The Supreme Court Will Address DACA. What Will Follow?

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about the Trump administration’s efforts to end the immigration policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The status of DACA recipients has been in limbo for over two years amidst administration actions and court injunctions.

What Is DACA?

After Congress failed in its attempts to pass a bill dealing with undocumented immigrant minors,1 then-President Obama created DACA in the run-up to his reelection campaign in 2012.2 The program deferred deportation for undocumented individuals who arrived in “the U.S. before their 16th birthday, were under age 31, had continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007,”3 had not committed serious crimes, and met educational or military service requirements.4 Considered a temporary fix awaiting congressional immigration reform, DACA allowed for infinite renewals of two-year deferrals.5

How Did DACA Reach the Supreme Court?

The Trump administration decided not to defend DACA in a possible court case,6 arguing that the Obama administration lacked the authority to establish the policy—a claim that opponents characterized as a misread of the law, open to judicial review.7 These opponents assert that the policy change did not meet federal standards and that the Trump administration violated due process and “the Equal Protection Clause because it was motivated by discriminatory animus.”8 Lower courts agreed and left the law temporarily in place.9 After repeated requests, the Supreme Court agreed to weigh in.10

The Supreme Court must decide if courts can review the policy change and if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made the change lawfully.11 The administration argues that their agencies have the necessary discretion (so courts cannot intervene) and that their legitimate rationale included doubts about DACA’s legality12 absent congressional authorization.13 DHS also claims that DACA encourages further illegal immigration, because it undercuts the “ability to send ‘a message that leaves no doubt regarding the clear, consistent and transparent enforcement of the immigration laws.’”14

Where Does DACA Stand Now?

Currently, DHS is not accepting new DACA applications, but it is continuing to process renewals.15 As of June 2019, there were approximately 660,880 active DACA recipients.16

What’s Next for DACA?

DACA activists have begun a 230-mile march from New York City to the Supreme Court,17 highlighting the significant personal stakes they want the Court to consider.18 Their allies cite DACA’s high polling approval,19 economic benefits,20 and support from an array of large businesses.21 Their opponents argue that the executive order is an executive overreach,22 and they want a legislative compromise that includes increased border security and limits to further immigration.23 President Trump has hinted at a possible deal,24 depending on the Court hearing. The justices’ decision will likely come in June 2020.

VIEW: What’s on the Supreme Court calendar?

READ: Legal analysis of the DACA case on SCOTUSblog

For further reading on DACA, please see Close Up in Class’ Controversial Issue in the News on the subject.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How present are recent immigrants in your school and community?
  2. Do you think the DACA policy encourages other immigrants to enter the United States illegally?
  3. Should DACA limit the number of deferrals that recipients can access? Should recipients be able to achieve lawful permanent resident or citizen status?
  4. Should the fate of DACA be determined on its own, or should it be part of a larger set of immigration reforms? If the latter, what reforms are necessary?
  5. Should a president be able to bypass Congress with an executive order to establish an immigration program like DACA, or is that an overreach (an abuse of power)?
Featured Image Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images, via
[1] American Immigration Council:
[2] NBC News:
[3] Department of Homeland Security:
[4] Ibid.
[5] NBC News:
[6] PBS NewsHour:
[7] Oyez:
[8] Ibid.
[9] Reuters:
[10] NBC News:
[11] Oyez:
[12] CNN:
[13] NBC News:
[14] Ibid.
[15] Department of Homeland Security:
[16] U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:
[17] New York Daily News:
[18] Vox:
[19] Washington Post:
[20] PBS NewsHour:
[21] CNBC:
[22] Fox News:
[23] Fortune:
[24] Washington Post:


Using the Harkness Method to Teach the News

Harkness Model versus Traditional Model DiagramA Brief Introduction to The Harkness Method1

The Harkness method is a type of student discussion created at the Phillips Exeter Academy in 1930. At the time, most methods of education involved teacher-led lectures and rote memorization. But a wealthy philanthropist, Edward Harkness, promised a financial contribution of over $5 million (or almost $90 million in 2019 dollars2) to the school—if it adopted a revolutionary method of student-directed teaching in a “conference-like” atmosphere.3

“What I have in mind is [a classroom] where [students] could sit around a table with a teacher who would talk with them, and instruct them by a sort of tutorial or conference method, where [each student] would feel encouraged to speak up,” Harkness said of the school he envisioned. “This would be a real revolution in methods.” To bring this idea to life, the school used a portion of the money to change the classroom environment to suit student-centered instruction. Desks in rows became round tables, and class sizes of 25 to 35 were reduced to 12. Eventually, the now-signature Harkness table became oval, allowing the instructor to see and make eye contact with every student. The idea is that all people at the table are equal and, in the words of Harkness, “there are no corners to hide behind.”4

