Bridging Learning and Doing: Colectivo

By Rebecca Galemba, Assistant Professor

The DU Immigrant and Refugee Rights Colectivo (Colectivo) established itself as a hub for research, education, and allyship around immigrant and refugee rights at Korbel. With the support of a mini-grant from the Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL), Colectivo connects students and faculty at the University of Denver (DU) who are passionate about immigrant and refugee rights to the broader Denver community through advocacy and research.

Through numerous events, students drew on educational sessions to inform their engagement, advocacy, and research around migration issues. In fall, the Colectivo focused on providing its members with background on immigration issues to more effectively partner with local organizations. They hosted guest lectures by DU History Professor Elizabeth Escobedo on US Immigration History, and Professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández from Sturm College of Law on crimmigration-or the intersection between immigration and criminal law and its implications. The group also hosted the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) to learn about issues affecting the immigrant community, policy and organizing campaigns, and ways to support through advocacy and research. Sessions such as these helped enable students to support the Colectivo at additional events throughout the year including by:

  • partnering with allied organizations on campus and local immigration attorneys to host two DACA renewal clinics;
  • identifying opportunities to volunteer with the Julie Gonzalez campaign;
  • volunteering at Casa de Paz to assist former immigrant detainees;
  • partnering with CIRC’s Docuteam to document deportation cases and assist individuals through the process;
  • working with El Centro Humanitario’s Direct Action Team to help workers recoup unpaid wages;
  • conducting outreach for day laborers on workers’ rights in Lakewood and Aurora;
  • and attending additional events around immigrant and refugees rights in the Denver area.

In the winter quarter, the Colectivo focused on migration from both research and practice-oriented perspectives. Encompassing everything from learning about comparative migration from Professor Kate Tennis and Postdoctoral Fellow Kelsey Norman, to understanding the political climate with insights from Julie Gonzales, policy director for the Meyer Law Firm and candidate for Colorado Senate District 34, to exploring wage theft and a forced labor lawsuit against the GEO detention facility from attorney David Seligman with Towards Justice. These learning opportunities enabled students to begin, or continue, research collaborations with CIRC, El Centro’s Direct Action Team, and Casa de Paz. Colectivo members also authored a research digest on the causes of migration with a focus on Mexico and Central America, expected to be released early in fall, 2019.


Julie Gonzales visits to speak with Collectivo members

Finally, in the spring quarter, Colectivo partnered with other campus groups to learn more about refugee issues, including hosting Joe Wismann-Horther, Integration Program Supervisor with Colorado Refugee Services, Joseph Livingston, a former Foreign Service Officer with the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the US Department of State, and Leslie Mongin, former Assistant Regional Refugee Coordinator for East Asia. The group also streamlined its social media presence, helping maintain the DU Immigrant and Refugee Rights Colectivo discussion page with over 300 members and a separate small group page. The discussion page serves as a forum for Colectivo members to engage with advocates and other community members in Colorado to network and collaborate for events, actions, and educational resources,  as well as to inform the public about immigration issues.

The Colectivo looks forward to enhancing its membership, building a website, and continuing its engagement with the community through research, service, education, and allyship. To get involved please email, join DU Immigrant and Refugee Rights Colectivo on Facebook, or email


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