National Council of Teachers of English Blog

Students share their favorite parts of Enrique's Journey
Immigration is among the most polarizing issues. In the media, on campus, over the dinner table, conflicting information, ideologies and rhetoric often stoke the divide. 

Today in my blog for the National Council of Teachers of English, the largest group of English teachers in the country, I show how stories can shake people out of entrenched views--even on immigration. Stories make you see things in new ways. Indeed, my own reporting since 2014, when I gave the opening keynote at the NCTE convention, has forced me to change stubbornly held--and outdated--views about how the U.S. can begin to solve our immigration challenges.  

Headlines and statistics simply don't capture what it's like to leave everything you know and love for the unknown, to venture from one land to another. But stories do. Enrique's Journey takes one story, of one boy, and humanizes immigrant children in the United States.

Students and teachers contact me every day to share how much my book has changed their perspectives. Emails arrive from young adults who have been raised by white supremacists in rural America, in south Chicago neighborhoods by families torn apart in the era of Jim Crow, and yet these students connect with Enrique. Dialogues have emerged between Latino students who have felt on the outside looking in, and now know they are an important part of this nation's fabric ... and future. 

Enrique's Journey  has been used in hundreds of classrooms to bring students together, to focus on similarities rather than differences, to address the fear, the rage. Teachers tell me they connect better with their newcomer students, that Enrique's story has created a bridge across cultures. 

Please share your own classroom experiences with me at

And read my blog for the NCTE HERE.

Students share their bookmarks and notes from Enrique's Journey

Helping Social Workers, Counselors & Teachers                                                                                                                            
Each year, I travel to different parts of the U.S., Europe and Latin America to share my research and thoughts about migrants and immigration. This year, the audiences have increasingly been educators, counselors, and social workers--folks who want to better support immigrant children in a time of heightened fear. Their stories are similar to Enrique's in  Enrique's Journey,  only in reverse. U.S. born children fear being torn apart from parents if their mother or father is deported.  

Deportations have risen 70% since the new administration, creating deep anxiety for many children. 

Recently, I spoke to 700 counselors with the Los Angeles Unified School District. Some counselors shared stories of elementary school students sobbing in class, children who were losing their hair, children who had developed nervous ticks. Parents often wouldn't send their children to school on days where they feared U.S. immigration agents might be active in their neighborhoods.  Counselors and others I speak to want to know: how can they best address the traumas these children endured in their home countries, the journey here, and once in the U.S.?  In the coming months, I'll continue this work by speaking to educators and counselors in Des Moines, Chicago, at at California's County Welfare Directors annual convention. 

Honduran Pastor Daniel Pacheco Visits the U.S.

Photo: Cam Sanders

I met Pastor Daniel Pacheco last year in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. I was impressed by his willingness to put his life on the line in his quest to reduce gang violence in one of the most dangerous places on earth. He wants Honduran children to be able to live peacefully in Honduras, not feel forced to migrate to the U.S. In May, Pastor Pacheco visited the U.S for the first time to present at the L.A. Gang Violence Prevention & Intervention Conference. He shared his challenges and successes.  While he funds most of his work promoting peace himself--he also works as a carpenter--he gets help from the U.S. government. Readers of this newsletter have also helped fund his important work. Thank you!

To read more about U.S. funded efforts to combat gang violence in Central America, check out my most recent piece in the Los Angeles Times. Read here.
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