Community Resilience: Evolving Perspectives and Approaches to Migration

Speaker Bios

Jodi Berger-Cardoso, Assistant Professor of Social Work, University of Houston

Jodi's research examines how exposure to trauma and psychosocial stress before, during and post-migration affects the mental health of immigrants and their children. Jodi has recently been funded by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health to examine the unique parenting stressors associated with raising children in the context of deportation risk. Along with colleagues from the University of Texas-Austin, she interviewed parents about how migration and legal status relate to experiences of parental stress and depression. Her research interests in this area have led her to think about the development and adaptation of evidenced based approaches for the treatment of trauma and substance use with Latino immigrants.
Currently, Jodi works with several humanitarian organizations in the Houston area that focus on providing legal and mental health services to immigrants, unaccompanied alien children, and refugees that have experienced trauma. She has served as an expert on immigration cases focusing on traumatic exposure and migration in children. Her dedication to social justice evolved from her experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Santo Domingo, Ecuador, where she developed a program to transition working youth back into primary school. Prior to receiving a doctorate degree, she worked as a bilingual mental health clinician servicing Latino immigrant families at several agencies in the Houston area. Her clinical and research training continues to inform her global perspective towards social work, both inside and out of the classroom. 

Marisa Chumil, Social Worker, Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights

Marisa Chumil, LCSW, is the Senior Social Worker for the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. Prior to joining the Young Center Chicago office in 2013, Ms. Chumil worked for nine years in early childhood programs at a Chicago non-profit organization, where she focused on social services, social and emotional childhood development, and mental health services for immigrant children and their families. Ms. Chumil received her Masters in Social Work from Loyola University Chicago and specialized in Migration and Children and Families Studies. Ms. Chumil previously served as a Child Advocate and graduate social work intern at the Young Center. She began her work in human rights as a volunteer in Guatemala and El Salvador in communities rebuilding after civil war.

Walter Cotte, Americas Regional Director, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Walter Cotte, who joined the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in January 2013, has more than 40 years of humanitarian and development experience.

Previously, Mr. Cotte was the National Executive Director of the Colombian Red Cross Society from 2008 to 2012. His past leadership roles with the organization include Head of Operations and Disaster Management (1994-2008), and Head of Volunteers for Relief and Search and Rescue (1985-1994). His Red Cross Red Crescent experience includes a six-month secondment to the IFRC as its Head of Operations in Asia Pacific in 2003.  

He has served as a consultant with the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination system and the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group, was a member of the Colombian Government’s National Disaster Board and a member of the board of the Colombian National Fire Association.

Mr. Cotte studied Social Management and Administration at the CUN University of Cundinamarca, and Industrial Safety at the National Council of Safety. He is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese and has good knowledge of French and Italian. He also has a high level of training and specialisation in disaster management from Tadeo Lozano University and in “Better Programming for Peace Process” from the National University of Colombia.

He is currently studying for a Masters in Cooperation from Kalu Foundation, and a programme of special studies in environmental management. 

Alice Farmer, Protection Officer, UN Refugee Agency

Alice Farmer is the protection officer with UNHCR’s U.S. Protection Unit, working on protection activities on behalf of asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons in the U.S., with the help of government officials, attorneys, and non-governmental organizations. The U.S. Protection Unit serves as a resource to policymakers in drafting and implementing refugee protection measures, monitors U.S. compliance with international standards of refugee protection, and assists asylum-seekers and their representatives in presenting claims in the U.S.

Prior to joining the U.S. Protection Unit, Ms. Farmer worked on refugee and human rights issues in various capacities for Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Norwegian Refugee Council, as well as in other offices of UNHCR. Ms. Farmer started her legal career with the U.S. Department of Justice Honors Program, in the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Ms. Farmer holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law, an M.P.A. from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and a B.A. from Harvard University. She speaks French.

Mary Giovagnoli, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Immigration Policy, Department of Homeland Security

Mary Giovagnoli is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Immigration Policy in the Department of Homeland Security.  Her team manages a broad portfolio of issues dealing with domestic and international policy concerns and provides coordination on immigration issues that cut across DHS agencies. 

