instead is to see a Latino immigrant take the oath of
citizenship after she has helped them to complete the
naturalization process and pass the U.S. citizenship test. Her
bilingual skills are invaluable to undocumented families trying
to assimilate in Toledo.
wonderful to see their accomplishments. To see their relief,
just the enjoyment is priceless to me,” she said. “That’s just
rewarding to me, to see them and their families, knowing that
they’re secure, won’t have to worry about stuff.”
undocumented immigrants and their families live in poverty and
fear of deportation, often keeping to themselves as they
struggle to learn to navigate their way through a new community.
That struggle is often compounded by a language barrier and a
lack of financial or social resources to help them cope. Someone
like Ms. Torres becomes a godsend—and often a confidante to
Latino families at SS Peter and Paul.
“They trust me
because they see me. I’m here as the administrative assistant
here at the parish. So they know that I’m here and I know a lot
of their situations,” she said. “They feel comfortable with me.
They know me.”
Ms. Torres has
helped more than 100 people obtain citizenship. Only one failed
to pass the naturalization process—because that person was less
than honest, according to Ms. Torres.
“It does take
us a little longer to do this, the process. We want to make sure
they’re going to get this. We don’t want to get anybody’s hopes
up and then it doesn’t happen,” she explained. “We try to be
thorough. The littlest things to other people are the biggest
things to us. We try to put down as much information as we
can—that way they don’t deny the case.”
Her parents were born and raised in Texas. Her father worked as
a migrant farmworker for a while and she spent a summer in a
migrant farm camp as a child. Her mother never finished high
school, but her dad did graduate.
“I was exposed a lot to the immigrants as a kid. Since I was
small, I just knew I wanted to help them,” she said. “My parents
showed me how to be respectful to others.”
Ms. Torres, who will turn 44 in December, is the mother of five
adult children and has a granddaughter a little over a year old.
She grew up in Erie, Michigan, but has called Toledo home
“She is truly a Diamante at home and in her community,” wrote
her daughter Rebeca Aguilar in nominating Ms. Torres for
the award. “With everything she does for the church and the
community she still has time to tend to her children’s every
need. Her children are very proud of her and are happy to share
their mom with the community, because family is everything to
us, and we are one community and one family.”
Ms. Torres attended the awards ceremony with her daughter,
husband, and son Tony, a Toledo police officer who graduated in
2010 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Rebeca will
graduate from the University of Toledo next May with a
bachelor’s degree in marketing.
“She’s always been hardworking. She worked as a manager at
Hickory Farms and proved that the sky is the limit for us,” said
Rebeca by phone. “She always pushed education—even though she
didn’t finish, she always made sure we went to college and give
back to the community.”
Ms. Torres herself completed her GED and took a few courses at
Owens Community College, but admitted she never finished a
college degree because she had children and immediately entered
the workforce. She stated her kids know the value of a college
“They’re very supportive. They always back me up. When we have
church functions, they’re always here,” Ms. Torres said. “I have
a good support system. They’re very proud of me.”
Despite being a volunteer, Ms. Torres has earned certifications
to help undocumented immigrants to file their paperwork, tutor
them for the naturalization test, and put together a dossier for
consideration by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
officials. She also helps families with the renewal of green
cards, deferred action for childhood arrivals cases (DACA),
asylum cases and waivers. Ms. Torres also is a member of En
Camino and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC).
She hopes more people will step up and volunteer to help
undocumented families in light of the continuing political
stalemate on immigration reform.
so—and they need to be a bit more compassionate. A lot of times,
I get people who are not trusting lawyers, because they’ve seen
where a lot of lawyers take their money, don’t do anything,” she
said. “We’re nonprofit, we don’t charge fees. We’re in it for
the people and they do relate to that. We’re a church, we’re
there and we’re fighting for them.”
professional role at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Ms.
Torres also helps to organize the annual parish festival and
special event fundraisers.
Mother’s Day was perhaps the biggest one in parish history
at Central Catholic High School, as Ms. Torres was instrumental
in setting up a benefit concert with
Ramón Ayala y Sus Bravos del Norte,
a Grammy Award-winning musician, composer, and songwriter of
conjunto music, who has
been dubbed the “King of the Accordion.” The 68-year old
musician, composer, and songwriter was born in
México and has recorded more than 100 albums and has been
featured in 13 movies during a career that spans more than 40
But she goes about that work as quietly as she does her
volunteer task as an immigration advocate.
“I don’t like
any recognition. I just do it because I love what I do. I do it
from the kindness of my heart,” she said. “I just love people.
I’m here if anyone would ever need assistance and I try to find
whatever resources I can for them.”