Alternative Migrant Trail 2022 Speaker Full Bios

Welcome, Blessing, and opening of our space

Natividad Cano, Indigenous community member, will be doing our land acknowledgement

Natividad Valenzuela Cano was born in Sasabe, Sonora and immigrated to the United States in 1960 at the age of 13 along with her mother and 6 younger siblings.  Her first legal residence in the U.S. was the Buenos Aires Ranch a few miles from the border.  Her father had been a Bracero during WWII and had gained legal residence in 1953; however it took at least 7 years before the family was allowed to enter the country legally. 

Nati graduated from Pueblo High School in Tucson and Cochise College in Douglas, AZ.  Nati is the coordinator of the Native Ways Program, a residential treatment program for indigenous women with substance use disorders.  She has participated in the Migrant Trail since 2013. 

Br. David Buer, Franciscan Brother, will be doing our opening blessing.

Br. David read about St. Francis of Assisi and met his first friar in 1977.  He was assigned to San Xavier Mission in Tucson in 2005 and since 2017 has lived in the Franciscan Fraternity in Elfrida, AZ, 25 miles north of the border in SE Arizona. 

He has served on the Migrant Trail Organizing Committee since 2007.

Opening Remarks

Todd Miller, Author, journalist, and Co-founder of the Migrant Trail

Todd Miller has been reporting from international border zones for over twenty-five years. In his new book “Build Bridges, Not Walls,” he invites readers to join him on a journey that begins with the most basic of questions: What happens to our collective humanity when the impulse to help one another is criminalized? 

Todd is a contributing editor on border and immigration issues for NACLA Report on the Americas and its column “Border Wars”.  Todd is a founding member of the Migrant Trail and has walked many times.

Panel 1: Looking Back: How did we get here? A history of racism, a legacy of impunity

Lupe Castillo, Keep Tucson Together

Lupe Castillo is a retired history professor at Pima Community College in Tucson as well as an activist in the Chicano civil rights movement. Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Lupe is a co-founder of the University of Arizona’s Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA). In 1970, she helped organize Tucson residents to establish the El Rio Neighborhood Center and fought to build the Joaquin Murrieta Park on Tucson’s west side. 

At Pima Community College, she was one of the first professors to develop Chicano/a studies courses.  She has encouraged students to see education as a tool that will enable positive change, and she has been a fierce advocate of the community for various social issues for more than 40 years.  Today she continues to work with the Keep Tucson Together project and has been present for nearly every Migrant Trail.

Pedro Rios, American Friends Service Committee

Pedro Rios is director of the American Friends Service Committee’s U.S./Mexico Border Program and has worked for AFSC since 2003. He oversees a program that documents abuses by law enforcement agencies, collaborates with community groups, advocates for policy change, and works with migrant communities to build collective leadership locally and throughout the border region.

Pedro has a master’s degree in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University. Pedro is also a photographer and writer.

Eduardo “Eddie” Canales, South Texas Human Rights Center

Eduardo O. Canales was born in Corpus Christi, Texas of migrant farm worker parents. Eddie spent his early years in a rural, migrant border town, Salineno Texas. His grandparents and parents worked the farmworker crops migrating all over the Midwest and West. Eddie moved with his parents to Gary, Indiana and East Chicago while his father worked in the steel mills. They were poor: he did not have the luxury of inside bathroom facilities until 6th grade. Early jobs included farm work, shoe shining, barber/beauty shop sweeping and the neighborhood youth corps, followed by factory work, cafeteria clean up, and bottling plant/warehouse work.

After junior college, Eddie attended the University of Houston, where he became involved with MAYO and La Raza Unida Party, beginning a long history of political activism and organizing.

He has served the social and economic justice movements in many capacities and with several organizations, including serving on the Congreso de Aztlan representing Texas (the National Committee of La Raza Unida Party), the Texas Farmworkers, the Longshoremen, SEIU’ and Director of Centro Aztlan de Servicios Sociales in Houston, Texas, where he was a founder and Director for ten years and began his long-standing advocacy for immigrant rights and worker rights. Eduardo was an organizer/representative for SEIU in Colorado, under the banner of Justice for Janitors, representing and organizing mostly Mexican immigrant women in New Mexico, Eastern Washington, Montana, Idaho, Texas and Wyoming, Eddie worked as a lead organizer and Director of Organizing for the United International Brotherhood of Carpenters in both the industrial and construction sectors. Throughout his organizing career, Eduardo has been an advocate for human rights for immigrants serving as Chairperson on the Board of Directors of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, presently as Chairperson.

