Trump's Immigration Ban: News & Stories

January 31, 2017

Students learn and talk about Trump’s immigration ban and the reaction to it, and discuss the stories of people who have been directly affected.   


Post the following words around the room or write/project them onto the board:
Explain that these are words ripped from recent headlines.
Invite students to turn to a partner and talk for a few minutes about what they know to have happened related to these words. Then invite a volunteer or two to share out what they know. 


Review of the News 

Add to what students share by drawing on the following paragraphs. (For more details, see this New York Times article

  • Trump signed an executive order on Friday, January 27, 2017, barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries - Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia - from entering the United States for 90 days. The action also orders the suspension of the U.S.’s entire refugee program for 120 days and indefinitely blocks Syrian refugees from entering the country.
  • Chaos quickly followed at airports across the nation. Students, visitors and legal permanent U.S. residents with green cards from the seven countries — as well as refugees from around the world — were stopped in their tracks at airports in the U.S. and abroad. Some were blocked from entering the country and sent back overseas.
  • Almost immediately, protesters began to gather at New York City’s JFK Airport, where a number of people were being detained.  Filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted to his 3.8 million followers: "Everybody in NYC area-- head to JFK Terminal 4 NOW! Big anti-Trump protest forming out of nowhere! Ppl mobilizing against Trump's Muslim ban."  Protests also began in other airports around the country.
  • The New York Taxi Drivers Alliance called a one-hour strike of JFK, refusing to make any pickups at the airport. In a tweet, the union wrote: "Drivers stand in solidarity with thousands protesting inhumane and unconstitutional Muslim Ban."
  • Meanwhile, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, leapt into action. Within hours, they (along with masses of protesters) were in federal district court in Brooklyn, representing two Iraqi immigrants who had been detained. 
  • Judge Ann Donnelly issued an emergency stay against Trump's executive order, temporarily allowing people who have landed in the United States with a valid visa to remain. She ruled that implementing Trump’s order by sending the travelers home could cause them "irreparable harm." Federal judges in three states — Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington — soon issued similar rulings.
  • Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, said that green-card holders from the seven targeted countries would not be prevented from returning to the U.S. after all. However, most of the order’s provisions still stood.
  • The United Nations high commissioner for refugees estimated that 20,000 refugees from around the world would be affected immediately by the ban. The UN’s human rights chief said that the ban violated international human rights law.
  • Demonstrations against the ban continued on Sunday and Monday, and at least 100 diplomats at the State Department signed a memo expressing opposition to Trump’s order.
  • Acting attorney general Sally Yates (who had served as deputy attorney general under Obama) ordered the Justice Department not to defend the executive order in court. She said she did not believe the order was lawful.
  • Trump fired Yates hours later, saying she had "betrayed" his administration and was "weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration."
  • The order was denounced by Democrats, religious groups, business leaders, immigration policy experts, academics and others, but was praised by some Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.
  • The New York Times charged that the order "was created with little to no legal review or input from the departments most involved in carrying it out, in particular Homeland Security. It was written by a small White House team overseen by Stephen K. Bannon, the chief White House strategist and former Breitbart News executive." 
  • On February 3, 2017, a federal judge in Seattle, James Robart, temporarily blocked the immigration order from being enforced nationwide. The ruling puts on hold two parts of Trump’s order: the 90-day ban on allowing people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, to enter the country; and its limits on accepting refugees. Robart said that there was no evidence for the administration’s claim that we have to protect the U.S. from individuals from the seven countries in the ban.
  • The Trump administration promised to fight what it called an "outrageous" ruling, saying that it would try to overturn the judge’s order as soon as possible.



Stories of Families Caught in Limbo

Read aloud this excerpt from a Fox News article about the ban’s impact: 

Among those caught in limbo: Iraqis who had been promised a life in America because of their service to the U.S. military, frail and elderly travelers from Iran and Yemen, and longtime U.S. residents traveling abroad who don't know if they will be allowed to return home.  "What's next? What's going to happen next?" asked Mohammed al Rawi, an Iraqi-born American citizen in the Los Angeles area, after his 69-year-old father, coming to visit his grandchildren in California, was abruptly detained and sent back to Iraq after 12 hours in custody. "Are they going to create camps for Muslims and put us in it?"

Listening to this, invite students to share how they think the people mentioned in this paragraph are feeling.  Explain why. 
Next, split your class into small groups of between 3-5 students and distribute to each group one of the stories found in this New York Times article.
The stories are of travelers blocked from entering the country this weekend and their family members waiting for them at the airport.  The travelers were either detained at the airport for many hours, in some cases days, or sent back to the country from where their flight had originated. 
In their small groups, invite students to read the story of the person who arrived in the U.S. this past weekend, only to find that the president had signed an order banning them from entering the country.  When they’ve read the story, invite students to discuss the following:
1.  What are your thoughts and feelings about the story you just read?

2.  Where did the person or people in the story come from?

3.  What was their reason for coming to the U.S.?

4.  What do you know about their family?

5.  What happened to them as a result of the ban? 

6.  What were they feeling?  Why?

7.  How do they feel about the U.S.?
After the small group discussions, invite students back to the large group.  Ask a volunteer from each group to share out the story of the person(s) they read about, making sure to share: 

  • Their name
  • Their country of origin
  • Their reason for coming to the U.S.
  • How they are feeling as a result of being detained/sent back
  • Anything about their family members, and
  • How their family members are feeling as a result of them being detained/sent back? 


Optional:  Interview the detainees and family members

To make this part of the activity more interactive, ask students to step into the role of the person they’ve read about. As teacher, you will step into the shoes of a journalist at the airport interviewing people. Interview at least one person who has just been allowed into the U.S. after having been detained. Interview another person who is a family member - perhaps someone who has been waiting for hours, only to hear that their loved one has been put on a plane back to where they came from. 
The roleplay can be done as a fishbowl or at the front of the class.
Journalist (teacher) script
I’m surrounded by protesters who’ve been arriving here since this morning.  In fact, I’ve been told protests have erupted around the country, at airports to protest President Trump’s order.  The protest here at JFK has been growing all day. 
We understand that civil liberties lawyers have filed an appeal to President Trump’s order, which is now on U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly’s desk.  We’re waiting to hear from...   [pause]  oh, hold on [pause] ...Word is just coming in [pause]. Judge Donnelly issued an emergency order barring the U.S. from summarily deporting people who have arrived here with valid visas or an approved refugee application. The judge said the executive order would likely violate their legal rights.  This means that we’ll probably start seeing travelers from these countries and possible refugees come through customs soon."
Turn to the student roleplayers. Tell them that you’d like to interview someone who was detained. Welcome them to America, and then Interview the student, using the questions below: 

  • Who are you?
  • How are you feeling right now? 
  • What are your reasons for coming to the U.S.?
  • Where are you from?
  • What happened to you upon arrival to the U.S.?
  • How do you feel about how you were treated?

Now ask for a family member who has been waiting for their loved ones, using the following questions:

  • Where are you from?
  • Tell me a bit about who you are.
  • Who are you waiting for?
  • What is their reason for coming to the U.S.?
  • Do you know what’s going on with your family member/loved one right now?
  • What happened to them upon arrival to the U.S.?
  • How are you feeling about all this?

After modeling being the journalist, you might turn the role of journalist over to your students as well. 



Ask students to share one word to close today’s activity.