Coordinator, Madres Sin Fronteras
In Honduras, Yennifer Molina’s mother worked around the clock at the family restaurant to fund private school tuition for her daughters. “We wanted to go to regular school with our cousins and friends,” recalls Molina. “But my mom was thinking ahead. She insisted we learn English.”
After high school, Molina completed two years of college. But she worried about the long hours her mother worked to cover tuition. “I kept saying, ‘Let me go to work in the U.S. and provide for you for a little while.’” At 17, Molina moved to South Carolina to live with her uncle and cousin. “Like any typical immigrant, I wanted to conquer the world,” she says. Her English proficiency gave her a real advantage, and she was able to secure multiple jobs in customer service as a Claim Department Specialist, Translator and Quality Inspection professional.
She eventually earned enough to help fund her sister’s medical school in Cuba and help her mom hire more staff at the restaurant and eventually retire. In 2010, after the birth of her son, Zachary, Molina’s partner was offered a construction job in Gainesville and the family relocated to Florida. Molina fell in love with the city, but things changed after Donald Trump’s election. “People felt more entitled to be cruel and racist because of the things he was saying about us, that we are criminals bringing drugs, rapists and stealing jobs,” she says. One day, the secretary at her son’s school refused to let Molina check her son out early, because Molina only had her Honduran passport, not a state-issued ID. It wasn’t a school policy, and the women already knew each other. “I think she just felt entitled to refuse me because she could,” Molina says.
In 2017 Molina, with other community organizers, launched Madres Sin Fronteras to advocate for equal rights and protections for immigrants. She’s also Vice President of the Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County. Their Community ID program provides Alachua County residents—regardless of their immigration status—with a reliable form of identification to be used as a tool for interactions with the local police department, utilities company, schools and healthcare centers. “That was a big win for us,” says Molina. They’re now lobbying for all city officials and offices, including the sheriff to recognize the identification card. “We want to build greater understanding, trust and cooperation between local public services and our diverse community,” says Molina.