by Dani Cooke
If you recall any exasperated cries coming from the 9/10 classroom at the end of last year, you must know that such passionate distress had a great deal to do with a fifty-eight page report covering one of the most complicated issues facing the U.S. political scene in recent years: immigration. After all, if 535 highly-educated politicians who manage public policy and legislation as a career can’t find a solution to an issue, who better to do so than a class of fourteen and fifteen-year-olds?
Last year, in the chronological epicenter of the U.S. immigration system’s most tangled debates, the 9/10 expedition (WS graduating classes of 2019 and 2020) spent an entire semester in an in-depth study of borders and biodiversity. This course culminated in a complex environmental and human impact study of the Trump administration’s proposed wall along the US-Mexico border. Through the work of humanities teacher Pablo Stayton and science teacher Hannah Nelson, this examination of topics, which ranged from drug trafficking to the tourism industry in Big Bend National Park, caught the attention of local politicians including Boulder-based Congressman Jared Polis.
On October 16th, 2017—one semester and a summer break from the report’s completion—a group of fourteen students jumped back into last year’s hard work for a meeting with Congressman Polis (sporting his signature business suit and worn, off-white New Balance sneakers, of course). During this meeting, we summarized the 58-page report and briefly outlined the context of the course. We then answered a number of questions from him and a legislative aide about the report and our conclusions about the proposed border wall’s potential impact.
Congressman Polis also shared some of the immigration-related decisions Congress is currently facing. Namely, the Trump Administration has provided an ultimatum in response to the majority’s opposal to the wall’s construction: if Congress approves the construction of a smaller section of the proposed border wall, DACA will not be repealed as has been stated previously. (It is likely that, following this decision, DACA recipients would be able to obtain legal status in the United States through some sort of vetting process.)
In this meeting, we were given the unique opportunity to share our well-researched understanding of the proposed border wall and its its implications; we also gained insight into the decisions Congress is facing currently in respect to the wall. Though written by a class of ninth- and tenth-graders, there is a definite possibility that this impact study will result in a powerful impact of its own.
View the complete Environmental & Human Impact Study here: