This Holiday Season, McEntee Law Group is celebrating some of our favorite charities and organizations that help support immigrants. For our “12 Days of Giving” campaign, we’ve chosen 12 worthy and important immigrant-focused organizations to learn about and support.
Our first non-profit is one very near and dear to our hearts. Co-founded by our very own Associate Attorney, Katherine Del Rosario, is Alliance for Immigrant Neighbors (AIN). We sat down with Katherine to learn more about how AIN was started and all the important work it does.
Katherine is an Associate Attorney at McEntee Law. Born to immigrant parents who were activists in the anti-Marcos movement, she was attuned to the importance of people-powered change at a young age. Katherine’s path to practicing immigration law was sparked by a combination of unique personal experiences. She spent the first years of her career doing community organizing and policy work around issues of voting rights, language access, and child care and early education. As an attorney, Katherine carries an appreciation of the culture, history, and dignity of her clients. Prior to becoming a licensed attorney, Katherine represented immigrant clients as a DOJ Accredited Representative. Katherine received her J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law, where she served as President of the Immigration Law Society and Vice President of the National Lawyers Guild. She earned her B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Washington.
Can you tell us the story behind your non-profit, Alliance for Immigrant Neighbors?
I grew up attending a church in Des Plaines made up of mostly Filipino families. Historically, our church members didn’t live in the community and instead commuted in from the city or other suburbs. Despite having been around for many years, we didn’t have strong ties to our neighbors.
After I graduated college, some of my friends became interested in connecting with the community around the church in a way we hadn’t done before. We did research about Des Plaines and the surrounding area and talked to local leaders and community members. We also relied on the most recent census data to understand the community better. One of the things we learned was that new immigrants were bypassing the city and settling down in the suburbs. However, while immigrant populations were booming in the suburbs, not every community had the legal service providers available to meet their needs. While there are many great organizations throughout the city, these were harder to come by in the suburbs, particularly the Northwest suburbs. Based on everything we learned, a few committed volunteers decided to start a legal clinic which became Alliance for Immigrant Neighbors.
The core team that started AIN came from very different life stages and backgrounds. Some were still in school, some were just starting their careers, and others had established professions but were looking to do something new. Our team included myself as a prospective law student, a future therapist, an IT professional, a community engagement worker, and an accountant. Using all our different skills and talents, we earned our credentials and launched AIN as a DOJ-recognized organization. This meant that we could provide immigration legal services to whoever needed it. This was important because there are lots of folks out there practicing immigration law when they are not supposed to.
Would you say this experience influenced your decision to go to law school?
My interest in law school came earlier. I majored in Linguistics in college and had planned on a completely different career. During my senior year, I studied abroad in Egypt, and halfway through the program, the Egyptian Revolution started. Long story short–I ended up in Istanbul, Turkey. This was my first experience trying to figure out life in a new country without any preparation. I didn’t know the language, customs, or anything!
While I was getting settled in Turkey, I learned that a good friend from back home had been arrested at a protest in support of the DREAM Act. At the time, many young immigrants were organizing for immigration reform. That was my ah-ha! moment where I realized how broken our immigration system was. It was a bit of a rash move, but I decided then that I wanted to be an attorney. It took me a while to actually get to law school, but starting AIN was one of the things that happened on my journey.
So far, what has the organization been able to accomplish? Who have you been able to help?
AIN became a DOJ-recognized organization in 2015 and officially started welcoming clients in 2016. Since then, we’ve served over 600 immigrants from 25 communities around the Chicagoland area, from 73 different countries. We started off by providing basic legal services like citizenship, green cards, and DACA. Then, we expanded into community education and engagement, like “Know Your Rights” trainings.
What is your current role in the organization?
I am a board member and volunteer attorney.
What has been your favorite part of working with AIN/creating AIN?
Since I’ve been there from the beginning, it’s been amazing to see how the organization has evolved. Originally, the goal was to build relationships with neighbors but we have also gained community and institutional partners. It was definitely a build the car while driving situation, but none of it would be possible without our staff and volunteers. Everyone who has been involved with AIN—past and present—has been so caring and committed to meet the needs of our immigrant neighbors. I also love that AIN is women-led. It has always felt like the pieces fell into place to create this small but mighty organization. From the church that’s housed us since the beginning to the medical volunteers that organized a health fair for our clients and the families that put together Thanksgiving meal kits, I’m so grateful that we’ve had the right people and support at the right time.
How can people support Alliance for Immigrant Neighbors?
Financial stability is our biggest need. You can donate any amount here.