CIRC is grateful for an incredible team that enacts our mission to build a unified statewide voice to advance and defend justice for immigrants and refugees in Colorado.
Staff members are listed below by alphabetical order of last name:
Erika Blum – Grassroots Fundraising Manager & North Region Support Person
Erika Blum grew up in Seattle, where she graduated from a unique high school founded on the principles of social justice with an emphasis on the Central American sanctuary movement, where the students also made the lunches, cleaned the bathrooms and vacuumed the hallways. At Vassar, she majored in Sociology and Africana Studies, and was active in the anti-apartheid movement on campus. She studied abroad in Zimbabwe, and wrote an undergraduate thesis on post-revolutionary Zimbabwe.
In 1991 Erika earned a master’s in African Studies from UCLA, and then worked as the managing editor of the Marcus Garvey and UNIA Papers Project, a book series chronicling the history of the 1920s era black nationalist leader. In 1998 she became the Assistant Director of Indiana University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, then stopped working outside the home after the birth of her daughter in 2000, becoming involved in the local homebirth movement in Bloomington, IN. In 2001 she moved with her family to Leon, Nicaragua for one year, and then moved to Boulder in 2006.
Through friendships formed in her children’s school community, Erika got involved in the struggle for tuition equity for undocumented students in Colorado, and as an ally organizer with Boulder VOICE: Voices of Immigrant Children for Education and Equality. She became a CIRC board member in 2010, as well as a field organizer for HEAA: Higher Education Access Alliance. In August of 2012 she resigned from the board and became staff. As Grassroots Fundraising Manager, Erika oversees CIRC’s efforts to build successful individual donor cultivation and grassroots fundraising strategies. As North Region Support Person, Erika supports North Region members to engage in strategic campaigns.
Sophia Clark – Campaign Manager and Rocky Mountain Region Point Person
Sophia grew up in western Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. She started learning Spanish at age 5 in a bilingual elementary school program. At Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY, Sophia’s studies focused on migration, the US-Mexico border, race in the US and global capitalism. It was in college that Sophia began cultivating an understanding of privilege, oppression, and the ways history shapes current struggles. Reflecting on her home community, where immigration is one of the primary sites of intersecting inequalities, helped Sophia identify how her own privilege contributes to systems of inequality. Sophia is now dedicating herself to a lifelong path of critical awareness and action to dismantle the systems that gave rise to extreme global inequality and environmental devastation.
In 2011 she went to Chiapas, Mexico, with the Mexico Solidarity Network, learning about Mexican social movements and living in autonomous communities in rebellion. This experience shaped her understanding of how globalization connects immigrants’ struggles in her hometown to struggles in other countries. She spent her senior year of college interning at Don Bosco Workers, a day labor center in Portchester, NY, fighting wage theft. She also volunteered on the US-Mexico border with No Más Muertes, an invaluable experience that brought the violence of US nationalism, xenophobia, classism and racism manifested in immigration policy to a visceral level. After graduating college, Sophia moved back to Colorado to be involved in immigrant rights in her home community. She got involved with AJUA (Asociación de jóvenes unidos en acción), a group of amazing young people that have become some of her most important teachers and also her family. Sophia started working for CIRC in summer 2013 and enjoys organizing in the mountains. During her free time she plays music with her friends and reads. As Campaign Manager, Sophia is responsible for overseeing the Campaign to Unite Colorado which includes IMPACT legislation and Documenting Abuses. As Rocky Mountain Point, Sophia supports and mobilizes Mountain members in strategic issue campaigns.
Juan Gallegos – Director of Civic Engagement & Legal Services
Juan Gallegos is the Director of Civic Engagement & Legal Services for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC). He immigrated to the United States from Mexico on the 4th of July 2001 when he was 12 years old. Juan attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney and graduated with a Bachelors of Art-Multimedia, and double minored in Spanish and Visual Communications and Design in 2011.
In 2009, Juan started volunteering with United We Dream, an immigrant youth-led organization. His work focused on passing the DREAM Act, a fight that is still ongoing today. In 2010, Juan came out publicly as undocumented in an interview with local television. He then went on to organize undocumented students in the state of Nebraska at the national level. As a founding member of an immigrant youth organization, the Nebraska DREAM Alliance, Juan was able to help win state legislative battles in Nebraska, including the right for DACA youth to obtain driver licenses.
