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Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News
Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News

2021 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty Honoree: Erick Barragan Ramirez

At the upcoming AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event on Aug. 27, Erick Barragan Ramirez will be one of the 40 honorees.

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The second annual AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event will serve to highlight and showcase some of the most diverse and impactful young professionals across the Philadelphia region.

At the event, taking place on August 27, 2021, Erick Barragan Ramirez will be one of the 40 honorees. He is an accredited representative at Catholic Social Services.

Biography

Originally from Mexico, Barragan Ramirez graduated with a law degree from La Barra Nacional de Abogados in Mexico City. He then went on to get a Masters in Law, specializing in Mexican constitutional law and human rights.

In 2015, Barragan Ramirez became the Secretary of the Interior at Cenegas, the public entity in Mexico created to assign capacity rights for pipelines previously owned and operated by the country’s national energy company, PEMEX.

By 2018, he had left the government workforce of his home country and came to Philadelphia, where he worked as the legal coordinator at Esperanza and got his first taste of community work at the organization.

That experience took him on to Catholic Social Services under the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where he does more impactful work of the same nature as an accredited representative.

Here are Erick Barragan Ramirez's responses: 

1. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your professional career?

So far my biggest challenge have been changed from the environment I was born and raised in Mexico, I worked in different cities around Mexico and the culture varies but there are some common things that all Mexicans have. Being in the US with my wife and working with immigrants even being from my home country have been a big challenge, the work culture is very different from Mexico, one hand, people are more accessible, which I really appreciate but on the other hand there is little to no time to waste and everything is scheduled even in my personal live, that leave little space for improvisation. Another big challenge is to develop a cultural sensitivity, During the last 4 years I have been working with people from different cultures, and there are certain things that you might assume like you know how Mexicans are. But the truth is that it is not the same to have a conversation with a person who has being on the US for a few years that working with descendants of Latinx, Asians, and Africans that are the first generation that have been born here, their objectives changes drastically and even when they know your language, their main language is English and their culture is quite different. Walking through this process, have develop my identity as Latinx which I didn't have back in my home country, back in Mexico I was just Mexican and I used to see me as just that. Being here has been a process to become a foreigner in my home country and becoming more and more a Latino with Mexican origins adapting to the work culture of America. Thankfully, during this phat I have count with the help of the Welcoming Center and ALPFA Philadelphia.

My second biggest challenge is regarding my career, I studied law for 4 years and I studied a master two years after. To have to start again looking for an space to work with something related with my career was hard. I sent over 100 resumes to different places and I was ready to start working on the Philadelphia School district in something not related with my studies.  I was and am ready to change my career if it is necessary. Nevertheless, I would like to change it for something that inspire me, I  love my career and I wish if I have the resources to recertify myself as an attorney in this country, while I was waiting for the process to work in the school district, I volunteer for Esperanza Immigration Legal Services(EILS ), in there I got the chance to apply for the Legal Coordinator Position, with the support of my boss by that time Alexis Duecker and with the support of the Rev Luis Cortes I get hired and trained to serve a community and protect them from predators that looks for a way to benefit from ignorance.

I got the chance to move to Catholic Social Services, in January 2020, on the beginning I thought that I was only here to learn, because I work with people that have over 2 decades of experience, the truth is that when I came here I notice that there was a lot for me to give, overall  at the level of organizational development and culture, skills that I got back in EILS, I though that I was going to be mostly trained in Immigration Law, but also learn a lot of management, interinstitutional relationships, continuous improvement, I appreciate the support of my boss Kristin Taranath, and the coordinators of the the general Catholic Social Services Amy Stoner and James Amato. They have been open to change and improvement which is very much appreciate it.

2. What steps can be taken to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in your industry? Why is it important to do so?

Programs that validates the studies of lawyers that came from another countries, I think there is a lot of talent in the streets or other industries of lawyers that are not licensed to work in the US, the demand from Legal Services it is so high and there are a lot of scammers or people who give legal advice without any kind of authorization that puts people in jeopardy, if the city stars a plan or a grant for foreign law students to get LLMs they will remain in the City, serve their communities, get continuous trainings while  prevent abusive people from taking advantage of the need and lack of lawyers in the communities. I my particular case as in other cases I have family responsibilities and it hard to pay an LLM, study and work  at the same time.

Expand the DOJ Accredited representative program. There are several non-profits on Philadelphia, a lot of them do not have an attorney and the depend on other organizations to help them to provide legal services. I consider that this populations are really vulnerable. Whit more funds to pay attorneys and Accredited representatives in this communities we can expand inclusion, usually the immigration legal services offices requires people that speaks more than one language, also for people who have suffer any kind of trauma, they need therapists that speaks their own language. Sadly this is very limited, pushing programs to have more legal representatives, therapist, accountants, and other basic services that any population needs that speaks the language of the community it is fundamental for the development, and in the end the development of the immigrant populations, will be reflected in the development of the Country as a whole.

3. What does being a leader mean to you?

People who help other people to shine through the chance to show their particular skills in a different environments and tasks. The leader is the opposite than a boss he make the individuals involve in the mission and the co-workers just follow the example.

I have met a lot of incredible individuals in different associations and nobody really ask anything to anyone they just have different tasks to complete to get something bigger, that something bigger is what has been moving me since I am in the US, the chance to do something that have impact in the life of others, inside and outside my job.

4. Where do you see yourself in five years?

That is a really complicated question, I love my career, I would like to get an LLM to be able to be an attorney here. Nevertheless, the costs of that is higher that I can afford right now so I may look for a different path where I can keep helping people from another perspective. I want to inspire people and give the same help that I received before from different organizations. To help individuals might. Either way I want to keep involved in the non-profit  environment and develop new skills, primary focused in the support of New Americans.

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