once your students are organized into groups, assign each group one of the proposed immigration solutions below. Students should spend ten minutes researching their groups assigned proposal. Students should then spend five minutes discussing the proposal as a group. Each student should do their best to individually understand the solution through group discussion and research. The proposed solutions are as follows:
    1. Fully Open Borders
    2. Fully Closed Borders (no immigration, legal or otherwise)
    3. Increased Border Security (Building a wall)
    4. Amnesty
    5. Red Card Solution: Private-Sector Work Visa
    6. DREAM Act
    7. Expanding H1-B Visa Programs
    8. Expansion of Green Card Diversity Immigrant Visa Program
  3. Instruct your students to research a large variety of sources. One potential source of information may be the platform descriptions for the current presidential candidates. Additionally, there are a large number of organizations who have written on one or a number of these proposals.
  4. Students should use Handout B: Graphic Organizer – Policy Research to assist them in directing the focus of their research.
  5. Give each group ten minutes to research their assigned policy solution. Then reassign students to new groups which contain at least one member from each of the previous groups. Give your students ten minutes to share the details of the proposed solution that their previous group researched. Each student (or group of students if there is more than one for a specific solution) should be given at least one minute to share their research (totaling five minutes). With the remaining five minutes, the groups should discuss the proposed solutions as a whole, highlighting strengths and weaknesses for each of them. If time permits, students should either select a solution that best fits the needs of the country or develop their own brief solution. Students should take notes during this discussion in order to gain a better understanding of all of the assigned immigration policies.
  6. After each “jigsaw” group has had an opportunity to discuss the various positions, each group should vote on which proposed policy is the best. Take notes of these votes for each group and share them with the class.
  7. At the end of the second ten-minute period, gather your students together to discuss the following critical thinking questions for approximately ten-minutes or as time allows. Instruct your students that their answers to the following questions should be well reasoned and contribute to healthy classroom discussion:
    1. Does anyone who desires to enter the United States have a right to do so?
    2. Should the United States limit the number of people allowed to legally immigrate into the country?
    3. How important is it that immigrants understand the governing principles of the United States? For example, equality, rule of law, separation of powers, etc…
    4. What possible problems does having people enter the country illegally pose to citizens of the United States?
    5. If someone desires to reside in the United States but does not want to become a citizen, should they be allowed to do so?
    6. What are some weaknesses of current immigration policy?
    7. What are some strengths found in the different proposed solutions discussed by your group?
    8. How would some of the proposed solutions affect those currently living in the United States who are either legal or illegal immigrants?

Extension Activity: Immigration Plan Essay
(Homework or in class if time permits)

To follow-up on the classroom discussion, have your students write a brief, five-paragraph essay detailing their own proposal for handling both legal and illegal immigration in the United States. Student essays should include an introduction to the issues and problems associated with immigration, three paragraphs detailing the students’ plan to handle immigration, and a strong concluding paragraph. Encourage your students to pull together the strengths of the discussed proposals or create their own. Students’ proposals should be well reasoned and address the concerns discussed in class. Students should use their notes from class or the graphic organizers they created to pull-together.