Building Bridges Conference Explores Immigration Experience, Policy

Immigration: Demolishing the Legacy of Bigotry in the Land of Opportunity is the theme for the 24th annual Building Bridges conference on March 2.
Posted on February 22nd, 2019 by

For 24 years, Gustavus Adolphus College’s student-led Building Bridges conference has sparked open, respectful conversations about numerous issues that face our world. This year’s topic, Immigration: Demolishing the Legacy of Bigotry in the Land of Opportunity, tackles the experience and policies of immigration, migration, and asylum.

The topic of immigration is not new to Building Bridges. In fact, it was covered at the conference in 2010, focusing on the challenges of becoming a citizen in the United States. This year’s conference, however, will look at immigration in light of recent events in the country.

“Immigration has been a central hot button topic since the elections in 2016, and I believe the larger conversations we’ve been having about it has definitely shifted in a way that we thought was important to address in the conference,” said Daniella Habib ’19, who is co-chairing the conference will fellow student Grace Tibben-Lembke.

Last year’s conference opened with a dance and choir performance.

The conference will feature two keynote speakers, Julissa Arce and David FitzGerald.

Arce is an immigration advocate and author of the book My (Underground) American Dream. Her book shares the true story of her life, from being an undocumented immigrant to a Wall Street Executive. She had a successful career working for Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch before choosing to become an advocate. Arce came to America from Mexico when she was 11 years old and gained citizenship in 2014.

“Arce has an incredible story to tell about being in this country are an undocumented person and trying to achieve the American Dream,” Habib said. “I think she really challenges this stereotypical and false perspective on undocumented people and dispels some of the dehumanizing myths we see in society when it comes to immigrants.”

David FitzGerald is a sociology professor at UC-San Diego and serves as the co-director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies. He specializes in analyzing immigration policy and migration and asylum in particular.

“We really wanted someone who could speak directly to the impact of U.S. policies,” Habib explained. “FitzGerald has done writing on democratic countries passing racist immigration policies and deliberately cutting off pathways for asylum seekers to get legal safety.”

Also part of the Conference: afternoon workshops and a drop-in, interactive walk-through experience. The interactive experience—the Action Piece—will have participants take on the persona of a real-world immigrant and encounter aspects of individual stories of immigration to the United States throughout the exhibits. It takes place on the second floor of Beck Hall from 2-5 p.m.; participants can come and go as they please. The workshops will highlight immigration stories, history, and experiences from numerous perspectives, including domestic violence among immigrant survivors, immigration family separation in U.S. history, and the experiences of immigrant and refugee mothers in rural Minnesota.

“We should all be informed since immigration is a global phenomenon. We do the Building Bridges conference because we want to spark larger discussion, critical thinking, and long-term activism for whatever you may be passionate about,” Habib said.

Registration for the conference will start at 8:30 a.m. on March 2, 2019 in Christ Chapel. More information about the conference and the day’s schedule is available online.

Building Bridges is a student organization at Gustavus that focuses on educating and informing community members on issues relating to social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Past topics of the annual student-run conference have included: Mental Health (2018), The Grassroots Movement (2017), The War on Drugs (2016), Rape Culture (2015), Environmental Justice (2014), and Mass Incarceration (2013).


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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