Executive Director Margaret Flores and Removal Defense Attorney Bernice Espinoza
The Secure Families Collaborative
What is your organization’s mission?
The Secure Families Collaborative fosters equity, belonging, and justice by working with our partners to provide high-quality immigration legal services and facilitating connections to culturally responsive social services.
What project(s) are you most urgently working on right now?
The Secure Families Collaborative is a coordinated network of the following partners: USF Law School (Healdsburg), Sonoma Immigrant Services (Sonoma), Immigration Institute of the Bay Area (Petaluma), North Bay Organizing/Queer Accompaniment Asylum, Catholic Charities Santa Rosa, Legal Aid Santa Rosa, and Keystone Therapy and Education.
We are very happy to be serving not only the legal needs of our Sonoma County immigrants, but also meeting their mental health, housing, food, and other social service needs. Many people do not understand the amount of trauma that our community members experience leaving their birth countries to live and work here. Having trauma-informed practice is great, but better when we can provide healing through our partners at Keystone, and remove the anxieties of food and housing insecurity through our partners at Catholic Charities.
Queer asylum seekers often flee their countries because of their fear of persecution, imprisonment, or even the death penalty. Our partner, North Bay Organizing/Queer Accompaniment Asylum, is committed to fulfilling the essential needs of LGBTQ asylum seekers, including housing, legal referrals, and connections to other social services.
What measurable outcomes are you most proud of?
The Secure Families Collaborative has served over 2,000 immigrant families and has a 90 percent case success rate.
What are the biggest roadblocks/challenges to accomplishing your mission?
Immigration legal services, whether they are affirmative services like applying to a U-Visa or removal defense, can take years due to the federal government’s processing of these cases. Removal defense involves representing and advocating for immigrants facing deportation. Most of these cases require appearance before an immigration judge. These hearings determine whether an immigrant can remain in the Unites States. While some immigrants are scheduled for removal because the government alleges they are here without valid immigration status or have broken a law, many immigrants find themselves in unexpected situations that lead to removal proceedings.
The biggest challenge is having the ability to provide these quality services in a sustainable fashion that will ensure continuity and support throughout the duration. As of right now, there are only two removal defense lawyers and a waiting list because the need is vast. The waiting list was created to ensure that each client receives the competent representation that they deserve.
However, it is our dream to have secure funding for five years to allow for the expansion of another lawyer and to avoid individuals having to represent themselves in court while on the waitlist.
What do you wish local residents knew more about?
The richness of our immigrant community in Sonoma County. Often times, people only think of our undocumented community, but we have such diverse statuses. We have people with student and work visas, we have asylees, DACA recipients, and legal permanent residents. Many of our families have mixed statuses and contribute to what makes Sonoma County the wonderful place it is. We have people from countries all over the world, including populations from Eritrea, Fiji, Nepal, and Latin America.
How can people support your work or get involved?
The services we provide to our clients are free, so all financial support is appreciated to continue to do this work. You can donate at
However, if you would like to give your time, you can join our partners at North Bay Organizing Project to be part of their Rapid Response Network. Likewise, you can become a trained volunteer who accompanies our community members through Queer Asylum.