The above document contains a series of interviews (written out, but also linked) in which different people describe their experiences immigrating to the United States. The interviews showcased here are part of a project connected to the Library of Congress, in which students and interested citizens may submit interviews they’ve conducted with family or friends. More information about the interview methods can be found by clicking the link above to the larger document.
This series of interviews might prove useful in the classroom for multiple purposes. On one hand, it definitely highlights the human aspect of immigration, and could get students thinking about immigration in a more personal, human way. That being said, the interview techniques are somewhat flawed just because a lot of them are done by students or personal friends of the subjects. They could serve as a conversation starter about objective reporting and writing technique in general.
One idea would be to have students listen to or read each interview and reflect on the challenges and obstacles each subject has faced. Students could then either pair up within the classroom and interview each other on any given subject (perhaps family background or a family origin story) and practice speaking, reporting and writing. Alternatively, students might be asked to conduct an interview outside of school with someone who has immigrated to the United States. The interview collection (the main page is linked in the word document) accepts student interviews, so there is a chance a teacher may even be able to submit students’ work to the collection.
The above document contains an Act of Congress that prohibited the federal government from using funds to assist any immigrants in deferring their deportation orders. A complete abstract of the act can be found (along with its complete text) by clicking the link to the full document above.
The above document contains an Act of Congress that directs the president to reduce assistance to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and/or El Salvador by taking the number of unaccompanied alien children from any of those places who end up in US federal custody (presumably youth of undocumented status trying to enter the country illegally or already having entered the country illegally) in the preceding fiscal year and multiplying that number by $15,000. A complete abstract of the act, along with its full text can be found by opening the linked document.
Above, click to listen to one audio interview (split into two parts) from recent immigrant, Walinda Jimenez.
Suggested Classroom Activity:
Listening to the words and voices of real people that have been through the trials and tribulations of immigration can help students sense what an incredible and sometimes harrowing experience it can be. In the first clip Walinda describes being paid $3.00 an hour for her work in a factory, and being haphazardly told to do a number of jobs. One discussion goal for this first clip could be to get students to discover on their own how easy it might be for factory owners (and workers or business owners of any kind) to take advantage of illegal immigrants. This can start a discussion about fair working conditions and possible protections for immigrant workers, as well as broader reflection on the dangers immigrants face (in terms of their understandable reluctance to go to the police over maltreatment of any kind) when entering the country illegally.
A teacher may start this lesson by playing the clip in it’s entirety and asking students just to listen and reflect. Upon playing the clip again, the teacher might ask students to write down the dollar amounts that this young lady earned as a factory worker. Students could then be grouped and asked to research certain cost of living questions about either their own area, or the place where this specific factory is. One group could research the average cost of housing, another the price of food and clothing and various necessary items. A third group might focus on the cost of transportation or child care. The whole class might be asked to think of unpredictable costs such as emergency car repair or a debilitating illness. Ultimately the class might be able to compare the money this person was earning to the amount of money someone in her shoes would need to support herself and possibly a family. This might be a good way to lead into a discussion of wages for immigrants and how working illegally leaves many people vulnerable to unfair treatment.
Street in Honduras
School in Honduras
I’ve chosen to include these three photographs from Honduras, as they relate to the young adult novel, Enrique’s Journey. That being said, one can easily find pictures from any country related to a unit on immigration simply by using the main search bar at https://www.loc.gov. Here, it might be useful to close read the images as an entrance ticket. Students might be asked to write down every detail they can think of and compare their own school or their own street (the teacher could find a picture of the school or the school’s town from decades past) and draw conclusions about the difference in lifestyle between both places. Alternatively, students might be separated into groups of two, wherein one partner is shown the picture and asked to describe it in vivid detail to the other partner, who then tries to draw the image based purely on their partner’s words. Whatever technique is used, the general idea is to get students to look critically at these images, interrogating them for information or clues, just as they would be expected to do with a text. Pictures like these could also be used purely to illustrate an author’s description of a place, or as a prompt for a creative writing assignment wherein students make up a background story about a place or character based on a photograph. As stated before, images can be found from just about any country at any general time period from the library of congress.