WBEZ | Immigration http://www.wbez.org/news/immigration Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Global Activism: ConTextos expands literacy programs to El Salvador prisons http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-expands-literacy-programs-el-salvador-prisons <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-ConTextos Prisoners.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-155d2028-16ca-6861-496d-14f15cdaca8d">When we first met Chicagoan and Global Activist, Debra Gittler, she wanted to &ldquo;create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity and advocacy&rdquo; to help children in Central America thrive. To do this, Debra started the organization <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a>. She now lives in El Salvador. For our </span><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em> segment, Gittler is back in Chicago and will update us on how her work has expanded into El Salvador&rsquo;s justice system.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/179980678&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Debra Gittler told us some of what she&rsquo;s been up to since her <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy">last Worldview appearance</a>:</em></p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">ConTextos has expanded into the Justice System in El Salvador and are now working with inmates in prisons, juveniles delinquents in the &quot;foster&quot; system, and the teachers and guards who work with both of these populations. The &quot;foster&quot; system in El Salvador is tangled octopus that oversees foster care, orphans, victims of child and sexual abuse, child criminals (including homicide), gangs, and deportees. Child deportees arriving back in El Salvador pretty much get off a bus and have to walk home; those without families end up in foster care.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">...we are overwhelmingly moved by the healing power of story to address issues of trauma in a country plagued by generations of violence. Many of the inmates we are working with are gang-affiliated and directly affected by the reality of transnationalism-- some inmates are English-speakers who spent most of their life in the US. We are just starting to work more and more with the juvenile population...It&#39;s been a fascinating journey to confront stereotypes about this population...</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">At the same time, ConTextos is just about to publish our student reading metrics. We use the Early Grade Reading Assessment to evaluate student reading outcomes; this is the same tool that USAID implements all over the world. Our results are stunning...</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Finally, we are thrilled to start partnering with <em>Worldreader</em>, based in Africa, to bring e-readers into our schools.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">...We&#39;ve been working with iPads for quite a while as a tool to motivate writing, but e-readers provide a unique opportunity to bring unlimited numbers of text through an accessible, teacher-friendly (and rural-friendly) technology. We&#39;re still seeking funding to launch the initiative.</p></p> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 09:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-expands-literacy-programs-el-salvador-prisons Hoosiers divided over Obama’s executive action on immigration http://www.wbez.org/news/hoosiers-divided-over-obama%E2%80%99s-executive-action-immigration-111144 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Indiana Immigration 1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In his speech Thursday night, President Barack Obama spoke about the kind of immigrants he hopes to help with his executive action.</p><p>&ldquo;Most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough low paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches,&rdquo; Obama said on national TV.</p><p>The president could have been talking about St. Mary&rsquo;s Catholic Church in East Chicago, Indiana. Located in a working class city, where half the city&rsquo;s 35,0000 residents are Hispanic, the church is expecting lots of undocumented immigrants in the coming days.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to be swamped with people,&rdquo; said Jose Bustos, executive director of the Casa Santo Toribio Center at St. Mary&rsquo;s Church, a place where undocumented immigrants regularly seek assistance from his small, mostly volunteer staff.</p><p>&ldquo;Basically we&rsquo;re telling the folks to start gathering all the documents they have to prove that indeed they had been here in this country from the day they are going to claim that they got here,&rdquo; Bustos said.</p><p>But others, including Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a possible presidential contender, is looking for ways to block the presidents&rsquo; actions.</p><p>&ldquo;The American people do not want comprehensive immigration reform. Part of the solution is to prevent the administration from overturning laws that have been enacted,&rdquo; Pence told NBC earlier this week.</p><p>Pence has instructed Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller to look into suing the Obama administration.</p><p>&ldquo;It is beyond frustrating both that Congress has thus far failed to exercise its authority to reform immigration policy and that the President has apparently exceeded his authority by declining to enforce certain laws, in an area where states are prohibited from acting,&rdquo; Zoeller stated in a news release. &ldquo;Inaction by the federal legislative branch does not justify the federal executive branch overstepping its bounds.&nbsp; Two wrongs don&rsquo;t make a right.&rdquo;</p><p>In the meantime, East Chicago residents like Enriqueta and Alejandro, who asked that her last name not be used, are relieved by the President&rsquo;s action.</p><p>The couple arrived in Indiana more than a decade ago from Mexico City. Both clean houses for a living while their American-born kids go to school.</p><p>Alejandro said he welcomed the president&rsquo;s efforts.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel happy that the President is going to try to help immigrants,&rdquo; Alejandro said in Spanish while sitting in Bustos&rsquo; office. &ldquo;Obama is providing calm and peace to those who are undocumented.&rdquo;</p><p>Until now, Enriqueta constantly worried about being arrested and deported.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not the only one who is afraid but there are others like me who would rather just stay home and not go outside. But we have to go outside to work,&rdquo; Enriqueta said in Spanish.</p><p>The State of Indiana has long had a reputation for cracking down on undocumented immigrants.</p><p>In 2011, the Republican-led Indiana General Assembly adopted measures nearly as strict as the border state of Arizona.</p><p>It included provisions for state police officers to stop suspected undocumented drivers. But some in Indiana&rsquo;s small but growing Hispanic community loudly objected, saying police would be racially profiling motorists.</p><p>The law in Arizona was ultimately deemed unconstitutional, effectively nullifying Indiana&rsquo;s law.