What is an American? An Immigration Policy Seminar

Lesson Duration

By The McCormick Foundation

The debates over border security, a guest worker program, and amnesty has roots in past policies which can inform us as we consider the issues we currently face. This lesson plan features four primary sources related to immigration legislation. These documents provide the basis for a classroom activity in which students, working collaboratively, come up with their own immigration policy proposals. The lesson begins with a jigsaw activity. The class is divided into “immigration study groups” of four. Each group member receives a different primary source. The documents include synopses of the 1924 Immigration Act, Reagan’s 1986 grant of amnesty to resident aliens, an op-ed piece authored by Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO), and the text of the McCain-Kennedy bill calling for a temporary worker program. Each student will identify the key elements of the document and share this information with his/ her group. Groups will then consider five available options: amnesty, guest workers, an open border, a physical barrier, and the denial of basic government services. Finally, groups will craft a compromise policy reflecting the values of the group. It may include any of the available options discussed in the previous step, elements of past policies, arguments presented by the members of Congress, and any other innovative solutions that may emerge in the process of deliberation. As a culminating activity, students are to write a one-to-two page position paper defending the policy adopted by their group.

What is an American? An Immigration Policy Seminar


The McCormick Foundation's Civics Program