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:
Nayda Benitez – South Regional Organizer
At the age of seven, Nayda immigrated to Colorado with her mom and younger siblings from Puebla, Mexico. From an early age, Nayda knew that her and her family were undocumented. Growing up in Colorado Springs, she witnessed the exploitation, criminalization, and discrimination that her parents were often subject to as undocumented immigrants living in a politically conservative city.
In 2014, Nayda became the first in her family to be admitted to college. While she was a student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS), Nayda fought fiercely for educational and institutional equity for immigrant students. In early 2017, she founded UNIDOS, the first-ever undocumented student organization at UCCS. Later that year (in response to the Trump’s administration repeal of DACA), she also founded Springs Dream Team, a grassroots advocacy group for young undocumented people in Colorado Springs.
After graduating from college in the summer of 2018, Nayda worked as a paralegal in removal/ deportation defense work in Denver while continuing to organize for immigrant rights. In September of 2019, she eagerly joined CIRC as their new South Regional Organizer. Besides community organizing with and for marginalized people, Nayda is also passionate about tacos, literature, and Korean pop music.
Marine Brichard – Development Director
Marine is from Belgium, but spent most of her life outside of the country: she grew up in Burundi, studied in Belgium and the US, and worked for a couple of years in Morocco. Passionate about different languages and cultures, she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation (French, English, Arabic) and a Master’s Degree in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. Her desire to help others and to contribute to a more just world prompted her to pursue a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and to work in the field of international development. In 2017, she joined Moroccan Children’s Trust, an organization that supports vulnerable children and their families in Taroudant, southern Morocco. In 2018, she moved to Casablanca and joined the Middle East and North Africa Office of SOS Children’s Villages, where she supported member organizations across the region in developing their institutional fundraising.
While her professional experience has mainly been in the field of children’s rights and child protection, Marine has always volunteered for organizations that defend the rights of immigrants and refugees. She believes in pro-immigrant policies and in making communities more welcoming to migrants. She is very excited to be CIRC’s new Development Director and to support the organization’s fundraising efforts!
Lisa Duran – Interim Executive Director
Lisa has worked for over 35 years in the nonprofit sector doing grassroots social justice work. Before becoming CIRC’s Interim Executive Director, she served as the ED of Grassroots Grantmakers, a national membership organization of foundations and other funders working to lift up grassroots voices and leadership in philanthropy.
From 1995 to 2014, Lisa worked with Rights for All People, Colorado’s first immigrant-led immigrant rights organization based in Aurora, Colorado. After eight years as a volunteer, she became its first ED, serving for 11 years. While at RAP, she also co-founded the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and the Aurora Human Rights Center, an immigrant and refugee integration project in Colorado’s most diverse city.
Lisa’s prior experience includes service as the ED of the Clinica Tepeyac, bringing culturally appropriate health care and preventive health services to the medically underserved; as a trainer and researcher with the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising training; with the Labor/Community Strategy Center, and volunteer service with The Highlander Center for Research and Education in Knoxville, TN and the Building Movement Project.
In 2018, Lisa founded a consulting firm, Rivers Crossed Consulting, that works to build capacity and transform relationships within the nonprofit sector.
- (303) 922-3344
Alex Galeana – Advocacy Director
Alex was born and raised in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico, and immigrated to California when he was 7. His experience as a DACA recipient, and the obstacles that came with adjusting to a new country, led him to focus on a career dedicated to advocating for some of our nation’s most underrepresented communities.
Before CIRC, Alex worked as an Organizing Director for NextGen America in California’s Central Valley and briefly as NextGen’s Arizona State Director. In California, he executed a field plan that focused on turning out some of the most underrepresented and low-propensity voters in the region: millennial and Latinx voters. His team’s efforts helped increase turnout amongst 18-24 year olds by 321% compared to the 2014 midterm election. These efforts helped flip California Congressional District 10, one of the most competitive districts in the 2018 midterm election.
Before his time in electoral spaces, Alex worked on consumer protection and higher education policy issues at various organizations throughout California. He helped coordinate the movement that passed SB 33 (Dodd, 2017), a bill that now holds big banks like Wells Fargo accountable when they commit fraud against their consumers, and AB 1995 (Williams, 2016), a measure that now allows homeless community college students to use their school’s showering facilities.
Alex is now happy to manage CIRC Action Fund’s electoral program, where we have won historic elections in Aurora, Denver, and Commerce City.
- (303) 922-3344
Paola Grimaldo – Development Coordinator
Paola moved from Michoacan Mexico to the United States at the age of 2 and has called Denver her home ever since. She most recently graduated from the Community College of Denver with an AA in Political Science in 2018. She has started attending the Metropolitan State University of Denver to earn her BA in Political Science with an emphasis on communications.
