This post was written by Sebastiao Goncalves, Communications Intern & Podcast Producer, and Becky Quintanilla, Project Coordinator with CHILDREN AT RISK.

On Thursday, June 20th, CHILDREN AT RISK (C@R), the Texas Family Leadership Council (TXFLC), DiversifiED Consulting, The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, The New York Immigration Coalition, and American Families United teamed up with the Children Thrive Action Network and H-E-B to host the fifth annual National Immigration Summit: Leading with a Child Centered Focus. The virtual summit comprised of federal and state legislators, policy experts, and leaders that created important conversations addressing children-focused issues regarding immigration.


To kick off this fifth annual event, Christine Thomas, Senior Director of the Center for Social Measurement & Evaluation (CSME) with C@R, dove into the data to explore what it means to be a newcomer child in America.  “The U.S. is home to 93 different languages with many children and immigrant families being potential bilingual speakers, which is a valuable asset in the global economic competition,” she said. “While the majority of children of immigrants are U.S. citizens, they’re often harmed by policy that block access to critical supports to the immigrant parents. 

Following this data showcase, the Federal Panel focused on national-level policies, both proposed and already implemented, that have direct consequences for immigrant children and families. Moderated by Wendy Cervantes, Director of Immigration and Immigrant Families at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), and featuring panelists Heather Gonzalez, Vice President of American Families United; Ignacia Kmec, Senior Immigration Policy Associate for the National Immigration Law Center; Jason Boyd, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy for Kids in Need of Defense; and Adriana Cadena, Campaign Director for Protecting Immigrant Families, this discussion called for the United States Congress to make the corrective measures regarding the impact on children, while sharing about harmful and promising federal immigration policies to keep an eye on during this election cycle.

Jason Boyd and the panel unanimously emphasized the importance of maintaining a child-focus when it comes to policy. “The immigration court system is fundamentally designed for adults, not children,” said Jason. Heather joined this conversation to share about the American Families United Act, which would act as a ‘permanent fixture’ in policy involving a pathway to citizenship. Ignacia called for expanding DACA, while others proposed reducing punitive measures like the 5-year bar.

 Ultimately, we hope that between now and then, there’s some kind of relief available whether administratively provided or through Congress, that will help these individuals. But that is largely determinant of what happens in November” Ignacia reflected. 

Jason Boyd (Kids in Need of Defense) pushes for a child-centered approach to immigration policy and citizenship processes.
Astou Thiane (ImmSchools) provides keynote remarks, exploring lived experience & the intersection of education & immigration.
Liza Schwartzwald (NY Immigration Coalition) explains challenges in housing stability as it relates to education access.
Linda Corchado (C@R) leads the discussion with panelists from the State Panel, which examined state-level immigration policies to emulate.

Following the federal panel, keynote speaker Astou Thiane, Director of Policy and Advocacy at ImmSchools, shared an inspirational story and discussed immigrant children’s education in the United States.

She spoke to her personal experience and impact, “It was my civil right as a student to be provided with language access that would allow me to meaningfully participate in my education,” Astou said before ending on a call to action for attendees. She urged them to examine the intersection of education and immigration, as it’s too often overlooked and too critical in a child’s development to ignore.

Lastly, the state panel was hosted by Linda Corchado, Senior Director of the Children’s Immigration Network with CHILDREN AT RISK The panelists discussed how states are addressing the evolving needs of immigrant families amidst increased migration flows. Panelists Andrea Kovach, Health Justice Attorney at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, and Susan Reed, Director of Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, each spoke to their respective state’s initiatives to expand health coverage to include immigrants and families, while sharing innovative ways in which they rallied with partners to address threats to continued coverage.

Liza Schwartzwald, Director of Economic Justice and Family Empowerment for The New York Immigration Coalition, and Louise El Yaafouri, Owner and Lead Consultant for DiversifiED Consulting, shared their approach to addressing challenges in enrolling newcomer students and navigation support to ensure these students can receive a quality education. They concluded the discussion by sharing insights and lessons from states that have faced significant migration shifts following the end of Title 42 at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

During the keynote presentation, Astou Thiane had remarked that she “was lucky to have been eligible for DACA, a reality that I think is really important because today the majority of the young people who are in high schools and are immigrants are not eligible for the DACA program and won’t be.” 

“I think young people deserve better than luck,” Thiane said in her final remarks. 


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Our vision is for the state of Texas to offer a welcoming environment for immigrants and refugees where immigrant children can easily integrate and access the resources they need to learn, thrive, and succeed. While the diversity of the immigrant community enriches our state, it also adds complexity to the strategies needed to address their varied needs.