Stay up to date, sign up for our e-newsletter.

Subscribe today >

Spring 2023 Stakeholder Update from Omar Carrera, CEO

April 27, 2023

Dear Friends, 

Thanks to your ongoing support, Canal Alliance continues to succeed in supporting the Latino immigrant community here in Marin County. Last fall I shared an update that focused on our programmatic growth, and the specifics of the increasing demand in many of our service areas: from immigration legal aid for unaccompanied children arriving to Marin County, to advocacy for improved tenants’ protections, to better street lighting in the Canal for the safety of those that live here.  

With our 2028 strategic vision guiding all that we do, today I want to share an update in three key areas: 1) what, precisely, makes individual contributions like yours essential to our success; 2) strategic hires and restructures at the leadership level, and 3) our most recent programmatic accomplishments in housing advocacy, support for unaccompanied children, climate justice and workforce expansion.  

The Immense Value of Individual Contributions at Canal Alliance

As you may already be aware, Canal Alliance is the fortunate recipient of a diverse portfolio of funding, given the breadth of essential services we provide to the Latino immigrant community here in Marin. Of our approximately $12-million-dollar annual budget, about $4 million comes from grants, $3 million from government contracts, and nearly a million more we receive as generously donated services. After accounting for a few smaller revenue streams, the remaining $3.5 million necessary to balance our budget is contributed by individuals like you. Every year, we secure dedicated funding for each and every one of our program areas. But not one of our service areas is fully funded by these grants and contracts. In other words, we leverage your gifts to the organization to run our essential programs, ensuring their continued existence and success. Your gifts pay for therapist salaries and immigration legal services, tutors and teachers, case managers and advocates, and resources for our staff and clients alike. None of our work would be possible without you, and I hope as you read on you take a moment to appreciate just how much you have helped us to accomplish. Thank you for being a champion for immigrants.  

New Leadership, Laying a Foundation for Continued Growth 

We have made two key hires and one critical promotion since I last shared an update with you, all three of which will position us for continued growth in meeting the demands in our workforce, housing and immigration service areas.  

First, in January, we welcomed Richard Martinez as our new Vice President of Programs, a new role for Canal Alliance. Richard brings a wealth of experience to our leadership team and will oversee strategy, implementation and evaluation for our Education and Career, Immigration, Social Services and Affordable Housing programs. Not only does Richard bring vision to our programmatic functions, but the advent of his role will allow me, as CEO, to focus more fully on building new partnerships and the strategic future of Canal Alliance 

Second, I am delighted to re-introduce Joana Castro Simonini, who this spring we promoted to Director of Immigration Legal Services. We are especially proud to share this news because Joana’s story is one we were fortunate to have played a small part in ourselves: she first came to Canal Alliance as a client seeking immigration legal aid nearly 20 years ago, as a young law student who had just emigrated from Brazil. She then served as a Canal Alliance intern during law school, worked for a time in private practice, and returned to serve as a staff attorney on our immigration legal team. She brings humanity and compassion to her work, and our staff and clients alike will benefit from her vision and leadership. 

Finally, Tammy Duckworth has been hired as our new Social Services Director, responsible for overseeing our Health, Housing and Social Services. Born and raised in a small Native American community called Kitigan Zibi in Quebec, Canada, Tammy graduated from a native school in the community and pursued a degree in nursing, going on to serve in roles in community health and housing across the US and Canada. Tammy brings a strong background in case management to Canal Alliance, and our team will benefit from her dedication and expertise.    

