Maria arrived at IIBA’s citizenship preparation class last Tuesday just as she had done every week for the past six months. But this Tuesday was different since Maria was there to inform her fellow classmates and IIBA staff that she had just passed her citizenship interview and was now a U.S. Citizen.
“Working with U-Visa clients makes me feel like a better person and I know I am working to improve lives, which is pretty awesome.” Melissa and her husband moved to the Bay Area from Georgia a year ago, and she was looking for volunteer opportunities at a non-profit.
Through her accomplishment, Maria not only has earned full access to all the benefits of citizenship for herself, but she has also paved the way for her son. “Now that I have my citizenship, my son is eligible to become a U.S. citizen.” Asked what she would tell someone in need of immigration services, Maria says, “I would fully endorse IIBA to anyone in need of support and help to make their dreams come true.”
Monica began volunteering at IIBA in 2009, after leaving her position at a law firm. “I am not any different at IIBA than I would be at a firm,” she explains, “but I feel more appreciated for being who I am here. It’s a much more human interaction. I didn’t get hugged by my clients when I worked at a firm. I didn’t get told ‘You’re the only person in the world I trust.’” At IIBA, “Clients understand we have their best interests at heart.”
When Elena Knapton attended IIBA’s citizenship class, the instructor, Sean, impressed her right away. “In a classroom with so many people from so many different backgrounds, he made everyone feel comfortable. When I found out he was a volunteer, I thought, ‘He’s really walking the extra mile.’”
“I always wanted to make my mother proud,” says IIBA client Antonio Rojas. This desire became his guiding principal when Antonio left his home in Mexico, a twelve-year-old setting out on his own, seeking a better life in the United States.
Once a child who sat under the stars, marveling over the wonders of space, IIBA client Moises Bautista now dreams of working for NASA. A student at Cañada College, Moises excels in his Mechanical Engineering courses, but a question mark looms over his future, a question mark that IIBA is trying to help him erase.
IIBA Legal Intern Lauren Bier is no stranger to volunteer work. “When I turned twelve years old my parents announced, ‘You’re old enough to start working at the soup kitchen!’” Her early experiences taught Lauren to appreciate the many advantages she has in life, and to look for opportunities to give back to her community.
When you meet Xenia Martinez, a former IIBA client and current employee, it doesn’t take long to notice there’s something special about her--not just the warmth of her smile or her quick laughter, but her innate ability to inspire hope in people. “Everything is like a seed,” she says. “You just have to pour water on it to let it grow.”