Meet Carmen; Immigrant, Mother, Survivor and JAMLAC’s New Immigration Paralegal!
At the young age of two when she was merely taking her first steps in this world, Carmen had already lived the dreaded experience of family separation. Due to the terrible economic situation in Mexico at that time, her father immigrated to the United States to support her family through agricultural work. Eight years later, after he had given it all on the California strawberry and lettuce fields, her father returned for her and the rest of the family for their journey to the United States.
Thus, at age 10, Carmen had won her first battle, being successfully reunited with her family. However, as many immigrants know and live day to day, there were many battles yet to come, including overcoming many language and cultural barriers as well as domestic violence.
“I still remember the day I was summoned for jury duty. I let one of my college professors know I would be missing his class and was met with a discriminatory response when he said, ‘You? When did you become a citizen?’ I became a naturalized citizen before turning eighteen way before this encounter, yet he made me feel as if I was worth less or I couldn’t fulfill this duty because of my appearance.”
The struggles of her family inspired her to obtain Bachelor of Arts degrees in Spanish and Sociology/Social Welfare from Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado; another battle won. She also went on to obtain a graduate certificate from the University of Denver’s Latino Leadership Institute Fellowship Program.
“I was studying to be a Special Education teacher when in college, but some events change your perspective. Since I had personally experienced domestic violence in my first relationship, I felt a special calling when I had the opportunity to work for a dual domestic violence/sexual assault agency. I always loved working with people and from that day, I knew I wanted to be an advocate for victims and survivors of crimes.” In fact, since then—12 years ago—Carmen has worked in the victim/survivor advocacy field.
“I love working with immigrant survivors! After all I am a domestic violence survivor and an immigrant myself! I always try to put my self in the shoes of others. To listen and really be present for those we serve because I know they are going through something difficult and traumatic in their lives. I always try to remember that despite the legal paperwork we are completing, the clients are human beings who are experiencing some difficult times.”
In fact, her work speaks for herself! She has worked as a Department of Justice Accredited Representative with the San Luis Valley Immigrant Resource Center, where she provided immigration legal assistance to victims and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crimes. Carmen has also worked as a victim advocate and crisis hotline coordinator for a dual domestic violence/sexual assault agency. Furthermore, she has served on national and statewide boards, task forces, and committees focused on sexual assault, domestic violence, and community wellness. In 2016, she received the Visionary Voice Award from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. One more battle in the books!
Today, Carmen lives in Denver with her husband and two daughters. She is an example of a person who inspires and whom we know will continue the fight against poverty and oppression. JAMLAC is proud and honored to have her as the new Immigration Paralegal!