Session: Current Events Special Session: Crimmigration: The Lived Experience (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

2 Current Events Special Session: Crimmigration: The Lived Experience

Thursday, January 13, 2022: 12:30 PM-1:30 PM
Independence BR Salons D/E (ML 4) (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Darcey H. Merritt, PhD, New York University, Amy Thompson, PhD, University of Texas at Austin, Setareh Ghandehari, Detention Watch Network and Alejandra Pablos, SSWR
The coincidence of an administration with an overtly anti-immigrant and racist agenda and a pandemic created the perfect conditions for the amplification of institutionalized racism and its impact on Black, brown and immigrant communities. The criminalization and mass incarceration of Black and other people of color within the United States is deeply intertwined with that of migrants. Since 9/11, the border has become increasingly militarized under both Republican and Democratic administrations, continuing under the Trump administration through massive expansion of the immigration detention system and attacks on the right to seek asylum at the border among other things. As criticism of this policy direction came into focus, the Trump administration used the COVID-19 pandemic to further restrict migration at the border despite the fact that public health experts have repeatedly stated there is no public health justification for such policies. There is a growing argument for defunding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and abolishing immigration detention that parallels the logic and urgency of the defund the police movement. Setareh Ghandehari, advocacy director for Detention Watch network, and SSWR Social Policy Committee member Amy Thompson join Alejandra Pablos, a reproductive justice organizer and storyteller facing and fighting deportation for over ten years, to explore themes that unite the social justice movements to eradicate racism from both the immigration and criminal justice systems.

Setareh Ghandehari, manages Detention Watch Network’s (DWN) federal advocacy by collaborating with our membership and coalition partners to advance DWN’s goals in Washington, DC. She is inspired by DWN’s bold abolitionist vision and the leadership of directly impacted communities. Prior to joining DWN, Setareh was the Director of the Labor & Employment Committee of the National Lawyers Guild and was previously a Program Associate for the Legal Orientation Program at the Vera Institute of Justice. Outside of work, Setareh loves spending time with her family, hiking, singing in the car, and having impromptu dance parties in the kitchen.

Alejandra Pablos is a reproductive justice community organizer and storyteller at the intersections of mass incarceration and immigration fighting deportation for over ten years now. On December 11th, 2018 she was ordered deported by an immigration judge, after being in and out of detention, and is appealing that decision with the support of her deportation defense team. Alejandra's case first went viral when she was re-detained by Immigration Customs Enforcement for 43 days in 2018. She was granted bond and brought home, but only after communities nationwide organized to bring her home.

Growing up in Arizona, one of the toughest sentencing and over-policed states has informed her activism and fueled her community work. Alejandra is a storyteller with We Testify where she shares her abortion story as an act of resistance and liberation. She is also a member of Mijente, Detention Watch Network, the National Council for Formerly and Incarcerated Women and Girls, and many more immigrant rights and prison abolition organizers throughout the country. She is currently collaborating with DonkeySaddle Productions on a playwright about her experience resisting deportation and disposability. She serves on the advisory board of the Immigrant Justice Network where she seeks to ensure rights for non-U.S citizens and inform just policy, like the New Way Forward which breaks apart and shrinks the deportation machine. She holds a bachelor's in Communications from the University of Arizona. You can follow her journey to Abolish ICE and her own deportation case at

The #KeepAleFree campaign was born out of a crisis and continues out of love in order to build nationwide power through narrative shifting that centers on cultural work and storytelling in hopes of creating pathways of protection for criminalized people.

Amy Thompson is a public policy analyst and social work researcher from Texas. She has over 20 years of experience in studying and analyzing public policies that impact the lives of migrant children. Previously, she worked on immigration policy analysis for NGO think tanks. She has spent the past two years conducting postdoctoral research on the displacement of Mexican children along the US/Mexico border and was embedded in Mexican refugee shelters throughout the pandemic. Amy’s academic research interests include better understanding the roots of child displacement in Mexico, how migrant children develop and pursue their own objectives, and how individuals in border communities process trauma. Her policy advocacy interests include the promotion of policies and best practices to better serve displaced children and survivors of trauma, and fostering opportunities for binational training and collaboration between US and Mexico based service providers.

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