Jasmina Nuhanovic and Sonianne Lozada recently traveled to Washington, D.C. with Lauren Heidbrink, Ph.D., to brief Congressional representatives on the issue of unaccompanied children crossing the border into the U.S.
By Jasmina Nuhanovic and Sonianne Lozada
We recently had the opportunity to take our classroom knowledge to the national stage.
We are both graduate students in the M.A. in Public Policy and Administration program, and have been working for months with our professor, Lauren Heidbrink, Ph.D., on the issue of unaccompanied minors crossing borders into the U.S.
In February, we traveled with Dr. Heidbrink to Washington, D.C. to inform members of Congress and their staffs on her research with young migrants in Central America and her assessments of U.S. foreign policies on development and migration in the region.
We had the opportunity to address some of the misconceptions about unaccompanied minors and their motivations for leaving their home nations, as well as addressing assumptions about the efficiency of current policies.
The issue has been in the news since 2014, when the numbers of unaccompanied children coming to the U.S. started to swell rapidly. (If you like, add one more brief sentence here about what the numbers were, and why they came.)
As graduate students in the MAPPA program at NLU, we’ve learned the importance of using research and data to challenge popular misconceptions and provide the basis for creating informed policy.
We have also learned the power of public discourse in shaping responses by policymakers, and how the policy they create leads to programs addressed at solving the problems.
We met with congressional staff members from both sides of the aisle, from liberal (Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois) to conservative (Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas), as well as groups that advocate for unaccompanied minors such as KIND (Kids In Need of Defense) https://www.supportkind.org/en/, which spearheads a pilot project working to safely repatriate children from the U.S. to Guatemala.
Some of the most common misconceptions about unaccompanied minors are what factors motivate them to make the arduous journey to the United States, and what happens to them when they arrive. It is not, for example, a part of the common perception that violence is a major motivating factor for some (but not all) young people from countries like Honduras and El Salvador. But it is a reality.
Consider, for example the fact that San Pedro Sula in (country) has been designated by the United Nations as the world’s murder capital. There is also a perception that policies like rapid repatriation are the most effective way to deal with the legal ramifications of unaccompanied minors arriving on U.S. soil. However, this is disproved by the fact that 60% of young people processed in this way will make at least one further attempt to migrate.
This experience was invaluable for us as students. We prepared for and led meetings with members of Congress. This enabled us to witness firsthand the role of advocacy and making policy recommendations.
It reinforced for us the importance of research and reliable data in policymaking. It also provided a clearer understanding of what policymaking looks like in the real world, and how we as future policy analysts will craft innovative responses.
This opportunity broadened our understanding of the issue of migration, while at the same time making it very clear that there is much work left to do.
NLU student Elizabeth Kearney is working towards her doctorate in Reading, Language and Literacy.
When NLU student Elizabeth Kearney finishes her dissertation in the Ed.D. in Reading, Language and Literacy program, she will have two masters degrees and a doctorate in education. What does one do with that kind of firepower? In this Q and A, she told us what makes her get up in the morning, which NLU professors inspired her and where her passion lies.
NLU: Elizabeth, could you tell us where you work now, and what you’re doing?
Elizabeth Kearney: I work for the Chicago Public Schools as a part-time second grade teacher. I also work for Concordia University as an adjunct faculty member, teaching in their Master of Arts in Teaching program. I teach literacy courses.
An exciting spring semester has come to an end and I am closer to accomplishing the degree that I am diligently pursing. Now the big question is, “What am I going to do for the summer?” I usually spend a good portion of my summer catching up on my reading. I organize my reading in three categories: academics, inspirational, and pleasure.
Being halfway through the awesome M.S. in Written Communication (MSWC) program, I have already created and begun implementing a post-graduation plan of action. A few months ago I took advantage of the adept services offered by the Career Development Office here at NLU and had my resume critiqued. My job has now become looking for a job, and the CDO was instrumental in assisting me in crafting a first-class resume that I can submit with total confidence to potential employers.
Taking classes at NLU has already helped this educational administration and supervision master’s student move into a leadership role in her district.
Meet Our Students: Julie Gorvett from National Louis University on Vimeo.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. After high school, I went to college but had to take a break to care for my mom, who was ill at the time. During that period, I had a lot of student debt to pay back, and I saw an ad on TV about how the Army could help with student loans, so I decided to pursue it. I loved the Army and the structure of it. Most people don’t love boot camp, but I did. While in the service, I spent most of my days in a giant vault, dismantling weapons. I also was able to travel a lot while in the Army and spent my last tour of duty in Egypt. I was in the military for a total of eight years and am 49 now.
Michael Bahi, a member of the ESL STEM Success Grant cohort B and a teacher in Niles Township High School District 219, was recently published in the latest issue of “ITBE Link,” the quarterly newsletter of Illinois TESOL-BE. His article, “A Deceiving Counting System,” deals with the numbering system used in Arabic and the difficulties for those from Arabic language backgrounds in mastering the “Arabic numerals” used with English. You can read it here.
When I attended NLU for undergraduate studies, I was enrolled in the B.A. in Applied Behavioral Sciences (ABS) program, and it was an incredible experience. This interdisciplinary program is accelerated and intended for adults with significant life experience who have completed previous college coursework. The program is taught using a cohort model, which means I went through the entire program with the same group of students. There was such a trust and bond that formed that the cohort became like my new extended family.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Chicago. When the Army recruiter came to my high school, my ears perked up. I knew I wanted to be a law enforcement officer and learned a great deal about the field through my roles and responsibilities in the Army. My two primary roles in the Army were as a military police investigator and army recruiter. In 2011, I retired with 22 years of active duty in the Army, along with an additional 10 years of service in the Reserves.