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The Line Between Us

Write an essay, minimum two pages, on some aspect of what we've studied about the relationship between the United States and Mexico. We've looked at the Mexican-American War, NAFTA, border issues, "Operation Gatekeeper," immigration. The essay must have an introduction, clear thesis, supporting details/evidence, and a conclusion. You must use at least two quotes from an outside source (e.g., excerpts from Howard Zinn's chapter on the U.S.-Mexico War from A People's History of the United States, President Clinton's remarks in the role play, any of the articles we read on the effects of NAFTA, quotes from your interviews with immigrant students, quotes from Trading Democracy (about NAFTA's Chapter 11), Death on a Friendly Border, or articles/videos that we'll encounter this week. You must also use at least one other source that you locate on your own. Your topic is totally up to you. Some possible themes:

•     How the immigration issue looks to Mexicans.
•     The environmental impact of "free trade" in Mexico and here.
•     What a long-term solution to the issue of "illegal immigration" might be.
•     The impact of Operation Gatekeeper.
•     The effects of NAFTA's Chapter 11.
•     The impact of NAFTA on jobs in Portland.
•     The causes of "illegal immigration".
•     The idea of the border — ways in which it's legitimate; ways in which it is illegitimate.
•     The lingering consequences of the U.S.-Mexico War.

Structure of an essay:

Introduction: An attention-grabber and a promise-giver. The introduction should get your reader's attention, maybe even startle them a bit. It also usually gives a "promise" — a sense of what the essay will argue for — its "thesis statement." For example:

NAFTA is like a gun firing at the heart of Mexico. Its bullets are cheap corn, cheap rice, cheap wheat. Its victims lay scattered across North America, from San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas to the orchards of Hood River, Oregon.

Evidence: If the essay stopped there, it would be provocative, even poetic. The writer got our attention, but hasn't demonstrated that NAFTA is like a gun. S/he'll have to provide information/quotes/statistics/evidence to back up the claim or "promise" made in the introduction. This might take several paragraphs, or many pages. It might also include an alternative: What would be an alternative to NAFTA.

Conclusion: This might be a summary of what the essay argued. Or it might pose further questions to think about. Or it could re-state why this is an important issue, and why people should care. Before writing a conclusion it often helps to look back at your introduction to see exactly what you promised.

Basic Essay checklist

Attach this checklist to the first draft of your essay.

_____ Clever, inviting title

_____ Engaging, imaginative introduction

_____ Important, clear thesis. Write it here:

_____ Different kinds of evidence, and sufficient evidence, to support the thesis (e.g., quotes from films, quotes from articles, examples from your own life, examples from history, from contemporary society, etc.) Is it convincing?

_____ At least two quotes used as evidence. Name the source of each quote:

_____ At least one source you found on your own. Name the source(s):

_____ Strong conclusion

_____ At least two pages

_____ Typed or in ink, legibly written or printed

_____ No major errors of punctuation, grammar, spelling, paragraphing

Spring 2006