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LALS 50th Anniversary!

Stay tuned for anniversary events beginning in the Fall 2024 semester!
Nov 7 2023

Child Migration Across the Americas Symposium

November 7, 2023

8:45 AM - 4:45 PM



Institute for the Humanities


153 Behavioral Sciences Building (BSB), 1007 W. Harrison Street, Chicago, IL 60607


About this Symposium

Child migration has become an increasingly important phenomenon in the Americas. Thousands upon thousands of children leave their countries of origins every year to reunite with migrant parents (most often in the United Stated) and/or in search for a better life. Notably, these migrant children face a continuum of violence in their countries of origin, while in transit, and at their destinations. They are directly impacted by the violence of poverty and inequality, criminalized violence, ecological devastation, internal political conflicts, racism, sexism, gender phobias, and patriarchal violence. Migrant children face particularly stark dangers on their migration journey. They often have no choice but to use hyper-violent clandestine air, land, and sea routes, traversing them alone or with the aid of often unscrupulous smugglers. They also must contend with draconian state border regimes, which traverse the Americas, aimed at managing migrants. These regimes work to illegalize migrant children—undocumenting, detaining, and deporting them.

Given the scale and complexity of child migration, it has become imperative to gain a better grasp of this multifaceted phenomenon. The Child Migration Across the Americas symposium aims to understand the past and present complexities of child migration on our continent. In particular, we aim to: 1) critically understand the role that child migration has played in past and present migratory processes across the Americas; 2) comprehend the lived experiences of Latin American migrant children across the Americas, highlighting the interconnections between Latin American countries, as the spaces of expulsion and transit, and the United States, as a space of destination where children face multiple forms of social, economic, and legal violence; 3) explore the politics of care that migrant children, their caretakers, and communities have deployed to cope with the diverse health and social impacts of migration; and 4) learn from testimonios about how Latin American migrant children have resisted and re-signified child migration. The symposium participants include UIC scholars from diverse departments and colleges, international researchers in the field of child migration, and activists, artists, and migrants.

The “Child Migration Across the Americas” symposium will take place on Tuesday, November 7, 2023. It features a keynote by acclaimed writer Reyna Grande and 3 panels on past and present, politics of care, and advocacy and resistance.



8:45 a.m. - 9:15 a.m. - Continental Breakfast

9:15 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. - Opening Remarks: Jonathan Inda (UIC) Chair, Department of Latin American and Latino Studies (LALS)


9:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. - Panel 1: Past and Present

This panel explores the past and present of diverse child migration experiences across the Americas.


  • Moderator: Tarini Bedi (UIC, Anthropology)
  • Soledad Álvarez Velasco (UIC, Anthropology and Latin American and Latino Studies) "With Coyotes, by Trocha or by Foot: The Past and Present of Child Migration from the Andes to the U.S."
  • Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez (UIC, History) "Childhoods Denied: The History of Rights Violations Against Migrant Latinx Youth in the U.S."
  • Valentina Glockner (National Polytechnic Institute, Center for Research and Advanced Studies) "Child Migration from, within and through Mexico: a Border Regime for Children"
  • Daysi Diaz-Strong (UIC, College of Social Work) "The Adolescent and Adult Transitions of Unaccompanied Mexican and Central American Undocumented Minors"

11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. - Panel 2: Politics of Care

This panel explores the politics of care that migrant children, their caretakers, and communities have deployed to cope with the diverse health and social impacts of migration.

  • Moderator: Barbara Sostaita (UIC, Latin American and Latino Studies)
  • Stephanie Torres (UIC, College of Education) "Immigration Policies and Practices as Structural Racism: Risk and Resistance among Latinx Immigrant Families"
  • Lauren Heidbrink (California State University Long Beach, Department of Human Development) "Negotiating Returns: The Migration and Deportation of Indigenous Youth from Guatemala"
  • Linda Forst (UIC, School of Public Health) "Latin American Child Labor and its Mental and Physical Impacts"
  • Dana Rusch (UIC, Department of Psychiatry and Institute for Juvenile Research) "Evidence-based Practice within the Context of Structural Violence: Advocacy-centered and Empowerment-based Clinical Care"

2:00 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. - Panel 3: Resistance and Advocacy

This panel focuses on how Latin American migrant children have resisted and re-signified child migration, as well as on advocacy on behalf of child migrants.

  • Moderator: Xochitl Bada (UIC, Latin American and Latino Studies)
  • Arleene Correa Valencia (Multidisciplinary and Community-oriented Native Mexican Artist) "Resisting through Art"
  • Jane Liu (Director of Policy and Litigation, Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights) "Advocating for the Rights of Unaccompanied and Separated Immigrant Children: Reimagining Systems and Pushing for Systemic Change"
  • Elianne Bahena (District Chief of Staff for Michael D. Rodriguez, 22nd Ward Alderperson, City of Chicago) "Chicago a True Sanctuary City: Current Challenges for Protecting Migrant Children"


3:30-4:30 - Keynote: Reyna Grande, Author of The Distance Between Us
Introduced by Daniel Borzutzky (UIC, English and Latin American and Latino Studies)


4:30-4:45 - Closing Remarks Soledad Álvarez Velasco (UIC) Departments of Anthropology and Latin American and Latino Studies


Co-Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, Gender Women's Studies Program, and the Institute for the Humanities.
This symposium has been generously funded by a Mellon Foundation Affirming Multivocal Humanities grant.

Registration is now full!




Date posted

Sep 13, 2023

Date updated

Oct 18, 2023


Reyna Grande | Author | Keynote

Reyna Grande is the author of the bestselling memoir, The Distance Between Us (Atria, 2012), where she writes about her life before and after she arrived in the United States from Mexico as an undocumented child immigrant. The much-anticipated sequel, A Dream Called Home (Atria), was released in 2018. Her other works include the novels, Across a Hundred Mountains (Atria, 2006) and Dancing with Butterflies (Washington Square Press, 2009), which were published to critical acclaim. The Distance Between Us is also available as a young readers edition from Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Division–Aladdin. Her books have been adopted as the common read selection by schools, colleges, and cities across the country. Her most recent titles are A Ballad of Love and Glory (Atria, 2022), a novel set during the Mexican American War, and an anthology by and about undocumented Americans called Somewhere We Are Human: Authentic Voices on Migration, Survival and New Beginnings (HarperVia, 2022).