Latina Immigrant Activists
Photos: Instagram/@erikaandiola/@paolamendoza
Culture

Five Immigrant Rights Advocates to Celebrate this Immigrant Heritage Month

Since 2014, the “I Stand With Immigrants” initiative celebrates June as Immigrant Heritage Month to recognize the significant contributions that immigrants have made in the United States.  Though immigrants have always been a significant part of the fabric of the nation, they’ve also been historically vilified making it that much more important to bring visibility to the many ways immigrants continue to shape the country. Read on to get to know five Latinas who are immigrants and who work each day to embody the spirit behind Immigrant Heritage Month by working to advance rights and opportunities for immigrants.

Rosario Ubiera-Minaya, Executive Director of Amplify Latinx

Rosario Ubiera-Minaya is at the helm of Amplify Latinx, an organization dedicated to building the political and economic power of the Latinx community of Massachusetts, where 9 percent of eligible voters are Latino, according to the Pew Research Center. Ubiera-Minayra, who is a formerly undocumented immigrant, is originally from the Dominican Republic and has worked for over 25 years in education, housing, voter engagement, public health, and the arts. She is the first Executive Director of Amplify Latinx, a role she assumed two years ago.Through her work she is serving out the mission of the organization by increasing visibility of Latinos in Massachusetts.

Gloria Itzel Montiel, Ph.D.

Dr.Gloria Montiel is the first undocumented student to obtain a Ph.D. from the Claremont Graduate University. She co-founded UndocuPhDs, a platform and collective that connects undocumented Ph.Ds across the country. Part of the work of UndocuPhDs includes the production of a directory of books and academic articles authored by undocumented scholars helping to build community and visibility. Before completing her Ph.D., Dr. Montiel obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Harvard University, all while undocumented. Today, she mentors young scholars, including many from Santa Ana, California, where she grew up. Dr. Montiel teaches graduate courses at Claremont Graduate University in the Allies of Dreamers Certificate Program.

Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director, National Immigrant Rights Center

Marielena Hincapié is a leading national voice on immigration. She is the Exective Director of the National Immigrant Rights Center (NILC) and the Immigrant Justice Fund. NILC is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of immigrants with low income. Under Hincapié’s leadership, NILC led the charge to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program from Trump’s efforts to rescind the landmark legislation. Before she was executive director of NILC, Hincapié was one of the attorneys that led the campaign to create and implement DACA. Originally from Medellin, Colombia, Hincapié immigrated as a child to Central Falls, Rhode Island.

Paola Mendoza, Artist and Activist

Paula Mendoza is one of the co-founders of the Women’s March and served as the Artistic Director. As a filmmaker, her work depicts how the intersection of poverty and immigration impacts the lives of women and children. Her film, Entre Nos, which she starred in and co-directed, tells a story similar to what Mendoza’s own mother experienced as a young mother left by her husband to raise her family alone in a new country without any money or knowing the language. In 2020, Mendoza co-authored Sanctuary, a book centering an undocumented teenager and her mother on the run from deportation forces, showing a life that, unfortunately, too many families in the United States can relate to. Through storytelling and art, Mendoza brings to the forefront the lives and stories of immigrants.

Erika Andiola, Chief Advocacy Officer, RAICES

Arizona-based leader and activist Erika Andiola is the Chief Advocacy Officer for RAICES, an organization that provides affirmative, defensive, and litigation services to low-income immigrants. As an undocumented American herself, the work she leads is personal. She is one of the organizers that laid down the groundwork to push the decidedly red state to vote Blue during the last Presidential election. She was a co-founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and was the Press Secretary for Latino Outreach for the Bernie 2016 Presidential run. Andiola hosts the podcast Homeland Insecurities, which explores the unwritten history of the Department of Homeland Security, a government agency that was created to protect us from terrorism only to be weaponized against immigrants.