Programmatic Accomplishments

Since my fall update, we have also made gains in the arenas of housing advocacy, support for unaccompanied minors, climate change preparedness and community planning, increased tenant protections and workforce expansion: 

Increased Support for Unaccompanied Children 

This past fall, I shared about the unprecedented number of Unaccompanied Children arriving to Marin County, and Canal Alliance’s expanding role in supporting them. These young people are often fleeing violence, unrest and extreme poverty in their countries of origin, and Canal Alliance is the only Marin County organization providing them with free immigration legal services. As such, I am delighted to share that we have created a new and permanent Unaccompanied Children team in our Immigration Legal Services Department. Consisting of a supervising attorney and a staff attorney who are supported by legal assistants, this team works together to provide holistic legal representation, ensuring these children are not left alone to navigate complex immigration legal proceedings they face upon arrival.  

Our social services team also supports many of these children and others through our Opportunities for Youth (OFY) Program, which helps newcomer youth acclimate to their new community and navigate confusing systems. The OFY team helps youth enroll in school, locate housing and health services, and offers recreation, mentoring and social opportunities to ensure they are supported and successful in making Marin County their new home.    

Climate Justice and Community Planning 

For the first time, leaders from the two most disadvantaged communities in Marin County—the Canal neighborhood in San Rafael, which is a predominantly Latino immigrant neighborhood, and unincorporated Marin City, which is a low-income, predominantly Black neighborhood—are coming together to partner on community planning and climate resiliency projects. Both neighborhoods are just feet above sea level and face the most imminent risks of climate change of all Bay Area communities. Through the newly created Marin Climate Justice Collaborative (MCJC), Canal Alliance will collaborate with many critical and respected partners across sectors to build capacity and leadership within the Canal and Marin City communities. This project will also build on our strong relationships with the County of Marin and the City of San Rafael to ensure equitable, community-informed planning and implementation of climate resilience projects. To fund this work, MCJC has secured a three-year grant from the Strategic Growth Council to serve as Marin’s Regional Climate Collaborative.  

This resident-led planning process will guide government, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations in investing and creating programs. In addition, the resulting community plan will allow the local government to be more competitive in obtaining funds for the infrastructure projects that the changing climate will necessitate.  

Tenants’ Rights 

Housing is a critical issue facing low-income communities, and Canal Alliance continues to advocate for the rights of tenants in the Canal neighborhood. The San Francisco Foundation recently provided a $20,000 rapid response grant so that we can expand our impact by building grassroots leadership and mobilizing renters as leaders in the community to address this challenge. With this funding, members of our Policy and Civic Engagement (PACE) team are supporting tenants through outreach and education and building momentum for policy advocacy, with the goal of bringing progressive renter protections to San Rafael’s Latino immigrant community in the Canal and beyond.  

Workforce Development Expansion 

Our 2028 vision asks Canal Alliance to be a leader and expert in helping Latino immigrants and immigrants’ families to get on the pathway out of poverty, partnering with others to grow our impact in Marin and the state. With this in mind, Canal Alliance’s workforce development programs are built upon two foundational strategies: 1) engaging an education partner to provide curriculum and training for our immigrant Latino students, and 2) engaging an employer partner to hire graduates of our programs into career-path jobs that offer living wages and robust benefits. This program model has been enormously successful and, in support of that same 2028 vision, we are expanding to provide our clients with additional career pathways. Two of our workforce clients, Nathan and Mauro, recently celebrated their graduation from the pilot cohort for our Transit Operator Training Program. This program trains bus operators for Golden Gate Transit, who then hires them upon graduation. We are also beginning recruitment efforts to enroll clients into the first of two pilot cohorts for a new Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Training Program with College of Marin, offered in partnership with By the Bay Health. Both these programs offer career-track employment for our clients and create a pipeline of skilled workers for in-demand professions in the region. 

The initiatives here and the progress we are making towards our 2028 strategic vision are possible because of the dedication and investment of generous people like you. Thank you for your commitment to supporting the immigrant community and making Marin a place where everyone can live, learn, work and succeed  

If you would like to learn more about the programs or advocacy efforts outlined here, please be in touch! 


Omar Carrera, CEO of Canal Alliance

Omar Carrera  

Chief Executive Officer  


Read more posts in: Community

Stay Informed

Join our mailing list

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.