Skip to Main Content

The Modern Debate on Immigration

210 min
  • Students will learn about the modern-day debate concerning immigration.
  • Students will understand what illegal immigration is and how this term is used in the current debate on immigration.
  • Students will engage with the modern debate on immigration on their own, developing their own policy response to the immigration debate.
  • Students will present their own policy recommendations to their classmates.
  • Students will develop the ability to engage in a civil debate on a controversial topic.

  • Handout A: The Nature of Citizenship and Solving Illegal Immigration
  • Handout B: The Modern Immigration Debate

  • Illegal immigration
  • Deportation
  • Amnesty
  • Citizenship
  • Residency
  • Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
  • Quotas
  • Immigration Act of 1990
  • REAL ID Act
  • Arizona v. U.S. (2012)
  • DREAM Act
  • Fourteenth Amendment
  • Immigration Accountability Executive Action
  • Separation of powers
  • Values
  • Individual rights
  • Individual liberties

Have your students read Handout A: The Nature of Citizenship and Solving Illegal Immigration and respond to the following tasks.

  • Write down three benefits you believe immigration brings to the United States.
  • Write down three sources of tension you believe arise from legal and illegal immigration.
  • Write down some difficulties that you believe are posed by illegal immigration.
  • Name three ways you believe illegal immigration could be reduced.

  1. Pass out Handout B: The Modern Immigration Debate to your students
  2. Using what they have learned about immigration, have each student research and write his/her own proposal for immigration reform in the United States. In the essay students should explain why they think their solution is the best solution and address any possible objections others may pose to their idea. Assertions should be based on facts and evidence from reliable sources. Research can be done in class or as a homework assignment.
  3. Ask students to give a short (three to five minute) presentation of their solution to the class.
  4. The class and instructor will then have three minutes to ask questions of the presenter.
    Possible discussion questions may include:

    • How will your solution impact the children of immigrants, who may have come here without their consent?
    • How might your plan, which may increase the number of immigrants to the United States, affect our communities?
    • Do you think everyone who wants to enter the United States has a right to do so?
    • Do you think your plan allows for people who want to come to the United States but do not want to become full citizens?
    • Do you think increasing immigration numbers pose a security risk to the United States?
    • How do you think your immigration policy will affect the United States’ reputation around the world?
    • Do you think the diversity of views and opinions brought in by new immigrant populations will help or hurt the United States?
    • Do you think your plan will bring in more skilled or unskilled workers to the United States? Do you think this matters?

Lead students in a Socratic discussion about why immigration is such a difficult topic to discuss.

  1. Your role will be that of moderator. Tell your students that everyone, including yourself, are going to work together to reason though this difficult question.
  2. Instruct the students that they will be called on as they raise their hands. To keep things orderly, keep a list of students as they raise their hands, and call on them in that order. They can either respond directly to what was said before, or start their own line of thinking.
  3. It is natural for people to disagree with one another, particularly on issues that personally affect them. But personal attacks in lieu of reasoned, polite dialogue is never acceptable, nor is it acceptable to prohibit another student from speaking because their viewpoint is disagreeable.
  4. If conversation dies down, encourage the class with your own questions. Possible discussion questions include:
      • What challenges regarding immigration are inherent in a diverse society?
      • How important is it in a society that people hold the same belief in political structures such as, the rule of law, separation of powers, government by consent, and inalienable rights?
      • To what extent is this agreement more important in a democratic society?
      • What challenges are faced by people wishing to come to this country?
      • How has the experience of an immigrant in the United States changed over the past century?
      • What responsibilities are included in becoming a citizen?
      • How might your view of immigration be affected by where in the United States you live?
      • Are the benefits and challenges brought about by immigration different today than they have been in the past? To what extent and in what ways are the benefits and challenges different than in the past?

Student Handouts

Related Resources