Beyond Borders: A Conference on Migration & Integration

Posted on 06/04/2019
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We welcome you to join the Multilingual & Multicultural Center of Portland Public Schools at Beyond Borders: A Conference on Migration and Integration

Friday, October 18, 2019

8AM - 3:30PM

University of Southern Maine, Portland.



Beyond Borders: A Conference on Migration and Integration Nativist, negative rhetoric on immigrants pervades our society today. What are the facts about U.S. immigration policies and how do they affect current immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers? Why do people come to the United States and how do they get here? What are best examples of policies and practices that promote social inclusion, economic mobility, educational achievement, and equity for newcomers? How has community reception contributed to successful integration of immigrants? Experts on immigration, PreK-16 education, workforce development, and health and social services will discuss these questions and more. 

The conference features a keynote address followed by a full day of breakout sessions devoted to three themes: America as a Refuge, Immigrant Economic Power and Access, and Education and Integration

It is designed for people from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, including educators, policy makers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, members of community-based organizations, and all individuals who want to understand the immigrant/refugee experience and the role we all play in the newcomers’ successful integration and full participation in the economic, social, cultural, and political life in the United States.

We are very excited to welcome Tom Gjelten who will be the Keynote Speaker!

Tom Gjelton Mr. Gjelten is the Religion and Belief Correspondent for National Public Radio News. He has worked for NPR since 1982, when he joined the organization as a labor and education reporter. More recently he has covered diplomatic and national security issues, based at NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C.. He is the author of A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story.

Confirmed Breakout Session and Presenters:
US Refugee Resettlement and Cultural Competency Training


Tarlan AhmadovPresenter: Tarlan Ahmadov is the State Refugee Coordinator at the Office of Maine Refugee Services, Catholic Charities Maine, where he has worked since 2004.  Prior to his immigration to the USA, Tarlan worked in the education field in Baku, Azerbaijan, and later joined the non-profit sector, combined with a consulting business to the Consulate of Azerbaijan in Tehran, Iran. 

The refugee resettlement overview training covers a broad range of topics. Themes include the history and integration services of Catholic Charities of Maine, and international, national, and local refugee resettlement processes. We will discuss the populations resettled in Maine, barriers and challenges faced by refugees, as well as the contributions of refugees to Maine culture and society.

Epigenetics: The Transmission and Inheritance of Trauma

Arabella PerezPresenter: Arabella Pérez is the Assistant Clinical Professor of Sociology at the University of New England. She is a native Spanish speaker and daughter of parents from Cuba and Puerto Rico. Epigenetics has been described as the means through which environmental influences “get under the skin” and serves as a pathway for the intergenerational transmission of the effects of trauma. Terms such as historical and intergenerational trauma are often heard, especially in relation to racial and ethnic populations and groups that experience significant health disparities. 

This workshop reviews the research on cultural trauma, biological findings in trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, and the epigenetic mechanisms for transmission of trauma effects. The implications for the transmission of cultural trauma in children will be discussed, focused on the relevance of cultural narratives and the possibilities of resilience.

Student-Centered Ethnic Studies

ChandaPresenter: Chanda Womack is the Founding Executive Director of the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE). Chanda is a fearless and tireless advocate for equity and social justice. Chanda founded ARISE, a non-profit devoted to educational access, equity and success. Her leadership and movement building has garnered local and national recognition for ARISE and Rhode Island. In 2017, Chanda was the recipient of NAACP Thurgood Marshall, and other awards. She will be joined by the Program Director of ARISE, Ngan Nguyen, and two Youth Leaders of ARISE, Jeny Daniels, and Niamiah Jefferson.

As a result of the Vietnam War, 1.3 million Southeast Asians were displaced and became refugees in the United States. The session will debunk the model minority myth and establish the importance of applying an ethnic studies framework as students engage in learning history and as it relates to community investment, representation, and student academic achievement. Successes of the organization will be highlighted as it relates to the partnership and implementation of our ethnic studies course, which explores the impact of the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia and groups who are indigenous to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

Participants will learn about resources diverse stakeholders can utilize to support the effort for ethnic studies and will examine a successful model for district- and community-based organization partnership.



