Founded in September 2002, Families for Freedom is a New York-based multi-ethnic human rights organization by and for families facing and fighting deportation. We are immigrant prisoners (detainees), former immigrant prisoners, their loved ones, or individuals at risk of deportation. We come from dozens of countries, across continents. FFF seeks to repeal the laws that are tearing apart our homes and neighborhoods; and to build the power of immigrant communities as communities of color, to provide a guiding voice in the growing movement for immigrant rights as human rights.
FFF has evolved into an organizing center against deportation. We are source of support, education, and campaigns for directly affected families and communities -- locally and nationally.
ABRAHAM PAULOS (Executive Director) Abraham joined Families for Freedom, as a member, after he faced immigration detention. His experience moved him to aggressively advocate for others. Abraham is deeply committed to social justice and has worked for a number of years advocating for human rights. Before joining the staff, he was a researcher at Human Rights First, focused on immigration detention. He also served as Program Director at Life of Hope, a community based organization in Brooklyn, which provides services to low-income immigrants. Additionally, Abraham has worked in media, reporting on urban policy and human rights as a writer and editorial assistant with City Limits, the civic affairs magazine that publishes investigative news on New York City politics and policies. Abraham is an Eritrean refugee, born in Sudan and raised in Chicago. He is a graduate of George Washington University with a degree in International Affairs and is currently finishing a Masters in Human Rights at the New School University.
CINDY MARTINEZ (Advocacy Coordinator) is a member of Families For Freedom after being an intern at FFF and being affected by a family members’ deportation and fear of deportation. Cindy was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She comes from a family of Mexican descent, migrant parents. For the past three years she has worked closely with individuals who are incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, detained and non-detained and those facing deportation proceedings. She has conducted community education presentations in at risk communities, educating individuals and their loved ones who are directly affected in understanding the system. She is highly committed to immigrant rights and social justice. Cindy graduated from Hunter College of The City University of New York (CUNY) with a major in Women and Gender Studies and a minor in Human Rights.
CRIS HILO (Organizer) with family coming from the Philippines. For the past nine years, Cris Hilo has been agitating, organizing, and mobilizing diverse communities around immigrant and workers' rights. She's worked with Families for Freedom in recent years building the Migrant Power Alliance, a coalition of directly affected immigrant communities throughout New York City. She was the Youth Lead Organizer at the Arab American Association of New York in Brooklyn, mobilizing young people to tackle issues of immigration, police accountability, and ongoing racism and discrimination of Arab/Muslim communities. She is also a member of GABRIELA New York and works on issues of violence against women and children, especially the human trafficking of migrant women. She had worked at Philippine Forum in Queens working on youth development and alliance work with worker organizations including jornaleros and street vendors to uphold immigrant rights. She has also organized union campaigns with nurses' and teachers' unions, including the American Federation of Teachers. She finished her undergraduate degree in Natural Resources specializing in Environmental Justice and Community Education at Cornell University. She is originally from Los Angeles, California where most of her family is located and currently is based in New York City.
KATHLEEN MCARDLE: is a longtime activist involved in issues spanning from environmental justice to immigrant rights. She joined FFF in 2004, after her partner was deported to Jamaica. She was a graduate of the first FFF Organizing Fellows Class. Kathy has worked tirelessly to develop FFF’s campaigns and community outreach. Born and raised in Brooklyn, and with a background in art and design, Kathy now lives in Brooklyn with her son Joshua, one of FFF’s youth members.
VALERIA TREVES I solidly support the mission of Families for Freedom, and I have a great respect and admiration for the work of the organization. In the past few years, I have been an ally to Families for Freedom, not only in my personal capacity but also as Executive Director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE). NICE and FFF have and continue to work in coalition against immigration enforcement, for just immigration policy and against collaboration between local police and immigration enforcement. Furthermore, NICE staff and members (myself included) have been participants in Families for Freedom’s Speakers Bureau Deportation 101 program.
IRIS HADDAD : When my fiancé was detained for 5 months and then deported for 5 years, it was an emotional, physical and financial ordeal. I knew that when our case was resolved and my (now) husband would come back to the U.S. that there was still unfinished business re the immigration process. I knew I had to do whatever I could to ensure others didn't go through what we did. In the past I belonged to a local Amnesty International group and did a lot of outreach work through them. I served on the board of my condo association for three years and during that time oversaw a lot of projects and worked on keeping our finances up to speed. I also took a leadership training course through the American Friends Service Committee several years ago.
ALINA DAS I am the supervising attorney at the NYU Law School Immigrant Rights Clinic. I first became involved with FFF when I worked with a FFF member and his family in their fight against deportation in 2002. Since then, I have had the pleasure of collaborating with FFF on its campaigns when I was an attorney at the Immigrant Defense Project and now as a supervising attorney at NYU. The clinic has worked with the Child Citizen Protection Act organizing committee, the Speakers’ Bureau, and on the Pardon Panel Policy Paper. Through these efforts, I have come to know many of the members of FFF and am proud to count myself among FFF's allies. I have worked with other organizations to host fundraising opportunities and also understand the special challenges associated with fundraising for nonprofit organizations working for immigrant rights.
MARLON PETERSON: I was introduced to FFF in 2006 while serving as secretary to a prison organization called Caribbean African Unity (CAU). The organization's mission was to support, educate, and empower incarcerated persons of Caribbean and African descent. At the time we invited FFF in to speak with our constituency and since then I have been affiliated with FFF. Upon my release from incarceration in December 2009, I volunteered with FFF doing outreach to governmental agencies, planning events, attending and speaking a rallies, and serving as youth coordinator. Currently, I am an employee of the Center for Court Innovation (http://www.courtinnovation.org/staff) as the program coordinator of YO S.O.S. I am also the co-founder of How Our Lives Link Altogether (H.O.L.L.A.!.)
LESELLE BELFON: I was introduced to Families for Freedom in 2008, after a close family friend was unjustly picked up by ICE. I received empathic advice and support from the staff of FFF at a time when the subject of deportation was taboo. After that incident, I felt compelled to volunteer my time and provide much needed assistance. Since, I have attended immigration seminars in Texas and Washington, participated in several public speak outs and advocated for Child Protection Act in Washington. Also, I was able to complete the first 8 week speaker bureau training class offered by FFF in 2009.
ANTHONINE PIERRE I was drawn to FFF because I have seen on too many occasions how dangerous it can be to live at the intersection of immigration and criminal justice issues. Growing up in a Haitian immigrant household in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, I know that the criminalization of our families, friends, and neighbors often means that we can't move, breathe, learn and love in peace. I believe through supporting organizations like FFF, we can create a more politically just world for people of color, women, the working class, immigrants, queer people and everyone in between. My day job is being the Lead Community Organizer at the Brooklyn Movement Center (BMC), a direct-action community organizing group based in Central Brooklyn.
CARLA RICE-MATA became a member of Families for Freedom after her husband was deported to the Dominican Republic. She is a School Social Worker at a High School in the Bronx and has served as a Field Instructor for Social Work Interns for the past decade. In joining the Board, she hopes to return the support that the people, families and organization of Families for Freedom gave to her and to help FFF build bridges to the larger community.