USC Shoah Foundation Resources Shine Light on DACA Debate

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 5:00pm
As news continues to develop about the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, educators can draw on resources from USC Shoah Foundation to help humanize the struggles faced by young immigrants throughout history.

As news continues to develop about the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, educators can draw on resources from USC Shoah Foundation to help humanize the struggles faced by young immigrants throughout history.

DACA was established by the Obama administration in 2012. It protects people who entered the United States without proper documentation from deportation if they arrived before their 16th birthday (and were born in 1981 or later) and are currently pursuing their education, already graduated, or were honorably discharged from the military. On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the program would be repealed.

Learn more about USC Shoah Foundation resources that address themes and issues raised by DACA:

Testimony: Stories of Witnesses to History

Immigration, including so-called “undocumented” immigrants and refugees, is a common theme throughout the testimonies of genocide survivors in the Visual History Archive. Survivors of the Holocaust, the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda and the Armenian Genocide among others were often forced to flee dangerous conditions and limited opportunities in their home countries and attempt to make a living in a brand new place. To view clips of testimony about immigration and related topics, visit the IWitness “Watch” page, which features a collection of curated clips:

Blog Post: A Personal Story

USC Shoah Foundation Director of Education Claudia Ramirez Wiedeman, PhD has a personal connection to the subject. In a powerful blog post, “My Encounter with Helena Horowitz,” Wiedeman writes about her experience growing up without documentation in Los Angeles in the 1970s, and how inspiring it was for her to discover the testimony of a Holocaust survivor in the Visual History Archive named Helena Horowitz. Horowitz’s attempts to hide her identity as a Jew in Nazi-controlled Poland closely mirror what Wiedeman experienced as a child.

IWitness Activities: Engage Students Powerfully

Horowitz’s testimony is featured in the IWitness activity “”Narratives of Identity: In the Open or In the Shadows?” (6-9th grade) authored by Wiedeman. Through close reading analysis of visual and written text, students learn about and reflect on the many identities we carry as individuals and about the decisions we make to hide them. Through the testimony of a survivor of the Holocaust and stories of life as immigrant Americans (including a poem written by Wiedeman), students are asked to reflect on the universal theme of identity. As a final product, students create a short video journal in which they reflect on their own identities.

Another IWitness activity, “Immigrants and the American Dream,“ (10-11th grade) gives a historical perspective of possible reasons why different groups have migrated to America. Students are asked to consider the concept of the American Dream from historical and current day perspectives. Students will make historical links to America's first immigrants and then connect to the immigration decisions of five survivors from different experience groups. By constructing a word cloud and reflecting on those experiences, students will reflect on the concept of the American Dream and share their ideas with their classmates. 

For teachers working in Spanish language classrooms, the activity, “La Experiencia Migratoria: Una Nueva Vida en México” (6-8th grade) students examine the theme of migration through the lens of its socio-emotional and economic impact on the individual and family through the testimony of survivors of the Holocaust who migrated to Mexico as refugees. Students create a word cloud based on close reading of testimony.

Professional Development: Build Your Teaching Toolbox

IWitness will host a professional development webinar series to help educators engage with real-world issues they face in classrooms, such as cultural conflict, lack of dialogue or inappropriate dialogue, and confusion around issues of identity that can quickly escalate in schools and distract from curricular goals. The first webinar is September 28 at 4 p.m. PDT on “Holding Respectful Conversations.” Other topics are “Cultivating Inclusivity with Perspective” on October 19 and “Cultivating Empathy” on November 16.

Stronger Than Hate

In August 2017, USC Shoah Foundation announced the launch of a new initiative called “Stronger Than Hate” in response to the antisemitic and racist hatred seen in Charlottesville, Virginia. A new landing page on its website will provide easily discoverable resources developed by the Institute to help counter hate wherever they are.

Over the coming school year, Stronger than Hate will place USC Shoah Foundation in the vanguard of forces working to create a climate of inclusivity and respect across the nation. Hundreds of resources are available for every level of teaching. Educators in middle and high school can start now by implementing readily accessible multimedia lessons from the Institute’s educatiobal platform, IWitness here: University-level audiences can access resources here: New resources, teacher training, and outreach activities will follow throughout the school year.