Navigating Philadelphia as a new immigrant can be daunting, says Erika Guadalupe Núñez, executive director of Juntos, a community-led, Latinx immigrant organization and Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantee. “Philadelphia is classified as a sanctuary city, but we still have community members who come in every day and say, I was in court, and I couldn’t get language interpretation, or the police hung up on me because I don’t speak English.”
Founded over 20 years ago in response to the growing wave of migrants arriving in Philadelphia, Juntos responds to the needs and issues that immigrants face, guided by the principle that everyone has the right to quality education and the freedom to live with dignity regardless of immigration status. Says Núñez, “There are new immigrants arriving every day and they’re being met with a city that does not have adequate resources to address their needs. They are essentially alone.”
As an organization, Juntos has seen significant growth in the last few years. They are currently developing a youth leadership development pipeline through Fuerza, Juntos’ youth leadership committee. “Fuerza members can apply to be ambassadors, which are 12-week paid positions where they learn organizing skills like public speaking, canvassing, and political education around campaigns,” says Núñez.
Juntos takes community leadership seriously. This January they ratified a membership model in which the governance of the organization has essentially been passed to its members. Members assemble monthly and vote on major organizational decisions. Says Núñez, “We have a growing membership, which shows that there’s a need in the community and that our work is necessary, and that we need to be the strongest organization that we can be to better respond to the challenges that we’re facing.”