In August 2019, a deadly shooting that killed twenty-two people in El Paso, Texas highlighted anti-immigrant bigotry. The suspected gunman drove more than 650 miles from his home to El Paso, a border town that is 85% Latinx, to carry out a mass shooting. According to an arrest warrant affidavit, the shooter confessed that he planned the rampage and made the drive from his home to the border city with the intention of targeting Mexicans. Law enforcement officials said they believe the gunman wrote a four-page manifesto that embraces white supremacist and anti-immigrant views. The FBI is investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism and a hate crime.
In the aftermath of this devastating attack, poet Richard Blanco was asked by USA Today and the El Paso Times to write a poem reflecting on how the Latinx community is feeling about living in the U.S. “In the wake of the violence of El Paso, I felt an urgency to take a hard look at our place as Hispanics in the United States," he said. Blanco, author of five poetry collections, was born in Madrid and immigrated to the U.S. as an infant with his Cuban-exiled family. In 2013, he wrote and recited a poem for Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Blanco was the first Latino, immigrant and openly gay writer to write and recite a poem for a Presidential inauguration.
This lesson plan provides an opportunity for students to analyze Richard Blanco’s poem, “The U.S. of Us,” in the context of current immigration policy and rhetoric. By engaging in the writing and extension activities, students will explore and deepen their understanding of the poem and current immigration issues.