Close to Home: IIBA’s Karla Márquez

When the North Bay fires broke out on Sunday, October 8, Karla Márquez could see the smoke not far from home. She knew people would need help, so she sprung into action, seeking the nearest evacuation center.

Over the next 24 hours, Karla greeted shell-shocked evacuees, wrote down the names of missing loved ones, and directed people to food and water. One of the only Spanish-speaking volunteers, Karla translated for families throughout the night. She found comfort in providing critical information, in the language most comfortable to them.

Along with Karla, IIBA’s Napa and Sonoma staff worked tirelessly over the next few days, sharing up-to-date information with clients, while continuing to provide legal services. On Wednesday, when fire conditions forced the Napa and Sonoma offices to close, Karla remained, translating news reports and emergency alerts for community meetings.      

For victims of the fires, the road to recovery will be difficult, but Karla believes in the North Bay’s “strong sense of community, resilience, and determination.” Like many of the people she assisted, Karla is no stranger to adversity.

Born in Mexico, Karla grew up in Los Angeles. As an eight-year-old, she studied English to surmount the language barrier and thrived in school. However, as an undocumented immigrant, she felt uncertain how she could make a significant contribution to the world. While other college-bound teens were asked, “What do you want to major in?” Karla was asked, “What good is a degree when you can’t get a work permit?”

Undeterred by what people said, Karla pursued and earned a BA in International Relations from UC Davis. In 2014, she was granted DACA status. “DACA gave me the confidence to pursue opportunities I couldn’t have without a work permit,” she says.

As staff of IIBA, Karla became an accredited representative authorized to provide immigration legal services. Karla says, “It feels good to participate in clients’ immigration journey, to say ‘I represent this person, I’m taking responsibility for assisting this person.’”

Unfortunately, with the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA, Karla’s future is less certain. Despite the undeniable stress, she remains optimistic, “I can still help people, and there’s nothing that can keep me from helping our community.”

With the support of people like you, IIBA helps secure the futures of people like Karla. Your donation expands access to legal and educational services for all immigrants in the Bay Area. Please give today.

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