From 2012 to 2015 Juan worked as the Communications Coordinator for CIRC. His work was published regularly in different outlets throughout the state including the Denver Post, and at the federal level on Congressional Record.
Juan then moved to Nebraska to fight his dad’s deportation and engage Nebraska’s Latino community in the political process. While doing so, he worked as a Paralegal at a private law firm and continued to publish his opinion in state and local news outlets. In 2016, Juan returned to both Colorado and CIRC to work as the Civic Engagement Coordinator. He was promoted to Director of Civic Engagement and Legal Services in January 2017.
Victor Galvan – Director of Membership and Engagement
Victor is a Rocky Mountain native, born in Chihuahua, Mexico and a graduate of North High School in Denver. He began organizing in the immigrant community in 2008 at age 16 through Padres Y Jóvenes Unidos. In 2012, Victor joined the CIRC team to help mobilize Latino and immigrant voters in the general election and was instrumental in the campaign to win ASSET in-state tuition equity in 2013. Victor’s voice helped to ensure that ASSET included state-funded scholarships for undocumented students. Victor is a directly impacted member of the CIRC staff and proudly calls himself a DREAMer. Victor dreams of one day finishing his college education, as he qualifies for ASSET.
Nelly García – West Slope Regional Organizer
Nelly F. Garcia Olmos moved from Mexico City to United States when she was 12 years old. She has lived in Grand Junction, Colorado since 2000 and graduated from Colorado Mesa University with a BA in Spanish Applied Professional and Spanish- Literature and Language. Nelly volunteered with the Hispanic Affairs Project (HAP), CIRC member organization in the west slope, which works toward a just and equitable society. She joined HAP board of directors in 2012, where she served as secretary. In the same year, Nelly also joined CIRC board of directors, serving as the secretary her first yar and the second year as the vice president.
Nelly has supported CIRC’s priority campaigns like Unite Colorado, as she represented HAP at the steering committee. She supported the work to repeal SB 90 and supported the work towards passing SB 13-251, which allow undocumented immigrant to obtain a state driver license. Nelly has travel to Washington DC, to advocate for immigration reform and Dream Act. When DACA passed in 2012, she worked in educating her community about the executive action and joined immigration attorneys in the effort to process DACA applications. Four the past 4 years, Nelly has worked for Migrant Education Program, enrolling families and providing instructional/support services for migrant families in 29 school district across the western slope of Colorado. She joined the team in 2018 as West Slope Regional Organizer.
Brendan Greene – Campaigns Director
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.
Kyle Huelsman – Policy and Advocacy Manager
Kyle Huelsman was born and raised in Jefferson County Colorado, and moved to Boulder to attend the University of Colorado. Raised by two Kansas farmers, Kyle was a first generation college student where he pursued degrees in Economics and Ethnic Studies. In 2010, Kyle organized with local immigrant rights activists to fight for Colorado ASSET, mobilizing a diverse university student coalition to garner CU Regent support for the legislation.
Prior to joining CIRC, Kyle co-founded the statewide nonprofit Food Rescue Alliance. He consulted food security organizations in Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Springs, and also worked with national food retailers to develop tax credit legislation for fresh food donations. During the 2015 legislative session, Kyle worked as the legislative aide for a Democratic state representative, supporting policy issues around equal pay and economic justice. Most recently, he held a position with the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, developing health equity policy for Colorado Medicaid.
As the Policy and Advocacy Manager with CIRC, Kyle manages the legislative and advocacy components of the strategic campaigns, including coordination with our contract lobbyists and elected officials, developing policy related materials, and overseeing the annual advocacy day at the state capitol and national delegations to Washington D.C.
Sonia Marquez – North Region Organizer
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. As North Region Organizer, Sonia is responsible for supporting and mobilizing North members in strategic issue campaigns.
Nicole Melaku – Executive Director
Nicole Melaku is the Executive Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. Nicole was introduced to organizing and fundraising as a volunteer in Aurora public schools and was inspired to bring her skill set to the immigrant rights movement in 2010. In 2012, she joined the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition(CIRC) where she worked on CIRC’s immigrant integration programming in conjunction with national partners. Prior to taking this position, Nicole was on the staff of the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado, where she oversaw grant-making and special initiatives including the Colorado Immigrant Funders Collaborative. She is first generation American and granddaughter of immigrants from Chihuahua and Guanajuato Mexico.