Prior to joining DHS in 2015, Mary served as  the Director of Policy for the American Immigration Council, managing its Immigration Policy Center, and contributing to the legislative and academic debate on immigration reform from 2009 to 2015.  She also served as the Senior Director of Policy for the National Immigration Forum  from 2008 to 2009, working closely with a broad range of advocacy groups to promote immigration reform. 

Prior to her work in the non-profit world,  Mary practiced law as an attorney with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security—serving first as a trial attorney and associate general counsel with the INS, and, following the creation of DHS, as an associate chief counsel for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Mary specialized in asylum and refugee law, focusing on the impact of general immigration laws on asylees. In 2005, Mary became the senior advisor to the Director of Congressional Relations at USCIS. She was also awarded a Congressional Fellowship from USCIS to serve for a year in Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s office where she worked on comprehensive immigration reform and refugee issues.

Mary attended Drake University, graduating summa cum laude with a major in speech communication. She received a master’s degree in rhetoric and completed additional graduate coursework in rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin, before receiving a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School. She spent more than ten years teaching public speaking, argumentation and debate, and parliamentary procedure while pursuing her education.

Neil Grungas, Founder and Executive Director, ORAM International

Neil Grungras is one of the leading legal and procedural experts in international refugee protection, with 25 years refugee law experience. He is the Executive Director and Founder of ORAM - Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration.  He has trained hundreds of UN, government and NGO officials on various aspects of refugee protection, in a dozen countries including Turkey, Morocco, South Africa, Malaysia, Spain, Ireland, India, Kenya, Senegal, Israel and the United States. He currently serves as a formal consultant on country of original information to EASO – the European Asylum Support Office.

Prior to forming ORAM, Mr. Grungras was Director for Europe & the Middle East at a leading international refugee NGO. There, he focused on international refugee law and procedures as well as socio-political, legal and economic developments affecting refugees and migrants.  He had previously directed the US Department of State refugee resettlement center in Vienna, Austria. There, he oversaw processing of thousands of refugee applications by Assyrian, Chaldean and Armenian Christians. Prior to this, he practiced immigration and refugee law for 15 years in San Francisco, USA. 

Mr. Grungras conducts frequent public speaking on refugee and asylum seekers. He has served as a refugee law adviser to several NGOs, and has lectured and taught extensively on refugees in general and on LGBT refugees. He has developed and directed several student externships on refugee law and procedure, most recently for US law students in Austria, Ukraine and Israel.                                                                                    

Mr. Grungras holds a Juris Doctor earned at the University of California, Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the State Bar of California.

Stacia Hines, Child & Family Therapist, Linkages to Learning Program

Stacia received her BA in Spanish from Salisbury University in 2003, and her MSW from UMB in 2014. She has spent several years living abroad, including a year as an English teacher in Cuenca, Ecuador and 3 years as a Peace Corps community health volunteer in Manabi and Loja, Ecuador, as well as a month at a home for children affected by HIV in Honduras. She has worked and volunteered extensively with the Latino community in Maryland including through outreach and case management and currently works as a child and family therapist at a school based prevention and intervention program in Wheaton/Silver Spring. The elementary school where she works has a 50% ESOL rate, 79% FARMS rate and 72% Hispanic population (2014-15 school year). Her client population is representative of the school including recently arrived unaccompanied minors, and children of first generation immigrants.

Jennifer Johnson, Policy Advisor, Southern Border Communities Coalition

Jennifer Johnson is the Washington, DC-based Policy Advisor for the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC),  a network that brings together 60 organizations located from San Diego to Brownsville to advocate for border enforcement policies and practices are accountable and fair, respect human dignity and human rights, and prevent the loss of life in the region. Prior to joining the SBCC, Ms. Johnson was the Senior Policy Associate for the Latin America Working Group's Mexico & U.S.-Mexico Borderlands Program where she engaged in advocacy to address concerns regarding human rights, migration and border militarization in the region, with a particular focus on migrants in transit.  She started her focus on U.S.-Mexico issues at BorderLinks in Nogales, Arizona and Sonora where she taught experiential education seminars on the impact of immigration, enforcement and economic policy on the U.S.-Mexico border region.  

