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Overview: Students will role play editors at a newspaper. They are given the task of evaluating four letters to the editor sent in response to recent legislation from Congress. The legislation streamlines the process for unauthorized immigrants to become permanent residents. Students focus on the economic arguments in the letters and choose two letters that will help show the newspaper is balanced (i.e., choose two letters with opposing viewpoints).
- A class set of the article “Unauthorized Immigration and the U.S. Economy”
- A class set of Handout A
- A class set of Handout B
Step One. Focus Discussion: What government services do you think your tax dollars should support? Why? (Accept any reasonable response.)
Step Two. Have the students read “Unauthorized Immigration and the U.S. Economy” and answer the questions for discussion. They can read it in class or as homework. Check for understanding.
Step Three. Organize the class into small groups of three or five students each. Distribute Handouts A and B to each student. Each group must select a Team Leader to report back to class.
Step Four. Explain that Congress has just passed an immigration reform law that makes it easier for undocumented residents to achieve “legal status.” Inform each group that they are an editorial team from the Plain City Gazette. The Gazette has received several letters from readers commenting on the new law.
Inform each group that they need to evaluate the four letters shown in Handout B. In a group, they need to read, discuss, and rank the letters according to the strength of the arguments. Finally, they need select the two that will be published in the Gazette. This requires that they reach consensus.
Step Five. Once all the groups have completed their evaluation, have each Team Leader report their group’s decisions to the class. Keep a tally of the decisions on the board.
Step Six. Debrief with the students. What makes a strong argument? Is it more important to appeal to reason or emotion in this case? Why? If Congress were to pass such a law as you see in this lesson, should Congress base it on economic reasons? What else should Congress consider?
Additional Debrief Questions: Was it difficult for their groups to reach consensus? Why or why not? Look at the letter your group ranked #4 (weakest argument). What arguments could you add to it in order to make it stronger?
NOTE: Students will have different opinions about what should be done to address the issue of unauthorized immigration. In this activity, they have to assume the role of advisors to the agency primarily responsible for enforcing immigration laws. For help in addressing controversy in the classroom, please see “Handling Controversy” on page 6 in Current Issues of Immigration, available for free from CRF.
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