Presently, Eduardo is the Director/Lead Organizer and one of the founders of the South Texas Human Rights Center advocating for human rights and for the prevention of migrant deaths in the Rio Grande Valley/Texas Mexico border and an original organizer of the Corpus Christi Immigration Coalition fighting for immigrant rights.

Panel 2: Reality Check: What are the realities faced by (im)migrants today?

Sister Lucy Nigh, SSND

Sr.Lucy Night is a School Sister of Notre Dame. She has ministered for 12 years at the border, collaborating with agencies that support migrants in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico and shelters on the U.S. side of the border.

Originally from Wisconsin, she has served in education, youth retreat ministry, hospital chaplaincy, administration.

Black Gentry, Indigenous Languages Office

Blake Gentry (Cherokee) is an international policy expert in Indigenous community health, development, Indigenous languages in trans-migration, and climate change adaption. He holds a master’s in Public Policy and Management from the University of Pittsburgh, and a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, with graduate course work in Indigenous languages. Blake has carried out field research and community health assessments in México and Guatemala, and an internal migration study in Gansu and Guangdong Provinces,  China.

He served as adjunct/associate faculty with the Univ. of Arizona: MEZ Public Health College, School of Geography and International Development, and is currently an Associate with the Department of Mexican American Studies. He is the Indigenous Communities Coordinator for the Higher Ground Foundation, and Associate with Adaptation Ledger.

Blake researches, writes, and advocates for policy change in legal immigration standards, immigrant rights, and Indigenous language rights. He directs the Indigenous Languages Office at the Alitas Shelter under Ama Consultants.orgLLC in Tucson with funding and support from the Indigenous Alliance without Borders, and is co-founder and current Board President of the Guatemalan Acupuncture and Medical Aid Project. He is the Coordinator of the Economic Development Commission and Co-Founder of the National Council of Indigenous Peoples in the Diaspora. Blake is a member Climate Migration and Managed Retreat Group of the American Association of Adaptation Professionals.   Blake’s work is mentioned in the New York Times, Huffington Post, Guardian, Indian Country Today, Cultural Survivor Quarterly, Journal of Latin American Geography, Chance Magazine, UCLA Chicanx Latinx Law Review, the Border Chronicle.

Dora Rodriguez and Gail Kocourek, Co-Founders of Casa de la Esperanza Community and Migrant Center

Gail has been a Tucson Samaritan since June 2014 and a member of Salvavision for almost 2 years. Dora is the Director of Salvavision. Gail and Dora discovered a need in Sasabe, Sonora, Mexico, eventually creating the center in September 2020 and haven’t stopped working since to support the community.

Laura Peniche, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition

Laura Peniche is a DACA recipient from Mexico. Her documentary film debut, “No One Shall Be Called Illegal”, premiered at the 2011 Denver International Starz Film Festival. In 2017, she co-produced the documentary film: “Five Dreamers” (RMPBS and National PBS). Laura also worked with Motus Theater in 2018, as Project & Engagement Manager for the launch of the UndocuAmerica Project, in which she still participates as a writer/performer.

For many years, she has been an active advocate and community organizer for immigrant rights and is currently a member of Together Colorado‘s immigration committee, and of the national coalition: Communities 4 Sheriff Accountability. She works full time as a Hotline Manager for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, documenting ICE incidents in Colorado, and supporting the coordinators team for the Colorado Rapid Response Network Hotline –  (CORRN).

Panel 3: Legal/Political Reality Check: What are the options/obstacles for (im)migrants seeking refuge, asylum and compassion?

Margo Cowan, Immigration Attorney, Keep Tucson Together

Margo Cowan has been an advocate for migrant justice for more than 30 years and has been involved with the Migrant Trail since its first journey in 2004. Before becoming an attorney, she was a farmworker organizer mentored by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. 

Margo’s efforts in the areas of border and immigration policy, as well as the development and representation of undocumented persons and refugees, has spanned decades. She is a Defense Attorney for the Pima County Public Defender, was the lead counsel for the Sanctuary movement, where churches and synagogues offered sanctuary to the undocumented facing deportation and co-founded the organization No More Deaths, which seeks to reduce the number of deaths in the Arizona Desert.

Jenn Budd, Former Senior Patrol agent and Senior Intelligence agent for the US Border Patrol

Former Border Patrol agent turned immigrant-rights activist Jenn Budd is an advocate against militarization and for immigrant rights and an ambassador for the Southern Border Communities Coalition. Jenn Budd was one of the first agents to be hired as part of Operation Gatekeeper (1994), marking the beginning of the era of militarized deterrence that persists today. As an agent, she witnessed firsthand the cruelty, racism and violence that we now know to be cultural pillars of the U.S. Border Patrol. 

