Wanting our students to access a diverse array of first-hand information, we collected more than twenty immigrant stories from StoryCorps and the Library of Congress, reflecting the experiences of recent immigrants from Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Europe, and the Middle East. The students chose stories that spoke to them and imagined themselves in the immigrants’ shoes.
These excerpts from the 3rd graders’ letters “home” illustrate their growing understanding of the bittersweet experience of US immigration.
• Duwayne from Jamaica: “I’m not used to American food. There’s no oxtail, fish with a head, or jerk chicken.
There’s burgers, fries, and hot dogs. Those are good.”
• Francis from Columbia: “Some parents didn’t let their kids play with us at first because we are different.”
• Sasha from Russia: “I was nervous about driving.”
• Bighash from Iran: “I have freedom of choice, more opportunities, and people are friendly.”
• Guango from China: “When I get enough money, I am going to open a Chinese store that sells Chinese furniture.”
• Rafael from Brazil: “I still celebrate Brazilian traditions like carnival.”
• Miriam from Peru: “I hope you can come visit me here.”
After successfully transitioning to life in the US, students were presented with the question of whether or not to apply for US citizenship. In order to make an informed decision, they investigated the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Their research uncovered that American citizens have:
• the “freedom to worship as you wish,”
• the “right to vote in elections,”
• the “right to run for office,”
• the “right to a prompt, fair trial,”
• the “responsibility to pay taxes honestly and on time,”
• the “responsibility to respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others,” and
• the “responsibility to stay informed on issues in the community.”