Breaking the Chain

When it comes to helping Hispanic immigrants, there’s no place in Memphis that can do what CasaLuz does.

“CasaLuz is the only organization that culturally and exclusively works with Hispanic victims of violent crimes, whether they are documented or not,” says CasaLuz founder Inges Negrette. “We have advisors that accompany our clients and their attorneys in the courtroom providing additional legal and emotional support. Through Mid-South Immigration Advocates, we refer our clients to people that can assist them with any immigration needs they have. All of our services are confidential and at no cost.”

Negrette founded CasaLuz after her attempts to work with undocumented women were often ignored or outright shut down. But getting the organization off the ground proved difficult.

“When we opened it was just me and one other,” she explains. “My position wasn’t even funded full-time. Our initial grant was for us to serve 50 clients per year for a total of three years.”

In its first year, CasaLuz served 166 clients, with Negrette spending most of her weekends at work. “But the beauty of seeing a client come in as a ghost or a zombie and being able to watch them grow over three or four months after they receive our services made us cry of happiness. What we work with every day is extremely hard but it’s worth it to see them grow.”

Negrette sees CasaLuz’s work as all-encompassing. While a majority of their time is spent with the victims of domestic violence, part of their work centers around breaking the cycle of abuse in families.

“We have support groups that focus on helping victims of domestic violence feel empowered and overcome their past trauma,” says Negrette. “At the same time, we are empowering women from a victim to a survivor. We have a generation of kids who are breaking the cycle. It doesn’t just benefit the Hispanic community; it benefits our entire city, because those children go to schools all over the city and get married in the future. I think people are missing that. Abuse doesn’t just affect one family; it affects us all.”

Their work is not without danger, however. During her tenure, Negrette has faced threats of violence. “Even though I love this work, it’s extremely hard, especially in Memphis,” she says. “Our journey is uphill. I have been offended, humiliated, and threatened for doing our work. But I put that aside and keep doing what I know that we have to do. We have clients that don’t have a voice here, so we need to be really strong for them.”

More information on CasaLuz is available on their website or by calling 901-500-8214.

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