Reparations for Central American Refugees

Sarah Sherman-StokesPresenter: Sarah Sherman-Stokes is the associate director of the Immigrants’ Rights & Human Trafficking Program, where she supervises students representing newly arrived unaccompanied children facing deportation, refugees fleeing human rights abuses, and other vulnerable immigrants in court and administrative proceedings. She also teaches Immigration Law and has spoken nationally on issues related to immigration, asylum, detention and mental competence in immigration removal proceedings. She has written for the Washington Post, Cognoscenti and The Hill and her scholarship has appeared in the Hastings Law Journal, the Villanova Law Review and the Denver Law Review.

In this session we will explain the legal definition of "refugee" and why refugees are entitled to asylum under United States immigration law. Also discussed will be the many practical and legal hurdles facing refugees seeking asylum, both long-standing and recently adopted. Many asylum applicants are from Central America, and the United States played a role in creating the conditions that made them refugees. Accordingly, the United States has a legal and moral duty to provide assistance.

Facts in a Fake News World: Crossing Borders Acting Gay To Save Your Own Life

Kyle KnightPresenter: Kyle Knight is a researcher in the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch. Prior to this, he worked as a journalist reporting from Burma, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia. He studied cultural anthropology at Duke University.

For decades, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people around the world have courageously and creatively fought for their fundamental rights. This has often been done in the face of widespread antipathy toward their cause, and perhaps even more pervasive and insidious ignorance about their existence. And despite the impressive gains made in recent years toward recognizing LGBT people's basic dignity, the situation remains fraught throughout much of the world. And so, LGBT people flee. But the suffering hardly ends there. Because what does it mean to be gay enough to seek asylum? And how do you convince a government based on a completely different culture that they should recognize an innate and private part of you to the point of wanting to protect you?

Achievement Gap or Education Debt? : Understanding Inequity in the Classroom

Fiona HopperPresenter: Fiona Hopper is the District Academic Enrichment Specialist leading PPS's work to develop a Wabanaki studies curriculum.

Barrett WPresenter: Barrett Wilkinson is the Equity Coordinator for Portland Public Schools.

In this workshop, educators of all levels are invited to learn about systemic inequities in education. Using Gloria Ladson-Billings framing of “education debt,” we will consider our shared responsibility to address ongoing barriers facing students in our education system. Participants will learn about Portland Public Schools’ current equity focus and how it is affecting district policy, curricula, and classroom practice. In this interactive session we will provide participants with tools for evaluating their pedagogy, methodology, and classroom environments with a lens on representation and decolonization.

Voices from the Field: Educators’ Roles Supporting Immigrant Communities


Rebecca LowenhauptPresenter: Dr. Rebecca Lowenhaupt is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Boston College. A former teacher, Dr. Lowenhaupt conducts research about school leadership in the context of immigration and trains aspiring school principals. In this session, that draws on research in six school districts across the country, we will examine the emerging roles of educators who work with immigrant youth and their families and discuss how schools support immigrant communities by focusing on school climate, building cross-sector relationships, and advocating for students.

The Immigration Debate and The Compassionate Stance

The public debate about immigration, immigrants and refugees appears to be split between those who favor immigration and those who oppose it. This split between people who adhere to different points of view can lead to animosity that can further distance our society from a compassionate response. This session will explore this debate in light of research from contemplative neuroscience. We will learn the roles that limiting labels play in impeding empathy and participants will be guided through practices that help us to deepen our compassion for self and other. We will work in dyads and triads to identify and dispel obstacles to compassion for all concerned: immigrants and refugees and for those who hold an opposing point of view.

Presenter: Vaishali Mamgain, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Economics and the Director of the Bertha Crosley Ball Center for Compassion at the University of Southern Maine.

The public debate about immigration, immigrants and refugees appears to be split between those who favor immigration and those who oppose it. This split between people who adhere to different points of view can lead to animosity that can further distance our society from a compassionate response. This session will explore this debate in light of research from contemplative neuroscience. We will learn the roles that limiting labels play in impeding empathy and participants will be guided through practices that help us to deepen our compassion for self and other. We will work in dyads and triads to identify and dispel obstacles to compassion for all concerned: immigrants and refugees and for those who hold an opposing point of view.



