The livestream below will begin at the time of the event.
Charting a better path that expands access to critical programs and services for immigrant families, regardless of immigration status, is possible in every U.S. state.
Join Next100, Haitian Bridge Alliance, and ImmSchools on Wednesday, February 17, at 3:00 PM ET for the release of Embracing Our Strengths, a two-part, immigrant-designed and immigrant-led project to address the needs of undocumented and mixed-status immigrant families through improved state policy. We will discuss the power of immigrant voices and the need to broaden narratives, and will share policy recommendations to improve state policy based on the perspectives of immigrant families and a fifty-state policy scan. These recommendations are a tool for state advocates, policymakers, and grassroots organizations to keep pushing for the environments we know all our neighbors deserve, regardless of immigration status. It’s time to support immigrant families.
The event will be simultaneously interpreted in Haitian Creole and in Spanish thanks to Respond: Crisis Translation.
Please register to obtain the Zoom link.
- Introductory Remarks by Representative Veronica Escobar (D-TX)
- Wency M. Ecclesiastre, immigrant case manager and project coordinator, Haitian Bridge Alliance
- Agripina Gomez, nursing student, DACA recipient, and community organizer
- Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director, Haitian Bridge Alliance
- Lorena Tule-Romain, co-founder and chief strategy officer, ImmSchools
- Rosario Quiroz Villarreal, policy entrepreneur, Next100
- Moderated by Emma Vadehra, executive director, Next100
Presented by Next100, Haitian Bridge Alliance, and ImmSchools.
Representative Veronica Escobar, a third-generation El Pasoan, proudly represents Texas’s 16th Congressional District. She took office on January 3, 2019 as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives after making history as the first woman elected to this seat and the first of two Latinas from Texas to serve in Congress. Congresswoman Escobar serves on the prestigious House Judiciary Committee, House Armed Services Committee, House Ethics Committee, and the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. She is a member of Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), the New Democrat Coalition, and serves as vice chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus. In Congress, she has established herself as a national leading voice on immigration. She has led legislation to address our nation’s immigration challenges in a responsible and humane manner by ensuring accountability, transparency, and oversight.
Wency M. Ecclesiastre began as a volunteer translator/interpreter for Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA) in 2016. She became the organization’s Immigrant Case Manager and Project Coordinator in 2020, managing HBA’s local and national cash assistance programs for immigrant clients, coordinating the organization’s projects including informational virtual events and campaigns that advocate for fair and humane immigration policies, and supporting immigrants and asylum-seekers released from detention facilities by assisting them in obtaining social services. Wency is a former volunteer president of a local Amnesty International chapter that focused on political prisoners and the rehabilitation of child soldiers. She has an extensive and diverse professional background, including almost two decades of experience assisting government and corporate executives through executive assistant and administrative roles. Wency speaks 5 languages and is a trained professional classical violinist. She originally hails from Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, and currently divides her time between Florida and California.
Agripina Gomez actively works to address barriers to access for immigrant communities in the Rio Grande Valley. As a former organizer with La Union del Pueblo Entero, Agripina has campaigned around issues of infrastructure, police accountability, family unity, college access, and immigrant rights throughout colonias in the Valley. Her work connecting community members with their local commissioners helped ensure their voices were heard, ultimately gaining electricity for households in colonias. Agripina is currently pursuing a nursing degree, planning to continue serving her community by providing quality health care to English and Spanish-speakers alike. She continues to support her community by helping DACA recipients renew their temporary status and connecting community members with essential immigration and COVID-19 related services. She is the mother of a nine-year old. Agripina contributed to “Our Voices, Our Policy” through her participation in the focus group conversations. She is originally from Tamaulipas, Mexico but has lived in the Rio grande valley since she was 9 years old.
Guerline Jozef is the co-founder and executive director at the Haitian Bridge Alliance. Guerline co- founded Haitian Bridge Alliance in 2016 to address the needs of Black Immigrants at the U.S.—Mexico Border. She initially went to the borderlands to help Haitians but she stayed for all Immigrants. The Haitian Bridge Alliance’s mission is to guide, elevate and empower Haitian and other Black immigrants through advocacy, organizing, outreach, and direct services. Guerline also co-founded the Black Immigrants Bail Fund (BIBF), a national project of HBA and African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs (ABISA) to address the high bonds given to Black immigrants from the Caribbean, including Afro-Latinxs and Africans, by providing free assistance and relief to black immigrants. She is originally from Haiti and continues to advocate on issues that affect us all locally and globally including immigration, child sexual abuse, gender-based violence, and other human right issues to create systematic changes.
Lorena Tule-Romain was born in Michoacán, Mexico and immigrated with her family to the United States when she was 9 years old. Prior to co-founding ImmSchools, she was the managing director of DACA Corps Member Support at Teach for America where she maintained a diverse range of functions supporting over 250 teachers across the country. Lorena was also a teacher assistant in Bogotá, Colombia and has been an activist for young undocumented students for more than ten years. Her passion for education equity comes from personal experience growing up as an undocumented student living in a low-income community in Dallas, Texas. Lorena holds a master’s degree in education from Southern Methodist University and serves the City of Dallas’s Park and Recreation Board.
Rosario Quiroz Villarreal is a policy entrepreneur at Next100 focused on increasing educational equity for immigrant students and students of color, including by removing the systemic barriers their families face when seeking opportunity. She spent five years teaching in public and charter school settings in Texas and New York. She was recognized as a Champion of Change by the Obama administration for her work with immigrant English learner students. Rosario has a BA in sociology with a special concentration in sustainable development from Columbia University and is currently pursuing her MA in international educational development from the Teachers College at Columbia University. Rosario serves on the Teach for America DACA Advisory board. She is originally from Lerdo, Durango, Mexico and grew up undocumented in western North Carolina.
Emma Vadehra is the executive director of Next100, a startup think tank for the next generation of policy leaders, and a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. Emma was chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama administration, serving under both Secretary John B. King, Jr. and Secretary Arne Duncan. As chief of staff, she worked closely with the White House and across the department to develop, execute, and oversee the administration’s pre-K-through-college education agenda. From 2009 to 2011, she served as deputy assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development at the Department of Education, overseeing K–12 education policy development. Emma serves on the boards of Blue Engine, City Year New York, and Govern For America, and is a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. She has a JD from Yale Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Brown University.