Meet CIRC's Staff Team!CIRC is grateful for an incredible staff team that helps advance our mission to build a unified statewide voice to advance and defend justice for immigrants and refugees in Colorado. Team members are listed by alphabetical order of last name.
Yesenia Beascochea, South Region Organizer
Yesenia was born in Durango, México and came to the United States as a young girl, being part of a migrant family were she learned first hand the struggles that many of our immigrant families have in terms of language, culture, education, and broken families. One of the most important things in her life besides her family is education and empowering immigrants to know that they can reach their full potential no mater how old they are. She believes that if you want it hard enough you can accomplish it only if you work as hard as you want it. With the help of kind people along the way so many thing can get accomplished.
Prior to joining CIRC, Yesenia was the president and state representative of the migrant education program in the south Colorado region. She is a dedicated mother and wife supporting her children's schools in their p.t.o, and is a proud MECHA member at CSU Pueblo, and a Board member with the Colorado Progressive Coalition. Her goal in life is to fight for those who cant fight, to help the ones in need and despite the barriers in life she strongly believes that if you are united to a good cause there is going to be great people to help you get across those barriers no mater how big or difficult they are. As South Region Organizer, Yesenia is responsible for strengthening CIRC's member base in the South Region by supporting and mobilizing members in strategic issue campaigns.
303-922-3344, yesenia (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Erika Blum, Development and Fundraising Coordinator
Erika Blum grew up in Seattle, where she graduated from a unique high school founded on the principles of social justice with an emphasis on the Central American sanctuary movement, where the students also made the lunches, cleaned the bathrooms and vacuumed the hallways. At Vassar, she majored in Sociology and Africana Studies, and was active in the anti-apartheid movement on campus. She studied abroad in Zimbabwe, and wrote an undergraduate thesis on post-revolutionary Zimbabwe.
In 1991 Erika earned a master's in African Studies from UCLA, and then worked as the managing editor of the Marcus Garvey and UNIA Papers Project, a book series chronicling the history of the 1920s era black nationalist leader. In 1998 she became the Assistant Director of Indiana University's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, then stopped working outside the home after the birth of her daughter in 2000, becoming involved in the local homebirth movement in Bloomington, IN. In 2001 she moved with her family to Leon, Nicaragua for one year, and then moved to Boulder in 2006.
Through friendships formed in her children's school community, Erika got involved in the struggle for tuition equity for undocumented students in Colorado, and as an ally organizer with Boulder VOICE: Voices of Immigrant Children for Education and Equality. She became a CIRC board member in 2010, as well as a field organizer for HEAA: Higher Education Access Alliance. In August of 2012 she resigned from the board and became staff. As Development and Fundraising Coordinator, Erika supports CIRC's efforts to build successful foundation and grant income, individual donor cultivation and grassroots fundraising strategies.
303-922-3344, erika (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Sophia Clark, Rocky Mountain Region Organizer
Sophia grew up in western Colorado's Roaring Fork Valley. She started learning Spanish at age 5 in a bilingual elementary school program. At Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY, Sophia's studies focused on migration, the US-Mexico border, race in the US and global capitalism. It was in college that Sophia began cultivating an understanding of privilege, oppression, and the ways history shapes current struggles. Reflecting on her home community, where immigration is one of the primary sites of intersecting inequalities, helped Sophia identify how her own privilege contributes to systems of inequality. Sophia is now dedicating herself to a lifelong path of critical awareness and action to dismantle the systems that gave rise to extreme global inequality and environmental devastation.
In 2011 she went to Chiapas, Mexico, with the Mexico Solidarity Network, learning about Mexican social movements and living in autonomous communities in rebellion. This experience shaped her understanding of how globalization connects immigrants' struggles in her hometown to struggles in other countries. She spent her senior year of college interning at Don Bosco Workers, a day labor center in Portchester, NY, fighting wage theft. She also volunteered on the US-Mexico border with No Más Muertes, an invaluable experience that brought the violence of US nationalism, xenophobia, classism and racism manifested in immigration policy to a visceral level. After graduating college, Sophia moved back to Colorado to be involved in immigrant rights in her home community. She got involved with AJUA (Asociación de jóvenes unidos en acción), a group of amazing young people that have become some of her most important teachers and also her family. Sophia started working for CIRC in summer 2013 and enjoys organizing in the mountains. During her free time she plays music with her friends and reads. As Rocky Mountain Region Organizer, Sophia is responsible for strengthening CIRC's member base in the Mountain Region by supporting and mobilizing members in strategic issue campaigns.
