Uniting paralegal skills, law firm experience and a desire to help others, Karla Rosario, ’15, is making a difference in the lives of refugees stranded at the United States-Mexico border.
Since February 2020, she has been the coordinator for Project Corazon, an initiative of the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation. Rosario has been living in Brownsville, Texas, helping individuals seeking asylum as they are forced to await their court hearings from Mexico.
“We find them volunteer attorneys to help with asylum paperwork, and we coordinate the translations and psychological evaluations to produce reports for their immigration applications,” she said.
With a federal policy requiring asylum seekers to stay in Mexico, Rosario works with individuals across the border from Brownsville in Matamoros, most of whom are living in a refugee camp. According to the law, asylum applications must be filled out within one year of arriving at the U.S. border. With court delays due to the lack of judges and asylum hearings on hold due to COVID-19, refugees are not sure how long they will have to wait in dangerous conditions, and they are without essential items like medicine. There’s even difficulty knowing how many individuals need assistance.
“It’s hard to say how many migrants are there,” said Rosario. “They hear rumors that the camp is closing, so some move around. Some wait in other Mexican states. Many of our clients have been kidnapped from the camps.”
Rosario has assisted individuals from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador, but many of those waiting at the border are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Frequently, she shared, individuals from these Central American countries are fleeing gang violence and death threats.
Since its founding in August 2019, the initiative has helped around 1,500 families, a total of 2,700 individuals, with the processes necessary to apply for asylum.
Arriving in the United States at 16, Rosario took English as a Second Language classes when she first enrolled at the College. She was also working two jobs to fund her education and learning English while a full-time student. Graduating with an associate degree in Paralegal Studies in 2015, she continued her studies at Temple, attending full-time while working at a law firm, earning money for school and gaining valuable experience. She completed her bachelor’s degree in 2018, and her ultimate goal is to become an attorney.
“The Paralegal classes at the College were great. They prepared me well,” she said.
A former instructor and a colleague told Rosario about the opportunity to help with the border crisis – work that she finds fulfilling.
“I am able to connect with these individuals and understand their situation, and I can be unbiased and get the facts,” said Rosario.