Thursday, January 29, 2015

Citizenship Exams in the Classroom

Could your students pass the citizenship exam? I quiz my Immigration Law students every year. I find that naturalized USCs and government majors tend to ace it. Others struggle. (Admit it, did you realize Publius was one of the writers of the U.S. Constitution? Check out question 67.)

The NYT reports that several states are now requiring high school students to pass the citizenship exam before they can graduate. Passing is defined as 60%, which is the score immigrants need for naturalization.

Arizona was the first state to pass such a law, which it did earlier this month. And other states are following suit:

North Dakota’s House of Representatives has passed a comparable bill, and its Senate approved it Tuesday; legislators in Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and seven other states have recently introduced similar initiatives.

For those high school students looking for a little extra motivation (or for profs looking for a nice video for class), check out late-night personality Craig Ferguson on his citizenship test.



January 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Film & Television, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Your Playlist: The Sensations

Those of your preparing for the Spring semester may be looking to update your in-class playlist. Or maybe you're just looking for tunes to listen to while revamping your syllabus. Let me recommend the 1962 hit "Let Me In" by The Sensations. It pairs perfectly with admission procedure. Enjoy!



January 9, 2015 in Music, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Brushing up your Spanish the Michel Thomas Way

Photo by Jim Block

Michel Thomas was an extraordinary man. Born in Poland in 1914, Thomas left the country as a young man, studying in Germany and France in an effort to escape antisemitism. During WW2, he served in the French Resistance and ended up spending two years in French concentration camps. After the war, Thomas moved to the United States where he spent a lifetime teaching Hollywood stars to master foreign languages.

While Thomas passed away in 2005, his method for language learning lives on in audiotapes.

I was introduced to the Michel Thomas method by my colleague Lindsay Robertson. Lindsay knew that I was trying to brush up on my Spanish before heading to the immigration detention facility in Artesia, NM. In a past life, my Spanish was excellent. I studied through college - taking advanced literature courses and studying abroad. But it had been over a decade since I tried to use my skills.

I did many things to bring my Spanish back up to speed - and will post about them all, eventually. But without a doubt the most surprisingly effective tool was the Total Spanish series by Michel Thomas. 

The Thomas CDs are different from anything I've ever listened to before. You listen as he teaches two students how to speak Spanish. In effect, you are the third student in the room. It's extra fun because one of the students isn't very good and so you won't feel like the dunce in the room as you practice.

Thomas emphasizes practical communication skills - pointing out the thousands of words that are largely the same in English and Spanish. As a result, you end up with a much more sophisticated vocabulary that you would if you tried to learn words one at a time.

These langauge CDs are a truly effective tool, whether you are looking to learn Spanish for the first time or looking to brush up on skills you already have. I'd actually recommend that clinics around the country invest in a copy for their students to borrow. (OU has a set available for students in our International Human Rights Clinic.)

Finally, I should also note that Michel Thomas was a polyglot. His language CDs are not just available in Spanish but a multitude of other languages. 


January 6, 2015 in Books, Immigration Law Clinics, Music, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

SNL Takes on President Obama's Executive Action

An excellent video to spark in-class discussion!



November 23, 2014 in Current Affairs, Film & Television, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hyeonseo Lee: My Escape from North Korea

In this Ted talk, Hyeonseo Lee discusses her childhood in North Korea, escape to China, relocation in South Korea, and smuggling of her family out of North Korea through China and Laos. Grab some tissues and watch her powerful talk. It's a great vehicle for class discussion on open borders!



November 14, 2014 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Laugh Break

My favorite comic Bizzaro is back again with more immigration fun. It's perfect for those of you who enjoy peppering your powerpoints with miscellany.



November 6, 2014 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Your Playlist: Chingo Bling

Chingo Bling (known to his parents as Pedro Herrera) is a Mexican-American rapper. Born in Houston, he attended Trinity College. And, most importantly for you, dear readers, he recorded the oh-so-catchy single The Can't Deport Us All.