303-922-3344, sophia (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Juan Gallegos, Communications Coordinator
Juan Gallegos immigrated from Mexico the fourth of July 2001, when he was 12 years old. He Attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney, pursuing a Bachelors of Art-Multimedia, a minor in Visual Communications and Design, and a minor in Spanish. In 2009 he started working on immigrant rights and more specifically the DREAM act. In 2010 he came out publicly as undocumented in an interview with local television Juan has helped to organize students in the state of Nebraska and on a national level with the United We Dream network. He is a founding member of the Nebraska DREAM Alliance an immigrant youth organization. He has used his education to further the cause of the undocumented youth by creating marketing materials and media around the issue on a national and local level. More recently he started working on creating a local organization that would address the needs of a diverse community in his hometown in Nebraska. Juan has always felt the need to help others in whatever capacity he can specifically in the immigrant rights field. He started working with CIRC as an intern in the summer of 2012 and felt right at home. As Communications Coordinator, Juan is responsible for strengthening visibility and communications capacity of CIRC members and coalition to advance mission at state and regional level.
303-922-3344, juan (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Victor Galvan, West Slope Region Organizer
Victor was born in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico, and was brought to the United States as a child. His mother raised him in Denver, Colorado along with his younger and older brothers. While attending North High School in Denver, Victor found his voice with school clubs and the non-profit community. Victor has come up through grassroots volunteering as he saw his first real show of people power during the 2006 mega marches and has since become a leader through groups such as Padres y Jovenes Unidos, Politically Active Ztudents, Longmont youth For Equality, El Comite de Longmont and Mi Familia Vota. He attended one year at the Community College of Denver and hope to finish his college education at Metro State University. As West Slope Region Organizer, Victor is responsible for strengthening CIRC's member base in the West Slope Region by supporting and mobilizing members in strategic issue campaigns.
303-922-3344, victor (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Brendan Greene, Membership and Campaigns Director, (Senior Staff)
Brendan Greene graduated from Denver East High School before going on to receive a Bachelor's Degree in Latino American and Latino Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Following college, he worked for three and a half years directing a national boycott against PictSweet Mushroom Farms in Oxnard, CA for the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO. After the signing of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with PictSweet, Brendan moved to North Carolina and began organizing with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO with H-2A "guest worker" tobacco pickers.
In 2004, he was a part of a historical organizing drive that succeeded in pressuring the North Carolina Growers Association (NCGA), the nations largest H-2A recruiter, into signing a CBA representing 7,000 H-2A tobacco pickers. This represented the first time in the nations history that guest workers had successfully organized to win a CBA. As a part of this victory, Brendan was sent to open an office in Monterrey, Mexico to oversee the extremely complex recruitment system of the H-2A program and ensure worker protections were enforced on both sides of the border. Brendan's experience as a "transnational" organizer has given him a unique insight into some of the intricacies and problems facing the guest worker program and comprehensive immigration reform. Brendan is responsible for strengthening CIRC's base by developing and mobilizing members in strategic issue campaigns. Tel: 303-922-3344 / brendan (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Melissa Khat, Operations Coordinator
A Colorado native, Melissa grew up with Cambodian refugee parents who encouraged her to believe in the wealth of compassion. Melissa often found herself involved in the community all throughout her high school and college careers. She took on various leadership positions addressing the issues of Asian Pacific American youth in Colorado as a Junior and Senior Peer Counselor for five years at the Asian Pacific Development Center. She received a Bachelor's Degree in International Affairs with an emphasis on Latin America from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2011. Throughout her college career, she further gained her interest in US immigration and the circumstances that documented and undocumented immigrants experience while residing in the US.
