2019 Workshop Speakers

2019 Building Bridges Conference

  • Workshop #1

Workshop Title: “Navigating the Domestic Violence Experience through the Lens of an Immigrant Survivor”

Workshop description: Standpoint is a statewide non-profit whose mission is to promote justice for domestic and sexual violence victims. This workshop is being led by Standpoint attorney, Rachel Kohler, and advocate, Thi Synavone, and will provide students with information about the history of immigrant protections under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and how those protections went into effect in the mid-90s and early 2000s. We will also unpack how current immigration policies have affected these protections and analyze the current issues facing immigrant victim/survivors living in the United States today. This workshop is great for anyone interested in the current state of immigration law or for those with an interest in the field of domestic and sexual violence.

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Rachel Kohler, Standpoint Staff Attorney – Rachel Kohler went to law school at Hamline University School of Law and has been working primarily in immigration law since 2009. She joined Standpoint as a staff attorney with immigration focus and works on asylum cases, VAWA self-petitions, U and T visa applications, abuse waiver removal of conditions applications, along with other forms of relief related to domestic and sexual violence. She provides legal advice and counsel over the phone directly to victims, as well as to professionals working in the field of domestic and sexual violence.

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Thi Synavone, Standpoint Advocate Support Program Manager – Thi Synavone has worked in the Domestic and Sexual Violence Field for over 20 years. Thi has provided direct advocacy to survivors, managed programs, coordinated events to promote awareness about DV and SV for professionals and community members, and facilitated trainings on advocating for immigrant and refugee populations. Thi is a graduate from Augsburg College with a dual major in Political Science and Communications.

  • Workshop #2

Workshop Title: “Immigrant Family Separation in U.S. History”

Workshop Description: The separation of immigrant families has a long history in the United States. Building on the separation of slave families and Native American families, the U.S. government and Americans who believed in social control began separating immigrant families at the beginning of the twentieth century. Immigration authorities rejected hundreds of children when they arrived in the United States for fear that they would become a burden. They often had to make the trip back home alone. Those who were already in the United States had to attend Americanization classes or, in the worst case scenario, were kidnapped and shipped off to farms in the Midwest as free labor. Then, like now, many Americans believed that these actions had a civilizing mission, but the psychological toll lasted a lifetime.

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Maddalena Marinari teaches History at Gustavus Adolphus College. She has published extensively on immigration restriction and immigrant mobilization, including articles published in theJournal of Policy History, Journal of Gilded Age and Progressive Era,Social Science History, and Journal of American Ethnic History. She is the author of Unwanted: Italian And Jewish Mobilization Against Restrictive Immigration Laws, 1882-1965and a co-editor of A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered: U.S. Society in an Age of Restriction, 1924-1965. She is also one of the scholars who created the #ImmigrationSyllabus, an online tool for anyone interested in understanding the history behind current debates on immigration.

  • Workshop #3

Workshop Title: “Family Matters: The struggles of immigrant and refugee mothers in rural Minnesota”


Workshop Description: In the course of the twenty first century, anti-immigrant images and discourse have flourished. The most recent wave of anti-immigrant sentiment has emboldened nativists and legitimized their values through the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant women, men and children. The tear gassing of refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border, detention of immigrant children and immigration ban of 7 majority Muslim countries reveal the insidious policies and practices immigrant communities experience. Yet as many immigrants struggle to enter our borders, many silently suffer within U.S. society. In an era post-Civil Rights and women’s movements, immigrant women of color face unique barriers rooted in institutional racism. Marielynn will share her perspectives as a community-based provider to discuss the unique experiences of immigrant and refugee mothers raising a family in rural Minnesota.

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Marielynn Herrera is program manager of New American Families at YWCA Mankato, where she leads the department's efforts to impact racial and civil rights, women's empowerment and advancement, and health and safety for immigrant and refugee women and their families. Marielynn has several years of experience addressing equity issues and providing direct service to immigrant women, specifically Latinx communities across various states. Most recently, she addressed intimate partner violence, police response, lethality assessments, and economic abuse for the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, and served as their program coordinator for the Center for Legal Services.


Marielynn began her career providing direct service as a literacy tutor for migrant and Latinx youth in California and family violence victim's advocate in the east coast. She earned her B.A. from Purdue University.

  • Workshop #4

Workshop Title: “DACA as the protective gateway for passionate, undocumented students”


Workshop Description: Irma will talk about her personal experience growing up as an undocumented immigrant in rural Minnesota and her journey as an undocumented student at Gustavus. In addition, we’ll explore how the undocumented youth movement led to state and national immigration policy changes such as the MN Dream Act and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a federal program that allows some immigrants who came to the United States as children to avoid deportation for two years and gain permission to work.

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Irma Márquez Trapero is an education and immigrant rights activist. She was born in México, but immigrated to Minnesota with her family over twenty years ago. In 2012, she graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College and was a Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ Policy Fellow in 2016. While at Gustavus, Marquez Trapero was heavily involved and engaged in campus life. She was a member of the Zeta Phi Chi sorority, involved in “I Am We Are” and the Crossroads Program, and was Co-Chair of the Building Bridges Conference. In 2010, Marquez Trapero was named a Jay and Rose Phillips Family Scholar, a program that recognizes and rewards Minnesota private college students who strive to make life better for people with unmet needs in Minnesota communities.


Irma was the recipient of the 2013 Immigrant of Distinction Award for her advocacy work for immigration rights. She currently serves as President of the board of directors of Immigrant Law of Center of Minnesota, a nonprofit that provides immigration legal assistance to low-income immigrants and refugees in Minnesota.