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S U M M I T :

Our Voices Our Future

Acknowledgments We’d first like to recognize all the young people who have been involved in this year-long process. In particular, thanks to Allan, Amaya, Deyssy, Geovanny, Heidi, Jennifer, Jose, Osmin, Santos, and William for your time, energy, and commitment to this project. Thanks to Montgomery County Executive Isaiah Leggett for his ongoing support of children seeking refuge in our communities. Thanks to the Montgomery County Health and Human Services Positive Youth Development Street Outreach Network, especially Tania Alfaro, Angel Garcia, and Luis Cardona. Thanks also to Nestor Alvarenga, Latin American Community Liaison for Montgomery County and to Reemberto Rodriguez, Eric Rasch, Mindy Williams and their team for generously opening the Silver Spring Civic Center to us – a beautiful gesture of Montgomery County’s commitment to positive youth development. Thanks to Gloria Bonilla of Montgomery College and Dr. Luis Aguirre of the Montgomery County Latino Health Initiative for supporting with volunteers, materials, and additional resource tables. All our supporters are too numerous to list: thanks to all the fantastic volunteers who provided transportation to youth, welcomed and registered participants, served food, guided participants between sessions, purchased and delivered food and supplies, and documented the day. In particular, we’d like to recognize Georgetown University Alternative Breaks, the Montgomery County Latino Health Initiative, Entre Amigas and Mi Refugio of La Clínica del Pueblo, and REDLAMYC for providing group volunteer support. Thanks to Erica Fuentes, Nico Zigman, Graham Ashby, and Haley Wigglesworth, CARECEN interns who helped prepare supplies before the event. Thanks to Booeymongers catering and El Gil Restaurant for sustaining us with excellent food.

Additional thanks to: Guest speakers and workshop facilitators: Dr. Maritza González, Juan Pacheco, Carlos Garcia, Nora Morales, Laura Stump, Carlos Castillo, Blanca Hernandez, Conchita Hernandez, Federico Frum, Joe Ivek, Miriam Gonzales, Joanne Seelig, and Elena Velasco. Facilitators & notetakers: Jose Altamirano, Joanna Beltran, Habib Habsun, Melissa Herrera, Eliana Lanfranco, Itzayana Lopez, Rodrigo Mendez, Graciela Nunez, Marcela Osorio, Pepe Rebaudengo, Cindy Rosales, Martha Sanchez, Rosalynn Trujillo, and Sofia Vargas. Thanks to all who attended the community celebration at the close of the DMV Youth Summit. Your heartfelt support is appreciated more than you know! Thanks to Joanna Beltran, Beth Davis, Sarah Palazzolo, Beth Perry, Austin Rose, Martha Sanchez, Rosalynn Trujillo and Sofia Vargas for writing (and re-writing) various sections of this report. Special thanks to Suyanna Barker, Sarah Block, Marcy Campos, Noemí Cortez, Rachel Gittinger, Julie Gloss, Diana Guelespe, Sarah Hall, Abel Nuñez, Laura Stump, and Dr. Charles Davis, Professor Emeritus at the University of Kentucky, who offered invaluable edits, additions, and improvements. Thanks to our translators Fani Cruz, Jose Luis Espada, Noemí Cortez, Nathalie Miraval, and Isabel van Isschot for making this report accessible to youth and families. Finally, endless thanks to Sheena Lefaye Crews for volunteering her time to design this report. To cite this report: DMV Coalition for Youth Seeking Refuge (2016). DMV Youth Summit: Our Voices, Our Future. Washington, DC. Please direct any inquiries regarding this report to Sarah Palazzolo:


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Table of Contents 2

Executive Summary


I. Introduction


II. Social & Political Context


III. Small Group Dialogues


IV. Conclusions and Recommendations

28 Endnotes Appendices

30 Appendix A: Replicating the DMV Youth Summit

32 Appendix B: Estudiante 2 Estudiante

33 Appendix C: Educational Resources




Executive Summary Children are fleeing Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras at increasing rates due largely to widespread violence that tends to affect youth, women, and the LGBTQ community disproportionately. Once they reach the U.S., Central American youth and families seeking refuge must confront the U.S. government in immigration courts, most often without legal representation, to guarantee their safety; simultaneously, immigration officials are explicitly targeting newly arrived Central Americans for deportation back to situations of violence. At least 9,000 children seeking refuge have been resettled with family members in the DC metropolitan area as they await the outcomes of their immigration cases. In this context, the DMV Coalition for Youth Seeking Refuge convened a regional gathering in April of 2016, organized by and for representatives of this population: newcomer immigrant youth from Central America and Mexico. This report documents the conversations that took place at the DMV Youth Summit and recommends changes at many levels to benefit newcomer youth. With this report, we hope to: • Elevate youth voices and provide youth with a tool they can use to advocate for themselves; • Inform educators, advocates, and other local leaders about young people’s histories and experiences; • Suggest specific recommendations to improve service delivery, program implementation, and public policy at the local and state levels; • Inspire other efforts around the country to create intentional spaces by and for youth seeking refuge, bringing them into the fight for migrant justice.

About the DMV Youth Summit The DMV Youth Summit was planned by a committee of newcomer youth with the support of adult allies. The resulting event was a one-day convening held in Silver Spring, MD with 73 youth in attendance. In small groups divided by thematic area, youth raised the following issues: •

Education & discrimination ❍❍ Enrollment ❍❍ Experiences of discrimination ❍❍ Language access ❍❍ College access and preparedness Bullying & gangs ❍❍ Experiences of bullying and discrimination ❍❍ Gang-related violence (Im)migration & labor ❍❍ Adjusting to U.S. life ❍❍ Labor Family & community support systems ❍❍ Distractions and barriers ❍❍ Positive support systems Success, motivations, & future goals


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Conclusions Ideas from the small group dialogues informed the development of four main conclusions: ✓✓ Conclusion 1: Youth have unique experiences and reasons for migrating. Their individual needs and assets must be understood and respected. ✓✓ Conclusion 2: Youth face significant challenges adapting to life in U.S. schools, where bullying, discrimination, and lack of linguistically accessible, culturally-informed services create barriers to full inclusion. ✓✓ Conclusion 3: While youth confront many distractions, they find strength in support networks that help them navigate the barriers they face. ✓✓ Conclusion 4: Schools, community organizations, social service agencies, and local governments must ensure that young people have the resources they need to achieve their goals.

Recommendations Corresponding to each conclusion, we offer a number of concrete programmatic recommendations for schools, service providers, and others who work directly with youth and families seeking refuge, and systemic recommendations for government officials and advocates who influence policy, particularly at the local and state levels. While all the recommendations are listed in the chart on pages 4-5, to summarize, there are three essential messages conveyed: • Actively confront racism and xenophobia in all its forms, from bullying in the classroom, to state laws that prohibit college access to students without immigration status, to harmful policies and rhetoric at the national and international levels. •

Cultivate welcoming environments for immigrant youth and their families. ❍❍ Improved communication between youth and their family members, friends, teachers, and staff at schools and other institutions could go a long way towards creating a welcoming environment where young people are empowered to express themselves, seek resources, and participate fully. ❍❍ Create safe spaces for youth to express themselves: at the Summit, youth expressed interest in more storytelling and arts-based workshops, gatherings, and community events. Advocate for, fund, and implement the kinds of programs and policies that connect youth and families to one another, to the local community, and to the resources they need to thrive in their new homes. ❍❍ Examples include strong language access laws and implementation plans, anti-bullying curricula, family reunification workshops, college access and job readiness programs, access to the arts, and peer mentorship initiatives, among other community-based initiatives. ❍❍ Extracurricular programming and mentorship opportunities should be trauma-informed and accessible regardless of immigration status, language skills, nationality, gender, or ability to pay.


