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February 2, 2018

Lesson plan: How DACA demonstrates the importance of civic engagement

In this lesson, students will learn how teachers are training to become Dreamer advocates in order to support their undocumented students. They will research DACA protections and find out what their local communities are doing to provide necessary services to Dreamers.




Social studies, English Language Arts, English Language Learners

Estimated time

One 45-minute class

Essential question

How does the debate over DACA demonstrate the importance of civic engagement?


Some important background: The Trump Administration cancelled DACA in September and recently rejected a bipartisan immigration deal that would have kept DACA protections in place. President Trump has been putting pressure on Congress to send him new legislation that includes more funding for the border wall before the March 5th deadline he has set.

As a result, anxiety levels of undocumented young people, or Dreamers, has skyrocketed. California is home to the largest number of undocumented students enrolled in public school. An increasing number of educators are receiving training to become Dreamer advocates. This lesson explores the training program and asks students to find other resources in their community designed to help undocumented students.

Key terms

undocumented immigrant — a person present in the U.S. without proper authorization

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) — a U.S. immigration policy ordered by President Obama as an executive action that allows certain undocumented immigrants to the U.S. who entered the country before turning 16 and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation

Dreamer — a term used to describe young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, who have lived and gone to school here, and who in many cases identify as American (Anti-Defamation League)

Main activity

Watch the video below produced by Fernando Cienfuegos of Northview High School and NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs and answer the discussion questions below.

Discussions questions: 

  1. Why are teachers independently choosing to receive training about DACA?
  2. “Politics should never come in to it when it comes to young people’s education,” stated school board member Cecilia Iglesias.
    • Do you agree or disagree? Explain your response.
    • Can you think of other examples when controversial issues have been addressed in schools?

Mini group research project:

  1. Besides the training program discussed in the video, do you know of other resources in communities designed to help undocumented workers? It may come as a surprise to learn that hundreds of public libraries across the country have programs set up to help immigrants. This was the subject of another SRL-Extra lesson plan, by the way. Watch the video here and complete the activity below:

2. The Charge: Find out what resources are available in your community to help undocumented workers.

  • First stop: Your public library. Search their website and figure out what types of services they provide. If you are not sure, pick up the phone and call or stop by and talk with the librarians about what resources they have available.
  • Second stop: Your local government office, i.e. city hall, town hall, village council, etc. It’s likely that your public library is located on your local government’s website, so make sure you do a detailed search of the entire website.
    • Your mayor or council member is most likely interested in getting re-elected. Make sure they know you are serious about your civic duties and what issues you care about.
    • If you are not finding what you need on your community’s website, check out the nearest city’s government website. Look for updates about DACA or immigration policies. See if there are any helpful links.
  • Third stop: Advocacy groups, nonprofit organizations, community colleges and universities. These groups are likely to have a good number of resources for undocumented people, including young people. While some may be national organizations (check to see if they have a local chapter in your city or region), others may be homegrown or on the grassroots level.
Extension activity:
  • To explore what immigration looks like at the grassroots levels across the country, watch the New Americans, produced by Student Reporting Labs. Short activity: 1) Choose a video that you find particularly drawn to and highlight the gist of it for your classmates. 2) Explain what the specific issue is and how communities are taking action. 3) Ask your classmates if there are similar efforts being made at your school. If not, could your class start one?
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