Francisco Gonzales is a Cuban attorney and works as Program Director of Refugee and Immigrant Services for Catholic Charities in San Francisco. He is one of Immigrants Rising’s earliest allies and has served as the Legal Services Training Supervisor since 2010.
How did you get connected to our organization?
They found me. Kathy Gin had just started with her co-founder, Carrie Evans, and they needed a legal supervisor, somebody who could train their legal team. Kathy knew about me and she knocked on my door. I was really, really thrilled.
Tell us about your background and how you became a lawyer specializing in immigration.
I’m originally from Cuba. I came to the U.S. after living in Sweden, and in Sweden, I lived as an undocumented immigrant. I requested status, which was never granted. I came here fleeing the reality of being deported back to Cuba, a country where I had political troubles. Many political troubles.
When I came to the US, I requested political asylum. I was in a detention center, and I was self-represented. I was an attorney; I graduated from law school in 1989 in Cuba. I practiced law for a long time before coming here. But in spite of all of that, it was so overwhelming. The process was incredibly difficult. But luckily, I got my asylum granted in a few days.
I decided from my experience to become an immigration lawyer. It is a pleasure to help immigrants every day in different capacities.
What do you think is unique about our organization?
E4FC [Educators for Fair Consideration, now known as Immigrants Rising] is such a hub of wonderful individuals of different ages, and different perspectives, different talents. But it’s so contagious, the quality of the people. I especially enjoy being part of it. It’s an organization that I’m proud of being part of, truly proud of being part of.
I feel the cohesiveness here. There’s a level of commitment and a level of excitement that makes the place very unique.
What are your suggestions for what our organization can do better to advance immigrant rights?
E4FC is such a dynamic organization that grows so incessantly. E4FC does not stay static for more than one minute. It’s so adaptable to circumstances. E4FC grows faster than ways that I can think of for it to change. It goes faster than my mind, so I have no suggestions about what it should do.