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Recommendations Chart Programmatic (Direct Services)

Schools & Education Policy

Welcoming Communities

1a) Create safe spaces for youth to express themselves 1b)  Provide young people with the tools, opportunities and guidance necessary to organize and advocate for change 1c)  Ensure that youth can participate in school and community events, regardless of documentation status

2a)  Create peer-­to-­peer networks to orient and connect newcomer students to the school community 2b) Improve interpersonal communication between teachers, counselors, students, and their families 2c) Provide training opportunities and resources to school staff throughout the year 2d) Reject anti-­immigrant stereotypes and bullying towards newcomer students

Future Plans

Other Institutions

3a) Create more extracurricular programs, including mentorship and arts 3b)  Support a healthy family reunification process through workshops for youth and families 3c)  Address emerging gang issues with sensitivity and respect for individual youth

4a)  Provide accessible professional skill-­building programs and English language-­ learning programs 4b) Educate young people about their rights in the workplace 4c)  Provide resources for immigrant students applying for college, including scholarships and financial aid


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Systemic (Policy & Advocacy) 1d)  R  eject xenophobic rhetoric and recognize the important contributions of immigrants 1e)  Advocate for legal protections for immigrant youth in the absence of federal action 1f)  A dvocate for immigration and foreign policy changes to protect and advance the rights of recently arrived immigrants

2e) Streamline the school enrollment process for newcomer students 2f)  P ass and enforce strong language access laws to protect LEP/NEP residents’ right to access public services, including education, in their native languages 2g) R  equire professional development on topics related to the context of migration 2h) Confront racism in schools and community spaces

3d) Advocate for and fund these programs 3e)  Address gaps in access to medical and behavioral health care related to immigration status, language access, and cost 3f)  Improve coordination between agencies and among jurisdictions to address emerging gang issues systematically 4d) Advocate for and fund these programs 4e)  Advocate for legal pathways to work authorization for recently arrived youth 4f)  Improve college access for undocumented students, low-­income students, and first-­ generation students


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I. Introduction Today, more people are crossing borders to save their lives than ever before. According to the UN Refugee Agency, one in every 113 people in the world is now an asylum-seeker, internally displaced, or a refugee. Notably, in 2015, the United States was second only to Germany in asylum claims, the vast majority fleeing violence in Central America.1 In the DC metropolitan area, an estimated 9,000 unaccompanied children have been resettled with family members who already call this region home.2 That number does not include the thousands of other young people who cross the border with a parent, those who cross without being apprehended, those who do not make it to the U.S. border, or those who flee the same kinds of violence in Mexico. National and world leaders have proven adept at evading responsibility for the root causes of this crisis and for the urgent need to protect youth fleeing violence. Ultimately, it is local leaders – including educators, nonprofit workers, healers, public officials, legal advocates and neighbors – who have the legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that youth seeking refuge are safe, healthy, and welcomed into their schools and their communities. Local leaders have an interest in doing so: when immigrant youth are healthy and thriving, entire communities are healthy and thriving. This report is written for those local leaders. In April of 2016, the DMV Coalition for Youth Seeking Refuge organized a regional gathering for newcomer immigrant youth from Central America and Mexico. See Appendix A for more details about the Summit itself. The goal of the DMV Youth Summit was twofold: (1) provide a safe space where youth could connect with one another, where their experiences, priorities, and dreams would be heard and respected, and (2) document youth’s concerns and demands to inform future organizing and advocacy work. DMV Youth Summit: Our Voices, Our Future is that document. Written by a group of Coalition members in consultation with youth who worked together with adult allies to plan the Summit, the report is organized in the following way: Section II outlines the social and political context of Central American youth migration. This section is designed to be an educational tool for practitioners who are unfamiliar with the underlying reasons for this refugee crisis. More information and educational materials can be found in Appendix C. Section III summarizes the key points from small group dialogues that took place at the Summit. Section IV synthesizes lessons learned from the Summit into four main conclusions, and makes both programmatic recommendations for direct service providers and systemic recommendations for advocates and policymakers corresponding to each conclusion. Readers are encouraged to use the different sections of this report in different ways: as an educational tool, as documentation of young people’s experiences in the DMV area, and as a resource for building an advocacy agenda informed by newcomer youth themselves.


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“When immigrant youth are healthy and thriving, entire communities are healthy and thriving.�


II. Social & Political Context A) Humanitarian Crisis In 2014, an unprecedented 68,000 Central American children were detained crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to claim asylum, unaccompanied by a parent. Since 2014, over 100,000 so-called “unaccompanied minors” have been resettled with adult family members around the country.3 Nearly 150,000 additional children and their family members have been apprehended as “family units” since 2014.4 At the time, President Obama called the unfolding crisis an “urgent humanitarian situation,” 5 and the administration mobilized resources to house children in former military bases until they could be processed through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and reunited with their families while their legal cases proceed through immigration courts.i The refugee crisis was immediately politicized by some who erroneously blamed the President’s executive actions on immigration for motivating Central American children to make the journey to the U.S.ii

Central American Gangs Begin in the U.S. In the 1980s, Los Angeles, CA and Washington, DC were major destinations for Central American refugees fleeing civil wars in their countries, which the U.S. helped to fund. At the time, there were few systems in place to support this new population, and they quickly became targets of existing gangs. As a result, many Central American immigrants – the majority from El Salvador – joined existing gangs or formed their own for protection.8 Until 1996, only noncitizens convicted of a violent crime with a sentence of five years or more could be deported. With the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Accountability Act (IIRIRA), in 1996, categories of “deportable” offenses were expanded, and noncitizens sentenced to one year in jail for relatively minor offenses could be deported.9 In 1997, the U.S. deported almost 1,500 Salvadorans with criminal records, many of whom were gang members.10 Deportees who were returned to Central America, often without knowing the language or culture, found themselves alienated from their families and communities. U.S. authorities provided little or no information to Salvadoran authorities about the deportees or the crimes they had committed, and there was no transition plan to re-incorporate deportees into society. It was not long before gang members began to recruit in their neighborhoods; it was the only way they knew how to survive.

Children continue to flee from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras because of a complex web of factors including social exclusion, economic hardship, the desire to reunite with family members in the U.S., and many different forms of violence at the hands of gangs and police, domestic violence, sexual violence, and household abuse.iii Two reports published by the UN High Commissioner on Refugees since 2014 highlight the need for refugee protection for Central Americans, concluding that violence is both generalized throughout society and targeted towards youth, women, and the LGBTQ community.6 While internal displacement is difficult to track, many Central Americans are forced to leave their homes at least once before they decide to cross international borders; in 2015, an estimated 1 million people were internally displaced by organized crime in Central America and Mexico.7 Once they reach the U.S., children are sent through immigration courts, where they must fight for their right to stay in the country. Because undocumented immigrants are not


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guaranteed public counsel in the U.S., the vast majority of unaccompanied children must navigate the complex legal system alone, with no legal, financial, or emotional support; in a foreign language, with virtually no due process, and against a government working to deport them.11 Data shows that about 90% of children without legal representation are ordered deported, while only 18% of children with legal representation are ordered deported.12 Two years after the height of the humanitarian crisis, nearly two-thirds of all unaccompanied minors go unrepresented against the U.S. government in immigration courts, increasing their risk for deportation.13 This “humanitarian situation,” the Western hemisphere’s refugee crisis, is complicated and has deep historical roots. However, it is imperative to correct the tendency to frame this as “regular” unauthorized migration, or simply another “wave” of migrants from the region. While individual motives and circumstances differ, the overall context suggests that these are refugees and their protection needs must be prioritized. B) U.S. Response: Deterrence and Deportation The U.S. government has responded to this refugee crisis in three main ways: (1) foreign policy measures, (2) increased immigrant detention, and (3) targeted deportation raids. None of these actions have decreased migration from Central America. On the contrary, they have resulted in harsher conditions in the countries of origin, forced migrants to take more dangerous routes, and violate international law.14 The journey is particularly dangerous for women and girls, who are often sexually assaulted or forced into sex work. In fact, many civil society organizations and government representatives have denounced the deterrence approach as an entirely inappropriate response to a refugee crisis.



My name is Julio. I am originally from El Salvador. I am 17 years old and came to the United States more than two and a half years ago. I came following the dream of a better life, away from the gangs that are causing much damage to my country, and to be with my father again after almost 11 years of being separated. My family and I started our trip to the United States on December 21, 2013. We reached the border between Mexico and the United States on December 28 of the same year. The road was not that hard compared to what others have to suffer to get here. Once we got to the border, we surrendered to the Border Patrol. They detained us for two days, and finally we started our trip to Maryland on January 1 with a court date set for March 3, 2014, which would decide what would happen to us. Our trip from Houston to Maryland was two and a half days, and we arrived in Maryland on January 3, 2014. When we arrived in Maryland and saw my father again, we started looking for immigration lawyers that could take our immigration case. We found an immigration lawyer and he told us that our case number was not on the waiting list for court, which we found strange, but we always planned to attend on March 3. The day before court was one of the worst snowstorms in the region, and immigration offices were closed. Our case is still pending because of what happened that day.


