New York Times (Op-ed)
By Dan-el Padilla Peralta
September 12, 2016
My hopes for immigration reform lie with the young. Their education is what’s next for reform, since the urgency of teaching about the immigration experience has rarely been so acute as it is now.
There is plenty of exposure to the idea of immigration in the news, but not a lot of context for historical facts and trends, especially in high school education. Education in itself does not guarantee better prospects for reform. But at a minimum we must raise the level of the conversation by equipping students with the tools to critique and contextualize characterizations of immigrants on both sides of the partisan divide. There are already rubrics in place for this kind of instruction, but these must be amplified and strengthened even in the face of resistance: The College Board’s AP U.S. framework, which offers considerable guidance on how to weave questions about past and modern-day migration into the curriculum, has unsurprisingly been derided in some circles as too "leftist" in its treatment of the topic.
Understanding the logistics of immigration is a good place to start: How did the U.S. immigration system come into being, and how have its procedures changed over the past century and a half? How exactly do prospective immigrants to the U.S. obtain — or fail to obtain — authorization to enter? How do visas work, and why are there so many different visa categories? How long does it take and how expensive can it be to secure an immigrant visa?
High school students should also be looking at ethical and philosophical questions about identity and citizenship: How have cultural and religious traditions around the world, from antiquity to the present day, reckoned with migration? Are there moments and circumstances that justify the sidelining or ostracism of certain groups of immigrants?
Finally, as immigration is such a fundamental part of U.S. history, today's values and institutional practice should be grappled with in the broader context of America's ideal democracy: Is current immigrant law in harmony with commonly held notions of justice and fair treatment? How should liberal democracies decide whom to welcome and whom to exclude?
This kind of curriculum has never been more important because whatever happens this fall, Trumpism is here to stay. Those of us who are immigrants and or who advocate on behalf of immigrants face a twofold task. We will need not only to fight for immigration reform but to educate our fellow Americans on the intrinsic worth and merits of the immigrants who arrive here; the long history of immigration to the United States; the racialized targeting, mistreatment, and marginalization of immigrant groups; and the global history of immigration, with a particular emphasis on the pressures that drive immigrants across regional and national borders.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com