</p><p>Under the President&rsquo;s action, federal immigration authorities would stop the deportation of parents with American born children who have been living in the country for at least 5 years.</p><p>&ldquo;President Obama set forth a bold plan to secure our nation&rsquo;s borders, help keep families together, and expand our economy.&nbsp; The President&rsquo;s action was a necessary step in a Republican Congress that has refused to take up immigration reform,&rdquo; U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis, said.</p><p>Many immigrants are drawn here to work on Hoosier farms &ndash; from Northwest Indiana communities like Crown Point and Lowell &ndash; to southern Indiana cities bordering Kentucky.</p><p>The comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last year included a guest worker program designed to help those farms.</p><p>The Indiana Farm Bureau supported it, as did U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly.</p><p>But yesterday Donnelly, a Democrat from South Bend, said the President was now going too far.</p><p>&ldquo;It is clear the immigration system in this country is broken, and only Congress has the ability to change the law to fix it. The Senate passed bipartisan immigration reform last summer with my support, though we are still waiting on the House to debate this issue,&rdquo; Donnelly wrote in a statement. &ldquo;I am as frustrated as anyone that Congress is not doing its job, but the President shouldn&rsquo;t make such significant policy changes on his own.&rdquo;</p><p>That sentiment was echoed by many in Lake County.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s wrong. What about the people who did it the right way?&rdquo; said Larry Hine, the owner of Larry&rsquo;s Barber Shop in downtown Crown Point, about 25 miles south of East Chicago. &ldquo;They did it the right way and these people just walked across the line and we&rsquo;re paying for them, our tax dollars.&rdquo;</p><p>When asked about the notion that undocumented immigrants take low paid farm jobs that most Americans don&rsquo;t want, Hine acknowledged it was an issue but said, &ldquo;I couldn&rsquo;t prove that one way or the other.&rdquo;</p><p>Fellow Crown Point resident John Moose says this is about more than just economics. He thinks the President is ignoring the resounding defeat his party suffered in the mid-term elections.</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;s wrong with all this and the American people spoke a couple of weeks ago and they spoke clearly whether he wants to say he heard it or not,&rdquo; Moose, who runs an insurance company, said. &ldquo;I love immigrants. This is what this country is all about. Even the American Indians are immigrants. They came over from China. People should be sent back and they should come through the normal process.&rdquo;</p><p>Back in East Chicago immigrant advocate Jose Bustos isn&rsquo;t sure what the fuss is about.</p><p>&ldquo;The state of Indiana has always been anti-immigrant. It is something beyond me. If you look at the demographics, if you look at the numbers, we are something like not even 2 percent of the population of the state. What is it that they are afraid of? These are people who are not criminals. These are people are helping the economy,&rdquo; Bustos said.</p><p>Bustos adds the President&rsquo;s move will end the fear many undocumented parents and their American-born children have felt for years.</p><p>&ldquo;These kids are in fear. They are in fear of losing mom and dad. They go to school and come back with an empty home. Where is the justice in that?&rdquo; Bustos said.</p><p>Bustos admits the executive order will only aid about 5 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;As the old saying goes, we didn&rsquo;t get the whole loaf. We got a little bit under a half of loaf,&rdquo; Bustos said. &ldquo;But this half a loaf is going to alleviate the fear that so many, so many people are going through right now.</p><p>Today, a group of lawyers from nearby Valparaiso University will be helping Bustos counsel immigrants on how to take advantage of the President&rsquo;s move.</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/hoosiers-divided-over-obama%E2%80%99s-executive-action-immigration-111144 As temp work grows, African Americans push for their fair share http://www.wbez.org/news/temp-work-grows-african-americans-push-their-fair-share-110945 <p><p>Between his wife, children and grandchildren, there are a lot of mouths to feed in Kenny Flowers&rsquo; home. But he says it has been a decade since his last full-time job. And he lost one of his two part-time jobs a few months ago.<br /><br />&ldquo;So I&rsquo;ve been coming to MVP to pick up [work] and just get some honest money,&rdquo; says Flowers, 38, referring to Most Valuable Personnel, part of Personnel Staffing Group, a chain based in the Chicago area with operations in eight states.<br /><br />Flowers, a lifelong resident of the city&rsquo;s West Side, says he has gone at least four times this year to MVP&rsquo;s office in the Town of Cicero, a suburb bordering the city. He says he has spent hours and hours in the waiting room.<br /><br />But MVP has yet to give Flowers any work. Asked why, a company spokesman responds that Flowers &ldquo;calls the office frequently and is advised to come in the following day to be assigned out for work&rdquo; but &ldquo;does not arrive to be sent out.&rdquo;</p><p>Flowers calls that baloney and wonders whether MVP is trying to hide something he has noticed in the waiting room. &ldquo;I see more Latinos going out than I do African Americans,&rdquo; he says.<br /><br />Flowers suspects that many of those Latinos are in the country illegally. He says MVP assigns them work on the belief that unauthorized immigrants are less likely to raise a stink when employers short them out of pay or put them in dangerous conditions. The staffing firm denies that allegation.<br /><br />MVP&rsquo;s Cicero location is among 933 offices of temp agencies registered to operate in Illinois. Nationwide, more than 2.9 million people were employed as temps in September, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Temp jobs, once mostly clerical, are now mainly blue-collar and constitute about 2 percent of the nation&rsquo;s employment.</p><p>Those are all record numbers, but African Americans say they are not getting a fair shot at the work. They are accusing the staffing companies of discrimination. And their claims are getting attention from temp-worker advocates, federal regulators and some Illinois lawmakers.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Few African Americans sent to bakery</span></p><p>Flowers takes me to that MVP office, part of a strip mall along the border between Cicero and Chicago. In the waiting room I see more than four dozen blue-collar workers hoping for an assignment. Some say they have been there for hours. While they wait, they are not getting paid. Nearly all are black.<br /><br />I pull out my audio-recording gear and take a few photos of Flowers on the sidewalk, where workers have spilled out from the waiting room. Within minutes a woman who helps run this MVP office comes out and commands everyone to go back inside. Everyone, that is, but Flowers and me. She tells us to leave, and we do.