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1. U.S. Foreign Policy Towards Central America & Mexico Programa Frontera Sur. In recent years, the U.S. has provided Mexico with significant funding and training to militarize its southern border with Guatemala and increase surveillance along interior migration routes. The U.S.-supported Mexican enforcement campaign, known as the Southern Border Program, has decreased the numbers of unaccompanied Central American children arriving on U.S. soil, but it has not prevented children from attempting the journey.15 Between 2014 and 2015, while the number of unaccompanied children detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) decreased by 45%, the number of unaccompanied Central American children detained by Mexican authorities increased by 67%.16 The U.S. has effectively outsourced its migration problem, and this has come with a cost. Human rights organizations and migrants themselves have reported significant upticks in human rights violations committed by U.S.-funded Mexican authorities in the past few years.17 Alliance for Prosperity. In December of 2015, Congress approved $750 million in foreign aid to fund a plan that the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras negotiated at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC, called the “Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle.” The plan proposes four strategies to address development and security-related causes of migration from the region, though analysts have expressed concern at disproportionate resources directed towards attracting private investment and militarizing security forces.18 Aid is allocated on the condition that governments “improve border security” and “facilitate the return, repatriation, and reintegration of illegal migrants,” among other conditions that ignore the rights and protections granted to refugees under international law.19



One of the reasons my parents were happy that I came here was because they do not like the violence in our country. That is why many people look for other options, in order to give their children a better life or try to show better things to their sons and daughters. Some people do not understand why many people leave their own countries and they do not know that it is this hard just to get a better life away from the violence. Life in Central America it is not easy. When I say this I feel sad because I wish that things were different. Many people die every day and children have less educational opportunities. Also, the future for teenagers there is always dangerous because you do not know when you are walking in the street if it is a safe place or not. When you love your family, you always have to try to move forward in life and to give the best for the members of your family.


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2. Family Detention: Unlawful, Inhumane Abuses in family detention. Another failed deterrence strategy has been the unlawful practice of detaining female-headed families for unspecified amounts of time in horrendous conditions, with the express goal of “sending a message” to families in Central America that they are unwelcome.23 Information about court processes is withheld, attorneys are prohibited from entering the facilities to see their clients, mothers are coerced into wearing electronic tracking devices upon their release,24 and basic medical needs are neglected: women with broken bones, weight loss, and other symptoms have been advised to “drink more water.”iv Legal challenges. In July of 2015, a federal judge ruled that detaining minor children and their families in these restrictive settings violates a 1997 settlement that set national standards for immigrant detention, but the Obama administration appealed and the ruling remains tied up in federal courts.25 Meanwhile, the state of Texas attempted - and failed - to license two family jails as “childcare centers” to avoid having to comply with the federal order to release the families.26 Private prison companies that profit from the criminalization of Black and immigrant communities run the two Texas immigration jails at Dilley and Karnes; 27 a third in Berks County, PA is state-run, but its license was recently revoked after a long campaign highlighting equally troubling human rights abuses.28

Central American Minors (CAM) Program In 2014, USCIS created an administrative program to process Central American children for refugee status in the U.S. from their countries of origin. Eligibility criteria are quite narrow, and the application process can take months. The program started accepting applications in December of 2014; after a year, over 8,000 youth had applied and fewer than 200 had actually been admitted into the United States.20 Since many young people flee immediate threats of violence and cannot afford to wait six months to a year for their applications to be processed, the CAM program has not provided a meaningful alternative to unauthorized migration.21 The administration recently announced an expansion to the program in partnership with the UN High Commission on Refugees, a welcome step.22 However, implementation is a concern, and the program remains at odds with the detention and deportation strategy the administration continues to pursue.

3. Deportation Raids & a Climate of Fear In January of 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would conduct targeted raids to round up those in the U.S. “illegally” and deport them back to their countries of origin.29 Migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who have been apprehended since May of 2014 were singled out in the statement released by DHS. 30 Fear tactics questioned. For months, adults have been afraid to go to work or send their children to school. Raids occur early in the morning and authorities often lie to gain entry. The Southern Poverty Law Center has suggested that the warrantless raids – in which law enforcement agents enter private homes without consent and, in some cases, apprehend individuals with pending immigration cases – may be unconstitutional.31 The CARA Pro Bono Project, which provides legal


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services to detained families at the border, has also documented that many of those apprehended in immigration raids were denied a chance to claim asylum.32 In fact, after the first round of raids, 33 mothers and children were released after an immigration judge re-opened their asylum claims.33 The need for humanitarian protection. In addition to due process violations, many are concerned that the migrants explicitly targeted in the DHS statement will experience violence or even death upon their return, and should be recognized as refugees deserving humanitarian protection. Based on newspaper reports from 2014, at least 83 murders were recorded of migrants deported from the U.S. to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.34 Yet, despite widespread criticism and even legal action in favor of migrants who were unjustly detained, the Obama administration again leaked to the public that it would conduct another series of raids in May and June targeting Central American refugees.35

Community Responses to Immigration Raids Since January of 2016, many have condemned the deportation raids and called on the Obama administration to take a more humane approach, including, but not limited to: • Multiple organizations and lawmakers have signed letters asking for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to be re-designated for Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans currently living in the U.S.; • D emonstrators organized a “die-in” in New York City; attorneys were arrested outside a detention center in Los Angeles; community leaders were arrested outside the White House; streets were shut down in Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities; • F aith communities have re-invigorated the New Sanctuary Movement, modeled after the network of progressive churches that provided safety to Central American refugees during the civil wars in the 1980s; • N orth Carolina educators and Virginia youth organizers have interrupted DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson at various speaking engagements and during a congressional hearing; • Thousands of supporters have signed petitions demanding the release of individual youth, such as the NC 6: North Carolina high school students who were apprehended on their way to school, even though DHS identified schools as “sensitive locations” in a 2011 policy memo.


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Regionally, DMV-area leaders have delivered mixed responses. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and the Montgomery County Council were quick to release a joint bilingual statement condemning the raids, using very strong language:

“The obvious truth is that many of these children and parents have not had adequate legal representation in these proceedings. No deportations should take place without ensuring that the person to be deported received adequate representation and due process of law under our Constitution. Imagine being a teenager in a formal process in a forbidding setting in a strange land where they speak a language you do not understand. What chance would you have?” Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III released a press statement celebrating the diversity of the county, and expressing concern for widespread fear in the community. The CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools, Dr. Kevin M. Maxwell, released a bilingual statement committing to “provide a high-quality education to all, regardless of their immigration status,” and encouraging families to continue sending children to school amid rumors of ICE activity. In Washington, DC, although local officials like to claim “sanctuary city” status, little has been done to condemn the raids or to assure families that DC police, schools, or other public institutions will not cooperate with federal immigration officials.


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III. Small Group Dialogues To plan the Summit, a youth committee was convened to identify relevant discussion topics, activities, and facilitation strategies. For most of the day, participants rotated between small group dialogues on five topics identified by the committee: • Education & discrimination • Bullying & gangs • (Im)migration & labor • Family & community support systems • Success, motivations, & future goals In each dialogue, facilitators led an icebreaker activity and guided the youth to share their experiences related to the topic at hand. Youth then discussed ideas, potential solutions, and demands for change. Keeping with the integrity of the youth-led process, the following subsections summarize report-backs based on notes from the dialogues, occasionally supplemented with other information. In Section IV of this report, “Conclusions & Recommendations,” we present specific recommendations based on demands articulated by the youth in the five dialogue groups. A) Education & discrimination While some students expressed that they felt supported by bilingual staff who demonstrated an interest in learning about them, others experienced discrimination in the enrollment process, abuse in the classroom, and violations of their rights as English language learners (ELLs) in public schools. Enrollment challenges. From the outset, youth reported that enrolling in school as an international student is a challenge. One participant went to school three different times to enroll, and was denied each time. “I felt discriminated against,” she said. “I wanted to study and they didn’t accept me in the school. One woman told me that my papers were false.” According to federal law, undocumented students have equal access to K-12 public education; the immigration status of any student or his or her parent or guardian is not the concern of the school district. Reports from other states suggest that enrollment offices often – unfairly and unlawfully – interrogate or intimidate immigrant families based on perceived immigration status, as youth have experienced in the DMV area.36 Experiences of discrimination. Once enrolled in school, newcomer students face day-to-day discrimination and hostility. Youth expressed disappointment in what they described as a lack of respect, empathy, and compassion on the part of their teachers for the hardships that immigrant students have already faced and continue to confront. Specifically, students shared incidents of teachers calling on them in class even when they knew they could not respond in English. Unfortunately, we also learned of an incident at a middle school where a teacher physically hit a student and called Latinos “stupid.” The student transferred schools but as far as we know there were no consequences for the teacher. Participants also shared that they had a hard time making friends with English-speaking students in their schools because of language divides and stigma associated with limited English proficiency.


