The US welcomes more than one million legal immigrants each year – more than any other nation. Yet while immigrants are the backbone of America’s growththey face enormous hurdles to accessing justice.
Mobile Pathways, a California-based nonprofit using mobile technology to improve the lives of vulnerable immigrants, has discovered alarming trends from the 100 million rows of immigration data that has been collected from government agencies, nonprofit partners, and individual immigrants. For example, immigrants, particularly asylum seekers, wait on average 720 days – that’s almost two years – to get their day in court. And the situation is only worsening.
A team of lawyers, coders, and immigrants created Mobile Pathways in order to inform marginalized populations unable to afford legal services. They are the first such immigrant organization to send automated legal updates to via text or WhatsApp. Mobile Pathways partners with over 140 deeply embedded grassroots immigration nonprofits to reach nearly four million immigrants.
The nonprofit just announced a $1 million funding raise thanks to organizations including the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Twilio, Salesforce, and Tides Foundation. These funds will allow Mobile Pathways to improve, expand and accelerate digital transformation services with its immigration non-profit partnerships. Specifically, thanks to a generous grant from The Patrick J. McGovern FoundationMobile Pathways will begin using data and machine learning to articulate immigration court outcomes while seeking ways to increase trust in the immigration process.
“The immigration crisis is one of our country’s most pressing issues today,” said Bartlomiej Skorupa, cofounder at Mobile Pathways. “In order to solve it, we need to have a clear understanding of where the system is failing. That’s why the data is so important.”
Inspired by his ancestors’ self-sacrificing immigrant journey, Skorupa launched Mobile Pathways in 2020 with award-winning immigration attorney Jeffrey O’Brien and seasoned innovator Poesy Chen. The three cofounders are passionate about driving systemic change in the immigration justice sector.
“My grandfather Henryk Skorupa fought in World War II and watched his hometown of Warsaw burn to the ground,” says Skorupa. “Fully 85 percent of the city’s buildings were destroyed as Nazi Germany deliberately destroyed its cultural heritage. He found his calling rebuilding when the war ended. Then, during Poland’s tumultuous Solidarity movement, my multi-generational household fought a stranglehold of repression. Determined to provide opportunities for their two children, my parents left everything behind to move to America.”
His background makes Skorupa “a person crazy enough to think that I can change the world,” he says. “While pursuing a career of value is incredibly risky from a financial, emotional, and physical perspective, it also allows you to craft a meaningful and rich life – one that offers few, if any, regrets.” Skorupa also notes that the deep and meaningful relationships he has formed with refugees pursuing a better life for themselves and their families are among his most treasured and transformative life experiences.
One of the greatest challenges Skorupa has faced as a nonprofit founder and, in his own words, “devoted, fanatical GirlDad,” he must constantly find time for both his callings – his work as a social entrepreneur and parenting. His daughters currently are five and three years old. As fate would have it, he fully committed to Mobile Pathways shortly after his second daughter was born and two weeks before the Covid pandemic disrupted the entire world.
“Despite all the challenges, I am absolutely determined not to be the dad who checks emails during ballet recitals or takes calls during soccer practice,” says Skorupa. “The trade-off is fatigue’s misery as the trajectory of Mobile Pathways’ growth accelerates. Luckily, Covid-era Zoom calls are no strangers to having children present on your lap! Second, I do work at times predawn before they wake up or late nights after they go to bed. Most importantly, we have hired a fantastic team at Mobile Pathways and empowered them to thrive in their roles.”
Skorupa believes that your path to achieving your life purpose will change many times throughout your life. What he finds most helpful is asking himself, “What would I do with my time if I didn’t have to worry about money?” Usually, for him, that answer means exploring the woods with his wife and daughters and then coming back home to write a grant proposal.
“Time and again, I have learned that when your passion intersects with your employment, you have found your calling,” said Skorupa. “Like my grandfather taught me, there is no concept of retiring from your calling, whatever that may be.”
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