<br /><br />But we do not get far. As I interview Flowers on a residential sidewalk around the corner, a Cicero police car pulls up, then another. &ldquo;We have the subjects,&rdquo; one of officers tells his radio dispatcher.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/waiting%20room.jpg" style="height: 426px; width: 620px;" title="At the Cicero office of Most Valuable Personnel, dozens of black workers fill the waiting room. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></div><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to need to see IDs from both you gentlemen,&rdquo; the officer tells Flowers and me. The cop says it was MVP that called the police on us.<br /><br />After they run our driver&rsquo;s licenses for warrants, the officers leave us alone. But the whole experience signals that discrimination allegations in the staffing industry have touched a nerve.</p><p>MVP is a defendant in two class-action lawsuits in federal court. Both claim employment discrimination against African Americans. Temp-worker advocates, meanwhile, have come to the company&rsquo;s Cicero office to hand out flyers about wage theft. MVP claims the leafleting is an effort to &ldquo;coerce&rdquo; the company to settle the litigation.</p><p>But Christopher Williams, the attorney who filed the suits, says MVP has only itself to blame. &ldquo;Where there&rsquo;s a staffing agency within two miles of zip codes that have a population that&rsquo;s 97-98 percent African American, why were no African Americans &mdash; almost none &mdash; sent to work jobs at Gold Standard Baking?&rdquo;<br /><br />Gold Standard, an industrial bakery on Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side, relies on MVP for labor. The two companies are co-defendants in one of the suits. The claim is that the bakery asked for immigrant temps instead of African American temps and that the staffing agency fulfilled that request.<br /><br />&ldquo;Over a four-year period, when approximately 5,000 workers were sent to Gold Standard Baking, only 85 of those were African American,&rdquo; Williams says. &ldquo;These are low-skilled jobs that people on the West Side of Chicago need to have access to.&rdquo;<br /><br />At the same time, Williams says, MVP focused its recruiting on Spanish-speaking workers, and the company sent out vans to pick them up in heavily immigrant neighborhoods such as Little Village.<br /><br />In court, MVP has countered that the reason its workforce is mostly Latino is because of the office&rsquo;s location. Nearby Chicago neighborhoods may be black, but Cicero is mostly Latino.<br /><br />&ldquo;MVP does not discriminate against African Americans,&rdquo; Elliot Richardson, an attorney for the company, tells me. &ldquo;MVP sends out the very best employees for the positions that fit what those employees can do. There are plenty of job offerings at MVP right now. They are looking for workers. Regardless of their race, we welcome people to come in and to apply.&rdquo;</p><p>Gold Standard officials, for their part, referred WBEZ questions about the suit to a lawyer. He sent a statement that denies the allegations and calls the company &ldquo;an equal opportunity employer&rdquo; that is &ldquo;proud of its diverse workforce.&rdquo;</p><p>Last week MVP brought a suit of its own. The claim, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, accuses the temp-worker advocates and their group, the nonprofit Chicago Workers&rsquo; Collaborative, of defamation.<br /><br />&ldquo;Their goal is to destroy the temporary employment agencies in the city,&rdquo; Richardson says. &ldquo;MVP does not steal its employees&rsquo; wages.&rdquo;<br /><br />The temp-worker advocates respond that they are not trying to destroy the agencies, just some of their practices, such as the alleged race-based hiring.<br /><br />Leone José Bicchieri, the collaborative&rsquo;s executive director, calls it &ldquo;sad that one of the major staffing agencies in the state of Illinois has decided to use so much time, energy, resources and money on lawyers&rdquo; instead of addressing worker grievances. Bicchieri says the defamation suit is an effort to silence workers.<br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Allegations hard to prove</span></p><p>If some temp agencies are discriminating, it is difficult to find out how many. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does not tally complaints against staffing firms.</p><p>But a few of those EEOC complaints in recent years have led to six-figure settlements from those companies. &ldquo;There have always been staffing agencies willing to steer employees based on race and other illegal factors, and that&rsquo;s certainly ongoing,&rdquo; said Jean Kamp, a top attorney of the EEOC&rsquo;s Chicago office. &ldquo;As more people are working through staffing agencies, it&rsquo;s more of a problem.&rdquo;<br /><br />Besides filing EEOC complaints, temp workers alleging race-based hiring discrimination&nbsp;are also dragging staffing firms into federal court. In the Chicago area, Williams is representing plaintiffs in three class-action suits. The defendants include MVP, four other temp agencies and three companies that contracted with the agencies for labor.<br /><br />But alleging discrimination is easier than proving it. In court, MVP has claimed that it does not keep records on people who arrive in search of a job. That claim, contradicted by a company vice president at a July forum recorded by WBEZ, has made it difficult for the plaintiffs to gather information about the job seekers&rsquo; race.<br /><br />&ldquo;This issue is about to be resolved,&rdquo; state Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) said last week as he came out with draft legislation that would tighten up record-keeping requirements. His proposal would require staffing firms to keep a contact form on each job seeker and enable those workers to indicate their race and gender on that form. The idea is to make hiring discrimination easier to find.<br /><br />&ldquo;Hopefully we&rsquo;ll get to the bottom line in resolving this open and blatant discrimination against African Americans, [whose] unemployment rate is just as high as our Latino brothers and sisters,&rdquo; Dunkin said.</p><p>The two main trade groups representing temp firms in the state &mdash; the Staffing Services Association of Illinois and the Illinois Search and Staffing Association &mdash; both declined to comment about the discrimination allegations and Dunkin&rsquo;s proposal.<br /><br />Dunkin says he will introduce that bill this fall or winter after gathering co-sponsors.</p><p>In the meantime, Flowers is still hoping to find more income. &ldquo;Holidays are coming up and it&rsquo;s real rough on me,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to be winter and the heat and gas bills are going to go up even more. I would like my kids to have a nice Christmas like everybody else.&rdquo;<br /><br />He might be eligible to file a claim under one of the class-action suits against MVP, but the company is not showing much interest in settling.<br /><br />So, Flowers says, he will keep showing up at the temp agency. Some day, he says, it might send him out to work.