Getting to Know Joana Castro Simonini, Director of Immigration Legal Services at Canal Alliance
March 21, 2023
Canal Alliance is thrilled to announce Joana Castro Simonini’s promotion to Director of Immigration Legal services (ILS). Joana’s passion for immigration law has been with her since the beginning of law school and motivates her in her work for Canal Alliance and for our clients. In fact, Joana first came to Canal Alliance as a client herself.
It was the early 2000s and Joana had just emigrated to California from Brazil; she had begun law school in Brazil and decided to complete her studies here in the United States. She came to Canal Alliance seeking support with her residency application, one of the services she now provides to Canal Alliance clients.
During law school here in the US Joana completed two separate internships with Canal Alliance, from 2005-2008, eventually joining the team as a staff attorney in 2014. Joana rose to serve as our managing attorney in 2017 and served in that position until her most recent promotion to oversee the department.
Joana says she feels honored to do her part to support more Latinos access the same resources provided to her and, thanks to her many years with Canal Alliance, is incredibly connected to the experiences of Canal residents, whether they are seeking relief from deportation, residency, or citizenship. For Joana, the legal needs of new immigrants and their lived experiences are inextricable. “For me,” says Joana “Clients aren’t just another legal case, they’re human beings each with their own individual needs and we have to take that into consideration when providing services.”
For this reason, Joana finds it immensely helpful and vital to the success of the legal case that Canal Alliance offers such robust wraparound services to clients. “When I’m helping a client I’m not only helping with their paperwork, but I also connect our clients with the other services that they need such as citizenship classes or English classes or mental health and social services support. It’s been amazing to have the support of Canal Alliance’s program staff to assist our clients in so many ways.”
Throughout the years working on our ILS team, Joana says she has learned tremendously from her clients, and perhaps most of all from her young clients. During her first 5 years with Canal Alliance, Joana led our cases for unaccompanied minors, children who arrive in the U.S. under the age of 18 without a parent or legal guardian. Often, unaccompanied minors flee their countries because of violence or unrest. Others have come seeking work or are victims of trafficking. Joana went the extra mile in all these cases, making sure these children had access to the opportunities they deserve.
For Joana, her work with unaccompanied minors has been inspiring and educational. “I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work closely with these children and learn about their lives and culture. This exchange has enriched me tremendously and I’ll be forever thankful to my clients for this gift. I now feel a very strong connection with Guatemala and all its culture!” Now I see my clients thriving and becoming residents or citizens and I love that.
As the director of ILS, Joana’s main goal is to expand capacity. Joana also intends to maintain the high quality of service the ILS team provides, while ensuring staff have manageable caseloads. We are thrilled to have Joana leading the ILS department, and looking forward to all that is to come with her new role as its director.