Emily Kephart, Coordinator of Guatemala Child Return and Integration Program, KIND - Guatemala Program

Emily has been with KIND for four years, first as a Program Associate in the Baltimore Legal Services office, facilitating intake and assessment for recently arrived migrant children. She now coordinates the Guatemalan Child Return & Reintegration Project, which works with implementing partner organizations in Guatemala to serve children removed or deported from the US, as well as advocates for child-friendly and appropriate practices and policies both during removal and reintegration.  Emily comes to KIND with 10 years of experience in child welfare and community advocacy. Prior to joining KIND, Emily managed Foster Care Case Management at the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations and Community Organizing & Development at the Norris Square Civic Assoc., two Latino community-based organizations in Philadelphia. Emily has worked on community outreach and engagement campaigns around neighborhood development, gun violence, voter turn-out, and economic development. To her work at KIND she brings skills in program management, continuous Spanish-English interpretation, and trauma-informed child and family practice. Emily holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from Temple University, concentrating in Community and Social Policy. In graduate school, she interned with the American Friends Service Committee, advocating for Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people. 

Andrew Lorezen-Strait, ICE Deputy Assistant Director, ERO Custody Programs

Andrew Lorenzen-Strait is the Deputy Assistant Director for Custody Management, Custody Programs Division, Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Washington, D.C.  Prior to this position, Mr. Lorenzen-Strait served as the agency’s Public Advocate from February 2012 to March 2013.  Deputy Assistant Director Lorenzen-Strait also served as ICE’s senior advisor for Detention Management, where he advised on policy and oversight for the administrative custody of an average of 400,000 detainees each year and led efforts to reform the current immigration civil detention system. 

As the Deputy Assistant Director for Custody Programs, Mr. Lorenzen-Strait supports and strengthens ICE’s immigration custody operations by providing innovative and objective policy and program development, analysis, and monitoring that continuously improves detention and effectively integrates ICE’s detention reform goals. Mr. Lorenzen-Strait: (1) manages ERO’s Family Case Management Program (FCMP), which uses qualified case managers to mitigate flight risk, promote compliance with immigration court orders and immigration reporting requirements, and support the general well-being of participants; (2) leads ERO’s implementation and enforcement of ICE’s Sexual Abuse and Assault Prevention and Intervention (SAAPI) Directive, which establishes policy and procedures for the prevention of sexual abuse and/or assault of individuals in ICE custody; (3) oversees custody programs and reform efforts that prioritize the health, safety, and welfare of those in immigration custody, including lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals; (4) serves as the national ICE Parental Rights Coordinator, overseeing training to field leadership and external stakeholders about the Parental Interests Directive, communicating regularly with field points of contact for parental rights, and conducting case reviews involving parental factors; (5) manages the agency’s Detention Reporting and Information Line (DRIL), a toll-free service that provides a direct channel for agency stakeholders to communicate directly with ERO to answer questions and resolve concerns; and (6) oversees the management of ICE review of detainees placed into segregation housing.  In addition, Mr. Lorenzen-Strait oversees ERO’s legal, language, religious services, and disability access programs.

Mr. Lorenzen-Strait holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of California at Irvine, a Juris Doctorate with an emphasis in child advocacy from Whittier Law School, and a Certificate in National Security Leadership and Decision-Making from the U.S. National Defense University. In 2007, Mr. Lorenzen-Strait was named the Maryland Attorney of the Year for providing pro bono services to Community Legal Services of Prince George's County.  Mr. Lorenzen-Strait is a member of the Maryland and U.S. Supreme Court bars.

Aaron Morris, Executive Director, Immigration Equality

Aaron is Immigration Equality’s Executive Director. He has worked at Immigration Equality since 2008, when he joined the team as a staff attorney. Prior to becoming the Executive Director, Aaron directed Immigration Equality’s law and policy programs, supervising the in-house legal staff and advocating for policy reform within the immigration system. Aaron is a graduate of the American University’s Washington College of Law and the University of Oklahoma. Before joining Immigration Equality, he was an immigration staff attorney in the Office of Legal Affairs of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  Aaron is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the New York City Bar Association, and the LGBT Bar Association.

