SJ Engage: Immigration in the United States

"Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life."

- President John F. Kennedy

As of 2014, more than 38% of San José’s population are immigrants, while immigrants comprised 27% of California’s population and 13% for the United States population as a whole. If a San José resident was not born in a foreign country, it is likely that they have immigrant relatives; about 60% of Santa Clara County residents have at least one immigrant parent, and 43% of households are headed by an immigrant. With the current political scene, immigration is one of the hottest topics generating a lot of discussion and examination of the United States citizenship process. From Dreamers worrying about their futures, to states declaring themselves as Sanctuary States, and understanding the difference between amnesty and refugees, we've got all the resources to keep you knowledgeable about this trending issue.

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Resources - Nonfiction

This Land Is Our Land, book cover
We Are Here to Stay, book cover
I'm An Undocumented Immigrant. Now What?, book cover
Illegal Immigration, book cover
Denied, Detained, Deported, book cover
Immigration, book cover
Should the US Close Its Borders?, book cover
In the Country We Love, book cover
Americanized, book cover
Enrique's Journey, book cover

Resources - Fiction

Sanctuary Somewhere, book cover
Picture Us in the Light, book cover
The Radius of Us, book cover
You Bring the Distant Near, book cover
I Am Not your Perfect Mexican Daughter, book cover
The Border, book cover
The Sun Is Also A Star, book cover
American Street, book cover




For Educators

This toolkit is just a framework for facilitating an SJ Engage Circle.

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What is at the heart of the immigration issue for you?
  2. What personal experiences inform your beliefs about immigration? It may be experiences of your family and friends.
  3. How does considering legal versus illegal immigration impart your feelings or positions?
  4. What about refugees? How welcoming should America be of people fleeing hardship and/or violence?


Millions of undocumented youth who were brought to the country as children are unable to get jobs or gain admission to college.

  • Republicans and Democrats agree it is time to provide them a path to legal residency- the question is how?
  • What should DREAMers have to do to secure legal status?

Amnesty or Deportation

About 11 million unauthorized immigrants live and work in the United States today. Some say they should be deported, while others support a path to legal residency.

  • What would deportation of 11 million people involve?
  • What would be required to receive amnesty?

Path to Citizenship

For 250 years, the United States has recharged its spirit and economy by extending citizenship to immigrants.

  • The question now is, once the undocumented gain legal status, will we extend the same opportunity to them?
  • If not, how do we reconcile that decision with our ideal of equality?

Visa Eligibility

The current system's quotas and preferences mean there is no way some people can ever enter the country. Guest-worker visas mean some will labor here with no representation, few legal protections and no chance to earn citizenship.

  • How do we make rules that are fair, generous and in keeping with our values?


From border security to deportation and fines, we must decide how to enforce the law with employers and employees who are undocumented.

  • What's realistic, and what reflects our goals and values?


Common Core: ELA Writing

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.9 – Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

California History-Social Science Standards

  • HSS-11.2 – Students analyze the relationship among the rise of industrialization, large-scale rural-to-urban migration, and massive immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe.
  • HSS-11.11 – Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American society. 
    • HSS-11.11.1 – Discuss the reasons for the nation’s changing immigration policy, with emphasis on how the Immigration Act of 1965 and successor acts have transformed American society.
  • HSS-11.8.2 – Describe the significance of Mexican immigration and its relationship to the agricultural economy, especially in California.

Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards: Action

  • AC.9-12.17 – I take responsibility for standing up to exclusion, prejudice, and injustice.


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This project has been made possible in part by a grant from Silicon Valley Community Foundation.