Meet CIRC's Staff and Intern Team!
Julien Ross, Executive Director
A native of Santa Fe, New Mexico with lifelong roots in Colorado, Julien Ross joined the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition as its first Executive Director in 2006. Julien also serves on the Executive Committees of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and 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. CIRC has emerged as a reliable and factual source on immigration for policymakers, educators and the media. In 2008, CIRC membership elected its first statewide governing body with equal representation from throughout Colorado.
Under Julien's leadership, CIRC 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 fill out their citizenship
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 is a native of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was a proud restaurant worker for ten years growing up; he has family and lifelong roots in Colorado.
Tel: 303-922-3344 / julien (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Nicole Melaku, Director of Administration and Programs, (Senior Staff/Management Team)
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
Karen Sherman Pérez, Development Director, (Senior Staff/Management Team)
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
Brendan Greene, Membership and Campaigns Director, (Senior Staff/Management Team)
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
Sonia Marquez, North Region Organizer (Senior Staff/Management Team)
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. Tel: 303-922-3344 / sonia (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
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.
303-922-3344, yesenia (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Melissa Khat, Operations Manager
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 Manager of Operations.
303-922-3344, melissa (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.
303-922-3344, juan (at) coloradoimmigrant (dot) org
Other CIRC Temporary Team Members
Victor Galvan, Civic Engagement Coordinator
Jessy Perez, Unite Colorado Hotline Coordinator
Erika Blum, DACA and LGBT Alliance Building Project Coordinator
Ellen Pepper, DACA Pilot Project Attorney
Nelly Garcia, West Slope Democracy Fellow (through Hispanic Affairs Project)
Sophia Clark, Rocky Mountain Democracy Fellow