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Empowering immigrants at the border and in our community.

April 4, 2019

Gloria Castillo, Canal Alliance Housing Project Coordinator

I’ve been a staff member at Canal Alliance for seven years. In the last few years, I’ve noticed that staff are frequently asked what Canal Alliance is doing to help families and individuals at the border. I understand why people ask this question; like you, all of us at Canal Alliance are horrified by the treatment of immigrants, many of whom are seeking legal asylum in the United States. While Canal Alliance doesn’t provide direct services at the border, we do help reunite immigrants with their family members and loved ones who live in Marin County.

I recently took a volunteer trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, where I worked with immigrants to prepare them to make their case for asylum. This trip allowed me to see even more clearly the deep need and value of the work we do at Canal Alliance – directly helping asylum-seekers at the border gave me a first-hand understanding of just how harrowing and stressful this experience is. My volunteer work also deepened my already profound respect for our clients and for all immigrants who go through this increasingly unjust and cruel system.

As a volunteer, I helped individuals and families learn as much as they could about the asylum application process. For example, I made sure they knew about inhumane practices they would have to endure just to exercise their legal right to apply for asylum, such as staying for several days in ‘la hielera’ (or ‘the icebox’), a detention center intentionally kept uncomfortably cold, even when young children are present. It was extremely important that the immigrants I was working with had accurate information about the asylum process in order to advocate for themselves and make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

This is much like the work we do at Canal Alliance. Every day we empower our clients with the information and resources they need to understand their rights and pursue their dreams for opportunity and security.

Like the individuals and families I assisted at the border, many of those who seek services at Canal Alliance have had traumatizing experiences. With the generosity of our donors, we are able to help them access behavioral health services to begin healing their trauma. We also connect them with the immigration, education, and social services they need to support their well-being, stabilize their lives and work toward their long-term goals.

You can empower immigrants with the resources they need to succeed by making a generous gift today. 

To help you understand the power of your support, I’d like to share the story of  Mildred, a young Guatemalan woman who came to the United States to escape violence. We first began working with Mildred when family friends, who lived in Marin, came to Canal Alliance seeking help to get Mildred released from a detention center. With the support of generous donors like you, our Immigration Legal Services team provided low-cost legal assistance to secure Mildred’s release from detention and paid for her transportation to Marin.

Sadly, once in Marin, Mildred was a victim of a crime. Because she knew and trusted Canal Alliance, she once again turned to us for assistance. Our Social Services team offered compassionate support by connecting her with our behavioral health services, which are designed to support those who have experienced trauma. Our Immigration Legal Services team also helped Mildred apply for a U visa, which is available to victims of crime and grants work authorization to applicants.

With this support from Canal Alliance, Mildred is now thriving. She eagerly seeks opportunities to learn, develop her career, and build a stable life in the United States. Although she arrived speaking very little Spanish (her native language is Mam, an indigenous language of Guatemala), she is now fluent in Spanish.

Mildred works full-time at a local grocery store and is now learning English through Canal Alliance’s ESL program. Canal Alliance also helped Mildred open a bank account and she is proud to have established a high credit score. She dreams of continuing her studies and buying a house.

She recently told me, “Canal Alliance has helped me so much. You have opened your doors to me and become as close as family.”

I am proud to be part of a team that helps courageous, ambitious people like Mildred build a life of safety, stability and hope. As a donor to Canal Alliance, you are an integral member of that team. With your generosity, Canal Alliance has the resources needed to work with thousands of people like Mildred every year – to identify each clients’ unique strengths and challenges and to help them achieve the dreams that powered their long, difficult journeys from their homes all the way to Marin County.

I am a proud champion of immigrants and am grateful to have the opportunity to fight for their rights and futures at Canal Alliance.

Please consider making a gift to support our work.

Read more posts in: Giving, Immigration

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