School News

Experts Lead 8th Graders in Formulating Immigration Policy

Eighth graders have spent recent weeks exploring immigration as part of their human rights unit in social studies and have focused on current issues at the United States’ southern border along Mexico.

As part of the unit, Lowell parents—Greg Chen, a lawyer for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and Joanne Lin, national director of advocacy and government affairs at Amnesty International—have led students through two lessons designed to help them gain a deeper understanding of the historical significance of border walls and formulate their own solutions to immigration challenges.

During Greg and Joanne’s first visit, 8th graders were introduced to various physical barriers that countries use to keep people from entering. Students were challenged to choose a wall, learn what it was made of, why it was built, and if the wall was successful. The history of border walls provided a foundation for the next lessons on immigration. Led by Social Studies Teacher Foun Tang, students investigated the push-and-pull factors that cause people to seek asylum. Some factors included changes in drug trafficking routes and political and economic instability in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Colombia.

Foun also led the class in an examination of the different messages disseminated by the current administration, Fox News, the Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Guardian to help students uncover hidden biases in the stories surrounding asylum seekers. Students learned how references to asylum seekers as criminals, dangerous gang members, drug traffickers, and terrorists feed a single narrative and neglect the experiences of families and children who are fleeing the dangerous conditions in their home countries.
In their final visit today, Greg and Joanne asked students to propose policy solutions that would address both human rights and problems arising from immigration. Eighth graders suggested improving programs to stabilize the countries that asylum seekers come from, giving better shelter to asylum seekers, and processing their applications faster. Foun was impressed to hear solutions that demonstrated a full analysis of the causes and different aspects of the issue. Greg and Joann offered valuable insights drawing on their experience. “We don’t often meet people who are part of solving the problems, and they are problem solvers,” Foun said.