Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Weeding Out Hate and Misinformation from the Immigration Debate

Photo by Michael Righi
Immigration is often in the headlines and can be a polarizing issue that everybody seems to have an opinion on. Unfortunately, many let their emotions overcome the facts, allowing misinformation to cloud the reality of the benefits of immigration. Between the recent inflammatory comments about Mexicans by Donald Trump to the shooting of an innocent woman in San Francisco by an unauthorized immigrant, these headlines have the potential to insert hate into the national debate. Also as we enter an election year, immigration is likely to be politicized and the truth about immigration obscured by myth and misinformation.

As educators, you have the opportunity to look at all sides of the issue from empirical and anecdotal perspectives, and to make sure your students know where to get factual information to answer their questions about immigration laws and policies. Does one bad apple represent an entire community?

A report by the American Immigration Council shows that for more than a century, innumerable studies have confirmed two simple yet powerful truths about the relationship between immigration and crime: immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime. This holds true for both legal immigrants and the unauthorized, regardless of their country of origin or level of education.  The report highlights the following:

1.    Higher Immigration is Associated with Lower Crime Rates
2.    Immigrants are Less Likely than the Native-Born to Be Behind Bars
3.    Immigrants are Less Likely Than the Native-Born to Engage in Criminal Behavior

To see a summary of the report, please click here.
To view the full report, please click here.

The American Immigration Council has an exercise to facilitate conversation about immigration myths and will continue to create more resources for educators to use in their classrooms and communities.  We also suggest reviewing Street Law’s Deliberating Democracy Guide for ideas about starting a conversation in your classroom.

Here are some basic tips and ideas to start discussing the issue in your classroom and/or community.

•    Create a framework for the discussion, using specific questions to guide student contributions.

•    Allow everyone a chance to contribute, but don't force students to participate in the discussion. Consider letting students write briefly about the topic to gather their thoughts individually before sharing or to provide a way to contribute ideas anonymously.

•    Globalize the discussion and show how other countries are having similar debates, look at recent headlines and see how other countries have similar struggles in understanding “the newcomer”.  There are resources like National Geographic or MIPEX that show how other country’s basic laws and policies toward immigration work.

•    Consider supportive ways to open and close such a discussion. You might begin by explaining the goals and relevance of the discussion to your class and explicitly welcoming a range of perspectives. To close a discussion, you can thank students for their contributions and indicate ways they can continue to explore the topics.

If you would like to share your ideas about how you are discussing immigration issues in your classroom or how you plan on discussing these issues, we would love to hear from you.  Please email teacher@immcouncil.org if you have any questions or if you’d like to learn more about opportunities for professional development, community grants, and other programs that can enhance your teaching and learning.

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