November 3, 2014 in Music, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Immigrant Justice Clinic in Artesia

This past week, Professor Jayesh Rathod, Director of American University WCL's Immigrant Justice Clinic, traveled to Artesia, NM with eight of his clinic students. They spent the week working with women and children detained in New Mexico.

The clinic students made videos about their experiences. I think these two are particularly compelling and would make great additions to the classroom.

In the first video, a student talks about the sick children at Artesia.

In this second video, three students discuss the difficulties facing indigenous clients at Artesia, including translation issues.

Kudos for accomplishing what was clearly a terrific clinic experience!


October 26, 2014 in Current Affairs, Immigration Law Clinics, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 17, 2014

2014 Rebellious Lawyering Conference San Francisco, California

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Saga of Dario Guerrero Meneses

Guerrero, photo AP

If you blinked, you might have missed the story about Harvard University junior Dario Guerrero Meneses.

Yesterday, the AP reported on how Guerrero, a DACA recipient, left the country without federal authorization. He traveled to Mexico in a vain attempt to find alternative medical treatment for his dying mom. His mom passed away, and Guerrero found himself unable to return to the United States.

Hours after the publication of that piece, Guerrero received a "humanitarian visa" enabling him to return to the U.S. and Harvard.

These are stories worth reading. They might make for great teaching moments on using the press to achieve change, humanitarian visas, DACA, or any number of issues.




October 15, 2014 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Let's Talk About Incarceration

The following videos are terrific jumping-off points for vigorous class discussion about incarceration. While they both address domestic prison policies, they could easily be used to talk about incarceration for immigration crimes or even immigration detention.

This first video comes from Sesame Street. (Thanks, Professor Jennifer Koh for bringing it to my attention!)


This next video comes from John Oliver's Last Week Tonight. Be sure to watch through the end. You too can sing along: "It's a fact that needs to be spoken. America's prisons are broken."



September 18, 2014 in Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

More Videos From Artesia

Immigration attorneys Dree Collopy and Sandra Grossman volunteered at Artesia and submitted the following video reports about their experiences.

For immprofs looking to use reports in the classroom, I recommend:

  • The first minutes of the "Day 2" video which talks about seeing kids incarcerated, sick, and present during incredibly difficult testimony by their moms (from 0:28 to 4:30).
  • The "Day 3" video (from 2:00 to 5:27 ) gives a sense about the look and feel of the Artesia facility.
  • The "Day 4" video, which discusses a client struggling to decide whether to stay in detention or return to Guatemala (from 1:35-3:45), a client with a difficult DV-based asylum claim (from 4:13 to 5:56) and a bond hearing (from 6:10-9:28).







September 17, 2014 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hiroshi Motomura: Your Guest Lecturer on Executive Action

Prof. Hiroshi Motomura, photo via UCLA, an immigration advocacy group, has created a 4 minute video on executive action featuring immprof extraordinaire Hiroshi Motomura of UCLA.

For those of you seeking a concise explanation of executive action, look no further.

This video is a great way to bring a renown guest speaker to class.


September 9, 2014 in Current Affairs, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Teaching Materials: A Model Legislation Exercise

Photo via Jason Hargrove. CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Legislation is not a required course at many law schools. Yet it would be shame for students to graduate without ever understanding the power and possibilities legislative advocacy (as opposed to litigation) can achieve.

In my immigration course, I have students complete two legislative exercises. This post is about the first.

I split my class into groups of four. I give them a copy of H.R. 4080 (2007), and I ask them to read it. I also give them the following questions:

  • Consider how the bill changes current law from a technical standpoint. Does it insert new provisions? Move provisions?
  • Consider how the bill changes current law from a substantive standpoint. Does it create new rights? Alter existing rights?
  • Now consider the law from a policy standpoint. Is it a good idea? Why or why not? Be prepared to make arguments on both sides.

I use H.R. 4080 for several reasons. For one, it is short. It's just about five pages. It's also sexy. Literally. It's about foreign fashion models.

As a result, it's a bit like adding grape flavor to medecine. Students have to do the hard work of reading a bill, but they get the tasty sugary goodness of fashion. It's been a hit.

