Celina Villanueva Spotlights Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Students in grades 3 through 12 met in the Heller Auditorium on Wednesday for an informative and thought-provoking Morning Ex with Celina Villanueva, the NADP and Youth Engagement Manager at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR).

Beginning with a video and the question, “What would you do if you came home one night and couldn’t find your parent, sibling or friend? If that day turned into two, turned into a week, a month?” Villanueva encouraged the audience to empathize and try to understand what life is like for an immigrant or a refugee in this country. She then explained that the ICIRR is “dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social and political life of our diverse society.” For example, in her time with ICIRR, Villanueva has helped to expand voting rights through her efforts on Online Voter Registration, Election Day Registration and the Automatic Voter Registration, all of which are now law in Illinois. Additionally, she leads the largest immigrant civic engagement program in Illinois that has registered more than 200,000 new American voters and mobilized hundreds of thousands more to get out to vote.

Villanueva also explained and discussed some legislation and key terms that are at the forefront of the public discussion on immigrant and refugee rights. Specifically, she spent time explaining Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the DREAM Act bill. Further, she described and debunked some common stereotypes that surround and misinform the public about who an “immigrant” or a “refugee” actually are.

Having provided this new knowledge and a more complete understanding of some key issues and terms, Villanueva ended by encouraging our students to get involved. Whether it was a suggestion to any student, even the youngest in attendance, to call one of Illinois’ politicians and spread their voices or an encouragement for our Upper School young women to think about running for office as they become adults, Villanueva left the audience with the drive to become more active citizens!
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.