TIME to the rescue
Have you been struggling to talk to your kids about immigration? Worried they might not understand our immigration policy? Have you been pacing back and forth at night wondering how to explain that America is a nation of immigrants; and oh god, what about this whole “melting pot” thing or is it a “salad bowl” these days?
Worry no more. TIME has you covered.
News stories about the debate over the DREAM act, the tens of thousands of children who arrive unaccompanied in the U.S. each year and even the backlash against immigrants in Europe after the Charlie Hedbo killings can raise all kinds of questions and stir up all kinds of emotions for kids. This is especially true when they involve children being separated from their parents.
I distinctly remember laying in bed after an arduous day at German kindergarten, wondering how the President’s immigration policy, and Euro-Arab relations would affect me. Not really, but if I had, this article would’ve undoubtedly improved my entire childhood.
To bring clarification to the matter of immigration, children, and communication, TIME chatted with what appears to be a completely and totally unbiased, objective, and nonpartisan source, Professor of Education at Claremont Graduate University and author of Americans By Heart: Undocumented Latino Students and the Promise of Higher Education, William Perez who made the following suggestions:
Elementary Age: “A good start would be discussing their family’s history of migration to the U.S.,” he says. “Why did they first come? What were the conditions in the country of origin?” From there, the discussion can widen “to conversations about contemporary migration, and the reasons families decide to live in a new country.”
Middle School“reading narratives from families of different backgrounds about their immigration experiences.” And all the stories don’t have to come from the pages of a book. Middle school is also a great time, says Perez, for students to start “asking friends, classmates, or extended family members about their migration experiences.” How did their friends’ families come to this country? What was the experience of their grandmother, grandfather, aunts and uncles?
“Where did you come from and why is your family here?” is bound to go over fabulously in our train wreck of a public school system. Cries of racism in 3, 2, 1…
And finally, High School:
High School students “should begin to understand how immigration policies affect immigrants and their families,” says Perez. Families can discuss questions like why do some states have pro-immigrant laws while others have anti-immigrant laws? Perez also suggests that high school students read news stories about immigration from different sources, regions, and countries. Parents can encourage them to absorb what they read by asking questions like “Do these sources talk about immigration in different ways? If so, how? And why?” (One place to start might be this story in New York about an immigrant family who works fast food jobs in Texas.)
I would agree that a comparative immigration study would shed light on how generous our own immigration policies really are, although I doubt that’s the intended affect. Perez seems to perpetuate the misconception that low wage earners personify America’s immigrants, when it’s simply not the case. But he did write a book, so I’m sure he knows what he’s talking about.
Lastly, Perez wants to ensure, “that kids understand that immigration didn’t stop at Ellis Island.”
(Gratuitous clip of immigrants arriving and departing from Ellis Island in 1906, because why not?)
Thanks, TIME Magazine, for showing us how to chat with the future leaders of our once great nation about immigration. Whatever would we have done without you?
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