While visiting the Southwest US border and Mexico, Melissa
completed the 2-year International and National Voluntary Service
Training Program through which sparked her passion and commitment to
providing a safe and welcoming space for all immigrants. In 2010, she
became actively involved in the retaliation against SB 1070 in Phoenix,
Arizona. Upon her return, she began involvement with Colorado
organizations such as Voices of Immigrant Children for Education and
Equality, Immigrant Legal Center of Boulder County, Colorado Immigrant
Rights Coalition, and Eye Resist. In May of 2012, Melissa began working
for CIRC as Administrative Assistant, and now serves as Operations
Coordinator, where Melissa is responsible for ensuring that CIRC has a
strong internal and coalition infrastructure and that operations run
303-922-3344, melissa (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Sonia Marquez, North Region Organizer, (Senior Staff)
Born and raised in Longmont, CO, Sonia comes from a strong supportive family. Her father is a hard working noble man from Babicora, Chihuahua Mexico. Her mother is a strong, loving, opinionated Chicana from Longmont, CO. Sonia became involved in her community at a young age, working with youth groups, community projects and learning about her culture and the importance of having a sense of belonging. Sonia is currently enrolled at Metro State College of Denver where she is pursuing her bachelor's degree in Human Services with an emphasis in High Risk Youth. Sonia has worked with youth ages 11-21 in various capacities including teaching, literacy, mentor, intervention, group facilitating, program leader and leadership groups, and focuses on culture through dance, art, music, elements of Hip-Hop, theatre, and poetry. She began as a volunteer with CIRC and the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign in September 2009 and joined the staff team in December 2009. Sonia made the decision to take a semester away from school to focus on the urgency of Immigration Reform. She is delighted to be a part of the CIRC team and to be working on a movement that is so important to her and her family, friends, students and community. As North Region Organizer, Sonia is responsible for strengthening CIRC's member base in the North Region by supporting and mobilizing members in strategic issue campaigns.
Tel: 303-922-3344 / sonia (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Nicole Melaku, Director of Administration and Programs, (Senior Staff)
Nicole Melaku is the proud granddaughter of a bracero from Chihuahua Mexico. She began her career as a Project Manager in the telecommunications industry and began her interest in community based work as a volunteer fundraiser and organizer in Aurora Public Schools. Having been personally connected to immigrant issues throughout her life, she was inspired to bring her skill set from the business world to the Immigrant Rights Movement. Nicole has worked as a fundraiser and communications coordinator for member organization, Rights for All People. Her current projects of Citizenship and Integration are deeply connected to her values of honoring the contributions of our immigrant community members and building alliances within our refugee and receiving community.
Nicole holds a B.A. in Latin American Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Nicole has traveled extensively throughout Mexico on multiple Spanish language exchange programs and spent a semester abroad at the University of Guadalajara for an intensive Cultural Anthropology program.
Tel: 303-922-3344 / nicole (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Jessy Perez, Denver-Metro Region Organizer
Jessy K. Pérez is an immigrant from Pasco, Perú who arrived to Colorado in 1999. She was born in a mining town where both of her parents taught elementary school in one of the most impoverished areas in the highlands. They moved to Lima when her bother Pablo was born and diagnosed with Down syndrome. She attended Law School at Universidad de San Martín de Porres in Lima.
Jessy is strongly committed to work towards the liberation of immigrant, LGBTQ persons, and all oppressed groups by not only recognizing the many intersections of their oppressions, but joining the struggle against discrimination of transgender people at the workplace, the struggle for better wages, desirable jobs, and better working conditions for all. Most importantly, Jessy is committed to the struggle that is not limited to policy change, but one that builds a united community ready to fight back. As Metro-Denver Region Organizer, Jessy is responsible for strengthening CIRC's member base in the Denver Region by supporting and mobilizing members in strategic issue campaigns.