Exeter still uses the Harkness method in teaching today, in every subject. “What happens at the table is, as Harkness described it, ‘real revolution,’” the school notes. “It’s where you explore ideas as a group, developing the courage to speak, the compassion to listen, and the empathy to understand. It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s a collaborative approach to problem-solving and learning.”5 Exeter also offers an institute each year, bringing together more than 400 teachers to learn about implementing the method in their classrooms.6

Overview of the Harkness Method

In a traditional Harkness method discussion, 12 students sit at an oval table with a teacher acting as the facilitator. The primary goal of the method is to place students in the driver’s seat of their learning and to make learning a more participatory process. To achieve this, students come to the table having read a piece of material as background (e.g. a primary source, a news article on a current event, or a piece of literature). They actively participate in a discussion about the content while the facilitator monitors.

On the surface, this may seem like the Socratic method, but there is a significant difference. In the Harkness method, the teacher must give up the need to “guide” students to the “right” solution and instead be an active participant in the discussion.7 A sign of a high-quality Harkness discussion would be one that requires little to no direction by the teacher; instead, the learning occurs student-to-student. During the discussion, the teacher uses various discussion tracking tools to monitor students’ participation and dialogue and to ensure that participants are following norms and staying on topic. They can track everything, including who has spoken, amount of speaking time, and body language, to see the quality of conversation and monitor student gains.

Using this Method to Teach the News

While most schools have much larger class sizes than 12 and rarely have large oval tables, you can make modifications to employ this method. For example, Chicago teacher Aida Conroy was able to implement the method in a class of 33 and saw tremendous gains in college-readiness test scores that surpassed the standard “college-ready” score.8

Suggested Steps for Employing this Method in a Modern Classroom  

  • Before actually using the method, you will need to introduce students to the Harkness method and give (or have students create) expectations/table norms.
    1. Some examples of table norms include looking at the person speaking, staying engaged, and asking clarifying questions.
    2. You should give students examples of what active participation looks like in a Harkness discussion (e.g. ask a question, present evidence from the text). These norms and participation guidelines could be a form you distribute or a poster in the room. Find more examples here.
  • Assign students an article (or two) on a current event or a historically controversial issue that you would like students to explore. Assigning the article(s) as homework would give students time to digest and come prepared with notes, talking points, questions, and ideas.
  • Place chairs or desks in an oval shape (as an oval table is likely unavailable), ensuring eye contact between all students. Invite students to join you in this Harkness discussion and remind them of the expectations and goals of the conversation.
  • Using a version of the Harkness table discussion tracking system, have students begin discussion of the background information they read. The first several times you do this, students will likely need more hands-on facilitation and reminders about expectations at the table. Again, these expectations can be unique to the specific class or those you introduced earlier.
  • Once the class is accustomed to this model, it could be possible to teach students to act as facilitators (and to use some basic table tracking tools). This allows smaller groups to discuss while the teacher floats to monitor, clarify, and observe student learning.
  • To more closely approximate the small class size of the Harkness method, consider placing students in pairs and designating each member of the pair as an A or B. Then, have a first-round discussion with all As participating while the Bs track their partners’ participation. After 15 to 20 minutes, switch roles.

 Resources and More Information

  • Download Exeter’s free Harkness Toolkit pieces here
  • Read essays by educators who have used the Harkness model here
  • The Concise EHI Experience Guide to Harkness, created by a teacher who attended the Exeter Institute, can be found here
Featured Image Credit: Upland Country Day School
[1] Phillips Exeter Academy:
[2] CPI Inflation Calculator:
[3] Boarding School Review
[4] Business Insider:
[5] Phillips Exeter Academy:
[6] Phillips Exeter Academy:
[7] University of Bedfordshire:
[8] Boarding School Review:


President Trump Seeks to Further Reduce U.S. Military Presence in Syria

American soldier faces ISIS fighters in SyriaOn October 6, 2019, President Trump made the surprising announcement that he would pull out most of the 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria, where the United States has been working with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and to repel Russian and Iranian influence in the region. Apparently, this announcement was made without the knowledge of most of President Trump’s cabinet, including the State Department.1

The Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, when government forces violently suppressed protesters who were calling for Assad to step down. The conflict has been deadly and devastating, resulting in six million Syrian refugees and another six million citizens internally displaced (out of a population of around 18 million people).2 The war has allowed for extremist groups, including ISIS, to gain power in the region; since 2014, the United States has partnered with the SDF to fight extremists and Assad’s forces.

