Dora Chairez: NIEP community organizer highlight

Get to know one of the eight National Immigrant Empowerment Project, or NIEP, community organizers that are advocating alongside members of their community and empowering the immigrant community to take the lead in creating long-lasting, positive changes in their cities.

1. Where do you work and what is your main role within the organization?

I work for Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico as a community organizer.

2. Why do you enjoy working with the immigrant and refugee community?

I enjoy working with the immigrant and refugee community because I come from a family of immigrant parents. Coming from immigrant parents, I know firsthand the hardships immigrants go through and nothing makes me happier than being able to help the immigrant and refugee community.

3. What inspired you to enter this field of work?

Working as a secretary, for 8 years, at the Catholic Church in my community, inspired me to enter this field of work. Helping others makes me feel useful and it makes me feel good knowing that even a small action can make a positive impact on someone else. Working at my church gave me the opportunity to help the parishioners of the community but working as a community organizer will give me the opportunity of helping all the community.

4. In your opinion, what benefits does integration offer your community? What strategies have you found most impactful when promoting integration?

I believe integration in my community can be beneficial in several ways. Integration can make my community culturally and socially stronger, and if the community is socially and culturally stronger in effect it will be economically stronger. The prosperity of each individual community member benefits the entire community.

5. How have community organizing efforts impacted your community?

Community organizing has impacted my community in positive ways because there has been an increase in public engagement. There has been more participation in community meetings and many members of the community have been able to receive direct assistance, especially during these difficult times.

6. In what ways have immigrants and refugees been involved in grassroots organizing?

Grassroots organizing has worked to strengthen immigrant communities by creating grassroots leaders in those communities.

7. How has the immigrant community been empowered in your community? Why is it beneficial for them to feel empowered?

The immigrant community in my community has been empowered by helping them improve their lives and helping them have a strong voice in the community. It is important and beneficial for them to feel empowered so they can build social and political power in the community.

8. Can you briefly explain your project and what changes you are hoping to see over the next few years? What do you hope communities across the country will learn from the National Immigrant Empowerment Project (NIEP), your project specifically?

Our project works to educate about immigration and the rights of undocumented immigrants, as well as, to strengthen the immigrant community and build leaders. Our project will promote immigrant integration and empowerment. Over the next few years, I hope to increase Hispanic/Latino voter participation in the community as well as develop community candidates to run for office. I hope communities across the country will learn from our project how to advocate for immigration reform and changes to the current government policies.