As a DACA recipient, and daughter of immigrants fleeing extreme poverty in Mexico, Paola has a burning passion for equality of opportunity for all. Paola participated in the 2017 walkouts when the Trump Administration threatened to rescind DACA. This is when she knew she couldn’t stand by anymore, she had to take matters into her own hands and get her feet wet in the political arena. Since then, Paola has worked with multiple campaigns, fighting for abortion rights, climate, and immigrant rights. She is now one of the federal campaign organizers with CIRC and is fighting to get the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 passed so that she and other undocumented youth could live a normal life in the country they call home.
Gladis Ibarra – Campaign & Hotline Manager
Gladis Ibarra, born in Zacatecas, Mexico, immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 8. From Boulder to Broomfield, she grew up in Colorado and graduated in 2008 from Vantage Point High School. Gladis has been an active volunteer with CIRC since 2012. In September of 2017 DACA was threatened and rescinded by the administration, Gladis participated in the massive Denver Public School walkouts where students marched to Metro State University. This year she joined the staff as a fellow for the Denver Region for 3 months. She is now joining the team full time as the new Hotline Coordinator and Denver Region Organizer support. As a DACA recipient, Gladis’ passion is the main thing that drives her in this fight to protect her family, her community. She is excited to be able to dedicate her time and energy to fight and defend people like herself.
Gladis Ibarra born in Zacatecas, Mexico, immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 8. From Boulder to Broomfield, she grew up in Colorado and graduated in 2008 from Vantage Point High School. Gladis has been an active volunteer with CIRC since 2012. In September of 2017 DACA was threatened and rescinded by the administration, Gladis participated in the massive Denver Public School walkouts where students marched to Metro State University. This year she joined the staff as a fellow for the Denver Region for 3 months. She is now joining the team full time as the new Hotline Coordinator and Denver Region Organizer support. As a DACA recipient, Gladis’ passion is the main thing that drives her in this fight to protect her family, her community. She is excited to be able to dedicate her time and energy to fight and defend people like herself.
Raquel Lane-Arellano – Political Manager
Joining CIRC as the Policy Manager is a dream come true! Ever since Raquel had her first taste of grassroots organizing as a high schooler on Obama’s campaign in 2012 to protect friends and loved ones who had just applied for DACA, she have been eager to help grow our pro-immigrant policy and political power here in Colorado. As a first-generation college graduate and Chicanx/Latinx major, she moved back to Colorado after college to empower her community and increase access to opportunity for all in our state.
In the 2018 midterm election, Raquel worked as a Family Defender Field Coordinator with CIRC leading CIRC’s civic engagement efforts in Aurora to promote sanctuary city policies and energize immigrant and POC voters. She looks forward to growing with CIRC and the immigrant rights movement in Colorado to continue crafting better realities and futures for our community together.
Mateo Lozano – Mountain Regional Organizer
Originally from Bogota, Colombia; Brought to the USA when he was four years old. His family escaped from a country torn apart by a millennia of destabilization; A national history with roots stemming with endless imperialist abuses. FARC is holding his family’s country hostage to this very day.
Thanks to DACA, Mateo is a Colorado Mountain College graduate from Breckenridge, Colorado. He received his associate’s degree in psychology and will continue pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Communications and a minor in psychology in Metro State University. DACA has allowed him to involve himself with the Civic Engagement campaign during the 2016 elections, and has had the honor to involve himself with the HB-1206 license campaign as a DACA spokesperson and state coordinator for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.
Mateo Lozano currently has the honor of being the Rocky Mountain Regional Coordinator for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition; Assuring that the mountain regions of Colorado have safeguards and strong communities to defend against ICE.
Siena Mann – Campaign Manager
Siena has been active in justice movements since graduating from Haverford College with a B.A. in Spanish Literature. First educated in the OCCUPY movement in Philadelphia, Siena became deeply invested in immigrant rights issues while working in Mexico City at Casa de los Amigos, a non-profit focused on issues of immigrant and economic injustice. There, she worked in a coalition dedicated to addressing some of the root causes of forced migration: the failures of U.S. imperialism and neoliberalism. She then moved to El Paso, Texas where she worked supporting Annunciation House in their emergency migrant shelter program.
Siena moved back to Colorado to work at Joseph Law Firm, an immigration law firm, as a paralegal. Siena become an active local organizer in Colorado Springs in the deportation resistance movement. She helped found the Colorado Springs Sanctuary Coalition and is an active member of CIRC’s member group Grupo Esperanza. She joins the team at CIRC as the South Regional Organizer and is so excited to build a powerful movement in Southern Colorado for immigrant justice on local, state and national level!