However, Turkey—a NATO ally that is also fighting against Assad—has long considered the Kurds on their border to be a threat and have promised strikes against them in the last few months.3 The Kurds have benefited greatly from the partnership with the United States, which has allowed the formerly oppressed minority group to establish Kurdish schools and set policies that represent their interests.

Removing U.S. troops would allow Turkish forces to control the area in northeastern Syria along the Turkish and Iranian border, which is currently held by U.S. and SDF forces. Turkey presently claims that its goals include removing Kurdish forces from the area and resettling Syrian refugees along the border.

Throughout the week of October 6, U.S. troops have pulled back from the Turkish border. Increased violence in the region began almost immediately after President Trump’s announcement, and on October 9, the Turkish military fired shots in Syria. In response, the Kurdish authorities stated, “We call upon our people, of all ethnic groups, to move toward areas close to the border with Turkey to carry out acts of resistance.”4 ISIS suicide bombers have also attacked Kurdish positions in the Syrian city of Raqqa.5

President Trump’s withdrawal announcement met backlash from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, with Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a strong Trump ally, calling the move “short-sighted and irresponsible.”6 Critics argue that Turkey is planning on diluting the power of the Kurds in their historic homeland by resettling millions of ethnic Syrians in the area.7

In order to keep Turkish forces from attacking Kurdish allied forces and the Kurdish population in the area, President Trump tweeted that he would, “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if they did anything “off-limits” after the United States pulls out. The Trump administration has said that the Kurdish alliance is complete and that the Kurds are strong fighters, “but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to [fight against ISIS].” President Trump indicated that it is time for the United States to remove itself from the conflict and bring troops home.8

Discussion Questions

  • What have you heard about the Syrian civil war?
  • Should the United States continue to keep troops in Syria? Why or why not?
  • How, if at all, should the United States support the Kurds in Syria?
  • Does the United States have a responsibility to ensure that its transition out of the region goes smoothly? Why or why not?
  • What should be the role of the United States in protecting oppressed groups around the world?


Featured Image Credit: Reuters
[1] New York Times:
[2] United States Institute of Peace:
[3] Washington Post:
[4] Fox News:
[5] CNN:
[6] CNN:
[7] The Atlantic:
[8] New York Times:


Understanding the Current Impeachment Inquiry

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters with microphonesIn late September 2019, it was revealed that an officer at the Central Intelligence Agency filed an official complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general, alleging that President Trump had engaged in an inappropriate phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky on July 25. The whistleblower alleged that President Trump threatened to withhold approximately $400 million in military aid to Ukraine unless President Zelensky agreed to launch an investigation into the business activities of Hunter Biden. (Hunter Biden—the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential rival for President Trump in the 2020 election—used to work for a Ukrainian gas company.)1

Shortly after this information became public and the White House released an edited summary of the phone call, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would begin a formal impeachment inquiry, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.2

What is Impeachment?

READ: The Close Up in Class Primer on Impeachment

Impeachment is the adoption of formal charges against the president or another civil officer in the federal government. The impeachment process begins in the House. The House is responsible for carrying out an investigation, or impeachment inquiry, into potential wrongdoing by an official. After the investigation, if a simple majority of the House votes in favor of formal articles of impeachment, the official is impeached. Impeachment does not mean an official will be removed from office.

Next, the process moves to the Senate. The Senate conducts a trial for the impeached official, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides. The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the senators present in order to convict the impeached official. The penalty for conviction is removal from office. In some cases, the Senate has also disqualified an official from holding public office again in the future.

Only two presidents—Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton—have been impeached, but both were acquitted by the Senate. To date, no president has been removed from office by the Senate. (The House launched an impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Richard Nixon, but he resigned before the full chamber voted on articles of impeachment.)

Impeachment is a Real Possibility; Removal is Much Less Likely

With at least 226 members of the House supporting the impeachment inquiry, it is a very real possibility that the House could impeach President Trump.3 And as more information has come to light, including a second whistleblower,4 allegations that President Trump asked other countries for investigations,5 and the arrest of two associates of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani,6 public support for impeachment has grown.7 On October 8, Fox News released a poll indicating that 51 percent of respondents not only want President Trump to be impeached but removed from office as well.8

However, the path to removing President Trump from office contains several significant hurdles. Not only would a vote to convict President Trump, if he is impeached, set a striking precedent (as the first removal of a president in U.S. history), the fact is that the votes simply may not be there.

