Conference on Migration: Latin America and the U.S.

Millions of people every year are forcibly displaced from their homes. Because of the extent of the phenomenon throughout the Americas today, migration is seen by politicians and lawmakers as a problem that needs regulation and control. This symposium examines human stories of displacement and the histories, relationships, and interests underlying the politicization of migration in the Americas.

Panelists will examine what makes migration unique in regions throughout Central, North and South America. They will provide historical, political and socio-cultural analysis to examine the contexts of immigration in these regions. In particular, we will focus on:

  • The current refugee crisis in Central America, and Venezuela;
  • the experiences of migrant women and children detained in U.S. detention centers;
  • migration and labor in the Midwest;
  • and what U.S. immigration reform might look like in the future.

Driven by violence, migration faces militarization and criminalization, which is accompanied by social dispossession of indigenous and poor communities, transnational capital involvement, and results in the shifting of sexual and gender relations.

Migration Conference Registration

New Steps, Old Routes

Migration in the Americas

April 27-28 | Pyle Center | campus map

LACIS Organizational Committee: Erin Barbato, Lesley Bartlett, Kata Beilin (Director), Laura Bunn (Assistant Director), Armando Ibarra, Carolyn Kallenborn, Michael Light, Jenna Loyd, Benjamin Marquez, Sara McKinnon, Jenna Nobles, Anju Reejhsinghani, Sarah Ripp, Hernando Rojas, Alberto Vargas

Tentative Schedule

Day 1: April 27

Pyle Center, Room 309

9:30 – 10:00 AM: Breakfast and introductory remarks – TBD

10:00 – 11:30 AM: “Gender, Sexuality, and Migration in the Americas”

Migration policy and infrastructures of enforcement—from visas to borders to detention facilities—are entangled with gendered and sexualized power relations. Feminist, queer, and trans scholarship have demonstrated that sex, gender, and sexuality are key arenas through which to understand state policy and practice, neocolonial patterns of labor migration, the politics of inclusion and exclusion, and much more.


    • Jenna Loyd, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison


    • Rebecca Torres, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Texas-Austin
    • Sandibel Borges, Carlos E. Castañeda Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Mexican American Studies, University of Texas-Austin
    • Eithne Luibhéid, Professor, Department of Gender & Women’s Studies, University of Arizona

11:45 AM – 1:15 PM: “The Shifting Nature of Migration in Central America”

Refugees from the Central American states are currently leaving their countries in record number. Neighboring countries implement restrictive refugee and immigration protocol. Panelists on this program explore all aspects of this dynamic—from the contextual elements that force movement, to the experiences that refugees negotiate on their path, to the dehumanizing state responses.


    • Sara McKinnon, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison


    • Wendy Vogt, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
    • Gilberto Rosas, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign
    • Noelle Brigden, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Marquette University

1:20 – 2:30 PM: Lunch, Pyle Center Room 309

2:45 – 4:00 PM: Presentation of art exposition Crossing, with coffee and desserts, Memorial Library

Embroidered story cloths by Las Hormigas Bordadoras Cooperative and woven tapestries from Master Weaver Erasto “Tito” Mendoza will be on display in the lobby of Memorial Library. These beautiful, playful yet powerful artworks from Oaxaca Mexico address issues of the effects of immigration on women, families and communities.


    • Carolyn Kallenborn, Associate Professor in Design Studies Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

4:30 – 6:30 PM: The Infiltrators film screening and discussion with Director Alex Rivera, Pyle VandeBerg Auditorium

THE INFILTRATORS is a docu-thriller that tells the true story of young immigrants who get arrested by Border Patrol, and put in a shadowy for-profit detention center – on purpose. Marco and Viri are members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, a group of radical Dreamers who are on a mission to stop deportations. And the best place to stop deportations, they believe, is in detention. However, when Marco and Viri try to pull off their heist – a kind of ‘prison break’ in reverse – things don’t go according to plan. The Hollywood Reporter said of the multiple award-winning film “rather than feeling like homework, watching it is a thrill.”


