Friday, April 15, 2016

What the U.S. Supreme Court Case on Executive Action Means for Schools

On April 18, the eight sitting justices on the U.S. Supreme Court will consider United States v. Texas, a politically charged lawsuit about the legality of some of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The initiatives in dispute—expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)—have been on hold since a district court in Texas issued a preliminary injunction (a temporary block) in the case in February 2015. A Supreme Court decision in favor of the United States could clear the way for the initiatives to go forward as early as June 2016. A decision against the United States, or a 4-4 split decision would affirm the lower court’s ruling and uphold the block on expanded DACA and DAPA.

Both DACA and DAPA are deferred action initiatives. To qualify to stay in this country, individuals must have lived here five years, register with the government, pay taxes, and pass a criminal background check. A grant of deferred action does not confer any type of lawful immigration status, enforceable legal rights, or an ability to remain permanently in the United States. Nonetheless, it allows families to remain together and to apply for work authorization.

Expanded DACA and DAPA have the potential to affect a substantial number of American families.  The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates that 3.7 million undocumented immigrants could qualify for protection from removal under the two initiatives.  Additionally, 86 percent of children of undocumented parents, or 4.4 million, have parents that would qualify for DAPA. Many of these children are U.S. citizens.

There are also, however, educational and socio-emotional health benefits. For example, as of December 31, 2015, over 700,000 young people have received the 2012 version of DACA (not challenged in the lawsuit), broadening their educational opportunities. Many recipients now have access to public universities, trade schools, and additional scholarship opportunities.

Many educational groups and advocates, including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have stated in a friend-of-the-court brief filed on the Obama administration’s side, that "DACA is unique among immigration policies because it makes educational attainment a condition for eligibility." They highlight that in order to be eligible for DACA, an individual must be “either in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the U.S. Coast Guard or the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Additionally, they note that the DAPA program would extend significant stress relief to families with school-aged children. Not surprisingly, removing the threat of a parent’s deportation and the ability to improve economic prospects via work authorization may mitigate some of the statistically profound disadvantages facing children with at least one undocumented parent.

Executive Action Resources
  • Defending DAPA and Expanded DACA Before the Supreme Court (American Immigration Council) – This guide provides brief answers to common questions about United States v. Texas, including what is at stake in the case, how the litigation began, what the contested issues are, and the impact the case may have on our country. 

Lesson Plans

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tax Day is a Learning Opportunity

Photo by Chris Potter

This year, on April 18, most Americans will file their tax returns while most students may not even notice this deadline has come and gone. Yet tax day is a civic-learning opportunity for students. It can be the topic of a thoughtful discussion on why and who pays taxes, how much they pay, and what benefits are received (or expected to be received) in return. Tax day also lends itself as a time to talk about the contributions undocumented immigrants make to America while exploring the myth that the undocumented do not pay taxes.

That fact is despite their undocumented status, “at least 50 percent of undocumented immigrant households currently file income tax returns using Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs),” according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). In addition, many more undocumented immigrants have taxes deducted from their paychecks, even if they do not file income tax returns. These taxes fund benefits, such as Social Security and Medicare, which undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive.

Undocumented immigrants also pay sales, income and property taxes. For example, undocumented immigrants pay sales tax every time they buy clothing, an appliance, gas, or food at a restaurant. ITEP reports that in 2013 for example, the average effective state and local tax rate of undocumented immigrants was 8 percent, compared to 5.4 percent for the top 1 percent of all taxpayers. This translated into $11.6 billion in state and local taxes paid by the undocumented community in 2013. Immigrants, regardless of status, also pay for a main source of public school funding through property taxes – even if they are renting.

Though undocumented immigrants can receive public schooling and emergency medical care, they are not eligible for most benefits they pay taxes towards such as food stamps or health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

You can view the estimated state and local taxes each state receives from undocumented immigrants on this interactive map.

