~This web series takes a deep dive into the Tahirih Justice Center’s challenging yet rewarding work, and the champions who show up day after day to get it done.~
In Georgia, one in ten residents is an immigrant, equaling about one million people in the state. Yet in the Atlanta Immigration Court, the denial rate for asylum is 98%, the highest in the nation. To meet the high needs of the immigrant community, Tahirih opened its newest office in Atlanta at the beginning of 2018. Since its launch, Tahirih Atlanta has added several passionate, dedicated, and ready-to-work staff members whose mission is to change the world – one woman, one family, and one community at a time.
Meet Eileen Espinal, our Tahirih Atlanta Client Advocate. In her role, Eileen offers day-to-day support to our clients as they rebuild their lives in the U.S. by offering vital local resources and services to guide and empower them as they work to improve their circumstances. In addition, Eileen provides general paralegal support to Atlanta’s legal services team, which is still growing!
The attention to each client as a whole person rather than just focusing on addressing their specific legal needs is what Eileen believes sets Tahirih apart.
The most rewarding part of my work with Tahirih is witnessing a woman or girl transition from panic to purpose. We provide trauma-informed, culturally-competent, high-quality assistance to help our clients in their efforts to self-advocate. By reminding them of their power and all that they have already overcome, the client can move forward through the legal process with self-assurance, strength, and support from the Tahirih team. Nothing is more gratifying than watching a Tahirih client reclaim her agency.
Eileen’s professional journey was influenced by her early upbringing. As a first generation American, whose family emigrated from the Dominican Republic, Eileen was born into a largely matriarchal family, which has informed her deep-rooted empathy for the women and girls that she now supports through Tahirih. Her passion for supporting women and her understanding of the journey lends to her compassion for immigrant women and girls fleeing violence.
Growing up as a first generation American in a single-mother home, I was aware of both the unique struggles that immigrant families face and the tremendous strength that the immigrant community possesses. Immigrant women are often the backbone of their families. They uproot their lives to escape devastating circumstances in their home countries, and then often meet insurmountable hurdles in their new country, all with the hope of finding safety and building a better future. It is my responsibility to use my privilege to fight for social justice for all people and to always treat people with care and dignity. Immigrant women empower and uplift whole communities. My mother and grandmother showed me that. There is nothing that they cannot do, especially with the support of organizations like Tahirih.
Prior to joining Tahirih, Eileen worked extensively with young immigrants, incarcerated persons, and the homeless. Serving as a Community Youth Advocate with the Southern Poverty Law Center in Florida, she conducted legal advocacy and outreach in communities, schools, and prisons across the state. Prior to that, Eileen worked with the women’s program of Camillus House, an organization serving the poor and the homeless in the South Florida community. Her experience working with various marginalized groups confirmed Eileen’s passion for social justice, which led her to Tahirih.
Although the current political climate has created fear, challenges, and barriers for many working at Tahirih, Eileen does not feel hopeless.
Tahirih knows how to fight intelligently and consistently. For decades, the organization has been at the forefront of two very contentious policy realms – women’s rights and immigrant rights. Tahirih’s unique relationships with partner organizations allow us to elevate the voices of our clients on a local, national, and international level. As long as brave women continue to fight for themselves, Tahirih will fight alongside them. I hope the community continues to stay encouraged through the fight for social justice. Persistence will lead to progress.
Thank you, Eileen, for tirelessly working to help immigrant women regain their voices and lives in the wake of violence. Your desire to advocate and promote social justice for marginalized populations is truly inspiring.