Introducing the Resource: Watching “Baby Constantin,” an episode of "The Weekly." The full episode is available on The New York Times website here, though there may be a limit to how many episodes you can view or a subscription may be required. Some episodes are also available to subscribers on FX or Hulu.
Discussion: Exploring the asylum process, the legality and ethics of family separation, and the role of journalism in the border crisis.
In-class Activity: Comparing and contrasting stories of family separation.
1. Research and writing: Why people cross the U.S.-Mexico border
2. Research and visual art: Visualizing international migration
3. Get involved: Learning about migrants and refugees in your community
Students will be able to...
- Understand how family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border has impacted migrants, and how it has been justified by the government
- Explain asylum and the circumstances under which a person qualifies for it
Evaluate how journalists report stories on migration, immigration, and refugees
Introducing the Resource:
In this episode of "The Weekly," national immigration reporter Caitlin Dickerson lays out the story like this: "I'm going to tell you how my reporting helped to uncover one of the Trump administration's most contentious policies [family separation], and how that policy altered one infant's life."
While you watch "Baby Constantin," note down: What do you learn about how journalists report stories from the way Dickerson describes her work? What impact has her own and related reporting had?
1. How is the Mutus' story different from the ones most commonly told about people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border? How is it similar?
2. Explore what asylum is, how a person qualifies for it, and the process they have to go through to claim it with this fact sheet on asylum in the United States. Then, discuss: how could the Mutus argue that they qualify for asylum in the U.S.?
3. Upon public outcry against family separation policies, Caitlin Dickerson explains, the Trump administration "publicly retreated from the idea," but continued to move forward with the plan behind closed doors. How has the government attempted to justify family separation, morally and legally? What do you think of these arguments?
4. Revisit your notes from watching "Baby Constantin." Discuss:
- What did you learn about how journalists report stories and what impact journalism can have?
- How does "Baby Constantin" compare with other coverage you have seen about the U.S.-Mexico border recently?
- What do you think is the role of journalism in the U.S.-Mexico border crisis?
"The vast majority of people affected by this policy were from Central America," Caitlyn Dickerson explains in this episode of "The Weekly", "but Constantin's experience reflects the stories of thousands of families from El Salvador to Mexico to Romania." Now, dig deeper into the many stories of people affected by family separation.
1. Individually or in pairs, choose one story to explore from "Families Divided," the Texas Tribune's Pulitzer Center-supported coverage of family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border. Read and/or watch your selected story, keeping in mind the following questions:
- What information and/or story elements appear in both the Texas Tribune story and in "Baby Constantin"?
- What new information are you learning from the Texas Tribune story?
2. Write down the three most important facts or takeaways from the Texas Tribune story you read. Post these to the wall, and then walk around the room to read your classmates' takeaways. As a class, discuss: are you seeing any patterns across the stories? What facts and/or feelings are sticking with you from all of the stories you have explored today?
3. You have now explored several specific stories on the broad topic of migration/immigration. Now, think like a journalist. What questions do you still have? What migration/immigration story might you want to investigate?
Option 1: Researching why people cross the U.S.-Mexico border
In this lesson, we have explored stories primarily about what happens to migrants and asylum-seekers once they reach the U.S.-Mexico border. To get a fuller sense of the story, read at least two additional stories about some of the reasons why people leave their home countries:
- Ruthless Cartel Violence Drives a Wave of Mexican Asylum Seekers
- Mounting Debt, Few Opportunities Keep Guatemalans Coming
- Climate Change is Killing Crops in Honduras—and Driving Farmers North
- Violence Against Women in El Salvador Is Driving Them to Suicide — Or to the U.S. Border
After reading, write a response to the following prompt: Should countries be required to grant asylum to refugees? If yes, why and under what circumstances? If no, why not?
Option 2: Visualizing international migration
People migrate and seek asylum all over the world, so take some time to find out about what migration looks like on a global scale. First, choose one story from the Pulitzer Center's archive of international reporting on migration and refugees. Be sure not to use the same story as a classmate. Here are some suggestions:
- We Became Fragments: A Syrian Teenager Starting Over in Canada
- Jamaica's 'Barrel Children' Often Come up Empty with a Parent Abroad
- Baby Heln's First Year: A Year in the Life of a Refugee in Europe
- Why New Zealand Is Furious About Australia's Deportations Policy
- The Survivors of the Rohingya Genocide
- She's Not a Boy: Finding Home as an Intersex Asylum Seeker
- The Labor Train: 2,300 Miles to Work
- How the Refugee Crisis Is Changing the World Economy
- Kids of Kakuma Refugee Camp
- Persecuted on Land, a Minority in Cambodia Takes Shelter on the Water
After exploring, create a large map of the world with your class. Individually, create small posters to share the story of a person you learned about. Your poster should include the following elements:
- A photo from the story and/or artwork of your own design to represent the person
- The person's country of origin and destination country/countries
- A significant quote from the person
- Anything else you want people to know about this person
Once you and your classmates have finished putting together your map, put it on display it in your school hallway.
Option 3. Get involved
Migration is an important issue all over the country, not just along the borders. Research organizations that work with migrants and refugees in your area. Contact them to ask a staff member to speak with your class in person or via Skype. Share your ideas about what countries and individuals can do to help refugees with them to get their feedback and additional ideas. Prepare questions about their work and about refugees in your community.
Common Core Standards:
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.