Every year thousands of students graduate from U.S. high schools with the expectations that their hard work will pay off as they gain acceptance to college or procure entry-level jobs. But for undocumented youth, that promise of reward is hollow. Without a Social Security number, an undocumented graduate isn't eligible for most financial aid, a job or, in many states, a driver's license or the ID needed to travel.
Some of these undocumented students would be covered under a bill known as the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, which would establish conditional residency for those who were brought to the United States as minors and have grown up here. The DREAM Act has not become law, but that hasn't discouraged activists who continue to work towards other forms of relief in its stead. Undocumented immigrants live under the constant threat of deportation, which in many cases would separate them from their families.
This multi-task lesson asks students to look at the DREAM Act in the context of immigration reform and also to reflect on blogging as civic engagement. They'll research the DREAM Act and use clips from the film Don't Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie), which features the experience of undocumented immigrant and blogger Angy Rivera, to look at the human side of this policy issue. Then they'll engage in blogging and online conversations to express their opinions about how the nation should approach immigration policy. Finally, they'll write reflections on whether or not blogging or participating in online conversations is a valid form of civic engagement.
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One 40-minute class, followed by out-of-class online dialogue and a brief in-class check-in.
By the end of this lesson, students will:
- write blog posts and short reflections
- participate in online dialogue
- know the content and purpose of the DREAM Act and understand its place in the context of immigration reform debates
- reflect on blogging as a form of civic engagement
- Film clips from Don't Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie) and equipment on which to show them
- Student access to a blogging website of your choice
- Student access to the Internet for research
1. Introduce the DREAM Act*
Ask what students know about the DREAM Act. Fill in any gaps. If you live in a state that has passed its own DREAM Act, help students distinguish between state law and the federal proposal, as well as between President Obama's executive order (DACA) and the fight to pass a law in Congress. At this point, they need to know only the basics. This shouldn't take more than five minutes. You can find more information about the DREAM Act in the Don't Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie) discussion guide atwww.pbs.org/pov/donttellanyone/discussion-guide.php.
*Note: If a different piece of immigration reform legislation is pending when you are leading this activity, we recommend that you substitute that for the DREAM Act.
2. Introduce the Assignment
The class is going to create online dialogues about what should happen to undocumented youth who have lived most of their lives in the U.S. They will create a series of blog posts and responses.
Divide the class into groups of 8 to 10. For each group, draw a random name. That person is assigned to write the initial blog post that will begin the discussion. Everyone else will be required to respond to that post. All group members will be required to continue the dialogue in their group. If they wish, they may also join the conversations in other groups.
Note: This could also be an opportunity to differentiate instruction: You choose the initial bloggers, or create a group where the discussion can take place in more than one language, or assign specific positions or topics so that more advanced students can deal with more nuanced or complex issues.
As needed, remind students of blogging etiquette and tech instructions. Let them know how you will assess their posts and participation.
3. Begin the Research
Make it clear that opinions expressed in the blogs and responses must be substantiated with evidence, so students will be expected to do research on the topic. They'll begin that research in class, with some clips from a film about a young, undocumented immigrant who was also a blogger and activist. The film is Don't Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie) and the blogger is Angy Rivera (of the blog, "Ask Angy").
4. Show and Discuss the Clips
Show and briefly discuss each of the eight film clips. Encourage students to take notes and let them know that they can view the clips online again by visitinghttp://www.pbs.org/pov/video/ and typing Don't Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie)into the search bar.
Let the discussion be guided primarily by the students' reactions to each clip, providing guidance as needed. By the end of the clips, students should have considered the ways in which:
- being undocumented affects one's daily activities, options for the future and family life (and whether any of those should be considered when formulating public policy)
- Angy used blogging for personal expression and political action
- students' own lives are similar to and different from Angy's (and her peers)
Wrap up the clips by letting students know that Angy and her mother were ultimately granted visas under a special-circumstance statute that allows a crime victim who aided in the prosecution of the perpetrator to gain legal residence. In Angy's case, she was sexually abused by her stepfather, and he was convicted and jailed when she was 9 years old. While she was glad to get the visa, she was angry that she received it was because she was abused and not because she had contributed to her community.
5. Let the Blogging Begin
Choose a date when the initial blog entries must be posted and establish how many days the comments section will remain open. If needed, share the websites listed in the Resources section as places to begin more formal research on the DREAM Act.
After the online dialogue is closed, spend a few minutes in class to debrief. What did students notice? What did they learn? What sorts of posts were the most interesting or the most persuasive and why? What's the relationship between engagement in this online dialogue and actions that lead to social or political change?
Invite students to write brief reflections either in class or as homework on whether they think blogging or commenting on a blog is effective as a form of civic engagement.
- Compare the immigrant experience of Angy and her family to immigrant experiences recounted in literature (e.g., Anzia Yezierska's Bread Givers, Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street) or to the immigrant experiences of students' families.
- Research and debate other aspects of immigration reform, such as whether or not to abolish birthright citizenship as guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment.
- Have students brainstorm ways to address immigrant rights and/or support undocumented youth in your school or community. Then put those ideas into action either individually, in groups or in partnership with local community groups/organizations.
- Host a poetry slam or other performance space/speak out/open mic to give voice to the concerns of undocumented youth and their allies.
- Create a "fact check" team to monitor the accuracy of media reports related to immigrants and immigration policy.
- POV: Don't Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie)http://www.pbs.org/pov/donttellanyone - The POV site provides a general discussion guide with additional activity ideas.
- POV: Media Literacy Questions for Analyzing POV Filmshttp://www.pbs.org/pov/educators/media-literacy.php - This list of questions provides a useful starting point for leading rich discussions that challenge students to think critically about documentaries.
American Immigration Council
www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/dream-act-resource-page - This organization's website is a good starting place for information on the DREAM Act.
www.facebook.com/AskAngy - This is the Facebook page for Angy Rivera's blog for undocumented youth.
http://immigration.procon.org/ - This page provides an overview of competing positions on a range of issues related to U.S. immigration policy.