2010 National Gathering Speakers
Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins
General Minister and President
(Disciples of Christ)
Sister Helen Prejean
Author of Dead Man Walking
Anti-Death Penalty Activist
Roman Catholic Sister
People and Policy: A Faith Mandate to Heal a Broken Immigration System
This plenary explored the experience of individuals who live the reality of the intersection of immigration and our current failed system. We also engaged with another person’s biography and explored how different people think and feel about the issue. With this expanded awareness, we examined effective advocacy messages that can both touch hearts and change policy.
Frank Sharry is Founder and Executive Director of America’s Voice, the newly-founded communications campaign working to win common-sense immigration reform. With the support of allies in the immigration reform community, he created the new organization in early 2008 to focus on communications and media as part of a renewed effort to win comprehensive immigration reform. Prior to heading America’s Voice, Frank served as Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum for 17 years. The Forum, based in Washington D.C., is one of the nation’s premier immigration policy organizations, and has been at the center of every major legislative and policy debate related to immigration for the past quarter of a century.
Before joining the Forum, Frank was Executive Director of Centro Presente, a local organization working with Central American refugees in the greater Boston area. He initially became interested in immigrants and refugees while teaching in Singapore in the late 1970s. He was hired to assist with the rescue and relocation of boat refugees fleeing war-torn Vietnam and landing in Indonesia. Sharry is a native of Connecticut and a graduate of Princeton University.
Sister Mary McCauley, BVM, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is a member of the Sisters of Charity, BVM of Dubuque, Iowa. During her initial years of ministry she taught at Our Lady of Loretto School in Hempstead, New York and served as principal of St. Thomas in West Hempstead, New York. After nineteen years in education she returned to the Midwest to administer her community’s nursing home in Dubuque, Iowa and later continued ministry within her religious community as a regional representative and Vice President. Her final years of active ministry were in Northeast Iowa where she was the pastoral administrator of three rural parishes: St. Mary’s in McGregor, St. Patrick’s in Monona and St. Bridget’s in Postville.
The most memorable day of her forty-five years of ministry took place on May 12, 2008, the day of the immigration raid at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa. It was this day and for many days to follow that she found herself offering pastoral presence and support to over 400 devastated and traumatized women, children and men.
Sister Mary retired from active ministry in the fall of 2008. Her focus now is to share the pain of the people most directly affected by the now infamous immigration raid with the hopes that “the tragedy of Postville will serves as the impetus for comprehensive immigration reform, so that our twenty-first century immigrants might have the same opportunities as our immigrant ancestors.”
Forced From Home: Durable Solutions for Displaced Persons
An estimated 14 million refugees worldwide have been forced to flee their homelands due to fears of persecution, violence and conflict. Approximately 26 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been uprooted by natural disasters and the same forms of persecution and violence that affect refugees, but without crossing an international border. Stateless persons are not recognized as citizens by any country.
This session discussed challenges to assistance, protection, and durable solutions for these forcibly displaced populations. Participants gained the knowledge needed to advocate for improved U.S. protection and assistance for those who cannot return home, through case studies from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Colombia, Haiti and more.
Semi-plenary speakers shared their policy, advocacy and field experience:
Asia-Pacific Regional Director
Church World Service (CWS)
Marvin Parvez, a native Pakistani, has devoted the last 20 years of his life to the betterment of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) by working for humanitarian relief, sustainable development, resource mobilization, and social justice advocacy in Asia, Europe and the Pacific. To date, he has spent 19 years of his career with CWS. He began his career as a Program Officer, was promoted to Coordinator of Pakistan programs, and then worked for 8 years as Director of Pakistan and Afghanistan programs before assuming his current role as Asia-Pacific Regional Director. From 1993-1994, Parvez served as a manager with OXFAM Mazar-i-Sharief, when he managed operations in the largest refugee camp, WATSON, for uprooted communities from Tajikistan, and IDP camps in Pul-e-Khumri. As the Asia-Pacific Regional Director of CWS, he is currently responsible for the management and expansion of CWS’ programs and partnerships in Pakistan, Thailand, Laos, Afghanistan, East Timor, Indonesia, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Cambodia. Providing direct supervision to Country Representatives, he is indirectly responsible for at least 600 staff. Parvez is fluent in English, Urdu and Punjabi and has a working knowledge of several local languages. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania.
Senior Advisor, U.S. Government and External Affairs
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Jana Mason is Senior Advisor for Government Relations and External Affairs at the Washington, D.C. office of the UNHCR. In this role, she acts as a liaison for UNHCR and represents the agency’s interests with the U.S. government, particularly the State Department and Congress, nongovernmental organizations, and other entities. Prior to joining UNHCR in 2008, Mason was Director of Government Relations and Advocacy at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), where she advocated for humane international and U.S. policies toward refugees and other forced migrants. Before then, Mason was with the U.S. Committee for Refugees for 11 years and served as a policy analyst for the Asia/Pacific region, advocating for refugee protection and assistance. Mason has worked in the refugee arena since 1983, which included a position as Assistant Director of Refugee Programs for the State of Virginia. She has earned degrees from Georgetown University Law Center, University of Virginia, and Boston University.
Refugees International (RI)
Andrea Lari joined RI in 2004 and currently manages the organization’s advocacy work on geographical priority areas. He has conducted missions to countries in the Great Lakes of Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa, in Colombia and the Andean Region. On these missions, he has focused on protection and humanitarian responses to recently displaced people and the return and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced people. Before joining RI, Lari was a researcher for Human Rights Watch where he focused on Angola and forced displacement. His career in humanitarian work began when he volunteered with Jesuit Refugee Service in Angola. He then served as their Country Director for Angola from 1998 to 2000 and conducted humanitarian needs assessments in Pakistan and Afghanistan in early 2002. Lari grew up in Italy and began volunteering for projects assisting refugees in Croatia and Albania early in his career. He has a Master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Bologna, where he wrote a field-based final thesis entitled, “Human Rights Protection of Guatemalan Refugees in Southern Mexico,” and has completed the International Summer School at the Refugee Studies Program in Oxford. Lari’s native language is Italian, and he is also fluent in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
Understanding the Root Causes of Migration
Magda Lanuza is Program Coordinator for Latin America with the Kenoli Foundation, currently living and working in El Salvadoar. Magda is a Nicaraguan born activist who has worked for over 14 years on sustainable development issues, water, natural resources, and macro-economic policies.
Njoki Njehu is one of the founders of the African Social Forum, she is an activist who now serves as the Director of Solidarity Africa Network in Action and the Daughters of Mumbi Resource Center in Kenya.
Melinda St. Louis is the Deputy Director of the Jubilee USA Network in Washington, DC. She has more than a decade of experience working on economic justice issues as an advocate, educator, and analyst in Washington as well as in Central America.