Advocacy was critical when the proposed legislation challenging the birthright citizenship of children was introduced in 2012. It was clear that U.S. born Latino children of immigrant parents were being targeted by this legislation and the intent of the legislation was to deny children citizenship status. Recognizing that Latino children did not have a voice, NLCI took a position to support the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and speak on behalf of children’s birth rights. Birthright citizenship legislation was defeated.
In our nation, there is a lack of priority and protections for children under the law. In 2013, a large number of uninvestigated child abuse and neglect cases by law enforcement dating back several years were brought to light in the state of Arizona. NLCI, along with local child serving organizations, served as a voice for children and as a result the state of Arizona created a Division of Child Safety and Family Services to address the uninvestigated cases and improve the state’s policies to protect children. Additionally, in 2014 children on the border seeking refugee status due to violence in their countries were not welcomed by our nation and legislators began to seek ways to deny children protection under the refugee laws of the United States. NLCI brought to the attention of community and policy makers that the children seeking refugee status had rights under U.S. Refugee laws. Today, DACA students (Dreamers) who have lived in the United States the majority of their lives continue to fight for their right to become citizens, while Congress works to deny them legal status in the U.S.
The rights of children’s are poorly defined in legislation and by the courts. While the United States is built on protecting the interests of individuals, the nation has yet to extend to children legal standing and a right to an education, to be free of hunger, poverty, neglect and abuse, accessible health services and free of persecution due to their immigrant history and family ties.
NLCI believes that children and youth should have a voice in laws that affect them and uses Legislative Town Halls, social media, leadership training, advocacy and civic engagement activities to empower youth to advocate on their own behalf. NLCI intends to draw attention to the rights of children by utilizing social media to engage, inform and mobilize young Latinos, help them understand the importance of advocacy in assuring just and fair treatment under the laws of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.