This year, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County’s Immigration Legal Service (ILS) program celebrates 40 years of serving the immigrant community in Santa Clara County. ILS has made a difference for approximately 100,000 individuals through a number of programs and has served generations of immigrant families, refugees, asylees, and survivors of crimes and violence.
In February, Robert Yabes, Program Director at ILS received the Beacon of Light Award from the County of Santa Clara for innovation in development of programs and services for immigrants and refugees. Yabes has been with ILS for more than 20 years and his dedication to helping the immigrant community has never wavered. Yabes’ empathy for his clients, colleagues, and the community can be seen every day. Whether he is meeting with clients who need representation in court, or when speaking at a community event about how ILS can help immigrants in need, Yabes is an example of how one person can truly make a difference.
Established and recognized by the federal Board of Immigration Appeals in 1976, our ILS programs provide legal immigration and citizenship services to moderate and low-income immigrants seeking to improve their immigration status and gain U.S. citizenship. We inform, guide, empower, and assist individuals to understand the process and the challenges about their immigration situation so that they can make informed decisions. We also work with other community-based organizations to expand services to different populations within the community.
Gabriella, a former client, came to Catholic Charities because her abusive husband threatened to deport her. She did not have immigration papers. Yabes and the ILS team helped her file a self-petition under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). For several years after her successful petition, she was required to renew her employment authorization annually until she finally was granted her lawful permanent residence. Her self-confidence grew tremendously. Her employment skills also improved and she started her own successful housecleaning business.
It is clients like Gabriella who inspire Yabes and the ILS team to give their best each day so that underserved communities and those who feel powerless can have the best legal services possible.
“I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Catholic Charities family, from leadership to our clients, for the many opportunities that made me who I am,” said Yabes. “Every person is a ‘Beacon of Light’ to another, and that’s what makes our world brighter and more hopeful.”
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