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Oberlin Club of Washington, DC: Cracks in the Foundation: Dispelling Immigration Myths

Oberlin Club of Washington, DC: Cracks in the Foundation: Dispelling Immigration Myths

Cracks in the Foundation: Dispelling Immigration Myths

A Zoom Program Featuring Mary Giovagnoli P’22 and Cristina Velez ’95;
Moderated by Deeana Jang ’79


Immigration has risen to the top in polls as “the most important problem” and once again, in an election year, politicians are using it to fan the flames of xenophobia while not proposing or seeking any solutions to “the problem.” This program will feature a discussion among long-time advocates for immigrant communities and for a fair and equitable immigration policy that reflects our nation’s humanitarian values, keeps families together and addresses our workforce needs. The audience will learn the facts about immigrants, about our current immigration system and why it doesn’t work, and how to respond to myths about immigration and immigrants.

Mary Giovagnoli P’22 is the proud mother of Rebecca Kades, Oberlin class of 2022. She is also the Senior Counsel for Policy and Advocacy at Kids in Need of Defense where she works on reshaping immigration policy to meet the needs of children, particularly those who travel alone on their migration journeys. She is currently the co-chair of the Evacuate Our Allies Unaccompanied Afghan Minor working group and is responsible for policy and strategy for KIND’s new campaign, Keeping Kids Safe, a ten-year initiative to re-imagine children's immigration, starting with the principle that children are children first. Prior to joining KIND in 2019, Mary has worked in a variety of government and not-for-profit roles, first as a federal law clerk in the Northern District of Illinois and then joining the INS an Attorney General Honors hire, beginning her immigration career as an attorney for the former INS specializing in asylum and refugee law. She remained with the government after the creation of DHS, first in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office of General Counsel and later as the Senior Advisor for Congressional Relations. A fellowship to Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s staff of the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Subcommittee allowed her to work on the 2007 immigration reform legislation. After that experience, she left government to become a full-time advocate for change, with senior roles at the National Immigration Forum and the American Immigration Council. She returned to government in 2015 when she received a political appointment to serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Immigration Policy at DHS. In 2017 she joined NAFSA: Association of International Educators, where she was the Senior Director of Policy and then went on to the Refugee Council USA, serving as its executive director from 2018-2019. She is a member of the ABA’s Commission on Immigration and a frequent contributor to Ms. Magazine. Mary graduated from Drake University, received an MA in rhetoric from UW-Madison and completed further studies for a PhD before making the questionable, but ultimately correct, decision to attend law school, also in Madison.

Cristina Velez ’95 is the Legal and Policy Director of ASISTA Immigration Assistance, a national organization that advocates for immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. In her role, she provides policy analysis and leadership at the intersection of immigration law and gender-based violence and oversees the provision of training and technical assistance to legal practitioners working on humanitarian immigration petitions for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking. Previously, Cristina was a Supervising Attorney at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG), which among other issues, advocates for immigrants with criminal legal system contacts. Cristina does not view immigrant survivors of violence and those facing the harsh immigration consequences of criminal convictions as distinct populations or necessarily at odds in their pursuit of fair treatment and justice. Before entering national advocacy work, Cristina directed the Immigration Project at Queens Legal Services of Legal Services NYC and spent a decade leading the immigration practice at the HIV Law Project. Cristina clerked for the Honorable Denny Chin in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and is a proud graduate of Cornell Law School and Oberlin College ’95 (where she was a “wintery arch”).

A true Obie, Deeana Jang ’79 has dedicated her career to advancing civil and immigrant rights and social justice. She is a native Californian and is the granddaughter of a “paper son” from Zhongshan, China. She is currently the Policy Director for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and served as Interim Deputy Director for Administrative Advocacy at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). She formerly served as Chief of the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) in the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. She also worked on health and social service policy at the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum and on immigrant access to early care and education at the Center for Law and Social Policy. She was a legal services attorney for many years representing low-income families in domestic violence, immigration, education and housing issues. Recently, she served as Board President of ASISTA, a national organization that provides advocacy, training, and technical support to enhance access to justice and safety for immigrant survivors of crime. She also served as Board Chair of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. She received numerous awards including the Trailblazer Award from NILC, Legal Services Achievement Award from the State Bar of California Legal Services Section, and Community Leader Award from the Family Violence Prevention Fund. She received her BA in English and Mass Communications from Oberlin College and her JD from King Hall School of Law at UC Davis.


Oberlin Club of Washington, DC: Cracks in the Foundation: Dispelling Immigration Myths

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