Friday, June 3, 2016

Students Speak Up on Immigration on Long Island

On May 26, 2016, the American Immigration Council invited 69 students and their teachers from selected Long Island schools to discuss historical and current immigration laws and policies at our Teach Immigration Student Forum, a full day event held at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, Glen Cove, NY.

Photo: Teach Immigration participating students and teachers in front of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center, Glen Cove, NY

At the forum, seventh-grade students from Lawrence Road Middle School in Uniondale and ninth-graders from the Brentwood Freshman Center focused on making and articulating historical connections to present day immigration issues and rhetoric. In particular, students closely examined events and policies before and during World War II, such as the Evian Conference, the German steamer MS St. Louis, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. They were able to draw comparisons and contrasts to current immigration laws and policies, such as DACA and the expanded DACA and DAPA initiative, challenges to which are before the Supreme Court in United States v Texas.

Photo: Students listen to Ms. Tracy Garrison-Feinberg, Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center of Nassau County Education Director, describe immigration policies before and during World War II.

Their teachers, Dr. Steven Burby and Ms. April Francis, applied for our two-year Teach Immigration program where we provide educators with free and current educational materials on immigration law and policy and pair them with volunteers who are immigration lawyers. Together, the teacher and lawyer teams have co-taught at least two classroom lessons and helped students find a point of view.

The day of learning was brought to a close by Brentwood native and community organizer, Mr. Hendel Leiva, who spoke with students on the power of voice and social media. He relayed the importance of sharing stories and speaking out with facts -- even if a viewpoint is initially unpopular. Using social media, he demonstrated to students the power to bridge gaps of understanding on immigration through respectful dialogue.

Photo: Mr. Hendel Leiva speaks to students on the power of voice and social media.

One student, Ms. Myriam Arvelo, reflected on what she has learned in her English class and by participating in the Teach Immigration project this year:

“Until ninth grade, I wanted nothing to do with the sadness and pain in this world for I got depressed and thought of the worst for the world's future. Don't get me wrong, I was well aware of the horrors of the Holocaust and America's wars and battles by eighth grade, but I was extremely uncomfortable with the subject and preferred to be distant from the topic all together. I preferred to immerse myself into happy and comical fiction rather than reading the news and recent nonfiction articles on what was going on in the world. However this year, my honors English teacher, Dr. Burby taught me that I have to confront the news and reality no matter how uncomfortable I was with the truth. Because of him, I have a new perspective on learning about the past and having all the facts. The truth of the matter is that we, as intellectual beings, have to educate ourselves on controversial topics such as immigration no matter how uncomfortable we are with these subjects because to be comfortable with a way of thinking, your mind will become narrow and for your mind to become narrow, you'll refuse all other perspectives and ideas which will lead you down a path of ignorance and arrogance which will cause even more pain. So even though I get upset with the history or what is going on now, I want to live a life of enlightenment and in order to do that I will be uncomfortable with these subjects because this is how my mind will broaden.”

To learn more about the Teach Immigration project, please refer to previous posts:

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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 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.

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