303-922-3344, jessy (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Julien Ross, Executive Director, (Senior Staff)
A native of Santa Fe, New Mexico with lifelong roots in Colorado, Julien joined the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition as CIRC's first Executive Director in 2006. Julien also serves on the Executive Committees of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and is Co-Chair for the National Partnership for New Americans, two national organizations working for immigration reform and immigrant integration. During Julien's tenure, CIRC has fought vigorously for citizenship for the undocumented, to protect civil liberties and human rights of immigrant workers and families, and for a full integration of immigrants into community life in the U.S.
Under Julien's leadership, CIRC has expanded its capacity and base to now boast strong membership and movement in all five regions of the state. Since 2006, CIRC has been on the forefront of the national fight to stop deportations and unjust enforcement, and in 2012 became the first state in the nation to repeal an Arizona-like anti-immigrant state law, Colorado's SB-90. CIRC has supported new immigrant communities to participate in the historic state and national elections in 2008, 2010 and 2012, through new non-partisan voter engagement programs, and helped launch the "Ya Es Hora Colorado" citizenship campaign to assist thousands of immigrants to apply for naturalization.
Prior to joining CIRC, Julien helped start up the Houston
Interfaith Worker Justice Center and was co-founding coordinator of the
Workers Defense Project in Austin, TX from 2001 to 2006, beginning as a
volunteer at Casa Marianella. He served on the inaugural Board of the
National Day Laborer Organizing Network, five years on the Austin
Commission on Immigrant Affairs, an advisory board to City Council, and
earned his Master's in Public Affairs at the LBJ School, University of
Texas at Austin. Julien was a proud restaurant worker for ten years
growing up and saved up tips to travel abroad to learn Spanish in
Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Spain. Julien has family and two
amazing nephews native to Colorado.
Tel: 303-922-3344 / julien (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Karen Sherman Pérez, Development Director, (Senior Staff)
A Western Colorado native, Karen has been devoted to working with the immigrant and migrant farmworker communities since returning to Montrose in 2003, after spending five years working as a Peace Corps Volunteer and ESL instructor in El Salvador. During the last three and a half years Karen has coordinated the collaborative efforts of Project Common Ground, a Mesa County community and immigrant integration project, as part of the statewide Supporting Immigrant and Refugee Families Initiative. Since 2006, she has been actively involved with the Western Colorado Justice for Immigrants Committees working to achieve just and humane immigration reform as well as to promote immigrant participation and leadership in the process.
Karen has served on a number of CIRC committees and has been active in regional and statewide activities and campaigns including planning for Welcoming Colorado, and has created a strong network among community organizations as well as the U.S. born and immigrant communities. Before assuming the role of Development Director, Karen served as CIRC's Western Colorado Coordinator for 2 years where she was responsible for overseeing regional campaign and coalition efforts of CIRC member organizations in the Western Slope. Karen now oversees CIRC's development efforts to build successful structures for grant writing, individual donor cultivation and grassroots fundraising strategies. 970-249-4115, karen (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Justin Valas, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator
Born and raised in Colorado, Justin is a graduate of Eagle Valley High School. After graduation, he then moved from the mountains of Colorado to the prairies of Illinois to pursue his Bachelors Degree in International Relations, focused on the Middle East and minoring in Black Studies, from Knox College in Galesburg. Since graduation, he has called North Carolina home, working on economic justice issues and organizing for immigrant rights.
He is a founding member of the NC DREAM Team, a group of undocumented youth and allies committed to the movement for immigrant rights across the state and country. As part of the NC DREAM Team, most of his efforts were focused on policy work, which he actually really enjoys, as well as social media and outreach. Justin is also a member of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, as well as NAKASEC's API Youth Network. His work is highly motivated by the desire to recognize and create space for folks whose voices are sometimes marginalized or forgotten, particularly the API community, as well as addressing intersectionalities in building solidarity. Justin is very engaged in Asian American issues and is multilingual. He also has a passion for photography, graphic design, social media and learning new languages. With CIRC, Justin is responsible for setting up CIRC and our members to be informed about, and to win on, our policy priorities. 303-922-3344, justin (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org