Human Trafficking: Identification and Service Response in Maine

Stephanie BratnickPresenter: Stephanie Bratnick is a refugee trauma specialist with ten years of experience in crisis and conflict intervention. She worked for the UNHCR designing durable solutions for vulnerable asylum seekers. She is currently the Director of Anti-Trafficking Services at Preble Street, Portland, Maine. (The mission of Preble Street is to provide accessible barrier-free services to empower people experiencing problems with homelessness, housing, hunger, and poverty, and to advocate for solutions to these problems.

This workshop will be a training intended for the general public, that will include an overview of human trafficking in the state of Maine, including federal and state laws, indicators and red flags, the needs of survivors, and the statewide response.

Identification and Response is a victim-centered and rights-based training comprised of interactive, skills-building sessions. Special emphasis will be placed on the systematic and interpersonal vulnerabilities of Maine’s various migrant groups, as well as trafficking trends in their country of origin and along specific migration routes. Using nationally recognized best practices and trauma-informed principles, participants will learn skills for addressing concerns about potential sex and labor trafficking, special relief and protection resources for survivors, and how to make referrals.
Participants will leave the training with a "toolbox" on all the material covered during the training, including a copy of the Adult Screening Tool, the Maine response protocol, the Delphi indicators, and additional resources for further research and learning.

Shared Space Café: A Model for Equitable Community Engagement

Pious AliPresenter: Pious Ali; learn from Portland Empowered’s Parent Lead Organizers, who are critical ambassadors between schools and other parents or community members, some of whom do not speak English or have had minimal access to formal (US) education.

Shared Space Cafés bring together parents, teachers, and administrators in a safe and friendly atmosphere with parent-led conversations in their native languages. This model enables barriers to be broken down and for student success to become the focus of an open discussion. Learn about this powerful community engagement model from experienced parent leaders.

Immigration Law Basics and Recent Developments: Impact on Students


Beth StickneyPresenter:  Beth Stickney, Esq. directs the Maine Business Immigration Coalition (MEBIC) and has specialized in Immigration and Nationality law and policy since 1986.  Her focus now is on advocacy for better laws and policies for immigrants nationally and in Maine.


For many students and their families, their immigration status and concerns about real or rumored changes in immigration policy loom large in their lives.  This has long been the case, but under the current administration, fear of current immigration policies and what might happen next create very real stresses that can affect students’ ability to learn.   This session will provide information on immigration basics to help give educators context, and will discuss changes since January 2017 that may have a real impact on students’, and their families’, lives.

Math for Agency

Danielle AlliPresenter: Danielle Alli is Director of Cultural Proficiency in the Office of Opportunity Gaps for Boston Public Schools. She previously chaired the Math for Agency Caucus and taught for Boston Public Schools.

This workshop will look at the problematic nature of many of the materials that we currently present to students, focusing on Math curriculum (grades 8th-12th). We will explore interdisciplinary work between Math and historical content intended to create more meaningful and empowering programs of study.

Re-imagining Migration: The Language of I/m/migration, Politics, and Perception            

Adam StromPresenter: Adam Strom is the Director of Re-Imagining Migration. He is the author, editor, and producer of numerous educational resources that have been used in tens of thousands of classrooms and by millions of students around the world. His work focuses on preparing educators to help them and their students to develop the knowledge, empathy, and mindsets that sustain inclusive and welcoming communities.              

Language shapes and reveals perspectives, biases, stereotypes, and misinformation. Fear over saying the wrong thing can lead people to avoid civic dialogue. In this session, we will engage participants in classroom-friendly strategies exploring the language of i/m/migration while promoting the knowledge, empathy, and mindsets that sustain welcoming communities.

Ticket Pricing:

Early Bird Registration (Through Sept. 30): $125.00

Regular Registration (Beginning Oct. 1): $135.00

Day-of Registration (Oct. 18): $150:00

Conference Exhibitor Information
We invite you to exhibit your materials.  Tables are available in a high traffic, visible, and open location in the lobby in front of the lecture hall where the keynote will be delivered. Conference attendees will have ample time throughout the day to peruse all exhibits.

Anyone interested should contact Linda Ward at [email protected]

Exhibitor options:

• $160.00  One exhibitor registration with six-foot table, includes lunch. • $125.00  One additional six-foot table with lunch included for one additional person.

Purchasing Program Ad Space

Ad space in our conference program is available for purchase. If you are interested, contact Nanette Dyer Blake at [email protected].

$300.00   Full page ad in program. $150.00   Half page ad in program. $75.00   Quarter page ad in program.


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