2020 Honoree Profile: Ere Rendon

Celebrate the coalescing leadership of Ere Rendon at FDLA’s Silver Anniversary.

2020 First Defender Award Winner Ere Rendon models and spreads the powerful truth that we are stronger together in the fight against injustice. Co-leading a coalition of African American and immigrant women of color, she’s organized money to empower a joint and grassroots vision of access to justice for both communities harmed by immigration policies AND those harmed by the criminal system. An outpouring of love speaks to her journey and recent impacts:

Governor JB Pritzker:
“Ere Rendon is a passionate leader in the fight for a more just Illinois. From building an immigration legal services department from the ground up, to organizing mega marches for immigrant rights, to expanding access to legal representation for immigrants in the Access to Justice Program, Ere has made, and continues to make, a profound impact on Illinois’ families and communities. We are grateful for Ere’s tireless work and leadership.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot:
“Erendira Rendon’s leadership in Chicago’s neighborhoods is driven by her passionate commitment to sustained community building rooted in love, healing, trust, and justice. Even in the most challenging times, her abiding faith in our shared humanity and its capacity for good continues to inspire and motivate everyone around her. It’s through these values that Ere has helped shape the Chicago Legal Protection Fund, making it the force of hope for so many of our families forced to live in fear and uncertainty,
and furthering our city’s promise as a sanctuary from hate and a welcoming home for all people from all walks of life.”

US Congressman Chuy Garcia:
Ere, who often jokes that she is from the most beautiful state in Mexico (Oaxaca), reminds us to be proud of who we are and where we come from. Community builds around her because she brings people in and lifts people up. Ere empowers many, mostly Mexican women, to see themselves as the powerful individuals that they are and spaces for genuine, collective leadership development, while fighting for justice for all.Las familias de La Villita, Pilsen, y Back of the Yards le agradecen y le feliciten mucho por su gran trabajo!” 
US Senator Dick Durbin:
“I’ve been proud to work with Ere and the Resurrection Project over the course of many years in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform and to help immigrants navigate the pathway to becoming American citizens. A Dreamer herself, Ere’s leadership has contributed to a movement that has seen more than 800,000 Dreamers come forward and receive DACA. DACA has helped unleash the full potential of Dreamers who are contributing to our country as healthcare professionals, teachers, small business owners, organizers, and more. Ere is a tireless champion for immigrants, and truly deserving of this honor from First Defense Legal Aid. I look forward to continuing the fight with her for dignity and human rights for all.”

Illinois House Executive Committee Chairman Emanuel Chris Welch:
“Ere organizes with her heart and soul. Her laughter fills a room and her story inspires all of us to act. She leads with her faith, her love for family and friends, and her community. She brings joy while fighting for justice including the Access to Justice Program for vulnerable black and brown populations. Our community is stronger and more united because of Ere.” 
Ere’s Boss, Raul Raymundo and The Resurrection Project:
“Ere is a passionate and relentless advocate for immigrants and especially undocumented women. As DACA recipient herself, she has been battle tested at all levels of government in the fight to improve the life of all immigrants. In doing so, Ere has gained the respect of many elected officials and colleagues in the field. She is also a bridgebuilder as evidenced by her work and collaboration with the African American community through the Access to Justice initiative and other issues we have in common. She is humble and tenacious. As TRP’s VP of Strategy on Immigration and Advocacy, she is also a talented individual that I am proud to have onboard.”
Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia:
“Congratulations to Ere Rendon for this tremendous honor, it is certainly well deserved. I have had the pleasure partnering with Ere over the years and have seen first hand her dedication to serving and supporting our immigrant communities. She is a fierce advocate and has continually pushed government and community leaders to increase protections and programs for our-undocumented communities, including the creation of the first ever, Chicago Legal Protection fund. She ensured that community navigators many immigrant women were part of the program, which empowers the women to train their families and communities to know their legal rights. Ere is a force for good and leads with compassion, empathy and justice. Chicago and Illinois are lucky to have her leading the fight to ensure our families are protected, safe and feel welcomed.” 

Ere’s Mama Rosa Lavariega:
“Soy madre de Eréndira Rendon Lavariega, estoy súper orgullosa de Ere. Es una mujer entregada a su trabajo y a la comunidad por amor y humildad. A ella no le importa trabajar las horas que tenga que trabajar hasta conseguir la ayuda para quien lo necesite. A todo ser humano le brinda su ayuda. Desde niña fue honesta y respetuosa, entregada a su estudio. A logrado sus sueños a pesar de su estatus en este país que nos acobijado. Está al pendiente a toda la familia y de su trabajo. Estamos súper orgullosos de mi More.” 
Ere’s favorite cousins, Reyna, Victor Lavariega and her 5 ahijados:
“Raised from hardworking parents, grew up in a different culture and far from her lindo Oaxaca. She has never forgotten about her roots, she is a fighter who will always help the rest as well. She is our role model.”

