My Karmic Path to Opening Doors
By Chris Argyros, Staff Attorney
When I joined Opening Doors a few months ago as a staff attorney, it felt like a calling.
I first came across Opening Doors while I was searching for pro bono legal representation for Lorena and Maria, two young asylum seekers that my partner and I sponsored for a year. I contacted and coaxed over 25 lawyers and organizations in the area. Opening Doors was the only organization that said YES, they could take both cases. I was impressed to find an organization that provides client-centered comprehensive services and walks alongside them on their path to stability, self-sufficiency, and belonging. What a relief!
How it All Started
In 2019, my partner and I heard about an opportunity to sponsor transgender asylum seekers. During this time, immigrants and asylum seekers were coming under increasing assault and the news was full of horrifying abuses. We’d marched at protests, volunteered occasionally, and donated sporadically; but we weren’t meeting the urgency of the moment. We could do more.
We signed up to sponsor and host two trans asylum seekers, called “compas” in the LGBTQ immigrants’ rights community. The compas would live with us while they applied for asylum, and we would help them get established. As a queer transman who had worked with survivors of violence, I knew I could provide a safe, affirming home. I couldn’t have predicted how the decision to be a sponsor would enrich my life, and almost four years later, would lead me to working at Opening Doors.
Welcoming Lorena and Maria
It was a rainy winter evening when our compas were set to arrive at the Sacramento airport from New Mexico, where they had just been released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. My partner and I made colorful signs to welcome Lorena and Maria, two young transwomen from Honduras. We drove to the airport full of anticipation and nervousness, not knowing who would come down the escalators and how this would go. All we knew was that it was the right thing to do.
That first night we chatted awkwardly. Lorena and Maria were understandably apprehensive, suddenly arriving in a totally new place to two smiling strangers with broken Spanglish, but also seemed eager to share their experiences with us. We learned they had walked all the way from Honduras to the border and their time in ICE detention was terrible. We learned that they left Honduras because as transwomen, they faced extreme risk of violence and could not safely leave their homes and live as women, as their authentic selves.
Over the following year, our once-quiet house became lively and boisterous. The sound of high-heeled footsteps, high-drama exclamations, laughter and Adele filled the upstairs. We made tamales and had impromptu dance lessons in the kitchen. We pierced ears in the living room. My Spanish improved with Maria’s tutelage. We became chosen family.
Grant of Asylum
Opening Doors’ attorneys represented the compas through the years-long protracted legal process in immigration court; both women won their asylum! Today Lorena and Maria are living independently, working, and thriving as their authentic selves.
When I heard there was an opening for a staff attorney position at Opening Doors, it seemed like fate was knocking. Working here, I am part of a uniquely qualified and committed staff who share experiences with the community we serve. The work is deeply fulfilling and I have a sense of belonging.
I’m so grateful to Lorena and Maria for bringing me here!