“No human being is illegal.”
Nanci Flores’s leadership philosophy centers on her guiding belief that “in this country of immigrants we need to embrace the diversity that is all around us.” She feels that, as a country, we have turned from a “melting pot to melting people in the pot.”
In reflecting on her life, Nanci notes that “everything that has happened in my life has led me here, doing work I love.” While doing volunteer work in the Dominican Republic, she experienced a “life changing moment” upon encountering the abject poverty she saw around her. When she left the country, she took nothing with her, leaving all of her belongings for those who had little to nothing of their own. This experience also motivated her to make a commitment to being an agent of “social change.”
After taking time away from the workplace to raise her children, Nanci found herself again wanting to engage in service to the community and began her tenure at La Casa de Amistad. She originally started as a volunteer, teaching English as a Second Language classes; however, she quickly realized that she was not a teacher. Instead of viewing this moment as one of personal failure, she realized that life comprises “one step moving toward the next…if you accept new challenges, they’re there to guide you into the next one.” Even though she might not be a teacher, she had a knack for finding inspired individuals who were.
Nanci’s steps at La Casa have taken her into many different roles. One of the first programs she helped design was Civics ESL classes, through which individuals seeking citizenship could learn American civics with quality instruction that respects their time. Nanci stresses that it is pivotal that these classes “be valuable” to those enrolled in them. Today, Nanci serves as the Citizenship and Immigrant Coordinator through which she helps coordinate Naturalization ceremonies. Part of her work involves immigration legal work. She helped start the Immigration Legal Clinic, which helps immigrants move from non-status to gaining permanent legal residence and eventually citizenship. Nanci notes that the path to citizenship is much longer and more difficult than commonly thought. Nanci believes that the priority must be “keeping families together and giving people safety and security in their legal status.”
Since the 2016 election, Nanci’s work with issues of immigration advocacy has expanded in ways she never anticipated and which have created new challenges for her to step toward. To help rise to each new challenge, Nanci regularly coordinates Know Your Rights Workshops, for both documented and undocumented immigrants. She views these workshops as providing a vital role in her goal of keeping families together, safe, and secure. She wants to help people “learn, not just listen.” Even though she is constantly busy, to Nanci, it is work that doesn’t feel like work. For her it is a way to put into practice her vision that “all people should be treated equally.”
Information compiled from oral history collected by The Michiana Women Leaders Project
Photo courtesy OMG Photography
Nanci was a 2018 CMWL honoree.