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Teacher’s immigration project causes Internet stir

POWELL, Ohio, Dec. 21, 2007 (AP): An immigration project that a Spanish-language teacher assigned has drawn some criticism because she had her students develop plans for sneaking into the United States.

Erica Vieyra, a teacher at Olentangy Liberty High School, near Columbus, has assigned the project the past five years. Forty students assume make-believe Latino identities, research life in their home countries, and develop plans to enter the United States.

The students filled out paperwork from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and, after Vieyra denied them entry, they developed plans to sneak in.

Ezra C. Escudero

The students researched places to live, work, and bank. Then, by the end of the project, they devised a way to gain legal status, by marrying a citizen or becoming a student, for example.

Internet bloggers have been in an uproar over the project as a protest grew online, and administrators have been deluged with e-mail.

“I am in 100 percent, absolute support of Ms. Vieyra and, as I watched this project all the way through from beginning to end, I knew the students were learning incredible things,” Principal Mark Raiff said.

Vieyra said the district’s support has overwhelmed her. She said she’s responsible for not only teaching the Spanish language but also making sure students learn about the perspectives of Spanish-speaking cultures.

Her students also support her and said they didn’t come to the conclusion that undocumented immigrants are doing the right thing.

The fact that such a project drew national fire doesn’t surprise Ezra C. Escudero, director of Ohio’s Office of Hispanic/Latino Affairs. He said the immigration issue no longer has a middle ground.

“It has become a hyper-charged, polarized debate on the fringe,” he said. “But it involves real people, in real situations, and we must find a way to be able to discuss it civilly.”

Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com






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