This in-class exercise ended up prompting me to write an entire law review article about nonimmigrant visas for foreign fashion models. If you're interested, it's Importing the Flawless Girl, 12 NEV. L. J. 831 (2012).


September 6, 2014 in Law Review Articles & Essays, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 29, 2014

BuzzFeed: Could You and Your Partner Pass A U.S. Immigration Marriage Interview?

Professor Liz Keyes of the University of Baltimore brought to my attention this terrific BuzzFeed Quiz: Could You and Your Partner Pass A U.S. Immigration Marriage Interview?

I had my Immigration Law students take the quiz with their partners. It was very interesting to hear their reactions to the questions.

Having known my S.O. for more than 15 years, I was shocked by our collective score of 28 out of 46.

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August 29, 2014 in Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

From the Bookshelves: A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is a Pulitzer-Prize winning collection of short stories by Robert Olen Butler, all of which concern Vietnamese immigrants in Louisiana. 

In my Immigration Law class, I use the following excerpts to illustrate the point that even quota-exempt family members are not entitled to automatic presence in the United States. The process for their entry can, in fact, be quite lengthy.

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August 28, 2014 in Books, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Your Playlist: Lucas, Spin the Globe

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing immprof Jayesh Rathod of American University Washington College of Law speak about using music in the classroom. He noted that music can be a terrific pedagogical tool, helping to illustrate the cirriculum in a different way. He also spoke about how the simple act of sharing music can humanize professors. I even managed to walk away from that talk with two very excellent mix CDs.

Inspired by Jayesh, I routinely play a song during the "getting settled" time before my classes formally begin.

Today, I taught my first immigration law class of the semester. I've traditionally begun with Immigration Blues by Duke Ellington (a Jayesh recommendation and a great tune). But today, I used something new: Spin the Globe by Lucas. It pairs nicely with the Thronson prioritization exercise


August 21, 2014 in Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Call for Immigration Law Syllabus and Other Teaching Materials

The fall semester is (nearly) upon us already.  For those who are teaching immigration law (or a related course) for the first time, welcome! For those who have been teaching for X year(s), welcome back!

Many of you know that we have an Immigration Law Syllabus Bank, which includes several syllabi for the survey course, immigration clinic and advanced courses. The bank also includes exams and other teaching resources.  We'd like to update it with new materials.  So, if you're willing to share your teaching materials, please send them to Rose Cuison Villazor at or David Thronson at

Please note that the syllabus bank is password protected. Also, before we send you the link to the bank and the password, we ask that you agree to the following:

In order to further protect these resources, particularly the exams, we require that those who want to access these resources agree that they will only use the resources for their own benefit (to prepare their exams, to prepare their syllabus for their own classes) and, importantly, to not disseminate them to their students or otherwise make them publicly available.  

Thanks and here's wishing everyone a great start to the new semester and academic year!

All best,

Rose Cuison Villazor and David Thronson


August 20, 2014 in Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Teaching Materials: The David Thronson Exercise

Professor David Thronson
photo via MSU

Many professors extoll the virtues of an immigration priorities exercise developed by Professor David Thronson of the Michigan State University College of Law.

Thronson presents a list of potential immigrants and asks you to (1) rank them in order of preference and (2) decide how many, from each potential category, you would be willing to admit.

I received a copy of this great teaching tool from the lovely Mariela Olivares of Howard Law. It is now available to all at this link.

Last year, I asked my incoming immigration law students to complete the exercise before the first day of class. It led to terrific class discussion.

This year, I am again using the exercise. I have tinkered somewhat with the list of potential immigrants. In response to current events, I've added: "a 9-year old boy from a gang-infested country with the highest murder rate in the world who entered the U.S. by himself and without authorization. He has an undocumented aunt living in Texas."


August 16, 2014 in Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Internal Migration Since 1900 Charted by the New York Times

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Today, the New York Times published a series of interactive charts about migration patterns within the United States since 1900: Where We Come From, State By State. My eldest son and I are, apparently, among the growing population of Oklahomans born in California (currently 4%). I could see these charts being useful in an immigration class to show local demographic changes.


August 14, 2014 in Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)