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/temp-work-grows-african-americans-push-their-fair-share-110945 Global Activism: el Fuego del Sol works for sustainability in Haiti and Dominican Republic http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-el-fuego-del-sol-works-sustainability-haiti-and-dominican <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/FdS IOM workers and stove.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Years ago, when we first met Global Activist and Chicagoan Kevin Adair, founder of <a href="https://sites.google.com/a/elfuegodelsol.com/elfuego/">El Fuego del Sol</a> (FdS), his group primarily focused on eco-tourism in the Dominican Republic. But since then, FdS has branched out into humanitarian work in places like Haiti. For our <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em> segment, Kevin will update us on his work. FdS is &ldquo;a social-eco enterprise that works in Haiti and the Dominican republic to create long-term jobs and address intractable social and ecological issues.&rdquo;<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/165203922&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I remember another wild story from the past year. Last November (2013), 9-year-old Karen, the daughter of our General Manager, Franky was struck by a car on her way home from school in the DR. She was critically injured, but no hospital would admit her because most of the FdS team was working Haiti, and the hospitals in the DR required needed huge cash up-front before the would accept her. So she was driven overnight by ambulance from hospital to hospital for over 10 hours. Five hospitals refused to treat her because her injuries were so severe.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Fortunately, we were planning for the mission trip of the Hinsdale Adventist Health medical mission who were arriving in January 2014. And we had been networking with hospitals for follow-up care in conjunction with the doctors&#39; visit.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">So FdS Supervisor, Frida, who is Karen&#39;s aunt, called from Haiti and coordinated with one of those hospitals in Santo Domingo to let Karen in to their emergency room, while we were sending funds from Haiti by Western Union. The hospital treated Karen and saved her life.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">When the Doctors came in January, their orthopedic specialist confirmed that Karen had been very close to death, but complemented the care that Karen received that saved her life, including a &#39;hip-splint&#39; that saved her leg.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">The need for medical missions is great in the DR and Haiti, and that&#39;s why FdS is seeking more medical groups to come down, work with us and provide medical care to some of the most impoverished people in the Americas.</p></p> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 09:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-el-fuego-del-sol-works-sustainability-haiti-and-dominican Lawyers fear speedy deportations harm minors http://www.wbez.org/news/lawyers-fear-speedy-deportations-harm-minors-110715 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rocket docket.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lawyers who work with unaccompanied, illegal child migrants in Chicago are raising the alarm over new fast-track deportations, saying the process may result in a denial of due process in court. Referring to the expedited schedulings as the &ldquo;rocket docket,&rdquo; many fear that children may be scheduled for court hearings so quickly that they may not have time to find lawyers, or if they do, their lawyers will not have enough time to craft a defense case. Ultimately, this could result in more children returning to the dangerous environments that they&rsquo;d fled.</p><p>&ldquo;We somehow got notice of hearings that they had been scheduled to attend in Chicago on a Monday, and this was on a Thursday or Friday when they contacted us, &rdquo; said Lisa Koop, associate director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center. &ldquo;We thought it was a fluke or a glitch in the system.&rdquo;</p><p>The NIJC helps thousands of immigrant children that pass through federal shelters in Chicago. Koop said kids who arrived in the Spring originally had seven or eight months between the time the Department of Homeland Security filed a Notice to Appear in Chicago&rsquo;s immigration court, and the &ldquo;master calendar hearing,&rdquo; which signals the opening of removal proceedings against an immigrant. But those hearings have suddenly been moved up several months, to August.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not a lot of time to secure an attorney, begin to develop case theory, start to strategize about how this case ought to be prepared and presented moving forward,&rdquo; said Koop.</p><p>In fact, Koop said scores of children whose master calendar hearings were moved up had not even received notice of the change.</p><p>&ldquo;We very quickly learned a lot of the children weren&rsquo;t aware they had these hearings,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;either because the notices hadn&rsquo;t reached them yet or because the notices had been sent to an incorrect address.&rdquo;</p><p>The address discrepancies were likely because the child had been reunited with family elsewhere in the country shortly after the Notice to Appear had been filed in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve really shifted gears and our whole staff is just calling all of these kids that are on dockets, and trying to figure out where they are, and letting them know they have court,&rdquo; she said. Koop said NIJC attorneys have been getting permission from the children to move to change venue for the children&rsquo;s cases. On one day earlier this month, they filed 200 motions for change of venue on behalf of kids that once, but no longer, were sheltered in Chicago.</p><p>The U.S. is dealing with record numbers of unaccompanied children coming across the Southwest border. In the ten months leading up to August, nearly <a href="http://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/SWB%20Family%20and%20UAC%20Apps%20through%20July.pdf">63,000</a> were caught. More than three-quarters come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Koop said nearly 60 percent of the children that the NIJC screens in Chicago shelters are eligible for asylum, or some other form of protection against removal.</p><p>&ldquo;Our concern is that there is a compromise of due process when they&rsquo;re required to press forward with a case before they&rsquo;re able to fully prepare it, before they&rsquo;re able to have any opportunity to recover from whatever trauma or negative experience gave rise to the need for them to flee,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Attorneys who work with unaccompanied minors say trauma, and deep emotional distress, is common among child migrants. Alex, a 17-year old Salvadorian who fled his home two years ago to avoid recruitment to a gang, is one example. Because he fears reprisals against his family, WBEZ is not using his full name.</p><p>&ldquo;I had been jumped on three occasions and I didn&rsquo;t feel safe. I wanted to move... from my home to another place, but I didn&rsquo;t know where to go,&rdquo; said Alex. &ldquo;My country is small and the gangs are everywhere. My dad had also become afraid that they might kill me, or something. He said maybe the best way for me to get away from them would be to come to the United States.&rdquo;</p><p>Alex&rsquo;s father arranged for him to take buses and cars with strangers from El Salvador, through Guatemala, into Mexico, and ultimately across the U.S. border. He made the journey with dozens of others. But after days walking and sleeping in the desert, they were caught by border patrol.</p><p>Alex was taken to a children&rsquo;s shelter in Houston, where lawyers tried to start working on his case. But he fell into a deep depression.</p><p>&ldquo;When I had those problems, I didn&rsquo;t want to talk to anyone,&rdquo; Alex said. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t want to leave my room. I just stayed in bed.&rdquo;</p><p>The lawyers couldn&rsquo;t help Alex in that condition, so they transferred him to a mental health treatment center for nine months. Ultimately, Alex recovered and won asylum. He&rsquo;s 17 now, and lives with family in Chicago.</p><p>Without that time to recover, Alex said he wouldn&rsquo;t have been able to help his lawyer understand why returning home would be dangerous. Under the new docket system, he likely would have been sent back. That&rsquo;s what lawyers fear will happen now to other children.</p><p>The Department of Justice&rsquo;s Executive Office for Immigration Review confirmed that it&rsquo;s prioritizing children&rsquo;s removal cases, but denied that it compromises due process. In an email to WBEZ, a spokeperson wrote &ldquo;...the immigration judge ensures that the individual understands the alleged immigration law violations. The judge also provides information on available free or low-cost legal representation resources in the area.&rdquo;</p><p>But lawyers who help migrant children say that&rsquo;s not enough. It often takes several months for children to schedule a legal screening and to secure an attorney who&rsquo;s willing to take the case for free. Experts who work with the children say they hope immigration judges across the country will grant children continuances in their cases, to allow them extra time to find counsel. But even that may not be enough.</p><p>&ldquo;The rubber&rsquo;s really going to meet the road when the children show up after these several weeks of their continuance, and what the judge does if the child does not have an attorney,&rdquo; said Megan McKenna of Kids in Need of Defense, a New York-based nonprofit that helps migrant children find pro bono attorneys across the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;re going to be seeing is 70-90 percent of these children will not be represented in their deportation proceedings,&rdquo; McKenna added, &ldquo;and that can mean children being sent back to situations of harm, and this is the harm they fled.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Vocalo&rsquo;s <a href="https://twitter.com/NorthsideLou">Luis Antonio Perez</a> contributed translation for this story.<br />Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau Reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lawyers-fear-speedy-deportations-harm-minors-110715 Refugee youth services threatened http://www.wbez.org/news/refugee-youth-services-threatened-110656 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Refugee kids (1).JPG" alt="" /><p><p>As families prepare for a new school year, some of the most vulnerable kids and parents may have to go it alone. Refugee assistance programs in Illinois are set to lose a federal grant that helps K-12 students transition to life in the U.S., and that supports critical resources for teachers and refugee parents.</p><p>&ldquo;This program will pretty much shut down as of August 14 of 2014,&rdquo; said Melineh Kano, Executive Director of RefugeeONE, a refugee resettlement agency in Chicago. The organizations youth program provides after-school tutoring and social gatherings for roughly 250 refugee children every weekday during the school year, as well as weekend, in-home tutoring for refugee children who often come to the U.S. with little to no English skill, and often below grade level.</p><p>Additionally, the program&rsquo;s case workers are critical to enrolling children in schools when families first arrive, as many refugee parents are unable to fill out the paperwork themselves, and rarely understand what type of documentation they are required to bring to register their children.</p><p>&ldquo;Many of the parents that we are serving haven&rsquo;t really had the opportunity to deal with any formal school systems,&rdquo; explained Kano. &ldquo;So they depend on us to help them and orient them.&rdquo;</p><p>But this year, Kano and those who work with other refugee assistance programs in Illinois, are fretting over whether they&rsquo;ll have money to continue supporting kids and their families through the school year. The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement largely funds refugee services, and has recently warned assistance organizations that money is getting tight &mdash; because it also is responsible for the care and shelter of unaccompanied children who are caught illegally migrating to the U.S. The number of children detained since June of 2013 has surged, prompting the ORR to divert money that was earmarked for refugees to deal with the situation.</p><p>Since <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/feds-set-divert-refugee-funds-deal-unaccompanied-minors-110594">WBEZ last reported on this</a>, ORR has announced that it will restore funding to some core services. However, discretionary grants that pay for K-12 support, senior services and preventative health programs remain in jeopardy. In Illinois, youth services received $711,729 last fiscal year.</p><p>Kano said ORR money makes up about 80 percent of the budget for RefugeeONE&rsquo;s youth program. If that money is not renewed, she said she&rsquo;ll be left with less than one full-time employee to handle K-12 services. She said that means newly-arrived refugee families wouldn&rsquo;t receive the basic education that her organization promotes.</p><p>&ldquo;Something as simple as you have to dress your kids properly for school and you have to feed them breakfast before they go to school,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;because otherwise the teacher is going to notice that your child is not well taken care of, and they might call the Department of Child and Family Services for neglect.&rdquo;</p><p>Kano said extreme examples like that are rare, but they could happen more often without the support and intervention of RefugeeONE&rsquo;s case workers. More common are everyday household issues that refugee parents run into, often because they don&rsquo;t know how to support their kids in a new environment.<br /><br />&ldquo;I had a problem with my son,&rdquo; said Amal Khalid, a refugee who arrived from Sudan with her three children last year. &ldquo;My son (didn&rsquo;t) listen to me, and he (didn&rsquo;t) do his homework, and everything. Just he want to sit and watch TV and playing.&rdquo;</p><p>Khalid said a staff member at RefugeeONE helped by making a schedule for her 8-year old son.</p><p>&ldquo;She said you give him this routine for everything,&rdquo; she explained. &ldquo;When he (wakes) up, (goes) to school and he (comes) back, eat, and like one hour for writing, reading. I can&rsquo;t do that by myself.&rdquo;</p><p>Khalid said her son&rsquo;s back on track now.</p><p>RefugeeONE&rsquo;s youth program also provides a critical, one-stop shop for many teachers who need help reaching students&rsquo; families.</p><p>&ldquo;If something arises throughout the year, that&rsquo;s my first contact, again mostly because of the language barrier,&rdquo; said Benjamin Meier, a math teacher at Roosevelt High school. The school has kids from more than 40 language backgrounds, including Arabic, Nepali, Amharic, Tigrinya, Karen, Zomi, Swahili, Dzongkha, and more.</p><p>Meier said RefugeeONE not only helps him communicate with parents, but also teaches parents how to get involved in their children&rsquo;s education.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of the parents traditionally just defer to whatever the school says,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;We prefer more of a give-and-take.&rdquo;</p><p>Meier said RefugeeONE&rsquo;s youth program has been effective because it brings in families&rsquo; case workers to craft holistic approaches to children&rsquo;s success.</p><p>Kano said RefugeeONE will dip into its general funds to keep services going through September. But if federal funds aren&rsquo;t released by then, the organization is planning to discontinue its youth support in October.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 11:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/refugee-youth-services-threatened-110656 Global Activism: Somali Women Association of Illinois helping refugees http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-somali-women-association-illinois-helping-refugees-110614 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ga-nana profile_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-68f46e64-b189-5f5b-2f0a-bc3933c46009">Nana Ahmed grew up as a Somali refugee in Yemen. When she came to America, Nana wanted to give back by helping refugees like herself. She, along with seven other Chicago women, formed <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SWAI2014">Somali Women Association of Illinois</a> (SWAI). They provide education and housing assistance, job training and health access to try and help refugee women and their families settle into their new lives. Nana will share her own experience and how it&rsquo;s helped dozens of refugees.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/162151706&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 12:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-somali-women-association-illinois-helping-refugees-110614 Child migrant expert: The kids will keep coming http://www.wbez.org/news/child-migrant-expert-kids-will-keep-coming-110612 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/unaccompanied minors.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Federal officials recently announced they would close three temporary detention shelters in Oklahoma, Texas and California, in part because the flow of children across the southern U.S. border has slowed. The news comes weeks into a heated debate over what to do about large numbers of unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America.</p><p>But one Chicago expert, recently returned from studying migrant children in Guatemala, believes the slowdown won&rsquo;t last.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a culture of migration where, in many ways, it is a rite of passage that you do start to think about your household, you think about your family, you think about your future at age 13, 14, 15,&rdquo; said Lauren Heidbrink, an anthropologist and Assistant Professor at National Louis University in Chicago.</p><p>Heidbrink has authored a book on the topic, titled <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Migrant-Youth-Transnational-Families-State/dp/0812246047"><em>Migrant Youth, Transnational Families and the State: Care and Contested Interests</em></a>, and recently returned from a field study in the Departments of San Marcos and Quezaltenango in western Guatemala.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a different cultural context. There are different expectations of young people in Guatemala than we have of a 14-year old in the U.S,&rdquo; said Heidbrink.</p><p>While there, Heidbrink said she witnessed a widespread campaign to dissuade children from making the dangerous journey to the U.S.-Texas border. The U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection has launched a <a href="http://www.dvidshub.net/unit/USCBP#.U-Kos_ldWSo">multimedia campaign</a> &mdash; which included commissioning a <a href="http://www.dvidshub.net/audio/37278/radio-psa-la-bestia-norte-full-version#.U-Kon_ldWSr">radio tune</a> modeled in the tradition of popular gangster ballads known as <em>narcorridos</em> &mdash; to emphasize the dangers of the journey to children and their families.</p><p>But in the indigenous, subsistence-farm communities where Heidbrink works, the messages are not taking root.</p><p>&ldquo;They know the risks,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But the risks of remaining outweigh the risks of migration.&rdquo;</p><p>Heidbrink said many children believe subsistence farming won&rsquo;t be enough to support their families &mdash; and that way of life has been further threatened by toxic mining activity nearby. In other parts of Guatemala and Central America, kids may face different hardships. But in most cases, Heidbrink says they decide to leave for the same reason: they see little future where they are.</p><p>&ldquo;People don&rsquo;t want to migrate,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a last resort for many people.&rdquo;</p><p>But Heidbrink said once children make the decision to leave, they&rsquo;re thrown into a vicious cycle. Those that are deported don&rsquo;t bring home the message that they shouldn&rsquo;t make the journey. On the contrary, Heidbrink said it becomes more necessary than ever for the children to try to reach the U.S. again.</p><p>&ldquo;Youth and families are being returned to the very situations that they fled, and nothing has changed,&rdquo; she explained. &ldquo;And in fact, layered on top of that, for many youth, is the added debt it takes to migrate.&rdquo;</p><p>Heidbrink said many families pay smugglers between $7,500 and $10,000 to get their children to the U.S. safely, with whopping monthly interest rates as high as 15 percent. Even with a college education, Heidbrink said most Guatemalans can&rsquo;t earn that kind of money. So many kids feel their only way to pay the debt is to <em>re-</em>migrate.</p><p>Heidbrink believes the U.S.&rsquo;s renewed focus on deporting migrant children faster will only make the problem worse. That&rsquo;s because the stigma of returning to their home without having successfully made it in the U.S. means they feel pressured to try again.</p><p>Additionally, Heidbrink said boys typically face ridicule for wearing different clothes, more hair gel, or listening to different music, upon being deported back to their communities. For girls, there&rsquo;s an assumption that they had to sleep their way to the U.S. &mdash; or that they were raped.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s one family that I&rsquo;m working with who let their community members know their daughter had migrated to Guatemala City to work as a domestic laborer in someone&rsquo;s home, when in fact, she had migrated to the U.S.,&rdquo; said Heidbrink. &ldquo;And when she was apprehended and removed, they met her in Guatemala City&hellip; brought her traditional clothing and told her what story to tell the community so that she could avoid that type of stigmatization in her community.&rdquo;</p><p>She said the children see the U.S. as one of their only ways out of poverty, and emphasizing the dangers of the trip isn&rsquo;t enough to deter them. Instead, she said they might give the decision more pause if they realized how difficult life in the U.S. could be when they get here.</p><p>Daniel Restrepo can attest to that.</p><p>&ldquo;I remember my couple first days, I was so happy because I was made it in the United States,&rdquo; he said. Restrepo was 17 when he made the journey from Colombia three years ago.</p><p>Unlike the children that Heidbrink studies in Guatemala, Restrepo had an easy journey to the U.S.: he came on a plane with a tourist visa.</p><p>But Restrepo said he overstayed that visa because he felt Colombia was too violent and corrupt. He never thought life in the U.S. would also be hard.</p><p>Restrepo said he jumped at the opportunity to be a dishwasher in a restaurant, because his weekly paycheck of $300 was more than he&rsquo;d make in one month in Colombia.</p><p>&ldquo;But I came again to the real world that $300 is nothing,&rdquo; he continued, &ldquo;And I started to owe money, and that&rsquo;s when started the nightmare in the United States.&rdquo;</p><p>Restrepo works two jobs now, as a cook and a valet parking attendant, at downtown Chicago restaurants. He&rsquo;s barely making it. Last week the gas was shut off at his Logan Square studio because he owes $600 in unpaid bills. Restrepo said there are still no opportunities back home, but he&rsquo;s not making much headway here, either.</p><p>Heidbrink said it&rsquo;s been left to other parties &mdash; like non-profits in Guatemala &mdash; to share stories of struggle like Restrepo&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;People don&rsquo;t talk about those experiences, don&rsquo;t talk about the challenges and poverty that exists in the U.S.,&rdquo; she explained. &ldquo;So there is this idealized image of what it is to be living in America and working in America.&rdquo;</p><p>Heidbrink said, rather than emphasizing the dangers of the journey, the more effective way to convince Central American children to stop migrating to the U.S. may be to tell them what happens once they get here.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 10:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/child-migrant-expert-kids-will-keep-coming-110612 Feds set to divert refugee funds to deal with unaccompanied minors http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/feds-set-divert-refugee-funds-deal-unaccompanied-minors-110594 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Refugee cuts 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Refugee assistance agencies in Illinois are steeling themselves for dramatic cuts in federal funding, which threaten to gut core services aimed at helping newcomers adjust and integrate to life in the U.S. The money instead is slated to go toward dealing with a crisis of unaccompanied minors streaming over the southern border, overwhelming temporary shelters that the U.S. is scrambling to expand.</p><p>&ldquo;This is really an impossible situation that we&rsquo;re being put in, in which we have to rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak, and have to choose between two vulnerable groups of people,&rdquo; said Erol Kekic, chair of the Refugee Council USA and Director of Immigration and Refugee services at Church World Service.</p><p>&ldquo;This is happening against the backdrop of this incredible upheaval that is plaguing our world at this point in time with (the) refugee crisis getting way out of hand in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Somalia, etc,&rdquo; he added, &ldquo;and (the) U.S. has to do its part to assist in this process.&rdquo;</p><p>In Illinois, resettlement agencies and refugee support organizations stand to lose a total of $2.7 million in funds from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. The agency is responsible for services rendered to refugees from their point of arrival in the U.S., to up to five years after. Refugees, unlike unaccompanied minors, are legally present in the U.S., and have already undergone rigorous background checks by the Department of Homeland Security and immigration authorities before they are admitted to the U.S. by the State Department.</p><p>Statewide, the cuts represent $1.3 million in core programming for refugees, and an additional $1.4 million in discretionary grants which fund services for K-12 children, seniors, preventative health care, and intensive case management for refugees with particularly acute need of assistance. Currently, Illinois provides these services to about 3,500 refugees, according to Deborah Covington, Vice President of Planning and Allocation for Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. That organization is Illinois&rsquo;s prime contractor for distributing and overseeing the bulk of ORR refugee funds.</p><p>Covington said programs funded by the discretionary grants will be completely eliminated. The state&rsquo;s seven refugee resettlement agencies, and two additional resettlement support organizations, will have discretion as to how to accommodate the cuts in core programming.</p><p>&ldquo;When budgetary crises happen, and we have a humanitarian crisis that&rsquo;s going on on the border, it&rsquo;s inappropriate to pit one deserving group against another,&rdquo; said Covington. &ldquo;The pie needs to be expanded, not simply rearranging the pie that&rsquo;s there.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We would pretty much be gutting our services,&rdquo; said Melineh Kano, Executive Director of RefugeeONE, which resettles the largest number of refugees in the City of Chicago. &ldquo;We have nine programs. Of the nine programs, four would totally shut down, and two programs would be drastically reduced.&rdquo;</p><p>Kano said unless Congress passes an emergency supplemental funding bill that replenishes the cuts, she will likely have to eliminate core services as soon as October 1. Slated for the chopping block would be programs for youth, seniors, intensive case management, medical case management, and English language training. In addition, she will drastically reduce regular case management services with bilingual staff and employment services. Kano anticipates she will have to cut 10 of her 33 full-time employees, and 7 of her 11 part-time employees.