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Contact: Ed Walz
Phone: (202) 657-0685

Youth, children’s advocates rally for immigration reform that puts kids and families first

Children of Immigrants

Ed Walz
(202) 657-0685 (office)

Washington – Wendy Cervantes, Vice President of Immigration and Child Rights Policy at First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, spoke at the National Rally for Citizenship before a crowd of tens of thousands at the U.S. Capitol. Advocates for immigrant families, civil rights, working families, labor, faith, education, and children challenged Congress today to deliver immigration reform that works for children and families.

“For too long Congress has passed immigration policies that ignore or even devalue children,” said Wendy Cervantes. “America needs immigration reform that promotes children’s interests and protects children’s rights.”

Children of immigrants comprise one-fourth of all U.S. children, and represent the fastest growing segment of the population. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has deported over 200,000 parents of U.S. citizen children in just the past two years. Yet the immigration debate has largely ignored children’s issues.

First Focus and the Women’s Refugee Commission established principles for children in immigration reform, which were endorsed by over 200 groups and highlighted at the rally. The principles include:

A direct, clear, and reasonable pathway to citizenship
Protection and promotion of children’s fundamental rights
Appropriate protections for children in enforcement efforts
Keeping families together
Young advocates spoke at the rally about how immigration enforcement directly impacts them and millions of children and families across the country. About 5.5 million children in the United States face the constant threat of having a parent taken away because of immigration enforcement. That number includes about 4.5 million children who are U.S. citizens.

“Every day we wake up wondering if our family will still be together, if I will see my parents again, if one day in the future they will be able to help me choose a career, meet my spouse, know my children,” said Macky Fofana, whose family has lived in the United States for 10 years since fleeing Mali to avoid female genital mutilation, at the rally. They have had to apply for work permits or stays of deportation annually after their application for asylum was rejected. “We need a way to get out of this limbo, to be able to make plans for the future. We are calling on Congress to pass immigration reform legislation that will allow us and families like us to stay together permanently.”

The rally featured a wide range of supporting organizations, such as the National Education Association, CASA de Maryland, National Latino Children’s Institute, Women’s Refugee Commission, United We Dream, and American Federation of Teachers.

First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit