Lesson Plan: Undocumented & Afraid

A step-by-step guide to teaching this article in your classroom


Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.6, RH.6-8.7, RI.6-8.2, RI.6-8.5, SL.6-8.1, W.6-8.5


• Read this article as part of a lesson on the history of U.S. immigration.

• Use this article to spark a discussion about the issues that have taken center stage during the first 100 days of the Trump administration.

• Teach students how to analyze messages presented in political cartoons.

Before Reading


Have students scan the article—looking at the headline, subheads, images, and the political cartoon— to get a sense of what it’s mostly about.


Have students share with a partner what they know about the debate over undocumented immigrants in the U.S. They should refrain from offering opinions at this point, and instead focus on listing what they already know, along with any questions they have. Write students’ questions on the board.

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Read & Analyze


Have students read the article on their own, writing down any comments or questions.


Use these questions to guide a discussion.

  • Why did the author begin the article with an anecdote about an undocumented immigrant being deported?
    (It grabs readers’ attention and helps them make a personal connection to the debate about undocumented immigrants in the U.S.)

  • What new policies were announced under President Trump’s executive order on illegal immigration?
    (The order, which he issued on January 25, authorizes immigration enforcement agents to deport any undocumented immigrant who has committed any crime— even minor, nonviolent offenses. His directive also includes hiring 10,000 more immigration enforcement agents and calls for enlisting police officers throughout the U.S. to help the agents identify the undocumented.)

  • How is Trump’s policy on deporting undocumented immigrants different from former president Barack Obama’s policy?
    (While Trump has authorized immigration enforcement agents to deport any undocumented immigrant who has committed any type of crime, Obama prioritized deporting the most dangerous criminals, such as murderers.)

  • According to the text, why hasn’t the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. increased since 2009?
    (The number has stabilized thanks to tougher security at the U.S.-Mexico border and an improving Mexican economy.) 

  • Analyze the political cartoon. What is the cartoonist’s message?
    (The cartoonist is conveying the idea that it’s hypocritical that undocumented immigrants tend to work in jobs that improve Americans’ lives, such as landscaping, yet our laws do not protect them.)

  • What are some arguments in favor of deporting undocumented immigrants?
    (They take jobs from Americans, drain the country’s resources, and commit crimes.)

  • What are some arguments for allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country?
    (They improve the economy and often take low-paying jobs that few Americans want, and the majority do not commit crimes.)

  • What is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program?
    (DACA was created by an executive order that then-President Obama issued in 2012. The program gives temporary protection from deportation to young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Those who qualify for DACA can apply for permits to work legally in the U.S., which they can renew every two years.)

  • What is DACA’s future under President Trump?
    (Though Trump said on the campaign trail that DACA was unconstitutional and he wanted to end it, he appears to have softened his tone since taking office, referring to the young immigrants as “incredible kids.” For now, Trump’s deportation order does not affect those protected by DACA.)

  • What is a sanctuary city?
    (Sanctuary cities are cities whose leaders have vowed to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation by allowing them to seek refuge in places such as churches and schools. Sanctuary cities also refuse to allow their police officers to assist immigration officials in arresting the undocumented. Trump has threatened to withhold federal funds from such cities.)

  • What does Paola Benefo’s essay add to the story?
    (Her essay shows why some people come to the U.S. illegally, what keeps them here, and how deportations can affect a family. Benefo also describes what it feels like to know that her future in the only country she knows is far from certain.)

Extend & Assess

View our video about the history of immigrants in the U.S. Then discuss what the video added to students’ understanding of the article.

Assign the skills sheet Understanding an Author’s Techniques: Identifying the Parts of a Story.

Have students summarize the arguments for and against deporting immigrants who live in the U.S. illegally. Students should avoid including their own opinions as they write one paragraph for each side.


Lower Level Give students the definitions for key vocabulary words before they read the article.

Higher Level Have students research one of the countries in the chart to find out why so many people from there come to the U.S. illegally, then write a paragraph explaining what they learned.

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