Currently, the Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two independents who caucus with Democrats. Even if all 47 Democrats and independents voted to convict in an impeachment trial, they would need the votes of 20 Republicans as well in order to remove the president from office. This would be difficult in normal circumstances; it is particularly unlikely with a national election approaching in 2020.

President Trump remains popular among Republican voters, with 87 percent voicing their approval to Gallup in mid-September. Among independents, the president’s job approval rating is 36 percent.9 For the 23 Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2020, as well as some Democrats in heavily Republican states, voting to remove the president from office could inspire their constituents to vote them out. For many senators, it may not be worth the risk, especially since voters will have the chance in November 2020 to vote on President Trump’s reelection themselves.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you believe President Trump should be impeached? Do you believe he should be removed from office? Why or why not?
  2. Should asking a foreign government to investigate a political opponent in exchange for aid count as an impeachable offense?
  3. Do you believe it is reasonable to require a simple majority vote (50 percent +) in the House for impeachment but a supermajority (67 percent +) in the Senate for removal? Why might these standards be different?
  4. Besides removal from office, do you think an impeached president should face other less/more severe sentences if convicted?


Featured Image Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Politico
[2] Ibid.
[3] New York Times:
[4] ABC News:
[5] The Guardian:
[6] Washington Post:
[7] Ibid.
[8] Fox News:
[9] Gallup:


Eliminate Illegal Immigration; Make Immigration Work for the Economy

President Donald J. TrumpImmigration policy and enforcement continues to be a major area of conflict between Democrats and Republicans. Currently, Congress is considering many bills related to immigration, asylum, migrant detention, and family separation. This week, we will look at two proposals that Republicans are advancing; two weeks ago, we examined two bills that Democrats are advancing.

Republicans have two main goals for immigration policy: to drastically reduce illegal immigration and to ensure that immigration is good for the U.S. economy.

In May, President Trump proposed sweeping changes to the U.S. immigration system. In addition to boosting border security and securing funding for a wall on the southern border, President Trump aims to reduce the number of poor or unskilled immigrants in favor of immigrants with education or expertise that will contribute to the U.S. economy.1

Border security, and especially the proposal for a border wall, has received ample attention and is a central focus in two of our earlier posts (see: The Shutdown: It’s Over! … Isn’t It? and State of Uncertainty: Emergency Declaration on the Border). In this post, we will take up two proposals to change legal immigration in ways that Republicans believe will help the U.S. economy.


Secure and Protect Act of 2019 

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced this bill in May; it reached the full Senate in August. The bill addresses many aspects of immigration related to seeking asylum or refugee status and to the treatment of undocumented migrants. The bill would make several key changes to the system, including:

  • Lengthening the amount of time the government is permitted to hold children away from their families, from 20 days to 100 days;
  • Making immigration officers the sole authority on whether or not a minor is capable of making their own decisions in the immigration process;
  • Establishing refugee processing centers in certain countries (designated by the secretary of Homeland Security), especially in Central America; and
  • Barring people from countries with those processing centers from seeking asylum.2

These changes would allow the Trump administration to automatically reject asylum claims made by migrants from Central America; their only paths to entry would be legal immigration or the refugee process.


LISTEN: What is the difference between refugees and asylum seekers?


Deny Visas to Immigrants Who Cannot Afford Health Insurance

The Trump administration has plans to implement a policy of rejecting visa applications from immigrants who cannot prove that they could afford health insurance or other health-related costs.3 President Trump signed a proclamation on October 4 stating that the new practice will begin in November 2019.

Explaining the shift in policy, Randy Capps of the Migration Policy Institute said, “The administration is on-the-record wanting to cut legal immigration, and particularly wanting to cut legal immigration of lower-skilled, lower-paid immigrants who are probably less likely to have health insurance coverage.”4

Supporting his proclamation, President Trump said, “Immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our health care system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.”5



These two proposals, and the two Democratic proposals examined two weeks ago, show the different priorities of the two major political parties on the issue of immigration. While Republicans want to limit both legal and illegal immigration, Democrats are attempting to check the president’s power and to ensure humane treatment of undocumented migrants.


Discussion Questions

  • When you think of immigration, what do you see as the most serious issue?
  • Should the United States take steps to reduce numbers of legal immigrants? Why or why not?
  • When you compare the four proposals (two from Democrats and two from Republicans), whose vision for immigration do you most support?
  • What do you think the United States’ big-picture immigration goals should be?


Featured Image Credit: Handout/Reuters, via the Washington Post
[1] PBS Newshour:
[2] Library of Congress’
[3] CBS News:
[4] Ibid.
[5] NPR: