Affiliate Profile: Mariela Barja Cahow

Oct 17, 2013

CLINIC values the dedication and commitment to service demonstrated by our affiliate agencies in their work with their communities.  We wish to highlight outstanding individual agency staff in a series of profiles appearing monthly.       

Mariela Barja Cahow
Legal Services Program Coordinator
Littleton Immigrant Resources Center
Littleton, Colorado

How many years have you spent working in immigration?

This is my first year working on immigration.  Prior to my employment with the City of Littleton, I was a Spanish teacher for grades K-12th for 7 years. My educational background is in Law, and I have the equivalent of a Juris Doctor degree in the U.S.  I am a Licensed Attorney in Bolivia. I also have a minor in Political and Social Sciences.

As the acting program supervisor at the Littleton Immigrant Resources Center, I am in charge of leading case work for eligibility screening and naturalization application assistance for a USCIS-funded naturalization project under the supervision of our Supervising Attorney, Ann Allott.  I assist in location of immigrant services including ESL classes, transportation, health care, school enrollment, employment, housing, and identification for immigrants and refugees in our community.

Why do you do this job?

Immigration is where I believe I can do the most good.  I am a naturalized US citizen and having been through the immigration process myself.  I know how hard it can be to make the transition to a new culture, learning the language, etc.  I very much enjoy helping others going through the same process.  Being an immigrant and having a background in law lead me to this beautiful pathway of service.

What do you love about your job?

Littleton Immigrant Resources Center is a unique place; we offer citizenship instruction, naturalization application assistance, one-on-one mentoring, and resource assistance.  On any given day, we assist immigrants from Mexico, Iraq, Vietnam or El Salvador. It is a very rewarding job; most of our clients qualify for the USCIS fee-waiver for the naturalization application. I am very pleased to help those in need.

Tell me about a client’s case that has stuck with you over the years?

I met a wonderful young woman a couple of months ago who was involved in a VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) case.  She had two small children and worked hard to get her GED.  In fact, by the time I met her, the woman was about to start her first semester of college!  Her courage to learn and desire  to offer a better future to her children is somethingI admire. 

I am happy to see our students after a long day at a construction company, school, or nursing home learning about US history and civics in preparation for citizenship. This determination is something that I see not only in our students, but also in our LIRC staff and community volunteers.  We all love this country and are proud to be called Americans, or in the case of our students, to hopefully one day be called Americans.

How do you engage at CLINIC?

I have recently submitted an application for my Board of Immigration Appeals Accreditation and CLINIC has been vital not only assisting with the application process but also in providing training through webinars and e-learning sessions. The policy updates that are posted online and the newsletter that I receive are an important part of keeping current with all immigration issues.