UPDATED: November 12, 2019
Note: On November 12, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case about the future of DACA. The Attorney General initially announced that the administration would end the policy on September 5, 2017. Since that time, the decision has been argued in the courts. Below are resourced and teaching ideas for discussing this important civic issue with students.
As educators, what do we need to know, and what sensitivities should we consider when discussing DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in class? To begin, it is important to recognize that the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools recognizes, that discussion of current events and controversial issues is a proven practice of civic education. They explain:
Schools should incorporate discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events in to the classroom, particularly those that young people view as important to their lives. When students have an opportunity to discuss current issues in a classroom setting, they tend to have a greater interest in civic life and politics as well as improved critical thinking and communication skills.
Yet, discussion of current and controversial issues can be challenging. Discussing DACA might be even more so. While there are few DACA recipients among K-12 students, there is tremendous uncertainty over the fate of many of their closest relatives including siblings, parents, grandparents, and cousins–family members who care for our students and the very people that they love. Further, in many classrooms, peers are witnessing their friends and classmates trying to navigate this turbulence. In an earlier blog, we offered suggestions on how schools might respond in this climate of uncertainty. We want to underscore the importance of creating a classroom contract to set up norms in advance of discussion of controversial events. Without a feeling safe, students may silence themselves or be unwilling to participate in class. To support our students, we need to consider how our students’ identities and experiences might influence the way they respond to any discussion of DACA.
As with any unfolding issue, much of what is swirling across social and news media is a combination of facts, opinions, and rumors. Opinions may be based on an incomplete understanding of the events. Moreover, our perspectives are likely to be influenced by our biases. Teachers have a second level of concern; namely that their own politics do not interfere with their goals and responsibilities as educators.
Before launching into a discussion of DACA, it is important to gauge what your students know and what they think they know. It would be useful to begin a lesson by making a K-W-L chart with your students to help clarify what we know to be true as compared to opinion or rumor.
Discussions ab0ut DACA often brings together a number of different issues related to immigration including law, ideas of belonging, prejudice, history and citizenship. Sometimes these connections are conscious, other times they are beneath the surface. It is helpful to make them visible, one strategy to help do that is the iceberg diagram. You might want to have your students create one, either in small groups, or as a whole class. Once they are completed, ask students to reflect on what they see. Which ideas are connected? What patterns do they see?
Many students will be familiar with the label “DREAMers.” The name comes from the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act which did not get enough votes to pass through Congress. According to the original 2009 bill DREAMers had to meet the following criteria:
(1) entered the United States before his or her 16th birthday and has been present in the United States for at least five years immediately preceding enactment of this Act; (2) is a person of good moral character; (3) is not inadmissible or deportable under specified grounds of the Immigration and Nationality Act; (4) at the time of application, has been admitted to an institution of higher education or has earned a high school or equivalent diploma; (5) from the age of 16 and older, has never been under a final order of exclusion, deportation, or removal; and (6) was under age 35 on the date of this Act’s enactment.
You might encourage your students to reflect on the label “DREAMers.” What do they think it means to be a dreamer? What does it mean in this context? Why might some immigrants rights activists have decided to use the label?
To add to our knowledge about DACA and the decision to wind down the program, we have curated a set of media sources from reliable websites and news media publications. The sources include a transcript for Attorney General Session’s announcement, articles that serve as explainers and fact checkers, a mini-documentary, an interview with a scholar, and an op-ed.
How the case got to the Supreme Court
- New York Times, November 12, 2019: (podcast) A Small Act of Rebellion
- National Public Radio, November 12, 2019: DACA Recipients Look To Supreme Court For Hope
The Decision to End DACA
- U.S. Department of Justice, September 5, 2017: Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks on DACA
- PBS Washington Week, September 6, 2017, From the Vault: President Obama Signs DACA
- New York Times, Fact Check, September 8, 2017: Why Common Critiques of DACA are Misleading
- Washington Post, Post Politics, September 8, 2017: What does Trump really want for the ‘dreamers’?
- CNN Politics, September 5, 2017: US immigration: DACA and Dreamers explained
- New York Times, Times Video, September 5, 2017, What ‘Dreamers’ Gained From DACA, and Stand to Lose
- Harvard Graduate School of Education, Usable Knowledge, August 24, 2016: Undocumented and Educated
- Latino USA, September 8, 2017, DACA-nomics.
- New York Times, Opinion, September 8, 2017: The Psychic Toll of Trump’s DACA Decision
- Politico, Law and Order, September 9, 2017: How the Dreamers Learned to Play Politics
- American Public Media, September 11, 2017: Shadow Class: College dreamers in Trump’s America
Since the September 2017announcement, there have been a few major developments. We have included sources for your own learning and as potential resources to use as the basis for a lesson.
- Washington Post, Immigration, January 10, 2018, DACA injunction adds to limbo for ‘dreamers’ as Trump crackdown, Hill talks continue
- NPR, The Two-Way, January 10, 2018, Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump’s Decision To End DACA
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, January 13, 2018, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: Response to January 2018 Preliminary Injunction
- Reuters, January 16, 2018, Trump administration to appeal ‘Dreamer’ immigrant ruling
- Washington Post, Immigration, January 16, 2018, Trump administration will ask Supreme Court to allow it to end DACA
- PRI, DACA Diaries, January 17, 2018, Nearly 40 percent of DACA recipients are high school or college students. Now their future is in limbo.
- PRI the World, Ongoing winter 2017, DACA Diaries: By the numbers and their individual stories, the DACA program has given people just starting their adult lives a lifeline.
- Washington Post, Politics, January 23, 2018, In debate on ‘dreamers,’ an unresolved question: How many should benefit?
- CNN, Politics, January 23, 2018, Immigration Talks: What’s Next
- NPR, Analysis, January 23, 2018, What The Latest Immigration Polls Do (And Don’t) Say
- Politico, Immigration, January 24, 2018, The warring tribes that will decide Dreamers’ fate
- Vox, Explainers, May 24, 2018, The return of the DACA fight in Congress, explained
The Impact of DACA
- The Guardian, November 12, 2019: (Opinion) Daca has changed lives – and the country – for the better. It must be preserved
- Harvard Graduate School of Education, November 7, 2019: Highlighting the Long-Term Impact of DACA
- Univision, November 7, 2019: Universidad de Harvard: éxitos de DACA son indiscutibles, pero los ‘dreamers’ necesitan una solución permanente
- NBC News, November 7, 2019: DACA has transformed young immigrants’ lives, a new report says. Will the Supreme Court save it?
As you read, watch or listen to any of these pieces, you might have students engage in critical media literacy protocols to help them clarify, facts, opinions, and generalizations in each source. We have included two protocols below that were created by Facing History and Ourselves and The News Literacy Project.
There are many pedagogical strategies you can use to discuss DACA in a classroom setting. Some educators will want to leave an open space for reflection. Others may prefer to have a formal debate. The choice of strategy should be driven by our educational goals. As we approach DACA, or related discussions about immigration, let’s remember that they present real dilemmas that may have personal consequences for our students. One question we might use to drive discussion is simply, “What advice might you give Congress in order to seek a just solution?”