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Working with Marin Community Foundation to Improve the Lives of Latino Immigrants

May 17, 2023

Gebriela and Filemon with their son

Canal Alliance exists to support Latino immigrants and their families in Marin County; affordable and comprehensive immigration legal services is just one of the critical services we provide.

We are thrilled to announce that Canal Alliance was awarded a grant of $573,000 by Marin Community Foundation (MCF) to support our Immigration Legal Services (ILS) department. As one of Canal Alliance’s key funders, the unwavering support of MCF enables our ILS team to provide quality services that have a direct impact on improving the lives and futures of Latino immigrants in Marin.  

Our ILS team, which is comprised of attorneys, paralegals, and support staff, works tirelessly to provide high-quality, no-cost or low-cost legal services to Marin’s Latino immigrant community. In fact, we are the only agency in Marin to do so. MCF’s partnership allows the ILS department to manage cases that often span several years, ultimately creating lasting change in the lives of our clients and their families. Gabriela and Filemon, who emigrated to Marin County from Mexico in 1999, are one such example.

Gabriela and Filemon first came to Canal Alliance seeking support with their naturalization paperwork, having already achieved permanent residency. After working with our ILS staff, the couple attended Canal Alliance citizenship classes twice a week for six months, received one-on-one tutoring to help prepare them for the U.S. naturalization exam, and eventually, after passing the test, became proud U.S. citizens. This achievement not only fulfilled their dreams but also laid the foundation for a better future for their children.  

More recently, our ILS team, led by Director Joana Castro Simonini, has increased its focus on supporting the growing number of Unaccompanied Children (UC) arriving to Marin County. Between October 2021 and February 2023, 496 unaccompanied children arrived in Marin County. Thanks in large part to MCF’s grant for ILS, Canal Alliance has been able to support these young people—many of whom are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries—in a responsive way that fosters their long-term success and wellbeing here in Marin.

Karla Rodas stands as a testament to the transformative benefits of Canal Alliance’s support. Karla emigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala, facing numerous challenges along the way including language barriers, economic hardship and fear of deportation. Thanks to the support from our ILS team, and particularly from Joana and Melanie Santos, a paralegal, Karla was able to achieve U.S. residency. With their assistance, Karla was also able to secure health insurance, medical services during her pregnancy and employment opportunities. Now a Lawful Permanent Resident, Karla has set her sights on obtaining U.S. citizenship.  

Canal Alliance’s partnership with Marin Community Foundation has been transformative for Marin’s immigrant community. Through a combination of education, empowerment, support and collaboration, Canal Alliance is creating opportunities for immigrants to achieve their dreams and contribute to a thriving Marin County where everyone can live, learn, work and succeed.

As Gabriela, a proud U.S. citizen, says, “Canal Alliance changed our lives. They supported us every step of the way, and now we have a brighter future for ourselves and our children.”   

Read more posts in: Immigration

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