    • Kata Beilin, Professor, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Day 2: April 28

Pyle Center, Room 309

9:00 – 10:30 AM: “Providing Legal Services to Women and Children Seeking Asylum in Detention”

A group of second, and third year law students along with the Director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic at the University of Wisconsin Law School will describe their volunteer work at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, where they help immigrants to prepare for Credible Fear Interviews, one of the first steps in the asylum process. They will describe the current state of detention and the new regulatory asylum bars that have almost closed our southern border to all asylum seekers.


    • Erin Barbato, Director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic at the University of Wisconsin Law School, University of Wisconsin-Madison

10:45 AM – 12:15 PM: “Trends in Immigration Reform”

This panel will bring together scholars and practitioners to engage the issue of contemporary immigration reform. Specific topics include the current state of public opinion on immigration policies, the shifts in practices in immigration court in recent years, and the social and economic impact of proposed immigration legislation at the state and federal levels.


  • Michael Light, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Chicano/Latino Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison


    • Jens Manuel Krogstad, senior writer and editor at Pew Research Center
    • Aissa Olivarez, Managing Attorney, Community Immigration Law Center (CILC)
    • Isabel Anadon, PhD Student, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

12:30 – 1:30 PM: Lunch

1:45 – 3:15 PM: “Anthropology of Migration across the Americas”

By late 2019, more than 40 million people from Latin America and the Caribbean lived outside their countries of birth—most of those in neighboring countries. This panel engages social theory to examine political economic and sociocultural aspects of these migration flows, including bureaucratic encounters with the state, how bureaucracies impose time demands to both confer and deny civic and human rights, how migration is reshaping families, and the impact of securitization on immigrant populations.


    • Lesley Bartlett, Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison


    • Lauren Heidbrink, Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development, California State University Long Beach
    • Diana Rodríguez-Gómez, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

3:30 – 5:00 PM: “Immigration from LA to the Midwest”

Immigration from Latin America, in particular, Mexico, to the Midwest has steadily increased over the last decade, and Wisconsin is no exception. The high birth rate among recent immigrants from Latin America accelerates the transformation of the demographics of Midwestern states that has been referred to as the “browning of America,” and “Latino Threat.” Our panel challenges these narratives exploring the complexities that different Midwestern groups of Latin American descent face in the era of Trump.


    • Armando Ibarra, Associate Professor, Department of Labor Education and Chican@ & Latin@ Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison


    • Alfredo Carlos, Lecturer, Department of Political Science, California State University Long Beach
    • Almita Miranda, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography and Chican@ & Latin@ Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    • Marla Ramirez, Assistant Professor, Department of History and Chican@ & Latin@ Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    • José Villagrán, Lecturer, Chican@ & Latin@ Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

5:15 – 6:45 PM: “The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Latinos and the Nation”

Keynote Address:

    • Leo Chavez, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine

More details coming soon!

Leo Chavez

Professor Chavez received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and is currently a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. In addition to scores of academic articles, he is the author of Shadowed Lives: Undocumented Immigrants in American Society (1st edition 1992; 3rd Edition, Wadsworth/Cengage Learning 2013); Covering Immigration: Popular Images and the Politics of the Nation (University of California Press 2001); The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation (Stanford University Press, 1st edition 2008; 2nd edition 2013); and Anchor Babies and the Challenge of Birthright Citizenship (Stanford University Press, 2017). Chavez received the Margaret Mead Award in 1993, the Association of Latina and Latino Anthropologists’ Book Award for The Latino Threat in 2009, and the Society for the Anthropology of North America’s award for Distinguished Achievement in the Critical Study of North America in 2009. In 2017, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte published the Spanish edition of The LatinoThreat: La Amenaza Latina. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2018.


Migration in the Americas

April 27-28, 2020

Pyle Center | campus map


The conference will take place in the Pyle Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


For additional information on what to see and do while in Madison:


City of Madison parking areas 
University of Wisconsin–Madison parking areas

The Conference on Migration: Latin America and the U.S. is sponsored by the Latin American Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program and the Institute for Regional and International Studies.

Ingraham Hall, Room 209, 1155 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI

301 Ingraham Hall, 1155 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI

Please contact with any questions.