Nicole is an alumni of the University of Colorado, Boulder where she studied Latin American Studies and Spanish. Nicole currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) and the National Partnership for New Americans. S 2018 fellow of the Transformative Leadership for Change in Colorado, a select group of 19 leaders from diverse organizations working to build a more just and inclusive vision for Colorado.
Edwin Ruiz – South Regional Organizer
Edwin Ruiz was born and raised in Oaxaca, Mexico, and came to this country undocumented at the age of 21. He had wanted to pursue his dream of a law degree in Mexico, but was unable to do so due to financial barriers and limited work opportunities. He migrated alone to United States with no knowledge of the language or culture. He experienced discrimination first-hand, as well as the constant fear of deportation. He became a US citizen in 2015, and is now married with five children, and recently graduated from UCCS with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology.
At the age of 15, Edwin joined CONAFE, through which he was given the opportunity to travel to rural marginalized areas in Mexico and teach in elementary classrooms for a year. In the United States, he has continued to help the community through various leadership roles, including: co-leader of a Spanish-speaking youth group, chairman of the parish council, member of the diocesan Hispanic ministry, president of the UCCS Pre-Law club, and leader of a men’s retreat. Edwin decided to work for CIRC when he learned about the work that this coalition does to protect the rights of the immigrant community. Edwin is very passionate about this work, because he realizes we must unite to become a strong community where human rights are validated, regardless of immigration status..
As South Regional Organizer, Edwin is responsible for supporting and mobilizing South members in strategic issue campaigns.
Karen Sherman Pérez – Development Director
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.
Cristian Solano-Córdova – Communications Manager
Cristian is a Denver native, born in Chihuahua, Mexico and a graduate of George Washington High School in Denver. He began working for the immigrant community in 2015 when he ran and won an election to become a student body president at MSU Denver. After his work for undocumented students at Auraria Campus, he worked for immigrant communities at the Mental Health Center of Denver, but yearned for a more direct role. Cristian joined the CIRC team in 2017 as Communications Manager. Having benefited from the ASSET law for undocumented college students that CIRC had a hand in passing, he feels working for CIRC is his way of paying that forward. Cristian is a proud DREAMer and hopes to continue his education and one day becoming a medical doctor after his work for the immigrant justice movement.
Stephanie Tanny – Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Organizer
Stephanie and her family immigrated from Indonesia to the United States when she was two years old. She grew up in Denver, and double majored in Ethnic Studies and Sociology at Colorado State University. She has been working in the social justice field for 8+ years and previously served on the CIRC Board of Directors from 2012-2015.
Stephanie has helped generate over $1 million for sexual violence prevention and has won national leadership awards including the Top 15 Asian American Women Leaders in 2011. She has been interviewed by MSNBC, the Westword, The White House Project, and has appeared live on C-SPAN. As an international speaker, she has shared the stage with public figures such as President Bill Clinton, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Actor Kal Penn, and John Oliver from The Daily Show.
One of the most comprehensive and intersectional projects that Stephanie has worked on was for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), where she completed a key investigative report (Turning the Page on U.S. Immigration Policy) that documented how current immigration policy affects Asian American women and families. She has worked for organizations such as Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, Organization of Chinese Americans, and Congresswoman Judy Chu.
Stephanie is passionate about creating more diverse and inclusive communities, and she is looking forward to continuing on her work with CIRC.
Caitlin Trent – Operations Coordinator
Caitlin is from Colorado, where she also received her Bachelor’s in Spanish and International Relations at the University of Denver. After graduating she lived in Peru, working at a development non-profit as a volunteer coordinator. For the following three years, she bounced between working in Breckenridge, Colorado and Latin America. During that time, she worked for Walking Tree Travel as a service guide in Peru, did journalism in Medellin, Colombia, and was a human rights intern at the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Dominican Republic. After the internship with the OAS, she moved to Hawaii for nine months, waiting tables before starting her Master’s Degree. For her Master’s, she returned to the University of Denver and studied International Relations with a concentration in transitional justice and received a Certificate in International Human Rights Law. During her Master’s, she worked in Sri Lanka with a Community Policing program that improves relations between post-conflict communities and the local police force. After graduating, she conducted research in Nepal on diverging agendas between victims, government and civil society organizations in its war-crime justice process. Her research is currently being published by the Sie Center at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. She started at CIRC in August, 2017 as the Operations Coordinator and has loved the team and the critical immigration work that it does in her home of Colorado.