Fabiola Hamdan, a strong and active advocate for the Latino community for two decades in the Madison area, has accepted the newly created position of Immigration Affairs Specialist for Dane County.
Hamdan will work out of the Dane County Tamara Grigsby Office for Equity and Inclusion and will work with immigrant communities to support immigrant integration through coordination of county services. In part, Hamdan’s role will be to monitor the efficient working of U.S. immigration programs and assist in providing an appropriate response to immigrant questions and services while best resolving these concerns according to legal requirements.
Since the election of President Trump, community organizations have received a significant increase in requests for legal assistance to receive citizenship and have reached out to Dane County for assistance.
“After the election, they felt like it was very important to have this position to help the immigrant community in the county,” Hamdan tells Madison365. “Through my work with Joining Forces for Families, I have really grown my network and I have spent a lot of time educating families on immigration. I’m very familiar with a lot of the people and organizations and networks in the community already, and I know that a lot of people have questions about immigration and that there will be a lot of people I will be able to help with this new position.”
The position will provide outreach to organizations that support immigrant communities on how to navigate county services including, but not limited to, those services provided through the Department of Human Services, Dane County UW-Extension and Public Health Madison and Dane County. Hamdan will work to improve the accessibility of county services to immigrant communities and refer residents to outside agencies and organizations that provide necessary non-county services.
“As you know, immigration is so complicated and it changes and sometimes it’s hard to follow up,” Hamdan says. “We all need to be aware of these changes because so many people are affected by that.”
For many years, Hamdan, who has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and more than 18 years of experience as a community social worker, has been the senior social worker for Joining Forces for Families working out of offices on Madison’s east side. “I will obviously miss Joining Forces for Families so much. I’ve been in the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood for over 18 years. It’s been my second home. I will miss my team quite a bit,” Hamdan says. “But with my new position, I will be still working with them a lot, but not only with Darbo but with many other communities, too.”
Hamdan is a longtime bilingual, bi-cultural community advocate for the Latino community having been active in implementing and sustaining numerous organizations, programs and initiatives to support immigrants in the Latino community such as the Latino support group LaSup, El Dia de Los Niños, Latino Children and Families Council, Latino Professional Association, to name a few.
“Being a part of LaSup and the Latino Health Council and all of these great groups … it’s not only me that’s doing the work but there are also tons of people who are working behind the scenes. I really need to stress that,” Hamdan says. “Positions will come and go, but the work we do collectively when we work together and make an impact is what is really important. Nothing gets done by one person. It takes everybody.”
Hamdan has been recognized in Madison numerous times for her work in the Latino community. Earlier this year, Hamdan was named in Madison365 as one of The 29 Most Powerful Latinos in Wisconsin. She is the founder of the annual El Dia de Los Niños, a large celebration of Latino children here in Madison and has earned the 2012 UW McDowell Alumni Achievement award, the 2012 Mentoring Positives Muriel Pipkins Award, the 2011 YWCA Madison Women of Distinction Awards, the 2016 La Movida’s Making a Difference Award, and the 2003 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Social Workers in Madison.
“I’m excited to start this new position. I will be transitioning from JFF so I should be starting sometime in October,” Hamdan says. “My goal is to support every effort that is out there [around immigration] and to have the county be present in all of these immigration clinics, work, and initiatives that are out there. I know that collaboration will be a big part of this. My vision is to collaborate more in order to serve people better. At this point in time, everybody needs to know what is going on with our immigration system in this country.”