Founded in September 2002, Families for Freedom is a New York-based multi-ethnic defense network by and for immigrants 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 mandatory 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.
DONALD ANTHONYSON (Organizer) was born in Antigua. He is involved in Civil Society and social issues in Antigua and the Caribbean. He is a member and past president of the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG), the largest environmental group in the Eastern Caribbean. He is also a member of the NGO Network (ANU), which he has represented at forums including the CARICOM Heads of Government meetings and the EU/ACP trade and development meetings. He is also involved in community organizing of the Antiguan Diaspora in New York. Donald migrated to the US in 1979 and have been involved in various social issues ranging from police brutality (Elenanor Bumphus Justice Committee) and anti-racial responses (NYASA) to immigration. At FFF, Donald was a former Board member and led the efforts of the International Deportee Justice Campaign and produced for our monthly radio show on 99.5 FM WBAI.
ESTHER PORTILLO Esther Portillo-Gonzales is the daughter of migrants from El Salvador and was raised in thePico-Union area in Los Angeles, the gateway for many migrants from Central America and Mexico. Esther comes to Families for Freedom with 11 years of community organizing experience that has enabled her to work on immigrant and worker rights issues and environmental justice with diverse communities in California and New York. In 2011, she was the Research Fellow at the Applied Research Center (ARC) and worked on the groundbreaking report, “Shattered Families: The Perilous Intersection of the Immigration Enforcement and Child Welfare System”. Earlier this year, she led organizing efforts to secure humanitarian parole for a deported father from Mexico who returned to the U.S. to fight for his parental rights, which were threatened as a result of his deportation.
KATHLEEN MCARDLE (Board Secretary/Program Committee) 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.
NAOMI ABRAHAM (Finance & Fundraising Committee) I have been a fan of Families For Freedom for the past five years and so it is a pleasure for me to now have a seat on the Board of Directors. FFF serves a critical niche in the U.S. immigrant rights movement as one of just a handful of organizations dedicated to fighting the immigrant detention/deportation system. FFF's work has always been important, especially to the families it works with, but now with deportation becoming the de-facto policy on immigration in the U.S. and more and more immigrants getting caught up in this unjust system, FFF's existence is as critical as ever. I want to help the organization garner the support it deserves and needs to continue the programs so many in New York and beyond have come to rely upon. I hope to bring to bear my experience in philanthropy, organizational development and training in journalism to this role and by doing so I hope to help FFF find the sweet spot between growth and sustainability.
VALERIA TREVES (Program Committee) 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 (Board Chair) 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 (Co-Chair, Personnel Committee) 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 BOLFON (Finance & Fundraising Committee) 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.
GABRIEL SMILEY (Program Committee) I discovered the organization after my friend Abraham Paulos relied on its support while facing criminal charges. Through Abraham I have come to know much more about the challenges people without citizenship face in the court systems. In my position as a college access counselor at a community center, I have assisted many young people without citizenship apply to and enroll in college. It has been an eye opening experience, and their lack of rights throughout the process makes me very upset. I hope to use my experience in social service organizations (college access and job readiness for court involved youth) as well as my education to help Families continue to provide quality support to its members.