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College access and preparedness. Students overwhelmingly expressed that they want their schools to prepare them well for college. Very few students had a family member or guardian at home who could support them through the college application process. Youth want to be a part of college readiness classes, programs, and application workshops, as one student put it, “so that they won’t discriminate against us so much and so that they see that we, Latinos, can get far.” These students have high hopes and dreams for their futures. However, navigating an unfamiliar educational system becomes nearly impossible without school and community programs that support newcomer students in understanding the college application process, financial aid, and other areas of college preparedness. B) Bullying & gangs As the youth planning committee brainstormed issues to discuss at the Summit, protecting themselves from bullying and gang activity - as well as navigating relationships with gang-involved friends - was another high priority. The goal was to create a safe space where youth could discuss root causes and potential solutions for bullying, both gang-related and otherwise. Experiences of bullying & discrimination. A shared concern among the students was that they are constantly made fun of because of their accents or English proficiency. This becomes an issue when they cannot find the language to defend themselves from bullying or seek support from staff. Recently, WAMU reported on the victimization of newcomer students, noting that some “Americanized” students employ racially charged slurs to demoralize recent arrivals, calling them “chanchi,” which roughly means “pig,” referring to dirt and poverty associated with their home countries.38 Youth also shared that school personnel often treat white, African American and U.S.-born Latino students differently than they treat immigrant students, and may be more lenient on issues like dress code violations and even possession of marijuana for non immigrant students. Gang-related violence. During the discussion, some participants shared that they had seen family members killed by gangs or had been threatened by gang members themselves. Youth expressed that both gang-related and non-gang-related bullying in their schools and communities can be particularly sensitive, since many left their home coun-


Language access. Students pointed out that their schools had very few or no Latino/a, Spanish-speaking teachers or counselors, although Latino/a students make up nearly 20% of the total student body in DC, and nearly 30% of the total student bodies in both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.37 As one participant expressed with surprise, “One teacher spoke 6 languages but no Spanish.” Of course, not all Latino/a students are ELLs, and not all ELLs are Spanish speakers; nevertheless, youth recognized that institutions should reflect the diversity of those they serve. As ELLs themselves, participants noted that it is much easier to communicate about sensitive or complex topics in their native languages, and it helps to make the overall environment more welcoming.

Icebreaker: Step Forward As facilitators asked a series of questions, youth were instructed to take a step forward if the answer was “yes,” and to stay where they were if the answer was “no.” The end of the icebreaker brought the youth to standing very close to one another in a tight circle, representing that they are not alone in their experiences. Even when students shared negative responses to the questions during the icebreaker, they were able to find another participant who was also experiencing a difficult time adjusting to the education system. Sample questions included: • Do you like school? • Is education important to you? • Have you made friends with people of a different race from yours?

For Educators: Resources to Help Students Succeed • Teach Immigration: a blog and collection of lesson plans for teaching about immigration. •  Teaching for Change: a collection of resources for teaching about Central America. •  E ducation Justice Resources from Many Languages One Voice (MLOV) •  N ewcomer Toolkit (2016), U.S. Department of Education. • Supporting Undocumented Youth (2015), U.S. Department of Education. • Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff (2016), developed by the American Federation of Teachers. • Q uick Guide on Making School Climate Improvements (2016), by Safe Supportive Learning.

Icebreaker: Raise Your Hand If… Facilitators read a series of statements related to the topic at hand. Start out with information that will be easy for youth to share publicly, and then escalate to more sensitive questions. Sample statements included: • Raise your hand if you miss your country of origin • Raise your hand if you, or a family member/friend, have been a victim of bullying (any kind)


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tries due to gang violence and are still struggling to deal with past experiences of violence. Without understanding this context, school staff are often unaware of how Central American gangs and crews operate. Participants shared that, like in their countries of origin, the consequences of not interacting with gang members here could be worse for them and their families. Although youth may feel pressure to hang out with gang members, this does not mean they are part of a gang.



The discussion on success and college really motivated me to keep studying even if we are undocumented. I learned from the facilitators of their own stories to move forward. They inspired me to keep studying. I had some internal motivation before this because I have always wanted to be a professional. Through this experience, I learned of the obstacles and challenges that I will face in trying to go to college to get to where I want to be, but also the motivation to overcome those. I would recommend that there are more discussions and workshops like this to motivate youth to not drop out of school. We also need to understand our rights and the benefits and resources available to us, even if they are few. We need more space to discuss these issues. I hope there is another summit next year. It was fun.

Setting the Scene with Low-Risk Icebreakers Facilitators set up the chairs in a big, open circle, and welcomed youth into the space by playing music and asking participants about themselves before calling the group together for two icebreaker activities. Alphabet Soup. Everyone sits or stands in a circle. One person starts by saying the letter “A;” the next person says the letter “B,” and the goal is to go around the circle quickly until you recite the whole alphabet. The catch: if someone misses or repeats a letter, you start back at “A.” Beach Ball Toss. Throw a beach ball (or other object) around the circle. Whoever catches the beach ball has to introduce themselves, say their age and where they are from.

C) (Im)migration & labor Youth feel the impact of liminal or unauthorized immigration status most acutely in the workplace: without work authorization, they are forced to take jobs that pay poorly and require them to work long hours, sometimes in dangerous conditions. In this dialogue session, youth expressed that they have consistently been told they can’t pursue certain opportunities because of their status, making them feel discouraged. Adjusting to U.S. life. Throughout the conversation, youth raised many concerns about adapting to life in the U.S. as immigrants: they worried about the family and friends they left behind, trying to fit in and adapting to the new environment. One participant shared that other students do not talk to newcomer students simply because they are immigrants. Not knowing the language or their surroundings was another challenge. Youth found it difficult to communicate with others, and did not go out as much since they didn’t know their neighborhoods, especially when they first arrived. Youth expressed that they felt trapped in their homes. They wished they could go out more and hang out with friends just like they did back home. Labor. Not all participants were in school; those who were not in school were working, and many work while going to school. Youth shared that they had to work to pay off debts from their journey and because they were expected to contribute financially to their families, whether in the U.S. or Central America. The majority worked in restaurants, construction, or cleaning companies. Most often, youth found out about employment opportunities from family members or friends. Several young women in particular shared that they are expected to contribute their labor to their families in the form of childcare, looking after younger siblings or cousins while adults are at work. D) Family & community support systems In this dialogue, youth discussed relationships with friends, family members, neighbors, love interests, and other community members. This workshop began with an activity where one or two students were blindfolded


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Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI: “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” MD Equal Access to Public Services Act of 2002: In Maryland, most state agencies, including Maryland public schools, are required to take “reasonable steps” to ensure access to public services for LEP individuals. • Interpretation in any languages spoken at agencies on at least a weekly basis; • Translation of “vital documents” in languages spoken by at least 3% of the LEP population (Spanish, Chinese, and Korean). DC Language Access Act of 2004: If you request a service within DC government and you cannot speak, read, write or understand English, you have the right to: • Receive interpreter services at no cost to you; • Receive vital documents in your language at no cost to you; • Make a complaint if denied any service at a DC government agency.

