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:
Andrea Cota Avila – Development Coordinator
Andrea was born and raised in Mexico until she immigrated to Michigan when she was 6 years old. She attended Michigan State University and graduated with a degree in Arts and Humanities. Her exposure to social justice issues during her undergraduate career inspired her to pursue a career in the non profit sector.
Because of her research work with Latinx high schoolers and minor in Chicano/Latino studies, Andrea’s dream has been to advocate and fight for the rights of Latinx communities.Prior to joining CIRC, she worked with a basic needs organization as a Development Associate. She is incredibly excited to join the CIRC team, and looks forward to connecting with donors. In her free time, you can find her hiking the beautiful state of Colorado, practicing yoga or reading.
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 she 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!
- (303) 922-3344
Emily Bruell – Communications and Development Coordinator
Emily grew up in Carbondale, CO. Her first experience with activism came in middle school, when she attended an AJUA-led protest against the presence of a police officer known to collaborate with ICE in the public schools. Seeing the power of this kind of community organizing inspired her to pursue a career in social justice.
Emily recently graduated from Carleton College, where she studied English with a focus on the mechanics of narrative and the power of storytelling to create change. In 2019, she did a storytelling and communications internship at CIRC; now, she’s excited to return as the communications and development director!
- (970) 366-8443
Lisa Duran – Executive Director
Lisa has worked for over 35 years in the nonprofit sector doing grassroots social justice work. Before becoming CIRC’s 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
Erik Garcia – Director of Organizing and Membership
Erik Garcia, originally from Mexico, has been organizing as part of the migrant justice movement combatting detentions and deportations for seven years.
Prior to joining CIRC, Erik was a Policy Advocate and Organizer for ACLU SoCal, where he worked with diverse communities within Orange County and Statewide to build coalitions to advocate for policy changes and expand local infrastructures to respond to detentions and deportations. He previously served on Santa Ana’s Sanctuary City Advisory Board, which advises city agencies and departments on how to comply with the Sanctuary City Ordinance. Erik has been instrumental in the founding and development of the Orange County Rapid Response Network.
Prior to joining ACLU SoCal, Erik organized at the grassroots-level in Santa Ana, a city whose people have always expanded the understanding of what is possible when we organize. The connections he has built with some of the most resilient and creative people this movement has to offer inspire him to continue to do what he can to build this movement and to contribute to our collective liberation.
Paola Grimaldo – Operations & Program Manager
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 has 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 in 2014. First trained 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 became an active local organizer in Colorado Springs in the deportation resistance movement. She helped found the Colorado Springs Sanctuary Coalition and was an active member of CIRC’s member group Grupo Esperanza. Siena joined CIRC as the South Regional Organizer from 2018-2019. As one of CIRC’s Organizing and Campaign Managers, Siena work now focuses on making improvements to the SB251 Driver’s License for All program, coordinating the I Drive/Yo Manejo Coalition and fighting for data privacy for all.
- For questions related to SB251 Driver’s License: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Omaña Mendoza – Legal Services Manager
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
Clara O’Connor – West Slope Regional Organizer
Clara is thrilled to join CIRC as the Western Slope Regional Organizer! As the daughter of an immigrant, she is eager to begin building connections throughout the region and play a part in making Colorado a more welcoming, immigrant-friendly place.
Clara earned her degree in International Affairs and Anthropology at CU Boulder. As part of her studies, she spent a few months in Nepal and India conducting research while working with members of the Tibetan community. She learned about their efforts to preserve Tibetan culture while being isolated from their homeland and their complicated status as refugees. Throughout this experience she became particularly interested in human rights and continuing to work with diverse populations. After graduating, she lived for several months with her family in Uruguay and then moved to Japan as a member of the JET Program. This provided her with the opportunity to foster intercultural cooperation and strategize improvements to English language education by working with members of a small, rural community.
Now that she is back in the United States, Clara is excited to use her multicultural background and experiences abroad to help bring positive change to her home state from the grassroots level!
Alex Ogle – Communications Manager
Originally from Fort Worth, Texas, Alex graduated from TCU with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts. After graduating, Alex moved to the West Coast and worked on various agricultural farms giving him a deep appreciation for the beauty and physical challenge of farm work.
Alex first became involved with immigrant rights while studying abroad in South Africa and becoming acutely aware of the oppression and injustice migrants face around the world. He attended his first immigrant justice rally in Cape Town while volunteering with a non-profit working to combat xenophobia against refugees. After working on farms, Alex joined the immigrant rights movement in the United States and worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with the welcoming movement in New Hampshire, a coalition fighting to make the state a more welcoming place for immigrants and refugees. Alex then joined Peace Corps and served as a volunteer in Ecuador where he worked with local teachers to improve English education and implemented programming to empower youth to embrace cultural diversity and question traditional assumptions of gender, race, and power.
Upon returning to the U.S., Alex relocated to beautiful Colorado to join the communications team at CIRC. He is excited to use his design and communications skills to help uplift and empower the movement for immigrant justice in Colorado.
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
Q.C. Phan – Denver Regional Organizer
Q.C. is the Denver Regional 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.
Q.C. 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. Q.C. 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.
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. *
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.