Conversing with students about the economic contributions immigrants make in taxes extends the conversation beyond the usual, though important discussions around their contributions of cuisine, music, and art, and into a fuller understanding of how immigrants benefit our society.

Tax Day Activities and Resources

·        Start a Conversation. Find out what knowledge students have already about how taxes work, draw personal connections, and extend the conversation.
Ask students:
  • Do you have a budget? How do you earn money? How do you decide to spend it?

  • Does the government have a budget? How does it earn money? How does it decide to spend it?

  •  Do you think you pay taxes? If so, how?

  • Who should pay taxes? Who should receive tax and public benefits? Should everyone pay the same amount or should it vary according to income?

·        Have students use evidence to support their thinking. This brief fact sheet details the estimated billions of dollars undocumented immigrants pay in taxes, and how a pathway to permanent legal status would yield more tax revenue.

·        Empower yourself and others. Learn the facts about the ITIN number, its purposes and limitations, and how to apply.

Want to get more involved with our educational work by applying for our community grants, writing immigrant-themed book reviews, contributing to our blog posts or offering lessons learned in the classroom? Let us know about it! Email us at and follow us on Twitter @ThnkImmigration #teachimmigration

Register for our upcoming FREE webinar this Thursday, April 14 at 4:00pm EDT “Celebrating Día at School” co-hosted with LEE & LOW BOOKS where expert panelists will discuss how to create an effective Día de los Ninos/ Día de los Libros in your school. This webinar will be most beneficial for those teaching younger students in traditional and non-traditional classroom settings.

Monday, April 4, 2016

We’re Bringing Free PD to Teach about Immigration to You

Join us in April for two free webinars to teach about immigration. In each of these sessions, we’ll offer free resources and strategies to creatively and critically engage students on this topic.

1. So, You Want to Teach about Immigration?
Co-hosted with Share My Lesson #VirtualConference
April 5, 2016 8:30pm-9:30pm EDT

Learn three engaging approaches to teaching about immigration with students you could implement for tomorrow’s lesson. First, explore how writing digital narratives on immigration builds literacy and 21st century skills as well as empathy in the classroom and with families. Then, discover how to connect America’s past and present attitudes on immigration using political cartoons and short student-produced video clips to engage your students in critical thinking. Lastly, understand the relationship between immigration status and privilege in a versatile lesson. Prepare to walk away with adaptable, free resources to teach about immigration that are perfect for multiple learning styles and English language learners.

There is something for every grade level in this webinar. Professional Development credit is available upon completion.

2. Celebrating Día at School
Co-hosted with LEE & LOW BOOKS #teachdia
April 14, 2016 4:00pm-5:00pm EDT

Learn from expert panelists in a discussion about how to create an effective Día de los Ninos/ Día de los Libros in your school. They'll offer examples and strategies they've used to promote multiculturalism and inclusion through books and storytelling techniques to celebrate Día any day. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions and discuss best practices. Panelists include: Susan Coti (teacher and professional storyteller), Hannah Ehrlich (LEE & LOW BOOKS), Monica Olivera (Mommy Maestra), Claire Tesh (American Immigration Council), and Carolyn Vidmar (Spanish Playground).

This webinar will be most beneficial for those teaching younger students in traditional and non-traditional classroom settings.

Attending upcoming conferences in person? We’ll be at the (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) TESOL conference in Baltimore, MD from April 5-8, 2016. Let us know if you will be there and please consider attending one of our sessions: Immigration 101 (Wednesday, April 6 5pm EDT and Crossing Borders with Digital Storytelling (Friday, April 8 10:30am EDT). View our upcoming conferences and webinars.

Stay Connected! 
We seek to connect teachers and students with the most relevant, fact-based information to teach immigration critically and creatively–-at no cost. If you like our work, please share this email, tell a friend and give them this link to receive updates and free resources such as lesson plans, books reviews, and community grants. Follow us on twitter @ThnkImmigration #teachimmigration.