Icebreaker: Five Fingers Everyone holds up one hand. Each finger represents something to share with the group, going around in a circle: (1) Something you like (2) Something you dislike (3) Something you are passionate about (4) What you want to do for your career (5) Where you see yourself in five years

and guided through a short labyrinth constructed in the classroom. Two or three students were instructed to guide them in good faith through the maze, and the rest of the students tried to distract and confuse the blindfolded students on their way to the end of the labyrinth. The activity served as a metaphor to discuss friendship, family and community support, and it helped ease into a discussion on common distractions and obstacles students face. Distractions and barriers. After the maze activity, facilitators asked youth about their “guides” and their “distractions” in real life. Distractions ranged from over-reliance on technology and social media to gang recruitment. Drug and alcohol use was mentioned as a distraction; navigating relationships with peers who use alcohol or other drugs or who are thinking about joining a gang is a constant challenge. Youth also expressed that they are distracted by social symbols like clothes, shoes, cell phones, and the money to be able to buy them. Concerns about appearance, weight and health were also brought up. Youth made distinctions between “good” friendships that provided support and guidance, and “bad” friendships that were distracting and potentially dangerous. Positive support systems. “Guides” were the people in their lives who helped them to stay on track to reach their goals. Youth highlighted the need to “guide” one another as well: “Sometimes a friend may be going through a difficult situation, and you, as their friend, have to show real support and try to help them see the right path.” Many of the participants in this dialogue were also members of a student-led navigator program at a D.C. high school where newcomer students are paired with U.S.-born peers. In the discussion, youth emphasized the importance of orientation, support, and strong relationships. E) Success, motivations, & future goals The goal of this dialogue was to highlight examples of leadership, progress, and resistance to the many barriers discussed throughout the day. The youth planning committee chose this topic because, all too often, immigrant youth are portrayed as “helpless,” and only the most tragic parts of their stories are emphasized. For that reason, this dialogue was about celebrating youth’s accomplishments and dreams. As all five dialogues explored, adjusting to a new environment is not easy. Many of the participants had an idea of what they wanted to do in the future, but were unsure about how to get there. For example, students said they wanted to be teachers, artists, doctors, and at least one professional soccer player. However, they were unsure about what classes to be taking, how to prepare, which colleges to apply to, or how to plan for their goals. Youth shared that the friends they made at school helped in the transition and were able to guide them to necessary resources. Family members and friends are key motivating forces for youth to pursue their goals.


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Your Rights as an ELL Student


IV. Conclusions & Recommendations In each dialogue, youth were asked to reflect on how to eliminate the barriers they identified. Many of the recommendations youth made across all thematic areas overlapped. As a Coalition, we came to four key conclusions based on the ideas that youth expressed at the Summit: ✓✓ Conclusion 1: Youth have unique experiences and reasons for migrating. Their individual needs and assets must be understood and respected. ✓✓ Conclusion 2: Youth face significant challenges adapting to life in U.S. schools, where bullying, discrimination, and lack of linguistically accessible, culturally-informed services create barriers to full inclusion. ✓✓ Conclusion 3: While youth confront many distractions, they find strength in support networks that help them navigate the barriers they face. ✓✓ Conclusion 4: Schools, community organizations, social service agencies, and local governments must ensure that young people have the resources they need to achieve their goals. In consultation with the youth planning committee, we make two categories of recommendations corresponding to each conclusion: programmatic recommendations for schools, service providers, and other agencies that work directly with youth and families seeking refuge on a daily basis, and systemic recommendations for government officials and advocates who influence policy, particularly at the local and state levels.

Immigration & Foreign Policy Agenda While the DMV Coalition for Youth Seeking Refuge is local in scope, there are a number of national policy priorities that could dramatically impact the lives of youth and their families seeking refuge in our region. As a first priority, we demand comprehensive immigration reform that includes protections for recent immigrants and does not impose undue fines, wait times, or other penalties. U.S. border militarization or increased funding for border militarization in other countries is unacceptable. In addition, we urge our local and state-level officials to express their support for measures such as: • End privately run detention facilities and “alternatives to detention” that incentivize incarceration and excessive monitoring rather than due process and trauma-informed treatment of youth and families seeking refuge. • Provide international financial support to migrant-sending countries that focuses on community-based humanitarian support in place of funding further militarization of the Northern Triangle and Mexico’s southern border. • E xpand and improve the current Central American Minors (CAM) refugee program. • Reform U.S. asylum law to more adequately protect youth being targeted for extortion and gang recruitment.


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• D esignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for people from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras currently residing in the U.S. • Continue to support the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) which protects unaccompanied children from non-contiguous countries by referring them to the Department of Health and Human Services for screening. Expand the TVPRA to unaccompanied children from Mexico and Canada as well, who are not screened for trafficking risk or protection needs. • Reduce the immigration court and asylum office backlog. Hiring and training new judges and asylum officers would reduce the backlog as would federal funding for public defender programs to ensure due process for those unable to afford legal representation.


Conclusion 1: Youth have unique experiences and reasons for migrating. Their individual needs and assets must be understood and respected. A common theme throughout the Summit was the need to dismantle harmful anti-immigrant stereotypes. As one participant put it: “I migrated here for a better life, and they see us as a threat, like we’re rapists, like that guy Trump says.” Hateful, xenophobic rhetoric impacts the day-to-day experiences of newcomer youth in tangible ways, often in the form of bullying. Practitioners and policymakers must actively reject narratives that promote violence and instead foster respectful dialogues. To create a safe space for dialogue, avoid assumptions, ask good questions, and build trusting relationships with youth. Our number one recommendation: listen. Along the same lines, we recommend a series of immigration-related policy changes at the local and state level that would benefit newcomer youth. Immigration status is directly linked to all forms of marginalization that youth experience, including difficulties enrolling in school, ineligibility for health insurance, fear of deportation, dangerous and low-paying jobs, and bullying based on dominant anti-Latino narratives. In addition to recognizing the unique strengths and experiences of youth seeking refuge, we must also seek systemic changes to protect their rights.


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Programmatic (Direct Services)

Systemic (Policy & Advocacy)

1a)  Create safe spaces for youth to express themselves. • This may take the shape of a classroom assignment, a large, conference-style gathering, or it can be achieved in many other formats depending on local contexts, capacities, and needs.

1d)  R  eject xenophobic rhetoric and recognize the important contributions of immigrants to our local communities. • Publicly denounce deportation raids and ensure that youth and their families are aware of local policies and positions. • Reject proposals to increase collaboration or communication between immigration authorities and local law enforcement. • Train law enforcement officers to better serve, rather than criminalize, Latino and immigrant communities.

1b)  S  upport youth with the tools, opportunities and guidance necessary to organize and advocate for changes in their schools and local communities.

1e)  A dvocate for legal protections for immigrant youth in the absence of federal legislative reform. • Expand the existing federal immigration benefit of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) to more young people by permitting custody and/or guardianship orders at the state level for youth ages 18-21, such as MD has adopted. • Fund and provide legal representation or recruit volunteers to represent minors in removal proceedings at the Baltimore and Arlington immigration courts.

1c)  E nsure that youth can participate in school and community events, regardless of documentation status. • Activities that may unintentionally exclude undocumented students include some federally funded programs, and any program involving international travel and domestic travel to certain regions.

1f)  A dvocate for immigration and foreign policy changes to protect and advance the rights of recently arrived immigrants.


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Conclusion 2: Youth face significant challenges adapting to life in U.S. schools, where bullying, discrimination, and lack of linguistically accessible, culturally-informed services create barriers to full inclusion. Since school is among the most important institutions that youth interact with, it represents the domain where changes are most urgently needed to ensure that immigrant youth feel welcome. The following recommendations are targeted to individual schools and school systems; Conclusion 3 goes into more detail about areas for improvement in other institutions. At the Summit, youth raised issues of bullying, language access, college preparation, and discrimination while attempting to enroll in school. School staff must understand that youth are deeply hurt by casual racism permitted on school grounds and by regular exclusion from social and academic activities. In particular, youth expressed the need for a Spanish speaker in the front office to interact with their family members. Given these barriers to full inclusion in the school community, youth at the Summit emphasized the need for more support for newcomer students in schools.

DMV Coalition Training Workshops “Understanding Children Seeking Refuge: A Workshop for Educators” provides educators a broad overview on where youth are coming from, what issues they face here, and how to empower and advocate for them. The training was created by members of the DMV Coalition for Youth Seeking Refuge. To schedule a training at your school or to learn more, write to

“Since school is among the most important institutions that youth interact with, it represents the domain where changes are most urgently needed to ensure that immigrant youth feel welcome.”


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Programmatic (Direct Services) 2a)  C  reate peer-to-peer networks to orient and connect newcomer students to the school community. • At a DC high school, students organized a peer navigator network in collaboration with a veteran student group called “Student-to-Student.” • At a Prince George’s County high school, students created a Student Welcoming Committee to orient new students and to practice English.

