One of the two special guests originally scheduled to speak at the Congregational United Church of Christ’s “Just Who is Crossing the Line?” immigration forum, Sylvie Bisangwa, had to cancel her appearance; speaking in her place will be Anna Stenson, an immigration attorney from Fargo, N.D.

Anna Stenson
Anna Stenson

Stenson’s practice focuses on family-based immigration matters as well as the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. A graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Law, Stenson has served as a clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and also worked for Mid Minnesota Legal Assistance, providing immigration legal services in western Minnesota and in the private practice of immigration law. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

All other details of the forum remain the same. Read the original story below for more information.

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The Congregational United Church of Christ in Detroit Lakes has invited two expert speakers to lead a forum on immigration called “Just Who is Crossing the Line?”

Organized by the church’s Social Justice Team, the forum is intended to be educational, informative and as apolitical as possible. It will take place at the church from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17.

“People of all faiths — everyone — is invited,” said Karen Rosby, a leading organizer of the forum. “This can be a controversial topic, but this (event) is meant to be ... neutral.”

Speakers will include Sylvie Bisangwa, a lawyer and policy advocate with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota in St. Paul, and Martha Castanon, a legal assistant with the Immigrant Law Center who works in Moorhead.

Both speakers have extensive knowledge of the laws and issues surrounding immigration, as well as their own personal stories to share.

Bisangwa is a Rwandan refugee who came to the U.S. as a permanent resident in 1994. According to her bio on policynet.org, she has years of professional experience in international law, including working on anti-sex trafficking campaigns as well as immigrant rights campaigns in Washington, D.C. She obtained her Juris Doctorate degree in International Law from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2010.

“She is so eloquent when she speaks,” Rosby said of Bisangwa. “And she just has a vast array of experience.”

Martha Castanon, a Moorhead-based legal assistant with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, will be speaking at the immigration forum in Detroit Lakes on Nov. 17. (Submitted Photo)
Martha Castanon, a Moorhead-based legal assistant with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, will be speaking at the immigration forum in Detroit Lakes on Nov. 17. (Submitted Photo)

Castanon is a lifelong resident of Moorhead. The Immigrant Law Center website states that she is the child of seasonal farmworkers: her father was born in Arizona and raised in Mexico, and her mother was born in Mexico and became a U.S. citizen in 1992. Growing up, she joined her family working in the sugar beet fields of Minnesota, among other states. Today, she travels around northern Minnesota for her role with the Immigrant Law Center. She opened the center’s Moorhead satellite office in 2015, after working for Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services for 35 years.

Bisangwa and Castanon will share their stories, and then address some common topics surrounding the subject of immigration, such as how different immigrants enter the U.S., their rights under U.S. and international laws, the various statuses of asylum seekers, and how immigration policy has developed and changed over the years. After the presentation by the speakers, there will be time for questions from the audience and further discussion.

“Our main objective for this forum is to educate ourselves and others in our community about immigration and what has happened/is happening, to start a conversation and help people to make informed opinions about our nation’s policies and practices,” according to the church’s Social Justice Team in an informational sheet shared with the speakers and the Tribune.

“With few exceptions, we all are from families of immigrants to this country … The stories from our church members alone would fill volumes,” Rosby wrote in a flyer to Congregational United church members. “Each of the families at the border has a story, as well ... As Christians, we have all been moved by this issue, but the questions remain. Education is the beginning of understanding, and our church has invited two speakers...who will be able to help us grapple with this issue.”

If you go

WHAT: 'Just Who is Crossing the Line?' Immigration Forum

WHERE: Congregational United Church of Christ, 900 Lake Ave.

WHEN: 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17

WHO: Everyone is invited. Guest speakers are from the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota: Sylvie Bisangwa, Rwandan refugee and policy advocate at the center's St. Paul office; and Martha Castanon, of the center's Moorhead office.

WHY: Learn more about the policies and practices surrounding immigration.