Kevin Omaña Mendoza – Legal Services Coordinator
Kevin was born in Ecatepec de Morelos and has lived in Denver, Colorado since 1998. He is a graduate of George Washington High School in Denver and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He began working with communities of color in Colorado in 2013 as a Bridge Project Scholar. There, his work was primarily focused on working with low-income and public housing students. At Colorado State University, his undergraduate work focused on working with El Centro around program development that focused on LatinX identity and empowerment. Much of his work was behind the scenes, working with university officials and community partners to host a variety of events, including keynote presentations from Dolores Huerta and A.B. Quintanilla III. Kevin continued his work with marginalized and underrepresented students through numerous organizations and programs.
Realizing that institutions of higher education, such as Colorado State University, were doing a disservice to DREAMers, Kevin spent the majority of his time in graduate school working with undocumented students. He worked with key university officials and allies to provide programming that intentionally disrupted the systems of oppression which impacted undocumented students. As a DACA recipient and beneficiary of the ASSET law, Kevin’s work focused primarily on students ineligible for such programs. Examples of this include programming around entrepreneurship and means of support in graduate school for DREAMers. While in Grad School, Kevin became BIA accredited through World Relief as a way of supporting undocumented immigrants in Northern Colorado. He joined the CIRC team in 2019 as Legal Services Coordinator. His goal in this position is to develop systems of support and radicalization that help immigrants navigate through the complex system of immigration. Kevin is a proud DREAMer and aspires to attend law school to continue to support his community.
- Legal Services Hotline: 970-430-6729
Laura Peniche – Hotline Coordinator
Originally from Puebla, Mexico, Laura has been calling Denver home since age 13. With an Associates of Applied Science Degree in Writing/Directing for Film & Television from the Colorado Film School, her documentary film debut: “No One Shall Be Called Illegal” showcased at the 2011 Denver International Starz Film Festival. In 2017, Laura was a Producer for the documentary film: “Five Dreamers”, which aired on Rocky Mountain PBS and National PBS. Laura has been an active community member with Together Colorado since 2016 and in the year 2018 became the Project & Engagement Manager for Motus Theater’s UndocuAmerica Project, where she continues to work as an UndocuMonologues performer. Laura is now working for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition as Hotline Coordinator for the ICE incident report hotline.
- Colorado Rapid Response Network Hotline: 1-844-864-8341
Chau Phan – AAPI Community Organizer
Chau (Jo) is the Asian American & Pacific Islander Organizer for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC). She immigrated from Vietnam at the age of one and attends the University of Denver. She is working on her Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Computer Science and is multilingual in English, Vietnamese, and Mandarin.
Chau started her work in intersectional justice around the age of 18, focusing on anti-blackness in AAPI communities, gender equality, and LGBTQ rights. In 2018, she lobbied with the Friends Committee on National Legislation for clean energy and climate change policies in both Denver and D.C. She also worked at the Colorado State Capitol as a legislative aide, dedicating most of her time to bill research around the growing homeless community in Colorado. Chau is currently on the Executive Committee for the Rock the Boat Colorado AAPI Leadership Conference for three years running. She works to bring in high school and collegiate students to become civically engaged around (though not exclusively) Asian American & Pacific Islander issues on a local, national, and global scale.
Cristian Solano-Córdova – Communications Director
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.
Joshua Stallings – North Regional Organizer
Josh’s eyes were opened in 2015 and 2016 while spending a year working at La Sagrada Familia migrant shelter in Tlaxcala, Mexico. He met people who had been his neighbors in his hometown of San Antonio, TX and college-town Lakewood, Colorado and were then migrating back to the US after deportation. Their stories moved him and he realized that his own liberation would be bound to that of his immigrant brothers and sisters.
When he returned to Denver in the Fall of 2016, he got involved in the movement and in deportation resistance. Through work with CIRC’s Docuteam, he has been a part of our push for Virginia’s Law. He is proud of the collective success made to require an advisement of rights and end ICE holds and information sharing without a warrant. Moving forward, he will continue to push to end ICE notifications, inform people of their rights, increase access to legal and community resources, and provide a pathway to citizenship for ALL PEOPLE in the United States!
He is very, very excited to be the new North Regional Organizer! He’s looking forward to building new relationships, empowering movement leaders, and taking big steps toward making Colorado a more immigrant-friendly state as a part of this beautiful coalition. *
Caitlin Trent – Operations & Program Manager
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.
Travis Harris – Data Fellow
Originally from Nebraska, Travis comes to CIRC by way of Los Angeles, where he most recently led the technology team for the veteran founded disaster relief organization Team Rubicon. Prior to working in the technology field, Travis was in the US Army for 5 years where he spent time in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, and England. During his time in the Army, Travis received his undergraduate degree in Physics, and is now attending school again for Fermentation Science. In addition to humanitarian/disaster relief technology work, Travis has been a tech advisor for local and congressional campaigns, focusing on data architecture and communications.