Systemic (Policy & Advocacy) 2d) •

2b)  Improve interpersonal communication between teachers, counselors, students, and their families. • Host an orientation to bring ELLs and their counselors together so that students can express their needs directly and counselors can provide information to everyone collectively. • Counselors should visit ELL classrooms when possible to ensure that students are aware of their role and to break down any fear or barriers to service. • Train and require school staff, through annual evaluations, to utilize language access tools when communicating with LEP/NEP students and their families, including high quality oral interpretation and written translation. • Ensure that print and online information is available in multiple languages.


Reject anti-immigrant stereotypes and bullying towards newcomer students. Implement anti-bullying programs that are trauma-informed and accessible to multi-cultural, multi-lingual students. Adjust reporting processes, if necessary, to make it safer for students to report bullying without fearing retaliation. Never ask other students to interpret during reporting of a bullying case. Educate staff & general school population on how newcomer students are bullied: most often through pickpocketing, stealing cell phones or other personal items, intimidation or harassment. Promote activities that encourage restorative practices and positive interaction between different racial groups in schools. Streamline the school enrollment process for newcomer students. • Ensure that all enrollment office staff understand their legal obligations to utilize language access tools and enroll students without asking for proof of immigration status. • Gather more information during enrollment: schools need to know newcomer students’ educational experience, family history, and past experiences of trauma in order to connect them with necessary resources. • Create an easy-to-understand checklist of qualifying documents required to enroll in school, available in multiple languages. • Centralize school-specific resources at the enrollment office, such as a welcome packet.


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Programmatic (Direct Services) 2c)

Systemic (Policy & Advocacy)

P rovide training opportunities to school staff throughout the year on topics such as diversity and cultural humility, gangs and violence prevention, trauma-informed interventions, and the context of Central American migration.

2f)  Pass and enforce strong language access laws to protect LEP/NEP residents’ right to access public services, including education, in their native languages. • DC Councilmembers should support the proposed Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2015, which would require schools with significant numbers of ELLs to hire language access liaisons and bilingual staff in key positions. This amendment also proposes a fine structure for noncompliance with the Language Access Act of 2004 by any DC agency. • Other jurisdictions should adopt and implement similar policies to protect the rights of ELLs and their families. • Designate and budget for preference for language skills when hiring key positions such as guidance counselors, front desk staff, lunch staff, and security personnel.

2g)  Require professional development district-wide on topics such as diversity and cultural humility, the context of Central American migration, and concrete strategies to include immigrant students and their families in the classroom and school community.

2h)  Confront racism in schools and community spaces in a way that recognizes its complexities vis-à-vis all communities of color and the intersecting identities that students hold. • Incidents of racism in schools should be documented and reported annually in order to monitor progress and better address challenges. • Provide systematic training on racism as it relates to gang issues – basics of racism, peer pressure, and gang involvement. This is especially important to implement in education and judicial systems. While not covered in this report, gang issues in this area are very complex and important to understand in the context of race.


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Conclusion 3: While youth confront many distractions and sources of stress, they find strength in support networks that help them navigate the barriers they face. Outside of school, youth navigate complicated family relationships and social worlds. At the Summit, youth reported that balancing these relationships can be a challenge. Experiences of bullying, isolation, and discrimination can lead youth to join gangs for their own protection, or because they do not see any other options. Youth consistently cited afterschool programs and mentorship opportunities as alternatives to gang involvement. In addition, policymakers must address gaps in access to medical and behavioral health care. Youth often arrive with complex health needs due to the traumas of their journeys that may manifest themselves in many ways: acting up in school, inability to focus, difficulty adjusting to new family arrangements, etc. As the Coalition reported in 2015, access to healthcare is critical to support the holistic well-being of newcomer youth and their families. In DC and in Montgomery County, locally-funded programs cover certain services for those who are ineligible for Medicaid, but there are some limitations, and there are no safety-net health insurance options in other jurisdictions. There is a need for more bilingual health and mental health workers who have an understanding of this population.

School-Based Mental Health Services: Mi Refugio Through the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative at School in Prince George’s County, La Clínica del Pueblo offers a school-based program for newcomer immigrant youth. This program, which youth have named “Mi Refugio,” or “My Refuge,” delivers a culturally sensitive youth development model that addresses school, family, and social integration. Program components include case management, group interventions, mental health screening, and counseling services, all aimed at supporting resilience and improved quality of life for youth and their families.


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Programmatic (Direct Services)

Systemic (Policy & Advocacy)

3a)  Create more extracurricular programs for youth across the region, both inside and outside of the school setting. • Provide mentorship and arts-focused programming for youth to support both healing and selfexpression • Ensure that all programming is linguistically accessible, trauma-sensitive, and culturallyinformed

3d)  Advocate for and fund afterschool programs so that all youth can participate. Depending on funding streams for different programs, undocumented youth are sometimes excluded. • Eliminate all fees to participate in any Parks and Recreation activity.


3e)  Address systemic gaps in access to medical and behavioral health care. • Since many immigrants are ineligible for Medicaid and barred from purchasing health insurance on state or federal exchanges, local funding should be directed to safety net programs to protect the health of the entire community. • Behavioral health services must be available affordably and in their native languages.

S  upport a healthy family reunification process through workshops for youth and families that cover topics like positive discipline, communication methods, and tips for navigating school systems and other institutions. • Provide free, in-language therapy through school as a wrap-around service. Clinical services should not be provided through an interpreter, nor should there be waitlists for youth to receive therapy.

3c)  A ddress emerging gang issues with sensitivity and respect for individual youth. Service providers working with this population need to understand the history and current dynamics of gangs in the region. • The Summit did not go in depth on this topic, but if the issues identified in the Summit dialogues were addressed, emerging gang violence in our communities could be prevented.


Improve coordination between agencies and among jurisdictions to address emerging gang issues systematically. Since gang activity crosses jurisdictions, a high level of communication is necessary. • There have been efforts to do this in the past, but structures put in place years ago have lost the support necessary to continue to build relationships in the community and monitor ongoing developments. • The focus must be on sensitivity to the complexity of this issue, rather than cracking down on youth of color.


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Conclusion 4: Schools, community organizations, social service agencies, and local governments must ensure that young people have the resources they need to achieve their goals. College access was a major concern raised at the DMV Youth Summit. However, not all youth are enrolled in school or seeking information about college. Many are already in the workforce or looking for more resources to find work. These young people expressed strong interest in learning about community college programs where they could learn English and gain necessary job skills. While individual school staff can make a positive difference by reaching out to ELL students, school systems need to adjust to provide the same high-quality support for all students interested in pursuing a college degree. Another significant factor for this population is the lack of a federal guarantee for students to attend public colleges and universities regardless of their immigration status. While MD and VA students have some flexibility, undocumented students cannot apply for federal or state financial aid. This poses a real challenge, as the average cost per year for community college is $9,282 and $18,110 for a public university.39 Even if they are able to navigate the system and get into college, the costs of a higher education in the U.S. can be prohibitive for immigrant students.

College Access in the DMV Area Maryland is one of only 16 states that has legislation to provide in-state tuition for undocumented students.40 However, to qualify, students must first apply for the Maryland DREAM Act, which requires proof that a parent pays taxes, the student attended a Maryland high school for at least three years and has a diploma or GED, and has been accepted to a Maryland community college.41 Once the student has completed 60 credits at community college, he or she may transfer to a four-year university and continue to pay in-state tuition like any other Maryland resident. In Virginia, the Attorney General granted in-state tuition rights to students who have DACA.42 Students who do not have any immigration status in VA must pay out-of-state tuition, which makes even community college costs prohibitive for many. DC offers in-state tuition, regardless of status, to anyone who applies to DC’s only public university, the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) within one year of graduation. Undocumented students who apply after the first year will be charged out-of-state tuition. A bill has been introduced in the city council to provide in-state tuition to all DC residents at UDC.


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Programmatic (Direct Services) 4a)

P rovide professional skill-building programs, including English language learning after high school, that are accessible for youth, regardless of language or immigration status. • Offer stipends as an incentive and an alternative to working long hours in potentially dangerous workplaces.

Systemic (Policy & Advocacy) 4d) Advocate for and fund skill-building programs for youth.

4b)  Educate youth about their rights in the workplace and provide resources for them to advocate for themselves.

4e)  Advocate for legal pathways to work authorization for newcomer youth.

4c)  Provide more information, resources, and support for immigrant students applying for college, scholarships, and financial aid. • Offer semester or year-long elective courses on the college application process. • Area universities should be more visible in local high schools to provide information and support. • Ensure that all students set foot on a college campus by the time they graduate. • Invite ELL alumni to speak to newcomer students about their journey to college.


