Brenda Hernandez joined RIS at the end of the summer. Born and raised in Homestead, Florida, she is the proud daughter of migrant farm workers and a first generation college student. She one day hopes to attend law school and continue helping those most in need.
Tell us a little about your background and what brought you to RIS.
Prior to joining RIS, I worked in three immigration law firms in Florida, focusing on criminal defense, deportation defense and family-based immigrant visa applications. During my time at the University of Florida, I was included in the Hispanic-Latino Hall of Fame and was a Guardian ad Litem volunteer. I was selected for the Hispanic-Latino Hall of Fame due to my leadership in several student organizations. Specifically, I organized events to raise awareness of issues affecting students and assist undocumented immigrants within the Gainesville community. As a Guardian ad Litem volunteer, I was appointed by the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court to advocate for the best interests of a child involved in dependency court proceedings. To this day, I continue to serve my community with Lucha Latina, Inc., an organization dedicated to providing scholarships and mentorship to Latina students. I am blessed to have the opportunity to work for RIS because every day is a new learning opportunity to learn about the immigration field and I get to positively impact the immigrant community.
What inspires you to work in immigration?
Most of my inspiration to work in immigration comes from personal experiences. I grew up in a community composed of mostly migrant farmworkers. I remember spending most of my childhood in agricultural fields where the majority of the migrant farmworkers were undocumented. Often we lived in fear of deportation and ICE raids. Many families have been separated because of deportation, including mine. I chose to work in immigration to help prevent other families from being separated and to advocate for vulnerable communities.
What was special about growing up in Florida?
One of my favorite things about growing up in Florida was the diversity of my community. Apart from the lack of seasons in South Florida, I appreciate being exposed to different kinds of food and cultures. It allowed me to become an adaptable individual, and understand how we can all live under the same roof and be accepting towards one another.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I would like to go Japan. I have always been a fan of their cherry blossoms and shrines. A part of me has always wanted to see the other side of the world, so I think Japan would be a great place to start my tour.
What are your favorite things to do when you’re not at work?
When I am not at work, I like to go to the gym, dance folklórico, listen to podcasts and read. My favorite podcast is Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. My goal this year is to become a more spiritual person and I think listening to what others have to say regarding spirituality is the first step towards achieving this goal.
Folklorico dancing is a traditional Mexican dance that emphasizes local folk culture with ballet characteristics. The dance varies from region and folk music genres of Mexico. While I was growing up, I always saw performances, but my mom couldn’t afford to pay for my lessons, so I never had a chance to try it until now that I am residing in D.C. One of the main reasons why I like it so much is because it reminds me of home and it’s one of the traditions I hope to pass on to future generations.
What is your hidden talent?
I am left handed and can write upside down. This skill came in handy when I didn’t want people to copy my answers for a test and it also meant that I didn’t have to choose where to sit in a classroom during my time in high school because not many students were left handed.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
To never waiver in my beliefs and values, regardless of the challenges I encounter in life.