ALL Are Welcome Here: Community Forum on Immigration Justice

All Are Welcome Here

All Are Welcome Here: Community Forum on Immigration Justice

Thursday, May 18 | 6:30-8:30 pm @ CLWS

Though the Twin Cities are considered sanctuary cities by some, what is happening to immigrants and refugees here? How can we become informed about the issues at hand and learn how to best support one another? Join us for a presentation and discussion focusing on how the increased scrutiny and detention of immigrants and refugees is affecting our communities in Minnesota, and how we can come together in support of one another.

Emilia Gonzalez Avalos, CLWS parent and executive director of Navigate MN, and Michele Garnett McKenzie, deputy director of The Advocates for Human Rights, will begin the forum by sharing a bit about the history of immigrant populations here in Minnesota and the current situations they are facing. They will offer suggestions for supporting our local immigrant communities in ways that are helpful today and going forward.

The second half of the forum will be open for questions and conversation, as we learn and grow together. ALL are welcome to attend, including upper grades students.

This event is hosted by the CLWS Diversity Committee. If you have questions, please contact Sarah Rose Miller ( or Zena Kocher (, co-chairs.

About the Presenters

Emilia Gonzalez Avalos is the Executive Director of Navigate MN, a power organization working for immigration and education justice centering the realities of undocumented students and mixed status families. Emilia was raised in Mexico and the United States. She joined her father in Minnesota years after he left their town looking for better job opportunities and a better future for his family. Family separation, border consciousness and transnational economy shaped Emilia’s life to become an organizer and intersectional power builder for people and planet.

Emilia was instrumental in organizing the push for in-state tuition which culminated in the 2013 passage of the Minnesota Prosperity Act (MN DREAM Act) which enabled undocumented students to pay in-state tuition and receive MN State Grant at all Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Additionally, under her leadership Navigate has successfully lead campaigns in colleges and universities that have resulted in tuition equitable programs for undocumented students in colleges like MCTC and the University of  Saint Thomas.

Emilia has organized and built strategies for Latino vote turnout in the Twin Cities and rural areas through Unidos Votamos (a pro Immigrant and pro Latino c(4) and PAC) and developed issued based campaigns for pro-immigrant policies in Minnesota. Emilia’s career is invested in building healthy communities through pro-people/pro-planet political education and power building strategies using community organizing and popular education models so that the most affected create solutions and sit at the table of the decision-making process. Currently Emilia serves as chair of the statewide Latino based organizations and unions creating a community defense infrastructure given the anti-immigrant political climate.

Emilia’s awards include Mano Amiga from Latino Economic Development Center, Advocate of the Year by Bush Foundation and CLUES and the 2016 MLK Distinguished Service Award by Governor Dayton’s Council on MLK. Emilia is alumna of the Hubert H. Humphrey Public Policy Fellows Program, the Roy Wilkins Community Fellows and current Emerging Leader Fellow with America Votes.  She serves on the board of directors of Voices for Racial Justice and Governor Dayton’s Civic Engagement Committee through the MN Department of Human Rights. Emilia is also co-director of Kalpulli Ketzalcoatlicue a traditional Aztec dance learning community for youth and their families.

Michele Garnett McKenzie  is the Deputy Director and Director of Advocacy at The Advocates for Human Rights, a 501(c)(3) organization at the forefront of the world’s human rights movement that creates and maintains lasting, comprehensive, and holistic change on a local, national, and global scale. She also leads the organization’s research, education, and advocacy team and is responsible for advocacy on The Advocates’ domestic priority issues, including migration and human trafficking. She joined the staff of The Advocates in 1999 as an attorney representing asylum seekers and detained immigrants. She later managed the asylum, detention, and walk-in clinic projects in addition to policy advocacy relating to immigration.

Michele serves on the national leadership team of the Immigration Advocates Network and on the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault public policy committee. A member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, she is admitted to practice in the State of Minnesota. She has served as an adjunct clinical faculty member of William Mitchell College of Law and the University of Minnesota Law School.

Prior to joining The Advocates, Michele was in private immigration practice, and served as a judicial law clerk for the Executive Office for Immigration Review in Arizona and Nevada. She received her J.D. cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School and her B.A. cum laude from Macalester College.

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