The Detention Lottery

A note from curriculum developer, Anne Kiemle

Dear Educators:

In the spring of 2019, I saw a production of immigration attorney Margaret O’Donnell’s play, “The Detention Lottery”. I was deeply moved by the stories of the detainees and the callousness of government policies that had brought them to the courtroom.  The characters and their scenarios were based on some of the playwright’s actual clients.  Their experiences showed a broken legal system that separated parents from children, wives from husbands, disregarded mental health issues, and language barriers.  Misunderstandings about the law, ICE raids and the requirement that non-citizens have a stainless record so that even a traffic infraction could lead to deportation stunned me.  How could this happen in America?  Their realities haunted me. I work full time as a teacher and my life is full of responsibilities. What could I do to stop this wrongness?

For starters, I could study the issues and my students could learn the history of immigration in the U.S. and explore the current immigration crisis and experience the play.  My friend, Hestia September invited me and several other educators to meet with Margaret to brainstorm how we might bring the play into our classrooms.  After that, I spent a chunk of my summer researching the history of immigration in America and created the first version of this curriculum. I also wrote a mini grant and was awarded the funds to hire an actress, Ana Maria Campoy, to work with students after school and ultimately bring the play to the entire 8th grade at our school.

Please know that while I am a teacher who creates many of my own lessons and have helped deliver whole units of study for my school district, I am not a professional curriculum developer. I have learned that immigration reform is complex and changes in policy are constant. Keeping up with current events related occurs almost daily. The lessons I have created are not perfect, but I am pleased with them.  Sadly, due to COVID-19, other teachers were not able to pilot it in their classrooms.  Now, most of us are teaching remotely and thus differently than we did when we could be together in one place with our students.

Just like Margaret’s play, this unit is shared at no cost.   Please use it!  Make it better and let me know what you have done so it can continue to evolve and reach students who will one day be voters as well as work in law enforcement, our justice system and become lawmakers who create policies that respect the humanity of ALL.

In solidarity,


Contact: kiemleA_AT_issaquah_DOT_wednet_DOT_edu