Madeline Hernandez, the North Bay Regional Director and staff attorney of the Immigration Institute of the North Bay (IIBA), is the recipient of this year’s CanDo Spirit Award. The award celebrates an exceptional young nonprofit employee in Napa County. It comes with a $1,000 prize presented at the Give!Guide’s free and festive public celebration Nov. 7 at Napa’s Hampton Inn & Suites.

By Kevin Courtney

As the daughter of an immigrant, she grew up in Oakland where she witnessed discrimination that immigrants faced in her community.

In her IIBA job, she works to help create a community where immigrants are fully valued, contributing members of their communities with full access to justice and economic opportunity. She helps residents who need help navigating the complex immigration system.

“Serving my community is extremely rewarding. In my clients, I see great parents, intelligent and driven students, responsible and honest workers, and strong resilient people, Hernandez said. “I admire the courage and strength I see in my clients. When clients are approved for an immigration benefit, I am filled with joy.”

Ellen Dumesnil, executive director of IIBA, describes Hernandez as “a fearless and compassionate advocate for immigrants … tireless and relentless in her pursuit of justice.”

Hernandez is part of Congressman Mike Thompson’s Immigration Advisory group, on the Board of Ole Health, member of the Community Leaders Coalition, collaborates with local community-based organizations and is always ready to speak in public forums on behalf of immigrants.

In her six years with the Immigration Institute of the Bay Area, 1,726 citizenship applications have been filed resulting in 1281 new citizens in Napa County. Says Hernandez, “What a reward!”

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