Dear Friends,

Exec Director Carmen M Chavez, Esq. (left) and Co-Founders Sr. Mary Wayne Gradon, SHCJ and Ann M Durst, SHCJ (right) are honored on stage at the 25th Anniversary Celebration & 2018 La Mancha Awards.

With the start of the New Year comes the promise of new beginnings. I am excited to embrace 2020 and all that it brings in our shared mission of service. This year marks an especially meaningful milestone for me as I celebrate my 25th year of association with Casa Cornelia Law Center. I joyfully share in this celebration with all of you. It has been a profound journey of love, justice, commitment, friendship, hard work, growth, accomplishment, and adversity. All of it! I cherish what has become my life’s work. I remain always grateful to the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, my mentors, past and present staff, board members, volunteers, and benefactors who have enriched my life and supported Casa Cornelia. Like many, I started my journey as a volunteer and from there was given wings to soar as an attorney and beyond. Although much has changed both at Casa Cornelia and in the world at large since I started as a volunteer, our mission and our purpose have not changed. We serve day in and day out, always with the focus on the people.


My passion continues, as there is much to do.

While I have witnessed sorrow from clients who shared their painful journeys, I have also experienced their joy and jubilation when an asylum case or humanitarian visa is granted. It has been a privilege to be part of this mission that provides hope and freedom for those who undergo an arduous, sometimes torturous, path.

As I reflect on my years at Casa Cornelia, I think back to my first clients, an indigenous family from Central America, and how the experience of working with them helped shape the direction of my life and continues to influence me to this day. They had fled their country due to violence directly targeting them because of their ethnic background and perceived political opinion.  Their strength and hope empowered me to prevail in their case. Today the family and I are still in contact and they have really thrived. I see their hope in the eyes of the people who walk through our doors today.

In my 25 years, Casa Cornelia has grown in multiple ways.

Our volunteers and staff have expanded as the demand for our services has increased due to conflict and persecution around the world. As I look into the near and far future, I understand the grave situation in which we find ourselves. Our vision is to continue to zealously answer the needs of the most vulnerable and champion their human rights. The concern for due process, the rule of law, compassion, and benevolence are the values that I hold dear and that inform our work.

You make the difference because you are present in our work. I invite you to continue to journey with us as we face new challenges that must be overcome.

I am grateful for the commitment and diligence of our staff, board, and volunteers, and the generosity of our many friends and benefactors. We are confident that the work we do helps to make the world a better place, and we rejoice in this.

I ask your blessings and prayers for this good work to continue.

With every best wish, I am gratefully yours,


Carmen M. Chavez, Esq.

Executive Director