Lesson of the Day: ‘Parents of 545 Children Separated at the Border Cannot Be Found’

Lesson of the Day: ‘Parents of 545 Children Separated at the Border Cannot Be Found’

Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Featured Article: “Parents of 545 Children Separated at the Border Cannot Be Found” by Caitlin Dickerson

In 2017, before the Trump administration’s widely publicized “zero tolerance” immigration policy went into effect, children were separated from their parents as part of a previously undisclosed pilot program. A new report reveals that the deported parents of these 545 migrant children still have yet to be found and given the opportunity to reunite with their children.

In this lesson, you will learn about these new findings and what different organizations are doing to try to reunite families and seek justice. Then, you will reflect artistically, or learn more by listening to a 2018 episode of “The Daily” or by watching a VICE News short film.

Create a K/W/L chart with three columns: What I Know, What I Want to Know and What I Learned. What do you already know about family separation at the border? Write your response in the first column.

Next, listen to this three-minute interview with Nan Schivone, the legal director of Justice in Motion, and Steve Inskeep, a host on NPR’s “Morning Edition”:

After listening, what else do you know about family separation and recent attempts to reunite families? Add that information to the first column. What more do you want to know after listening to the short interview? Write your responses in the second column.

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. What do recently discovered court documents reveal about the Trump administration’s immigration policy? What are some of the things that happened under the “zero tolerance” policy?

2. What have been some of the complications with reunifying families?

3. What is your reaction to Juana’s story? Does it change your perspective or help you to better understand the decisions that deported parents have to make?

4. What are some of the reasons that case workers at the Department of Health and Human Services have struggled to track down parents of separated children? How has the coronavirus pandemic further complicated the identification and reunification processes?

5. Ms. Schivone, the legal director of Justice in Motion, said, “The Trump administration had no plans to keep track of the families or ever reunite them and so that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in now, to try to account for each family.” What evidence in the article supports her statement? Do you agree with Ms. Schivone? Why?

Before moving into a Going Further activity, take a moment to reflect in your journal about what you read.

  • What did you learn from reading the article? (You can fill out the third column in your K/W/L chart from the warm-up with your responses.)

  • How do you feel after reading the article? What questions or concerns do you still have?

  • What do you want to do next? Would you like to reflect more and educate others about what you learned? Or would you like to continue learning more?

Depending on how you answered the last question, you can choose the Going Further activity that most interests you.

Create a one-pager to share with friends, family or your larger school community. Your one-pager should include an illustration, a quote from the article and a question for someone featured in the article, or a question that you would like readers to consider. You can also consider adding these details to your one-pager:

  • An important fact or statistic from the featured article.

  • One word or phrase that was meaningful or significant.

  • A call to action: What do you think people should do in response?

You can use this one-pager template, a blank piece of paper or a graphic design website like Canva to express yourself creatively and artistically.

In July 2018, “The Daily” podcast invited Annie Correal, a New York Times reporter, to share the story of a migrant from Guatemala who was rejoining her children after a five-week separation.

After you listen to the podcast, respond to these questions, adapted from our Film Club feature.

If you want to know more, you can read this 2018 article, “My Whole Heart Is There,” which covers the story of the migrant, Yeni González, and includes pictures of her journey.

Watch this 13-minute VICE News video about the process of tracking down and reunifying families. It includes interviews with Ms. Schivone, the legal director who was quoted in the featured article, as well as other lawyers, government officials and parents whose children were taken from them.

After watching the video, answer these questions, which are partially adapted from our Film Club feature.

  • What moments in this film stood out for you? Why?

  • What messages, emotions or ideas will you take away from this film? Why?

  • What did you learn by watching Eriberto Pop, a defender for Justice in Motion, as he tried to locate one father? How does the visual change or enhance your understanding of the content in the article?

About Lesson of the Day

Find all our Lessons of the Day in this column.
Teachers, watch our on-demand webinar to learn how to use this feature in your classroom.