By Lou Marie Reyes
Limited-income families adapting to a new environment often face daily challenges, especially when critical information is scarce. I was 16 years old when my whole family immigrated to the United States with the help of my lola.
Like many other Filipino immigrant families, we arrived in the United States with all of our belongings, filled with our own version of the American Dream, not knowing what life would entail for us. We faced cultural and language barriers on our journey, and our lives were not easy. I became the sole advocate and interpreter for my loved ones, especially since English is not my family’s strongest language.
In this role, I learned the most efficient ways to navigate various social and legal system and to convey accurate information to my family members in light of language barriers. Most importantly, I learned the importance and value of a support system in each community.
Over the years, I became involved in local programs that advocate for underserved groups, including Filipino community members who are World War II veterans, as well as the Filipino community at large that simply could benefit from additional guidance, resources, and community.
My personal experiences have shaped my desire and commitment to serving the Filipino community. As a community legal advocate at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, I feel that it is my duty to provide access to justice for low-income, limited English proficient community members, particularly within the Filipino community. I speak in Tagalog to many callers each day, providing a sense of comfort to recent immigrants that are in need of critical legal information and resources in-language. I view our callers not as a client but my tito, tita, lolo, and lola because my community is also part of my family.
If you need legal assistance, please contact Advancing Justice – LA’s Tagalog helpline at (855)300-2552.
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Lou Marie Reyes is a community legal advocate at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. She joined the organization in February 2018 and staffs the Tagalog helpline, which prioritizes in-language assistance to the local Filipino community. Ms. Reyes works alongside Advancing Justice – LA’s attorneys that specialize in family law, domestic violence, citizenship and immigration, and employment law.