past event
Immigration and Society

SOF Luncheon: Immigration Reform: Can Common Ground be Found?

Join us for the SOF Luncheon: Immigration Reform: Can Common Ground be Found? Featuring Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum and Jeff Flake, former US Senator from Arizona. In collaboration with the Justice and Society Program.

In an age of increased political polarization, Sylvia Puente and Jeff Flake will discuss paths to legalization, DACA, family detention, border security, and legislative prescriptions for one of the most vexing political issues of our time. How can we take a more humanistic approach to immigration reform? What obstacles exist to bipartisan compromise? How is common ground found without compromising more conservative values?


Sylvia Puente is the Executive Director of the Latino Policy Forum, the only Latino public policy and advocacy organization in Illinois. Puente has earned a national reputation as a bridge builder and a trailblazer, having been recognized by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S.”

She works tirelessly with nonprofit leaders, elected officials and corporate partners to improve educational outcomes for children, to make housing more accessible and affordable while promoting just immigration reform and building the influence and leadership of Latinos for the betterment of all Illinois.

Puente is a proud Chicago native who was introduced to her life’s work in advocacy, policy and activism at the young age of 13, when she joined her mother on picket lines in support of the United Farm Workers union. She was the first in her family to graduate college and earned a BA in Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She did graduate studies at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and earned her Master’s Degree from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

Sylvia is regularly called upon to provide perspective on the implications of the nation’s changing demographics and is frequently cited in the media as an expert on Latino issues and has published numerous reports that articulate the vital role they play in society.

Puente’s 35-year career serving her community spans a wide range of experiences: From 2001-08 she served as director of the Center for Metropolitan Chicago Initiatives for the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies. Her work also included the publication of the first ever publications on Latino growth in the Chicago suburbs, “Bordering the Mainstream: A Needs Assessment of Latinos in Berwyn and Cicero, Illinois,” and “Forging the Tools for Unity: A report on Metro Chicago’s Mayors Roundtables on Latino Integration.”

Puente was selected by Governor JB Pritzker to serve on his transition team, the Educational Success Committee, which was tasked with tackling the state’s educational issues. Additionally, she received appointments from two previous Illinois governors to the Illinois Education Funding Advisory Board and the Illinois Early Learning Council, and is a board director of Advance Illinois, a public policy agency working to improve education in the State.

Among her many accolades throughout her career, Sylvia is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago, and a recipient of a fellowship from the Chicago Community Trust. She is most proud of leadership awards from the University of Illinois, where she is the only Latina whose portrait hangs in the student union among other notable alums; the University of Chicago, which named her Outstanding Leader of Color; the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation; the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s (MALDEF) Community Service Award; the National Museum of Mexican Art’s Sor Juana Women of Achievement Award for Community Service and last but not least, the National Football League’s Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award presented by the Chicago Bears. Lastly, she was one of 25 Chicago area women named a “Pioneer for Social Justice.”

Senator Jeff Flake, author of the New York Times best seller “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politicsand a “Return to Principle, has taken a lonely stand for principle and civility in an era of hyper-partisanship.

After serving six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Senator Flake was elected to the United States Senate, where he served for six years. While in the Senate, Senator Flake chaired the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology & the Law, which sits at the intersection of innovation and regulation. He also chaired the Africa Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee, where he passed landmark legislation on wildlife trafficking and democratic governance.

Prior to entering Congress, Senator Flake served as executive director of the Goldwater Institute in Arizona. He also directed the Foundation for Democracy in Namibia during that nation’s transition to independence.  Senator Flake holds degrees in International Relations and Political Science from Brigham Young University.

Known for his ability to work across the political aisle, Senator Flake was the lead House Republican in the successful effort to prohibit spending earmarks, and the lead Senate Republican in the successful effort to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.

A sought-after speaker, Senator Flake delivered the 2018 commencement address at Harvard Law School. His 2018 Senate floor speech titled “Truth and Democracy” was carried live on CNN, MSNBC and the FOX News Channel. During his time in the Senate, Senator Flake was a frequent guest on NBC’s Meet the Press, ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, and CNN’s State of the Union.


Mary Lu Bilek is dean of CUNY School of Law, where she began teaching as one of the founding faculty in 1985. As a faculty member, associate dean, and interim dean, she led initiatives promoting student-centered instruction, developing and implementing CUNY Law’s innovative curriculum for practice, creating a robust bar support program, and spearheading programs that have increased the diversity of the legal profession, including the school’s innovative Pipeline to Justice Program.

In 2012, Dean Bilek was appointed dean of the University of Massachusetts School of Law, charged to lead the state’s new and only public law school to full accreditation. Under her leadership, UMass Law strengthened its access and public service missions, moved steadily towards accreditation, increased applications, improved its in academic credentials, and increased its student diversity. The law school also launched the Justice Bridge Legal Center, a law incubator that supports graduates in solo practice serving clients of modest financial means.

Dean Bilek serves on the board of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice and served as a SALT Board member. She served on the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission and the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. She is a member of the Council on the Profession, the Task Force on the Civil Right to Counsel, and the Committee to Enhance Diversity in the Profession at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.
Dean Bilek serves as an ABA Site Visit Team leader, has served on the ABA Special Committee on the Professional Education Continuum, and chaired the Section on Legal Education Diversity Committee, as well as serving on LSAC’s Diversity Committee. She co-authored Twenty Years After the MacCrate Report: A Review of the Current State of the Legal Education Continuum. She was named one of the “Most Influential People in Legal Education” by The National Jurist.

She presents regularly on issues related to the future of legal education, diversity in legal education, the bar examination, access to justice, legal incubators, and legal pipeline programs.

Dean Bilek earned her B.A. summa cum laude from St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana and her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School. She practiced law for five years with the firm Paul, Weiss before first joining CUNY Law.

Event information
Thu Jul 11, 2019
12:00pm - 2:00pm MDT
McNulty Room
Aspen Meadows campus
Aspen, Colorado