Voice for Immigrants

Voice for Immigrants

Resident Bridges the Gap

Laura Valle has many titles. She is a wife, daughter, mother of two and the voice of many.

She is also the recipient of the 2006 Outstanding Women of Loudoun County Leadership Award.

Each year, the Loudoun County Commission on Women (LCCW) selects 10 women who have made a difference in Loudoun County to be recognized. LCCW’s vice chair Susan Buckley said Laura Valle stood out because of the impact she continues to make on the immigrant population in the area.

"Laura is dedicated to working with the immigrant population here," Buckley said.

On Tuesday, May 16, Valle accepted her award on behalf of La Voz, a nonprofit organization that assists immigrants with their integration process into Loudoun County.

"We bridge the gap between immigrants and government organizations," she said.

Valle said she is very excited about her award, but she couldn’t have done it without her board members. The president of the organization said all of the board members, including herself, have full-time jobs.

"We’re very busy," she laughed.

"Laura goes beyond her call of duty," Buckley said.

WITH A LAST name like Valle, it’s hard to believe the president of La Voz was born in western Loudoun County. Her dark hair, petite frame and flawless Spanish accent lead many to believe she is from Latin America, but it is her husband, Mauricio Valle, who is the recent immigrant.

Laura Valle, a "mescla" or mix of French, German, Mexican-American and American Indian, became fluent in Spanish after meeting her El Salvadorian husband at a restaurant were they both worked.

Valle realized how many hurdles immigrants have to overcome while helping her husband’s family move from Central America to the United States.

"He has prepared me for the work I do today," she said. "He provides me with the perspective of a recent immigrant."

While Valle was working as a case manager for Northern Virginia Family Services, she was invited to a meeting on how to better aid the Hispanic population.

"At the meeting, I discovered something. There was no immigrant-focused organization in the area," she said. "I left that meeting promising to get together with other nonprofits, Hispanic and non-Hispanic, and do something."

And she did.

In November 2002, Laura Valle opened La Voz, a nonprofit organization that acts as a conduit between the immigrant population and government agencies.

THE TOPICS of illegal immigration and neighborhood overcrowding have made headlines across the county and country lately. Valle said it is up to La Voz to help open the lines of communication between recent immigrants and longtime residents of Loudoun.

"Either sides of the extremes are unhelpful," she said. "We need to create tolerance, inform community members and open up the lines of communication."

In an effort to improve community relations, La Voz holds town meetings on a number of topics.

La Voz vice president Alicia Waning said the organization has made a big impact on the immigrant population.

"I believe we’ve built confidence in the immigrant population," she said. "They’re attracted to La Voz because they know we are there to help them. And Laura is a go-getter. She is committed to La Voz and to helping immigrants here in Loudoun."

Last year, the organization hosted a meeting on immigration. The speaker was an attorney who spoke on the complicated process of obtaining U.S. citizenship.

"It was a real eye opener for many people," Valle said. "Many people didn’t realize how complicated the process is."

Many recent immigrants work as volunteers at La Voz’s headquarters in Sterling.

"I think the organization gives recent immigrants a sense of community," Valle said. "La Voz is a place where people from all over can find common ground."