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Refugee & Immigrant Communities: The Minnesota Experience: The Legalities, Practicalities, & Lessons Learned

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 89 minutes
Recorded Date: October 11, 2019
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  • Immigration Status
  • Relevant Federal Agencies
  • Refugee Arrivals in Minnesota/Refugee Communities/Refugee Resettlement Organizations
  • Challenges Facing Immigrant and Refugee Populations
  • Welcoming City Policies
  • Community Power: Building and Sustaining Trusting Relationships
  • Community Engagement Recommendations
Runtime: 1 hour 29 minutes
Recorded: October 11, 2019
For NY - Difficulty Level: Experienced attorneys only (non-transitional)


Minnesota has a decades-long history of accepting significant communities of refugees and immigrants from culturally diverse parts of the world. Our panel, comprised both of members of some of those communities and government officials.

This program was recorded on October 11th, 2019.

Provided By

American Bar Association
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Stephen Meili

University of Minnesota Law School

Professor Stephen Meili writes and teaches about the rights of noncitizens, particularly those seeking asylum. His work often takes a comparative approach: his three most recent publications analyze the constitutionalization of human rights law in Ecuador, Mexico and the European Union. His other recent publications include a comparative study of the detention of asylum-seekers in the U.S. and the U.K, the right not to hold a political opinion as the basis for asylum, and a human rights-based analysis of U.S. refugee resettlement policy. He has published empirical studies on the impact of human rights treaties on asylum jurisprudence in Canada and the U.K. His current research concerns the constitutionalization of human rights law in several countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. His past research has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Robina Foundation.

Meili has taught international refugee law and been an Academic Visitor at the Faculty of Law at Oxford University. He has also taught at several law schools in Medellin, Colombia, and at Uppsala University in Sweden. At the University of Minnesota he teaches immigration and international refugee law, as well as civil procedure and legal practice.

Meili also serves as Director of the Law School’s Immigration and Human Rights Clinic, where students represent asylum-seekers, trafficking victims and detained individuals in various immigration and appellate court proceedings. Over the past few years, the I&HR Clinic has obtained asylum or other forms of protection for applicants from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Guinea, Honduras, Iran, Liberia, Syria, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Zimbabwe. He has also supervised outreach projects in the Twin Cities immigrant community. Meili was awarded the Law School’s Stanley V. Kinyon Clinical Teacher of the Year Award in 2011 and held the Vaughn G. Papke Clinical Professorship in Law from 2012 to 2014.

Prior to coming to Minnesota, Meili was director of the Consumer Law Litigation Clinic at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Before entering academia, he was a partner in a plaintiffs’-side labor law firm in Hartford, Connecticut.

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Vinodh Kutty

Adjunct Professor, Sociology & Criminal Justice
University of St. Thomas

Vinodh Kutty grew up in South-East Asia. He was born in Malaysia and went to school in Singapore. After completing his National Service in the Singapore Armed Forces, he attended the Institute of Education in Singapore and taught at the high-school level before leaving for Macalester College in Sta. Paul and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has certifications in education, anthropology and English.

He is passionate about community and capacity building and has worked to develop partnerships and collaborations in the refugee and immigrant communities as well as communities of color in the Twin Cities and around Minnesota for the last 18 years. He has lead Hennepin County’s efforts in social, political, and cultural equity issues addressing disparities in education, housing, health, workforce development, criminal justice, and juvenile delinquency, including resettlement and integration issues.

Currently, he is building platforms between Hennepin County and the philanthropic community to better align their objectives on funding strategies for key areas that can best serve residents and help enhance relationships with non-profit agencies and business organizations.

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Rep. Samantha Vang

State Representative
Minnesota House of Representatives

Samantha Vang is a Tenant Advocate for HOME Line serving on both the English and Hmong hotlines. She is currently a Minnesota State Representative and the first Hmong woman to be elected into the State House. Samantha graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a BA in Political Science and Communications Studies. Samantha is a daughter of refugees and the favorite aunt of her niece and nephew.

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Michelle C. Rivero

Director, Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs
City of Minneapolis

Michelle Rivero is the Director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs for the City of Minneapolis, an office that opened in July 2018, and which supports City of Minneapolis initiatives to welcome, support, integrate and defend the City’s immigrant and refugee communities.

Before joining the city, Michelle practiced law as an immigration attorney for 18 years. During this time, she represented applicants in a variety of immigration applications and processes, from asylum to US citizenship, immigration court removal proceedings (detained and nondetained) to appellate immigration proceedings.

Michelle earned her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law and received her B.A. from Macalester College. She holds bar membership in the state of Minnesota and court admission to the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

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Denise Wells

Andersen United Community School

Denise Wells is the Principal at the Andersen United Community School in Minneapolis, MN.

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Amran A. Farah

Green Espel PLLP

Amran represents and advises clients in an array of subjects, including complex commercial litigation, construction litigation, employment law, and internal investigations. Her construction practice involves the representation of property owners, general contractors, subcontractors, and community associations in claims for construction defect and property damage. Amran has litigated in state and federal court, as well as arbitration proceedings.

Before joining Greene Espel, Amran worked at an insurance defense firm providing legal services to clients in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. After law school, she clerked for the Honorable Franklin L. Noel in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, and the Honorable Pamela G. Alexander in Hennepin County District Court.

Beyond her practice, Amran serves as President of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. She is the past-President of the Somali American Bar Association and the past-Chair of the Council of Minnesotans of African Heritage. Amran also serves on the board of B.R.A.V.E., a non-profit organization focused on the success of young East African girls.

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