Jenn has written, “I refused to ignore the corruption I witnessed on a daily basis or pretend that the wall wasn’t pushing people out to dangerous terrain and leading to their deaths. I declined to do as ordered and looked the other way as agents smuggled in drugs and assaulted migrants. So I left.” (“I used to detain immigrants at the border. Now, I help them”). As a Border Patrol Agent, Jenn learned first-hand that militarization and enforcement-only policies lead to more violence, corruption and death

Since leaving the Border Patrol, Jenn has dedicated herself to speaking out against their culture of corruption and impunity.  Through her activism, Jenn is atoning for the abuses her former agency has committed, and is asking that all current border patrol agents lay down their guns and badges and join her.  

Jenn’s memoir: “Against the Wall: My Journey from Border Patrol Agent to Immigrant Rights Activist” will be released June 21, 2022. 

Jorge Loweree, American Immigration Policy Council

Jorge is the Policy Director at the American Immigration Council where he directs the Council’s administrative and legislative advocacy and leads the Council’s efforts to provide lawmakers, policymakers, advocates, and the general public with accurate and timely information about the role of immigrants in the United States.

Previously, Jorge spent ten years in a variety of positions with the U.S. House of Representatives, most recently as Senior Counsel for Immigration Law and Policy to former Representative Jared Polis of Colorado. He grew up in Juarez, Mexico, and holds a J.D. from the University of Colorado Law School and Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from the Saint Mary’s University.

Panel 4: Building Solidarity & Resistance: Otro Munto Es Posible: How do we create a world that reflects our shared values?

Mohyeddin Abdulaziz, Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance

Mohyeddin is a Palestinian Arab American who immigrated to the United States in 1978 and has lived in Tucson since then. He is happily retired after working for the University of Arizona and the Arizona Court of Appeals for more than 30 years. 

Moyheddin has been an activist for justice, equality, human rights and peace all of his life. He serves on the board of directors of Borderlands Theater and the Asylum Program of Arizona. He enjoys life with the grandchildren, organic gardening and playing tennis among other things. He has been a participant of the Migrant Trail for more than a decade.

Leora Hudak, LCSW Migration Partnerships Program Manager The Center for Victims of Torture

Leora Hudak, LCSW is the Program Manager of Migration Projects at the Center for Victims of Torture. In this role, she oversees programming at the US-Mexico border and along migration routes in Latin America. Leora supervises CVT’s trauma-informed case management program located at the Casa Alitas Welcome Center in Tucson. She has been working in refugee and migrant mental health as a psychotherapist, trainer, educator, researcher and supervisor for nearly 10 years.

Aly Wane, policy consultant with the UndocuBlack Network and Steering Committee Member of the Syracuse Peace Council

Aly Wane is an undocumented human rights activist originally from Senegal.  He has worked on numerous antiwar, racial and migrants’ rights justice campaigns. He is currently a policy consultant with the UndocuBlack network and serves on the Steering Committee of the Syracuse Peace Council.

Closing Remarks

Isabel Garcia, Coalición de Derechos Humanos

Isabel Garcia, a fourth-generation Tucsonan, is a longtime human rights advocate and organizer with Coalición de Derechos. She attended Pueblo High School before graduating from the university of Arizona with a BA in 1975 and her JD in 1978. After being accepted into the Arizona State Bar, Isabel was awarded a Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship which took her to Del Tio, Texas, to work with migrant farm workers as an attorney with Texas Rural Legal Aid in Del Río.

Isabel returned to Tucson in 1980 to work as an Assistant Pima County Public Defender, then as an Assistant Federal Public Defender until 1986, when she began private practice where she focused on criminal and immigration defense litigation.
In 1992 Isabel was named Director of the Pima County Legal Defender where she fought against the injustices in the criminal justice system and the incarceration of our communities until her retirement in July 2015.

Isabel has simultaneously championed migrant rights, and has fought against the militarization of the US/Mexico border, bringing international focus on policy-driven death along US/Mexico border. Among her many awards and recognitions, in 2006 Isabel was awarded the Human Rights Award from Mexico’s Human Rights Commission, representing the first person not born nor living in Mexico to receive the honor. In 2018 the University of Mexico (UNAM), honored Isabel with the Alfonso Garcia Robles Award for her decades of work in defense and promotion of human rights of migrants.