Immigration Rights are Human Rights

Ana Ortega-Villegas

My Immigration Journey

Like everyone, my journey starts with my mother. My mom is a U.S. citizen. Thanks to her citizenship, I could adjust my immigration status to come to the United States from Mexico for my undergraduate studies. I remember traveling by bus to Ciudad Juárez, where the U.S. embassy that handled my case is located. The application and processing time was complex, and I still recall how stressful that time was for me, my mom, and my grandma.

Ana Ortega-Villegas and her grandmother

One of the conditions for me to become a legal permanent resident of the United States was that my mom had to spend six continuous months in the U.S. without leaving the country. During those six months, we were kept apart, with my mother working in the U.S. while I stayed back in Mexico. While that sounds like a short time for most, but it felt like ages for me and my mom.

We are still healing from that separation.

Such was my first experience with the adversarial U.S. immigration system, one where family separation seems bitterly inevitable. While I will never compare my privileged migration story to others, my experience motivated me to become an immigration and human rights advocate. I hope no one ever has to experience family separation, a sentiment that drives my passion for moving immigration justice forward.

Tent City at Border
“Seeking asylum is a human right, yet the asylum system in our country is failing people in desperate need of protection.”
Becoming A Human Rights Advocate

My worldview is that we are all immigrants. We have the right to move in search of safety and happiness. Immigrants are some of the most hard-working, caring, and compassionate people. And while suffering a lot, they never lose hope. 

I began my career in human rights and immigration almost ten years ago, working with unaccompanied minors detained in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. I have worked as a human rights monitor and legal observer, provided court tours, worked on asylum cases, and provided “Know Your Rights” presentations to immigrants, while documenting human rights abuses and violations.

As my career progressed into advocacy, I brought the severe impact of anti-asylum policies to members of Congress and their staff.

Advocating for protecting underserved immigrants and using my voice to call out injustices is the energy that feeds me and keeps me going. And this is why I was drawn to the work of Mobile Pathways.

Fundamentally, we both share the belief that immigration rights are human rights. Our vision statement is, “We believe that everyone deserves fair access to justice so they can live a better life.” I am thrilled to be part of a team of diverse people with different backgrounds who share a passion for protecting vulnerable immigrants.

A fulfilling career also means learning new things and incorporating new ideas into existing problems. For me, learning how we utilize tech to make people feel safe and help them with their legal cases will be an exciting foray. Undoubtedly, from what I have already seen, our technology saves time, money, and, ultimately, lives. 

Where does my work begin? First, by connecting and better understanding the needs faced by our partners. Once I fully grasp their challenges, I will help our partners create innovative solutions to integrate technology into their work further. As our collective usage of technology grows, we will start detecting patterns via data that shows where immigration justice is failing refugees, including unaccompanied minors. By sharing this evidence with strategic stakeholders, we seek to end family separation and immigration detention practices.

Are you ready to help us on this mission? Follow us on LinkedIn to learn more about our crucial work.