Support policy changes that increase college access for undocumented students. • Offer alternative financial aid options to those without a social security number. • Create more scholarships and/or open eligibility requirements for existing scholarships to include all students, regardless of immigration status. • DC: Pass the UDC Dream Act. • MD: Expand in-state tuition benefits to all public universities. • VA: Expand in-state tuition benefits to all VA residents, regardless of immigration status.


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Endnotes i

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008 requires that unaccompanied minors from non-­ contiguous countries are screened by DHHS to detect and prevent human trafficking. Minors from Mexico who are apprehended at the U.S. border fleeing the same kinds of violence are immediately returned to Mexico.


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) provides temporary relief from deportation to undocumented youth who entered the U.S. with a parent before the age of 16. Note that deferred action currently does not extend to those who have not been “continuously present in the country since June 15, 2007,” meaning that recent arrivals do not qualify. The recent Supreme Court decision does not affect individuals who already had DACA as announced in 2012, only the proposed expansions announced in 2014. For more, see the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website: Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).


A great deal of research has been done on the push and pull factors contributing to Central American migration. See the Appendix B for more resources.


Grassroots Leadership has compiled an excellent resource list about family detention, including evidence used in court proceedings against the


In the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement, the California District Court required that minors in immigration custody be held in the “least restrictive

Obama administration called “The facts about family detention.” setting,” consistent with the age, needs, and well-­being of the child. The 2015 order made by California District Court Judge Dolly Gee in Jenny Flores et al. vs. Jeh Johnson et al. explains how family detention facilities violate the 1997 order and subsequent requirements for DHS. 1

UNHCR (2016), With 1 in every 113 affected, forced displacement hits record high. United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.


Estimate based on state & by county provided by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.


Estimate based on state & by county provided by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.


Apprehensions data provided by U.S. Customs & Border Patrol.


Zezima & O’Keefe (2014), Obama calls wave of children across U.S.-­Mexican border ‘urgent humanitarian situation.’ The Washington Post.


UNHCR (2014), Children on the Run: Unaccompanied Children Leaving Central America and Mexico and the Need for International Protection; UNHCR (2015), Women on the Run: First-­Hand Accounts of Refugees Fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.


Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (2016), Global Report on Internal Displacement: 2016; IDMC (2015), New humanitarian frontiers: Addressing Criminal violence in Mexico and Central America.


Johnson (2006), National Policies and the Rise of Transnational Gangs. Migration Policy Institute.


Frey (2014), Who’s to blame for El Salvador’s gang violence?, PBS Newshour.


DeCesare (1998),The Children of War: Street Gangs in El Salvador, NACLA.


Santos (2016), It’s Children Against Federal Lawyers in Immigration Court. The New York Times.


Pierce (2015), Unaccompanied Child Migrants in U.S. Communities, Immigration Courts, and Schools. Migration Policy Institute.


TRAC (2014), Representation for Unaccompanied Children in Immigration Court. Syracuse University.


Isacson, Meyer & Smith (2015), Increased Enforcement at Mexico’s Southern Border: An Update on Security, Migration, and U.S. Assistance. Washington Office on Latin America.


Dominguez Villegas & Rietig (2015), Migrants Deported from the United States and Mexico to the Northern Triangle: A Statistical and Socioeconomic Profile. Migration Policy Institute.


Isacson, Meyer & Smith(2015). Knippen, Boggs & Meyer (2015), An Uncertain Path: Justice for Crimes and Human Rights Violations Against Migrants in Mexico. Washington Office


on Latin America.


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Garcia (2016), Alliance for Prosperity Plan in the Northern Triangle: Not A Likely Final Solution for the Central American Migration Crisis. Council on Hemispheric Affairs.


Public Law No. 114-­113, Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, Sec. 7045(a).


Hennessy-­Fiske (2016), Frustrated by new U.S. program to take in migrants, Central American parents turn to smugglers. Los Angeles Times.


Hipsman & Meissner (2015), In-­Country Processing in Central America: A Piece of the Puzzle. Migration Policy Institute.


U.S. Department of State (2016), U.S. Expands Initiatives to Address Migration Challenges.


Constable (2015), U.S. holding families in custody to keep others from crossing the border. The Washington Post.


Flores (2016) Immigrants Desperate to Get Out of US Detention Can Get Trapped by Debt. BuzzFeed.


Preston (2015), Judge Orders Release of Immigrant Children Detained by U.S. New York Times.


Burnett (2016), Texas Judge Refuses to License Child Care Facility in Immigrant Detention Center. NPR.


Harlan (2016), Inside the administration’s $1 billion deal to detain Central American asylum-­seekers. The Washington Post; Shah, Small & Wu (2015), Banking on Detention: Lockup Quotas & the Immigrant Dragnet; Detention Watch Network & the Center for Constitutional Rights; Carson & Diaz (2015), Payoff: How Congress Ensures Private Prison Profit with an Immigrant Detention Quota. Grassroots Leadership.


Feltz (2015), The End of Family Detention? PA Immigration Jail Could Be Forced to Stop Locking up Parents & Kids. Democracy Now! 27


Vasquez (2016), From Protected Class to High-­Priority Target: How the ‘System Is Rigged’ Against Unaccompanied Migrant Children & ‘Why Couldn’t Wildin Graduate?’: The Legacy of a U.S. Immigration Program Targeting Teens. Rewire.


DHS (2016), Statement by Secretary Jeh C. Johnson on Southwest Border Security, January 4, 2016, and Statement by Secretary Jeh C. Johnson on Southwest Border Security, March 9, 2016.


Southern Poverty Law Center & Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (2016), Families in Fear: The Atlanta Immigration Raids. SPLC.


CARA (2016), Update on Recent ICE Enforcement Actions Targeting Central American Families.


American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (2016),CARA: 33 Mothers and Children Protected from Immediate Deportation. AILA.


Brodzinsky & Pilkington (2015), US government deporting Central American migrants to their deaths. The Guardian.


Edwards (2016), Exclusive: U.S. plans new wave of immigration deportation raids. Reuters.


Burke & Sainz (2016), AP Exclusive: Migrant children kept from enrolling in school. The Associated Press.


See county level enrollment data for the 2015-­2016 school year in DC (DCPS at a Glance: Enrollment); Prince George’s County (PGCPS Facts and


Trull (2015), Divided on arrival: Even in diverse schools, new immigrants face bullying. WAMU 88.5.


IES (2016), Tuition costs of colleges and universities. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics.


NCSL (2015), Undocumented Student Tuition: Overview. National Conference of State Legislatures.


MC (2016), Frequently Asked Questions. Montgomery College.


NCSL (2015), Undocumented Student Tuition: Overview. National Conference of State Legislatures.

Figures); Montgomery County (Official Race/Ethnic Membership of Students, Report of Enrollment, pg.19)


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Appendices Appendix A: Replicating the DMV Youth Summit Planning Process & Model We took an asset-based approach to positive youth development: youth should not be seen as potential “problems” to be “fixed,” but rather equal partners to engage in the planning process. The youth planning committee was convened in August of 2015, and met twice per month until the Summit in April of 2016. In the early meetings, youth brainstormed goals for the Summit and topics to discuss among peers, such as education, migration, bullying, drugs, discrimination, health, work, and personal relationships. Hosting the Summit boosted confidence in the youth planning committee in their ability to organize their peers towards positive changes in the community. Since the Summit, youth groups have continued to meet to discuss forming a more robust network of newcomer youth to support each other and put on more conferences to engage their peers. We hope this process can be replicated in other parts of the country. Outreach Outreach for the Summit was done through individual contacts at different schools and after school programs serving recently arrived youth in the DMV area. The youth planning committee members also invited their peers to attend. The Summit took place on Saturday, April 9 at the Silver Spring Civic Center, a metro-accessible space in Montgomery County, MD.

Summit Goals • Bring a large number of young people together; • Share experiences between different jurisdictions and understand the challenges we face, what we have in common and what is distinct in DC, MD, and VA; • Unite to better represent ourselves as a group; • Ensure that our political representatives hear our voice.

Small Group Dialogues • • • • •

Education & discrimination Bullying & gangs (Im)migration & labor Family & community support systems Success, motivations, & future goals

Participant demographics Seventy-three young people attended the summit, most Maryland residents. The gender ratio was about even, and most participants were in their mid- to late teens, although notes from the breakout groups suggest that some participants were up to 22 years old. Three-quarters of the participants were enrolled in high school, about 15% were in middle school, and about 10% were not enrolled in school, no longer in school, or chose not to report where they go to school. Overall, 16 high schools and 6 middle schools were represented across three counties. Despite our outreach efforts, we were unable to engage youth participants from Virginia, an ongoing challenge for the Coalition. Summit Agenda In order to accomplish these goals, the Summit was a combination of small group dialogues and workshops on storytelling through art. The day began with two keynote speakers. Following this, youth participants elected three of five possible small-group dialogues happening simultaneously. Small group facilitators were bilingual, multicultural young people themselves, most students at DC-area colleges and universities. Adult allies


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were asked to stay out of the small group dialogues, in order to preserve safe spaces for discussion among peers. The second half of the day included workshops on storytelling through art. In closing, supporters were invited to a celebration where youth shared their testimony projects and reflected on their experiences throughout the day.

Testimony Workshops ¡Óyeme! strives to provide a creative arts outlet for young people, utilizing best practice culturally-based, trauma-informed theatre and arts activities. Son Cosita Seria is a community of students of son jarocho, traditional string music from Veracruz, Mexico that combines Spanish, indigenous, and West African roots. MasPaz is a Colombian-American artist focused on spreading positive messages of peace through his art.

For Facilitators: Sample Methodology Leading up to and during the Summit, facilitators practiced culturally-based, trauma-informed approaches to dialogue, employing a technique known as the “healing circle.” Within the context of the healing circle, the dignity and wisdom of each individual is acknowledged and explored without judgment. Small group facilitators also noted a few best practices for creating a safe space for dialogue: • S  tart with an icebreaker to build group dynamics and/or introduce the topic at hand. • Create group norms together, such as: participate, respect others, do not interrupt or repeat anything that was shared. • Share your own story if applicable to model participation. As a general rule, youth should always be speaking more often than facilitators. • Designate a note-taker. To use dialogue as a tool for community organizing, recording youth’s lived experiences and their demands is key. Explain the purpose and assure youth that notes will be anonymous.

Evaluations & Next Steps The small group dialogues got the highest reviews from participants; 86% of youth who completed the evaluation responded that the quality of the dialogues was “excellent.” The high level of dialogue was made possible by a team of dynamic, young, Latino/a facilitators who designed excellent discussion questions and in some cases provided resources to participants. Overall, the tone for the day was one of friendship and respect; many of the evaluations emphasized the value of a safe space where youth could share their experiences. Some participants commented after the Summit that they did not feel nearly as welcomed and respected in their schools than they did at the Summit, among peers and adult allies who were there to listen. During their own in-person debrief and evaluation, members of the youth planning committee made the following suggestions for replicating this event in the future: • In order to start on time and keep to the schedule, open day-of registration earlier • Focus on one or two topics for more time, or even the whole day, and go into more depth • Bring more youth into the planning process to help put on the event • Make an intentional outreach plan to area schools and begin outreach earlier • Incorporate more engaging icebreakers and games throughout the day • Include a celebration at the end of the day to relax and unwind • Pair one member of the youth planning committee with each small group facilitator


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Appendix B: Estudiante 2 Estudiante In 2014, two Latina students at a DC high school expressed concerns about the huge task of providing orientation and support to the large number of new students arriving from Central America. Estudiante 2 Estudiante pairs a newcomer student with a bilingual student navigator for 4-8 weeks. All participants receive community service hours (develop signin sheets to record).

Program Goals Provide support in the new student’s native language so that the transition to a new school happens as smoothly as possible: how to get lunch, go through security, interpret grades, etc. • Provide information on all school and community activities • Provide a point of contact for new students should there be any questions or concerns • Be a bridge for communication between new students and school staff, teachers, etc. • Contribute to creating a “sense of belonging” for new student

Getting Started Obviously, you may need to adjust the program to work for your school – feel free to get creative! This program was youth-initiated which helped make it relevant to the specific needs we were trying to address. Emphasize that participation is voluntary, but a good addition to a high school resume. The fundamental roles are the following: • Coordinating Committee: 4-5 students who meet regularly and are responsible for tasks listed below, communication, troubleshooting, and evaluation. • Navigators: Bilingual students who would like to support a newly arrived Spanish-speaking student transition to the school and are available for 4-8 weeks. • Newcomers: New immigrant students who would like to be paired with a Navigator. • Sponsor: School staff member will to support student-led initiative.

Next Steps • Publicize the program within your school; maintain communication with ELL teachers. Connect with enrollment staff, registrar, counselors, and all who interact with newcomer students to make sure all newcomers have access to this program. • Create a mechanism to get new students’ contact information. Ideally, enrollment staff can talk to the new student and their family about the program and get permission to share the student’s contact information with a navigator who will meet them on the first day. • Develop a checklist of essential information: your school policy manual is a good guide. • Recruit and train bilingual (Spanish/English) navigators. Initially, commitment is 4-8 weeks, but can be set up on an individual basis. The meeting can be one-on-one and/or a weekly or biweekly meeting with the entire program. • Pair newcomer students with navigators and help them arrange a time to meet. We have heard that the most stressful moment is entering the school for the first time alone: most newcomers have not had to take off belts, jewelry, etc. to go through school security. Coordinators and sponsor shared contact information with all students in case of any questions. • Evaluate the program regularly and make necessary changes. Conclusion Finally, in keeping with the theme of “not reinventing the wheel,” coordinate with other school projects and clubs. This will help with transition and integration. One positive result that developed in our school is that the student newspaper now has a page in Spanish! Feel free to contact Beth Perry, for sample materials or more information from either the sponsor or students involved.


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Appendix C: Educational Resources Multimedia Shelter (2016), play by Marissa Chibas, Martin Acosta, and Fernando Belo. This work by CalArts Center for New Performance and Duende CalArts was performed at the Kennedy Center. Full video available online. When We Were Young/There Was a War (2015) by Patricia Goudvis and Alice Stone. This interactive web-based project follows six children profiled in the 1993 documentary If the Mango Tree Could Speak by Patricia Goudvis. The Teen’s Guide to Surviving Immigration / Manual de Inmigración para Adolescentes (2015) by Juan Pablo Villalobos; portraits by Brian L. Frank La jaula de oro/The Golden Dream (2013) film by Diego Quemada-Díez María en la tierra de nadie/Maria in Nobody’s Land (2010) film by Marcela Zamora Chamorro Which Way Home (2009) film by Rebecca Cammisa Reports Broken Dreams: Central American children’s dangerous journey to the United States (2016), United Nations Children’s Fund. Women on the Run: First-Hand Accounts of Refugees Fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico (2015), United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. Human Rights Situation of Refugee and Migrant Families and Unaccompanied Children in the United States of America (2015), Organization of American States, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Children on the Run: Unaccompanied Children Leaving Central America and Mexico and the Need for International Protection (2015), United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. No Childhood Here: Why Central American Children are Fleeing Their Homes (2014), by Elizabeth Kennedy. American Immigration Council. Unaccompanied Migrant Children from Central America: Context, Causes and Responses (2014), by Dennis Stinchcomb & Eric Hershberg, American University Center for Latin American and Latino Studies. Books Indefensible: A Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border (2016), by Judith A. Greene, Bethany Carson & Andrea Black, Grassroots Leadership. E-book available free. Whose Child Am I? Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in US Immigration Custody (2015), by Susan J. Terrio. Enrique’s Journey (2006) by Sonia Nazario.


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About the DMV Coalition for Youth Seeking Refuge Mission: To improve the quality of life and protect the human rights of Central American youth and families seeking refuge who now call DC, Maryland, and Virginia home. Vision: All children and youth seeking refuge are safe, healthy, and ready to learn. We are a cross-sector network, including civil society organizations, educational institutions, healthcare providers, local government representatives, members of the faith community, and concerned individuals, including impacted youth and families, who first came together in the summer of 2014 to address the humanitarian crisis in Central America and to provide support to youth and families seeking refuge in our region.



S U M M I T :

Our Voices Our Future

DMV Youth Summit Report: Our Voices, Our Future  

In April 2016, newcomer immigrant youth from across the DMV area came together to share their stories, build community, and make some collec...

DMV Youth Summit Report: Our Voices, Our Future  

In April 2016, newcomer immigrant youth from across the DMV area came together to share their stories, build community, and make some collec...