</p><p>&ldquo;Now, what that translates into in terms of service provision is that you have to have intensive services to help single mothers, to help individuals who perhaps don&rsquo;t have significant literacy skills, to help individuals who have been warehoused in refugee camps for several years, to be able to adjust to life in Chicago and become self-sufficient,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Kano and others said cuts would also come at a time that refugees need them more than ever. In accord with a <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/10/02/presidential-memorandum-refugee-admissions-fiscal-year-2014">Presidential Determination</a>, which announces the number of refugees that the U.S. may accept in a given fiscal year, and from which area of the world, the U.S. has increasingly been taking refugees from countries such as the Congo, Iraq, Bhutan, and starting next year, Syria.</p><p>&ldquo;These are definitely individuals who have been through war and trauma,&rdquo; said Kano, &ldquo;and without the important programs that we are here to provide for them, they would really have (a) hard time to integrate into society here and become self-sufficient.&rdquo;</p><p>Refugee advocates are hopeful that federal lawmakers will reach an agreement on a supplemental funding bill to replenish the cuts by September 30. While a proposal by President Barack Obama to provide $3.7 billion toward handling the unaccompanied minors crisis would have made the refugee services whole, neither the House nor Senate have shown an appetite for such a large allocation. In particular, funding contemplated by House GOP leaders doesn&rsquo;t appear to come close to restoring the cuts for refugee services.</p><p>&ldquo;The House leadership is interested in passing legislation that provides much less funding and is much more focused on border enforcement and limiting the President&rsquo;s authority than they are in really solving the humanitarian crisis,&rdquo; said Fred Tsao, Senior Policy Director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re still hoping that some kind of resolution will take place,&rdquo; he added, &ldquo;but obviously the clock is running.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 01 Aug 2014 17:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/feds-set-divert-refugee-funds-deal-unaccompanied-minors-110594 Global Activism: 'ConTextos' aiding children in Central America through literacy education http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-debra_gittler.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-5ec3e45c-419f-6c53-a54b-a65dded641a7">While Central American children flood into the U.S. to escape crime &amp; poverty, Chicagoan Debra Gittler works to create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity &amp; advocacy, that she hopes will help these children thrive and keep them in their home countries. Debra moved to Central America to start <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a>. The group says &ldquo;[We do] more than just develop the mechanical skills of sounding out words. We encourage kids to think deeply, to be curious, and to question their environment.&rdquo; For <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em>, Gittler tells us how her work is spreading across Central America.</span></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5ec3e45c-4188-13cc-6742-dee95fbd88c5"><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159145115&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Just the other day, I was at a school in Usulutan, one of the areas of El Salvador that has had an explosion of violence post the gang truce. I sat with Manuel, a first grader, who told me: &quot;I have lots of family in the United States,&quot; he explained. &quot;Cousins and aunts and uncles. But I want to stay here in El Salvador. I like my school.&quot;</p><p>When we asked Debra to tell us about the importance of her work, she wrote:</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I want to emphasize the relevance of our work in Central America, especially given the refugee kids at the border. To emphasize that the reality is, these kids have access to schools, but no education; ConTextos changes that. We are growing throughout the region and looking for greater support in our hometown here in Chicago. Those kids at the border... those are the same kids that we serve.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Just the other day, I was at a school in Usulutan, one of the areas of El Salvador that has had an explosion of violence post the gang truce. I sat with Manuel, a first grader, who told me: &quot;I have lots of family in the United States,&quot; he explained. &quot;Cousins and aunts and uncles. But I want to stay here in El Salvador. I like my school.&quot;</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Before ConTextos, Manuel had no books and his entire experience was copy and dictation. He went to school four hours a day. Now, his school is open to him all day long, he has access to books and other materials, and he has real conversations in his classroom. We read a book called &quot;Where are the Giants&quot; about hidden magic in the world. Manuel says to me (I&#39;m translating): &quot;You know--and this isn&#39;t in the news, but it&#39;s true-- I&#39;ve heard that there are fairies in Mexico...&quot;</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I asked his teacher about Manuel. She said that before, she used to scold him for his imagination. Now she encourages it. Her students are encouraged to think and imagine and explore. Classroom attendance is up.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">And this school is in the midst of gang territory. MS 18 is scribbled on the walls of the school. Manuel&#39;s photo is below.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">It&#39;s important to realize that even though we are a literacy organization-- and the only org in the region with the goal and implementation in multiple countries; whereas Africa and Asia have multiple orgs addressing the lack of resources and training across countries, Central Am/ Latin Am have NONE-- we go far beyond just teaching reading.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">At one of our schools--an area of extreme poverty where most live as subsistence farmers-- the school ran out of space for their school garden. &quot;Why can&#39;t we plant on the roof?&quot; asked one of the 5th graders. At first, the teacher balked that it was a ridiculous idea. Now they are growing basil and mint on their roof. The teacher explained: &quot;by changing how we teach-- asking questions, encouraging the kids to question-- we&#39;ve seen changes in how they approach life.&quot; These kids live in areas with plenty of problems. With ConTextos&#39; intervention, they&#39;re encouraged to think about those problems.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">That school was one of our first schools. There&#39;s now 13 schools in their network. Kids read at a &quot;1st world&quot; level. The Ministry uses the schools as models for teacher development.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 09:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy