I complain a lot about the 8th graders' lack of interest in current events, but the immigration debate in Congress and in the streets of New York has had a big impact in my middle school. Most of it hasn't been very positive. Yesterday a group of 40 Mexican kids showed up after school ready to fight with a group of black kids after one of the kids made a nasty remark about Mexicans during school (the wonderful security guard at the school, who is also Mexican, defused the situation by telling the Mexican kids that they couldn't play soccer in the mornings if they got into a fight). There is always a lot of racial tension in the school, but recently it all seems to be directed at Mexican kids. One of my kids has been talking with me about it for the past couple of weeks, telling me that all Mexicans should go home because they are taking his jobs. I remind him every so often that there are several Mexican kids that he likes, but after allowing that maybe they shouldn't go home, he retreats into these not so suble racist one-liners we hear coming from Washington everyday.
It's interesting that the immigration debate at my school only seems to concern Mexicans since most of the school's population are immigrants and there are a lot of Latinos from South America. Occasionally some kids move beyond the "us vs. the Mexicans" debate (an Egyptian kid yesterday expressed discomfort with the term "illegal immigrant" and felt that other kids were too mean to Mexicans) and I've heard some valuable discussions taking place about what it means to be an immigrant. But every time the tensions boil over like yesterday it seems more likely that things are going to get worse here before they get better.