“Border (In)Security” Student Writing Lesson

Get your students writing about anti-immigrant policies and the dangers of unfair assumptions.

Students will read and respond to the YES! Magazine article “Two-Thirds of Americans Live in the “‘Constitution-Free Zone’” by Lornet Turnbull.

In this story, journalist Lornet Turnbull examines the spate of Greyhound bus raids that have exposed an obscure law that gives U.S. Border Patrol officials the authority to board and search any vehicle without a warrant and ask occupants to prove their legal status in this country. Searches are not limited to the border but also extend to the “Constitution-free zone,” a 100-mile perimeter surrounding our land and sea borders and where two-thirds of the U.S. population lives. Immigrant advocacy groups have warned people of racial profiling and civil rights violations.

Download lesson as a PDF.

YES! Magazine Article and Writing Prompt

Read the YES! Magazine article by Lornet Turnbull, “Two-Thirds of Americans Live in the ‘Constitution-Free Zone’.”

Writing Prompts:

1. Write about a time when someone made an unfair assumption about you. What was the impact on you? How did you respond, and what did you learn from the experience?

2. Describe your position on the “Constitution-free zone.” Do you think that this is an effective and justifiable means to make the country more “secure”? How should we decide who is welcome in the U.S. and who is not?

Writing Guidelines

The writing guidelines below are intended to be just that—a guide. Please adapt to fit your curriculum.

· Provide an original essay title

· Reference the article

· Limit the essay to no more than 700 words

· Pay attention to grammar and organization

· Be original. provide personal examples and insights

· Demonstrate clarity of content and ideas

· This writing exercise meets several Common Core State Standards for grades 6-12, including W. 9-10.3 and W. 9-10.14 for Writing, and RI. 9-10 and RI. 9-10.2 for Reading: Informational Text.*

*This standard applies to other grade levels. “9-10” is used as an example.

Evaluation Rubric

Sample Essays

The essays below were selected as winners for the Winter 2019 YES! National Student Writing Competition. Please use them as sample essays or mentor text. The ideas, structure, and writing style of these essays may provide inspiration for your own students’ writing—and an excellent platform for analysis and discussion.

Broken Promises by Alessandra Serafini, grade 8. Read Alessandra’s essay about the hypocrisy of anti-immigrant policy in a country that once promised to protect those seeking liberty, freedom, and justice for all.

Xenophobia and the Constitution-Free Zone by Cain Trevino, grade 10. Read Cain’s essay about how it’s not just Border Patrol agents boarding of buses that threatens immigrants in his home state of Texas but also a series of anti-immigrant laws that put immigrants’ lives and freedom at risk.

Bus(ted) by Ethan Peter, grade 11. Read Ethan’s essay about how bussing restaurant tables and patrolling buses crossing the U.S. border can shift from straightforward to complex in a flash, and how a better path to U.S. citizenship is more urgent than ever.

Detained on the Road to Equality by Daniel Fries, university. Read Daniel’s essay about how politicians enable racist systems and anti-immigrant sentiments in the U.S. and its “Constitution-free zone.”

An Emotion an Immigrant Knows Too Well by Emma Hernandez-Sanchez, grade 9. Read Emma’s essay about the ways her fears as a young Mexican American woman inform her strong stance against the “Constitution-free zone.”

Hold Your Head High and Keep Those Fists Down by Tiara Lewis, grade 8. Read Tiara’s essay about the importance of being true to herself even when the racist words and actions of others try to drag her down.

Wielding My Swords by Hailee Park, grade 8. Read Hailee’s essay about the way she proudly wears her multiple identities to duel those who attempt to falsely categorize her.

We Are Still Dreaming by Aminata Toure, grade 8. Read Aminata’s essay about her commitment as a young Muslim Guinean American woman to defy stereotypes in the face of Islamophobia.

We Want to Hear From You!

How do you see this lesson fitting in your curriculum? Already tried it? Tell us—and other teachers—how the lesson worked for you and your students.

Please leave your comments below, including what grade you teach.

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