Mauricio Paredes, Regional Vice President, Cruz Roja Hondureña

Mauricio Paredes started his career at the Cruz Roja Hondureña as a youth volunteer in 1997.  After three years of providing basic first aid, he transitioned into rescue work.  When Hurricane Mitch devastated the region in 1998, Mauricio was compelled to work in the area of relief to help his community both locally and nationally.  This experience prepared him for his deployment to El Salvador for the 2004 earthquake.  Mauricio trained with the Regional Intervention Team of the International Federation of the Red Cross, and was among the first team deployed to support the operations in Haiti in 2010.  In 2012, Mauricio was part of the initial efforts to address the humanitarian needs of migrants who were being returned/deported from Mexico, back to Honduras.  For over three years, Mauricio led the migrant reception center in Corinto, a town along the Guatemala-Honduras border.  This reception center paved the way for the new migrant reception center in Omoa.  He has served as the local Honduran Red Cross Chapter President for six years, and was recently appointed the Regional Vice President of the Honduran Red Cross.  Mauricio graduated with a bachelor’s in social science and law.  

Shelly Pitterman, Head of UNHCR Washington, UN Refugee Agency

Mr. Shelly Pitterman is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Regional Representative to the United States and the Caribbean, based in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Pitterman joined UNHCR in 1984 as a program officer in Sudan and has managed UNHCR field and country operations in Guinea, Burundi and Kenya.  He also served as the Director of Operations in Jordan for the UN Relief and Works Agency. Mr. Pitterman has held positions in UNHCR’s Geneva headquarters, including as Chief of Resettlement and as Director of Human Resources Management before taking up his assignment in the United States in 2013.  

Mr. Pitterman went to Brandeis University and earned his M.A. and Ph.D from Northwestern University.

Jennifer Podkul, Senior Program Officer, Women's Refugee Commission

Jennifer Podkul is the Senior Program Officer for the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission where she advocates for policies designed to protect women, children and families seeking protection in the United States. Prior to joining the Women’s Refugee Commission, Jennifer worked as an attorney providing representation to immigrant children in immigration and family court first as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Ayuda in Washington, D.C. and later as a fellow with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND).
A national expert on issues affecting unaccompanied immigrant children, Jennifer teaches at Georgetown Law School and has published articles, handbooks, and reports on issues related to immigration policies in the United States. She appears frequently in national and local print and broadcast outlets, and presents regularly as an expert.
Jennifer served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras, holds a B.A. in American Studies and Spanish from Franklin and Marshall College and a J.D. with honors from the Washington College of Law, American University, where she was a Public Interest/Public Service Scholar.

Dr. Sarah Polk, Medical Director, Children's Medical Practice

Sarah Polk MD, ScM, MHS serves as a bilingual (English/Spanish) primary care pediatrician and Medical Director of the Children’s Medical Practice. She is as Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins’ School of Medicine. Her overall research interest is optimizing primary care as a means of addressing racial/ethnic health disparities with a particular focus on early childhood obesity prevention and mental health care. Her work as a clinician has familiarized her with the challenges of providing high quality health care to Latino children of immigrants with Limited English Proficiency who comprise the majority of the patient population at the Children’s Medical Practice. This has led to hear involvement in a number of collaborative efforts to address healthcare quality concerns. For example, the Bayview Children’s Medical Practice Latino Family Advisory Board has sustained participation among immigrant, Latina mothers and provided ongoing, applicable feedback to the practice. She previously co-chaired the Hopkins Organization of Latino Awareness the aim of which is to galvanize faculty support around healthcare quality and access improvements for Latino patients. Finally, she and colleagues established Centro SOL the mission of which is to optimize the health of Latinos over their life course through leadership in clinical care, scholarship, education, and advocacy. Furthermore the Center’s vision is linguistically and culturally competent healthcare for Latinos that acknowledges the diversity of the Latino community and respects the dignity of each individual. Dr. Polk received her medical degree at Johns Hopkins and additional training at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,


Dr. Janell Routh, Medical Officer, Office of Refugee Resettlement

CDR Janell Routh is a board certified pediatrician who trained at UCSF.  After residency, she joined the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative in Malawi for three years. She completed the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service fellowship in 2012 where she worked in global waterborne disease prevention.  She now is a medical officer in the Office of Refugee Resettlement, helping to coordinate medical services for the Unaccompanied Children’s program.



