Los Angeles – Lavinia Limón has dedicated her career to helping people in trouble, especially immigrants, and is today president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.
"The USCRI, a citizens' committee in Washington that tries to influence immigrant and refugee policies, recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding, and our responsibilities are to work on behalf of undocumented children who come alone to this country, the victims of human trafficking and refugees from all over the world," Limón told Efe.
"In the 1980s I was executive director of the International Institute of Los Angeles, and after the immigration reform law was enacted in 1986, founded together with other organizations the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, CHIRLA," she said.
Born March 5, 1950, in Compton, California, Limón is the daughter of a Mexican-American father and a mother of German descent. She graduated in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.
"After studying sociology I realized that my passion is to work with people and help them secure a better life," Limón said.
At the start of her career, she began working with refugees from the Vietnam war and then "I went to serve overseas helping people in Thailand, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, among other countries," she recalled.
During the administration of President Bill Clinton, Limón was director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement where she developed programs that helped people in shelters get jobs so they could fully integrate themselves into American life.
"Working in the community, like when I helped to found CHIRLA, was wonderful because I was in contact every day with the people I was working for," Limón said.
Limon was among the guests invited by CHIRLA last Thursday to celebrate the 26 years since the creation of the organization at the spring gala "Pathways to Promise."
"I don't consider myself ambitious in my aspirations, but in questions of employment I get bored quickly - that's why my advice to young Hispanics is to be sure to study something they're enthusiastic about," Limón said.
"And also that they learn all they can in their first job and get to know as many people as possible in their profession, and if they see no chance of promotion, to look for another job so they can keep getting ahead," she said.
Limón said she has personally experienced having what she knows and is capable of doing underestimated because of stereotypes about Hispanics.
"But what I do is, when people don't consider me capable of doing certain tasks, I do them anyway and surprise them," Limón said.
"I've never argued with anyone who thinks in stereotypes, but what I do is show them they're wrong," she said.