Monday, January 21, 2013

Why Emigrate? Answering This in a Spanish Community Service Learning Class

Our public discourse presents immigrants as criminals, not as people escaping  out-of-control "criminalidad."
by Ann Abbott

We have an economic public discourse on immigration in this country. And a criminal discourse.

We do not have a humanitarian public discourse on immigration. Not even a humane one, really.

So when students come to our Spanish community service learning courses, they bring with them the weight of that dominant discourse. That is, whether they are pro-immigration or not, the terms in which our students engage the topic of immigration reflect our dominant public discourse: the economic costs-benefits of immigration and the criminalization of the act of migration. This is not our students' fault, of course! It is simply our responsibility to broaden their thinking on the topic.

Lesson 14 in Comunidades is titled ¿Por qué emigrar? It shows students that there are myriad reasons for which people make the difficult decision to leave behind their homes, families, languages and cultures.

One, just one of those reasons is to escape violence and lack of personal security.

This week, CNN featured photos about violence in Honduras. Students can look through the photos, generate a list of questions that the photos raise, team up to answer those questions, then present their reports to the class or on-line.

Immigration is complex. Immigrants are complex human beings, like all of us. We have a good opportunity in our Spanish community service learning students to have students engage deeply with that complexity.

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