Volunteering for Legal Services is a way for me to give back to the LGBT community and provide free legal aid to individuals coming from all around the world who have been persecuted.
I’m an immigration attorney helping LGBT people to navigate the process of applying for asylum and hopefully get their documents. I also help married couples get green cards when one is a U.S. citizen and the other is not.
Also, I volunteer my time twice a month at the Trans Wellness Center and at the Center’s Mi Centro location.
I have helped more than 50 people get asylum approvals and many of them were through pro bono work at the Center. More than half of these clients have been from Mexico—many of them transgender men and women. Others have been from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Ukraine, El Salvador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon, South Africa, Latvia, Mongolia, China, and Nepal.
One particularly memorable case was a trans woman who grew up in a rural part of Mexico. The men in her town tied her up to the back of a pick-up truck with a rope, dragged her for miles, and left her to die. She fled to the United States where she lived without documents for 30 years. Many lawyers told her there was nothing she could do because she had waited longer than a year to apply for asylum. She was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. It was challenging, but her asylum application was approved, and I helped her to become a permanent legal resident.
I work with a vulnerable group of people. If I’m able to help them in any way, it makes me feel better about myself. Having the opportunity to give back to your community is entirely rewarding.
Hometown: Ventura, CA
Year Started at Center: 2012
Volunteer Position: Legal Services