Founding Team Member & Chief of Staff
By: Frank Morris Lopez
Awards & Recognitions:
National Hispanic Recognition Scholar
As the son and grandson of Mexican immigrants, Fernando Urbina knew he wanted to help make navigating the U.S. immigration system a whole lot easier.
“My mom went through a very complex system,” he recalled. “I wanted to be part of a team that could streamline the process and services and make immigration easier for people all across the country.”
So in 2020, Urbina became a founding member of ImmigrationHelp.org, a nonprofit that helps Dreamers apply for DACA for free online. He started out as the director of outreach before becoming the organization’s chief of staff.
ImmigrationHelp.org uses a TurboTax-style tool that prepares applications, which are then reviewed for accuracy before filing. The service has helped more than 6,000 immigrants at various points in their immigration journey.
“I think the work we do is so important because so many of these immigrants we’ve helped are lower income. They can’t afford an attorney to represent them, so we’re helping them bypass these immigration costs,” Urbina said.
This year, ImmigrationHelp is expanding its services to help thousands of more immigrants, including helping asylum applicants and Ukranian and Afghan refugees obtain work permits.
The nonprofit was incubated out of Harvard University’s iLab, something that may not have happened had his high school educators not recommended he apply to the prestigious university upon seeing his high test scores.
“Neither of my parents went to college, and so I’m the first one in my family to do so. I was originally planning on applying to schools that were more local” said Urbina, who’s originally from Michigan.
“My parents were extremely excited and proud. All they wanted was to see my brother and I succeed, so being able to have the opportunity to attend Harvard was really valuable,” he said.
Urbina graduated from Harvard in May with a bachelor’s in government. He served on the Harvard National Model United Nations, and Harvard Undergraduate Council, and also worked as a legal intern for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center one summer, conducting outreach to more than 30 farms across the state to inform migrant workers of their rights. Additionally, Urbina is a youth soccer coach and the founder and owner of MixChata, a beverage business specializing in different flavors of bottled horchata.
But the thing he’s most proud of is graduating from Harvard, he said. “Not only because I put in a lot of work to make that happen, but also knowing I couldn’t have done it without the immense support my parents gave me. My accomplishment is theirs as well, and their support is something I’ll always be able to cherish.”