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Anna Pier

Under the Sun – Alondra Marroquín, advocating for immigrants

Alondra Marroquín describes herself as "a proud daughter, sister and spouse of immigrants." She has worked with the nonprofit Sonoma Immigrant Services (18360 Sonoma Highway) since its inception in 2019). SIS has helped nearly 300 locals become naturalized U.S. citizens and, in May, was accredited by the U.S. Department of Justice. As we celebrate our country's founding, Anna Pier talks with the talented and passionate 29-year-old about her work with immigrants, her journey and her dreams.  A lifelong Sonoman?  I was born in Santa Rosa, lived my first three years in México, and have lived in Sonoma ever since. I went to Flowery, Adele Harrison, and Sonoma High.  As a child, what did you dream of being? A veterinarian. Later, I entered SRJC in the nursing program, and I became an EMT. But I took a required sociology course. Its scope, all the societal issues it covered, really drew me, so I decided to major in sociology. As a McNair Scholar at Sonoma State University, I wrote an extensive research paper on systemic abuse by the U.S. deportation system, and the effects of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention and deportation on families. In May 2020, I received the C. Wright Mills award for my academic research and, but for the pandemic, I would have gone to the Pacific Sociology Conference to read it.  Why this topic? When I was 13, in 2008, my father was pulled over for a routine traffic stop, taken to the Sonoma County Jail, and in three days, deported. My family couldn't afford legal services to defend him or even give us advice. My visit to him in the jail was traumatic. I had to speak to him through holes in a thick glass door and they wouldn't let me give him a hug good-bye. I became an advocate for immigrants. First, I was involved with Faithful Friends, who visited people in the ICE detention at the Yuba County jail. When I was at SSU, I began working as a student intern with attorney Vicki Handron, in her then-little office in El Verano, serving immigrants. Now, five years later, I have the honor to be Sonoma Immigrant Services' co-founder, and I feel so grateful for the ongoing mentorship I have received from Vicki.  Have you been able to help your father's situation? Unfortunately, my dad passed away unexpectedly in October 2022. He and I had a very unique bond. Despite the distance after his deportation, he always remained encouraging and supportive. My grief journey has been challenging. I finally started therapy and highly encourage everyone to give therapy a chance to help break generational cycles of trauma. Hopefully, mental health services can become more accessible to all, and I hope we can have more bilingual and bicultural mental health professionals (and attorneys)!  You're married. I met my husband Alex Marroquín at SRJC. We got married in October 2016 when we were both 21 years old. We’ve been a power couple since. He is a Mexican immigrant who came here on a student visa and obtained his degree in Chemical Engineering. He's now working as a Product Design Engineer, working on carbon-capture technology for a start-up company partnering with Lawrence Livermore Lab. He’s also a patent inventor.  Challenges of your job? I'm very passionate about what I do. I love my work, but it's also hard. I get angry about how outdated and unjust the immigration system is. And it is difficult hearing people's stories – gender violence, organized crime, gangs, rape, extortion. As I help them write about their immigration trajectory in their applications, I've had to learn to have my own coping mechanisms, to take good care of myself. Satisfactions of your work? Helping people navigate such a complex immigration system. And helping people who think they have no options is such a good feeling. And accompanying people to their naturalization interview – very nerve-wracking for them, but a very happy moment.  In your spare time? I like to travel, hike, eat good food, dance, write, and spend time with my family, friends and pets. I do love to travel. So far, besides México, I’ve been to Cuba, Portugal, and Italy. México is my favorite place to visit because my roots call and it’s culturally diverse, and it has a great culture and gastronomy!  Community connections? I am President of the Board of SIS, and I'm on the Board of ArtEscape, and on the Grants Committee for the Catalyst Fund. And I recently became a member of Impact100. Membership was part of the two-year grant they awarded SIS. I am very grateful for guidance from others in the nonprofit sector.  The future? I’ve just begun to think that maybe I will become an attorney. I’m participating in a program through the Sonoma County Bar Association, the Pipeline Pods program at Empire College School of Law. The goal is to diversify the legal field.  A final thought for our readers?  My biggest motivation and drive in my life has been my parents, who sacrificed so much to start a new life in this country as immigrants, and to make sure we had everything to succeed. I am a proud daughter, sister, and spouse of immigrants and hope that one day in the near future there will be an immigration reform that will offer a pathway to citizenship to ALL!!  
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