Educators awaken student voice by providing a safe place
for dialogue about immigration, war, and other hot-button issues.
In a high school classroom in southern Arizona, students are wrapping up a week of study and discussion on U.S. immigration policy. The students include recent immi- grants from near and far as well as students whose fami- lies immigrated to the United States generations ago.
They have just completed a role-play in which they explored
radically different policy alternatives, working in groups to
make a case for each. Now it’s time to talk—really talk.
Sarah, a U.S.-born student,
leads off. “I never thought
about why people would risk
as much as they do to come
Chris, also U.S.-born,
turns to Arturo, who has
recently arrived from
Colombia. “Boy, I never
thought how hard it must be
for you to leave everything
behind and not know if
you’ll ever get to go back.”
Peter, a quiet Asian American, hesitates for a moment
and then turns to Michael,
who was openly antagonistic
when the class started this
unit. “I’m American, too, you
know. I just don’t look like
you. But I can’t forget I’m
Chinese also. I don’t want to.
You talk about being Irish.
Why is it so different?”
© SUSIE FITZHUGH
“I suppose it’s not,” says Michael, reflecting on his own
roots as a descendent of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato
famine. He turns to Maria, a recent Mexican immigrant. “And
I guess your family came here for the same reasons mine did.
We just did it a long time ago. It was easier then—I realize
“Yes, but,” another U.S.-born student chimes in, “you have to
look at the other side, too. Look at what’s happening. Look at