Melysa Sperber, Director, Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking

Melysa Sperber is the Director of the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST). In the past, as the Director of Human Rights at Vital Voices Global Partnership, Sperber represented Vital Voices within ATEST—giving her a unique understanding of the coalition and its objectives.

Prior to joining Vital Voices, Sperber was a Staff Attorney at the Tahirih Justice Center, a non-profit legal services agency that provides services to women fleeing gender-based persecution. In addition to a caseload that included working with domestic violence survivors, asylum seekers, and victims of violent crime, Sperber worked with human trafficking survivors from more than 25 countries.

During law school, she received two Equal Justice Fellowships for her work with the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights and with Public Citizen Litigation Group. Sperber also worked as a law clerk for the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights and for UN Special Representative on Internal Displacement, Dr. Francis M. Deng, at the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement.

Sperber is also currently an adjunct professor at George Washington University Law School where she teaches Refugee & Asylum Law.

Carl Takei, Staff Attorney at National Prison Project, American Civil Liberties Union

Carl Takei is a Staff Attorney at the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.  He litigates prison, jail, and immigration detention conditions class action lawsuits in federal court and performs advocacy on issues of mass incarceration, prison privatization, and immigration detention.  
Carl’s current advocacy work includes fighting against the private prison industry, addressing the intersection of immigration enforcement with the federal criminal justice system, fighting poor conditions in ICE detention, working to end family detention, and working on various issues involving local jails (including unnecessary jail expansion projects, jail conditions of confinement, and modern-day debtors’ prison practices). He is a lead author of the 2014 ACLU report Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System, and has testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, briefed members of Congress, published numerous op-eds, and appeared on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry to discuss prison, jail, and immigration detention issues.  He is currently involved in litigating Lyon v. ICE (challenging inadequate telephone access in ICE detention) and Hernandez v. County of Monterey (challenging conditions in the Monterey County Jail), and was a member of the trial team in Henderson v. Thomas, a class action lawsuit that overturned the Alabama Department of Corrections’ policy of segregating prisoners with HIV from other prisoners.  
Before joining NPP, Carl served as a Staff Attorney/Tony Dunn Foundation Law Fellow at the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital.  Carl holds an A.B. from Brown University and a J.D., magna cum laude, from Boston College Law School, and served as a law clerk for U.S. District Judge Paul Barbadoro in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.

Annie Wilson, Chief Strategy Officer, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

Annie Wilson is the Chief Strategy Officer of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. In that role, Annie ensures organizational alignment, integration and impact.  She has coordinated the development of LIRS’s strategic plans and led a shift from short-term service delivery to an emphasis on supporting a culture of welcome in communities.  She has solidified the organization’s commitment to pursuing justice and systemic change in every program.

Annie came to LIRS in 1990 to direct national grants programs and technical assistance for asylum seekers.  In 1997, she was instrumental in developing and launching the Detention Watch Network in response to the expanded use of immigration detention in the United States.  Two years later, she helped manage LIRS’s move from New York to Baltimore.  Overseeing LIRS programs work, Annie expanded programming and diversified funding while initiating the development and implementation of evaluation systems.  From September 2009 to February 2010, Annie served as LIRS’s acting president, leading the organization through a significant leadership transition.

Annie has thirty years of experience in the refugee and immigration field, including overseeing the domestic refugee resettlement network of the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program, directing the Asylum Concerns Program of LIRS, and serving as the LIRS Executive Vice President.  Annie graduated from Williams College and studied nonprofit management at Johns Hopkins University.