Criminalization of Immigrants

By L. Treviño

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

Now more than ever immigration has become a hot topic here in the United States, especially considering where I am planning to teach, which is in South Texas. I believe that this lesson plan and topic is one that I would definitely try to modify to fit in my lesson plans.  Now more than ever it is safe to say when an American citizen hears about an immigrant or an illegal alien the person will automatically assume that that individual is of Mexican descent.  Although through the history of the United States it is not only Mexicans who are mistreated as immigrants, I felt that because I am addressing a predominantly of Mexican heritage class that in order to grasp their attention and interest it would be best for me to focus on a culture that they may relate to.  I am hoping that this will spark enough interest in them that they will want to begin their own research and look more in depth into other immigration problems and mistreatment of ethnic groups. 

Something I would like to make clear in my lesson is that breaking the law is breaking the law but I would hope to get the point across that these individuals are not criminals who seek to do harm but instead are individuals almost like refugees looking for a safe place and for a better opportunity for their family.  To hear the way several people describe Mexican immigrants and the use of the term wetback really affects the mind set of those around them. The derogatory terms that are used to describe Mexican immigrants create hate and ultimately create tension.  I am not trying to influence the students to be in support of illegal immigration but instead educate them so that when they are in a discussion about this topic that they will be able to speak with knowledge and an understanding of both sides of the problem and not simply regurgitate what they have been spoon feed by the media and by entertainment. 

While looking for a video clip on YouTube I ran across so many videos depicting Mexicans in the most horrid fashions.  It saddened me not because they were against immigration but because of their naive ignorance to what is really going on and the fact that they are posting these videos where other individuals can get influenced by them and become more toxic to the community around them.  Racism is like a disease and if these individuals do not educate themselves it will spread to the ones around them.  I want my students to be able to carry themselves in a respectable matter and to be able to carry a discussion without using derogatory words or using stereotypes to make their point.  Whether they are for or against I wants them to be knowledgeable in whichever side they chose.

The books and articles that I chose because of the information that they provide.  Of the books I have chosen the one that stood out to me was Daniel Rothenberg, “With These Hands: The Hidden World of Migrant Farmworkers Today” reason being is that one of the very first articles in the book is an interview with an Anglo man who says that he loves being a picker, that it allows him to come and go as he pleases and to travel the world. Then it is followed by an interview of a Mexican picker who says he cannot leave the farm until the farmer allows him to leave. He must stay there until they agree for him to go. He describes his life as horrible but understands the sacrifice he must make in order to keep his family in some type of life style other than poverty.  To me this shows what a huge difference in treatment that the two individuals faced in the same type of work place. 

I want students to question the treatment of illegal aliens.  Do they believe the United States is being far in the treatment of them?  I would like students to not only be able to identify which laws were used to keep Mexicans out but also if they think the laws carried a bias in them. I would also like to show them the evolution of the Mexican immigration system and let them decided if it has positively affected the Mexican community or has it caused more tension between the 2 countries because of this. I would like students to identify stigmas that they are familiar with and have been placed on Mexican individuals as well as Mexican Americans.

This is an example of the lesson plan:

Criminalization of Immigrants

Content Objective: TLW demonstrate why and how the Border Patrol started and ultimately lead to the criminalization of immigrants.

Language Objective: TLW be able to write about laws that have been passed that deal with immigration and will also be able to identify the stigmas that have been created by the Border Patrol and Media.

Materials: Teacher supplied power point presentation as well as reading materials. Kelly L Hernandez. Migra!; A History of the United States Border Patrol, would be assigned to the class as course material in order to lay down the foundation of the findings, as well as David Montejano’s  “The ‘Mexican Problem ’”  an article that brings race and superiority to the picture. “What Triggers Public Opposition to Immigration? Anxiety, Group Cues, and Immigration Threat” by Ted Brader will also be given so they can see how fear can create cause and swiftly become out of control. Daniel Rothenberg, With These Hands: The Hidden World of Migrant Farmworkers Today will also be used to show interviews with pickers to show their side of the story.

 Focus: Show a video clip of the show Border Wars which is on National Geographic. The clip I will use is of a man who lives on the border leaving out water bottles and canned food in the dessert and then the self-proclaimed Minute Men discovering it and pouring the water out and confiscating the canned food that was left there for anyone in need of it.

Presentation: Students will do a research paper with materials I provided as well as their own sources and artifacts.

Closure: Ask the students if they can think of any stigmas that they have either heard, been victim to or have participated in the stereotyping of immigrants in any way.


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