2010 Latin America Workshops

By changing its policies, our government can help millions of Latin American families to live with dignity, united with their families, in a place they call home. The United States can reform our broken immigration system and create just policies that end the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as change trade agreements that fuel migration. Our country can direct aid to help displaced people rather than escalating a war in Colombia that forces hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes each year. Our nation can take a strong stance for democracy in Honduras, and give people the freedom to travel anywhere in the region, including to Cuba. Come learn about what the big picture is looking like now in U.S. policy with the Obama Administration and then check out workshops that cover these topics in detail.


Immigration Reform: Why We Need It and How to Get It
(Co-sponsored with US Domestic Track)

Our communities need immigration reform now more than ever, but it can be difficult to understand how the different pieces of the U.S. immigration system fit together, and how they need to be reformed. This workshop will break down the policy goals of immigration reform – including earned legal status for the undocumented, family unity, visa reform, worker’s rights, and enforcement efforts. It will serve as an introduction to the other workshops on the domestic track, which will dive into these issues more in depth. We will examine past immigration bills and current ones to determine what is best for immigrant communities, and will practice messaging support for immigration reform and how we can work together to advocate successfully for it. March 2010 is a critical moment and a policy window for immigration reform, so we must take this opportunity to enact immigration reform before the election cycles prevent it from being considered.


  • Jen Smyers, Associate for Immigration and Refugee Policy, Church World Service
  • Chris West, Community Organizer, Catholic Relief Services, Constituency Relations Support Unit

Global Connections: Understanding the Push & Pull Factors of Migration
(Co-sponsored with the Global Economic Justice Track)

International trade policies and the debt crisis have pushed people to leave their countries, journey across borders, and work and reside in distant lands. Come listen to the stories of three speakers at each point of the journey – from a Central American country facing massive out-migration, the U.S./Mexico border, and the DC-metro area where many new immigrants work and live – and the policies that pushed and pulled them.


  • Magda Lanuza, Program Coordinator for Latin America with the Kenoli Foundation
  • Fr. Bill Morton, SSC, US Vice-Director, Missionary Society of St. Columban
  • Invited Guest from Casa de Maryland; Moderator: Melinda St. Louis is Deputy Director of Jubilee USA.


From Colombia to Mexico: Better Approaches to an Inhumane Drug War

For over a decade the drug war has failed to decrease coca production in Colombia’s mountains or cocaine availability on our streets. In the last three years, Congress has spent over a billion of our tax dollars to bring this abortive approach to Mexico. Why do we prolong such a futile war? Why does the drug war target Colombian farmers, Mexican activists, and African-Americans? Come learn about the drug war’s hemisphere-wide impacts from a Colombia drug policy guru, a Mexico human rights advocate, and a DC-based campaigner for humane domestic drug laws. Get insights on hopeful alternatives to the “war” which would more effectively address problems of drug abuse, and discuss how we can push the Obama Administration to announce an overdue exit strategy.


  • Sanho Tree, Institute for Policy Studies
  • Manuel Pérez-Rocha of IPS & Red Mexicana de Acción Frente al Libre Comercio
  • Eric Sterling of Criminal Justice Policy Foundation.

So How’s It Going? The Obama Administration & Latin America

Has the Obama Administration begun to forge a U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America that matches our concerns for human rights and social justice? It’s been a rocky road so far, and there are bright spots and trouble spots to report. Come listen & discuss with analysts & activists.


  • Adam Isacson of Center for International Policy
  • Lisa Haugaard of Latin America Working Group; Manuel Perez Rocha of Institute for Policy Studies

The Cuban Diaspora: A Changed Community

The Cuban-American community, long thought to be a bastion of support for a harsh policy toward Cuba, has—in its majority—joined what has been the position of the mainline churches for decades: The travel ban – and the full embargo – is an inhumane and failed policy. Critical support from Cuban Americans may soon tip the balance and signal an end to the ban on travel to Cuba for all Americans.


  • Mavis Anderson and Paulo Gusmao of Latin America Working Group; Luis Rumbaut of Cuban American Alliance Education Fund (CAAEF).

Honduras: Back to the Past, On to the Future 

We thought that coup d’etats were a thing of the past in Latin America, but on June 28th, 2009, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was sent by force into exile. Despite a tentative resolution, this sharply polarized society must grapple with the political exclusion and social inequality that fueled the crisis.


  • Vicki Gass of Washington Office on Latin America
  • Honduran Activist Francisco Machado


Haiti: Rebuilding with Rights

The massive earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12th devastated the country, taking over 200,000 lives and leaving over a million people homeless. While U.S. citizens and the government have provided substantial support for relief in Haiti, the road ahead is uncertain. How can we ensure that Haiti receives enough assistance to make it through the worst of this tragedy, while staying out of the chains of debt? What are the possible barriers to a sustainable recovery? Join us for a discussion with policy experts and relief workers who will explore these issues and let you know what you can do to help.


  • Shaina Aber of Jesuit Refugee Service USA
  • Annalise Romoser of Lutheran World Relief


Humanitarian Crisis on the Border: How to Build Sensible & Humane Policies
(Co-sponsored with the United States/Domestic Track)

The deaths of more than 5,000 migrants in a little over a decade along the U.S.-Mexico border demonstrates the need for increased recognition of their perilous journey. Community leaders in border states have come together to create guidelines for more humane border policies that take into account the needs of border communities as well as the lives and well being of migrants. This workshop will bring to light migrants’ stories through testimonies. We will discuss strategies for action from humanitarian groups who are responding to the dangers facing migrants, and outline a positive vision of what a sensible and humane policy at our U.S.-Mexico border should look like.


  • Rev. Mark Adams of Frontera de Cristo
  • Adrian Gonzalez of Café Justo
  • Pedro Rios of American Friends Service Committee, San Diego, CA.

Fleeing from Violence: Colombia’s Refugees and Displaced People

There are currently over 4.5 million internally displaced people in Colombia, making it one of the largest displacement crises in the world—and it’s growing with 380,000 people forced to leave their homes to escape the violence during 2008 alone. What’s pushing them out? Where do they go? Which groups are disproportionately affected? And what can be done to stop this major humanitarian crisis? Come hear a panel of Colombian activists and U.S. policy advocates as they discuss these issues and more.


  • Father Sterlin Londoño Palacios of the Afro-Colombian Ministry of the Dioceses of Quibdó
  • Marino Cordoba of the Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES USA); Diana Arango of U.S. Office on Colombia
  • Vanessa Kritzer of Latin America Working Group

Photo (c) Linda Panetta. Used with permission.

Contributing Sponsors & Partner Organizations