School of Social Work

Second Binational Conference Sells Out

The School of Social Work held its second Binational Social Work Conference in May. This year’s topic was Refugees, Asylees & Social Work on the U.S./Mexico Border. The event was held at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Attendance was so strong that the organizers had to declare the event sold out and it was livestreamed to accommodate everyone who wanted to participate.

The conference was organized to mobilize and inform a binational community of students and social workers about the current socio-political and mental health issues of asylees and refugees on the U.S./Mexico border in order to protect and expand human rights, create effective binational collaborations, and showcase binational internships and opportunities at SDSU.

The planning committee for the Binational Conference working on plans for continued engagement
The planning committee for the Binational Conference working on plans for continued engagement.

The event kicked off with an opening keynote by Dr. Maria Zúñiga, a SDSU social work professor. She has worked extensively with communities in the U.S./Mexico border region as well as Mexican transnational and domestic migrants and their families in Mexico. Her ongoing research is designed to understand and improve health care engagement, patient and clinician communication, and care continuity among Latinos, including persons living with HIV and/or tuberculosis, and persons impacted by substance abuse. Dr. Zúñiga is currently developing new interdisciplinary collaborations with colleagues in the U.S. and Brazil.

The event continued with screenings of short films by Kayla Mulholland, Adriana Trujillo, Marlene “Mo” Morris, and Paloma Martinez. Mulholland is a visual anthropologist and associate clinical social worker in the San Diego-Tijuana region, as well as an SDSU alumna. She has worked with migrant communities in San Francisco, Barcelona, San Diego and Tijuana for over 10 years. Trujillo is a film director and producer, based in Tijuana, Mexico. Her artistic practice combines production and research in audiovisual media with an emphasis on hybrid forms of contemporary cinema, experimental video and archival material. Morris is the founder of Galewind Films and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Her debut feature documentary, A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone, premiered at the 2015 Mill Valley Film Festival and was broadcast nationally on public television’s America ReFramed series. Ten years as an immigration attorney and decades of experience as a mediator and social justice organizer provide her a special insight into immigration reform. Martinez is an award winning non-fiction filmmaker from Houston, Texas where she got her start as a labor organizer. Her short documentaries has been broadcast nationally on PBS and featured in The Guardian and The New York Times Op-Docs.

Following the films, there were two panel discussions. The first featured attorney Kate Clark, Director of Immigration Services and lead immigration Attorney at Jewish Family Service of San Diego and founder of the SD Rapid Response Network; attorney Nicole Ramos, Director of the Border Rights Project of Al Otro Lado, a binational legal services organization; social worker Mary Galvan of Instituto Madre Assunta, and Dr. Aida Silva of Universidad Autónoma de Baja California. The second panel featured social worker Rachel Mahoney of Survivors of Torture, International; social worker Claudia Gonzalez, a binational clinical social worker and SDSU alumna; SDSU social work professor Dr. David Engstrom, whose research focuses on immigration policy and services to immigrants and refugees; and SDSU MSW social work student April Moo. She was born and raised in a refugee camp in Thailand and came to the U.S. as a refugee in 2015.

The event concluded with a reception and a chance for informal conversation. The event was so fulfilling and invigorating that the planning committee decided to open it up to others. Moving forward the committee plans to host quarterly gatherings for current SDSU School of Social Work students, alumni and students and professionals from Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada to discuss current binational/international issues and possible collaborations.