Ere’s favorite middle brother Sergio Rendon:
“There is a photo of my sister wearing red dress with white polkadots. She is standing in front of our childhood Oaxacan home, back yard alfalfa field. It must have been a hot windy day cause you can see her squinting from the sun and trying to keep her blowing hair away from her face. The alfalfa is nearly 1/2 her height, her skin is as brown as ever. Her smile however, much like every other one of her childhood and adolescent photos, is not present. When I think of my little sister this is what I picture. When I think of Erendira Rendon however, I picture her laughing, face full of teeth, with a sound that can only be described as powerful. It’s that laugh that can perfectly define whom she is as a person strong, confident, one of a kind. She has forged her career from choosing a path and not allowing others to deflect her from it. She listens to everyone, but follows her own best judgement. She sees injustice being done to others and she will not be led to believe it as anything else other than injustice. She fights harder for others than most fight for themselves. She will not be led astray by short term answers, but finds, creates and fights for long term solutions instead. When she seeks those solutions she is always conscious to make sure they include the masses being wronged and not just a select few. She sees and brings out potential in others that they themselves did not know they possessed. She is driven and creates an environment that allows, and wills, others around her to fight against the injustice they see being done onto themselves, their families, and their community. She is as committed to the cause of the american immigrant as she is to her family and devoted friends. She is stern but fair. Friendly yet powerful. Kind, humble but demanding. She is aware that she is only as strong as the team around her and if I knew I was going up against her and her team, I would be scared.” 

Ere’s favorite cousin Mariel Lavariega:
“Erendira (Moré) is someone you can always count on. She’s someone who doesn’t take no for an answer and is always looking for ways to help our family and others. You see to us family is everything! Love you More 🙂 ” 
Ere’s lead parent mentor organizer Alma Sigala, her “sincerest follower:” 
“Ere is a beautiful and powerful woman, she is truly a person that is very active, enthusiastic, cheerful and funny. Her infectious joy and charisma are some of my favorite qualities about her. Her tireless fight for our people and our undocumented immigrant communities are much stronger than they appear. Day by day she fights, she is a warrior in every way, always ready to support and contribute her grain of sand to create a change around the environment in which we live. I am thankful to have a great, young and intellectual leader as an example to follow. She is a wonderful person just and unmatched.”

Imelda Salazar, SWOP Organizer:
“Ere Rendon’s commitment to her community is exemplary, and a model for all of us. She is a friend, an organizer, an extraordinary human being. She is genuine, has an incredible courage, and an imagination for what is possible, even in the most difficult moments. She is someone I want in my life.”

Ere’s lead Parent Mentor Organizer Consuelo Martinez: English below.
“Erendira Rendon Lavariega. Ere, quién podria olvidar su inolvidable sonrisa? Recuerdo cuando la conoci, ahÍ en el basement de una Iglesia, dando la información acerca de las “Licencias para personas sin documentos”, hace algunos años, con su vestido color durazno y sus botas a la rodilla color café claro y, por supuesto sonriendo.Si hay una palabra con la que yo describo a Ere, es “Servicial.” Siempre la he visto trabajando, luchando por sus convicciones, por sus creencias y por su gente. Ere, es una mujer que desde niña enfrento desafios, desde el cambio de vida al llegar a este pais, hasta el enfrentarse con su realidad para poder, estudiar, trabajar, y ser productiva, en este ambiente tan competitivo. Pero esa es Ere, la chica Oaxaqueña, que ama a su familia, que a su mediana edad ha logrado mucho en su haber. Ere siempre esta ahí para ayudar, en algun caso con Inmigración, con la salud, con el trabajo o con alguna otra situación. Siempre encuentra la forma de arreglar los problemas y los asuntos donde tal vez uno piensa que ya es imposible. Ere, es dedicada, tenaz, visionaria, es admirable en la forma que emprende nuevos proyectos, y lucha como una guerrera incansable hasta lograr sus objetivos. Ere, es mi orgullo, mi lider, mi amiga, mi ejemplo seguir… Ere es una gran mujer!”
“Ere, who could forget her unforgettable smile? I remember when I met her, there in the Church basement, giving information about “Licenses for Undocumented People,” years ago, with her peach dress and light-brown knee-high boots and of course smiling. If there is a word with which I describe Ere, it is “Helpful.” I have always seen her working, fighting for her convictions, for her beliefs, and for her people. Ere, she is a woman who has faced challenges since she was a child, since the change of life when arriving in this country, until facing its reality to be able to study, work, and be productive, in this very competitive environment, but that is Ere, the Oaxacan girl, who loves her family, who at her age has accomplished much to her credit. Ere is always there to help, in some cases with Immigration, with health, with work or with some other situation. She always finds a way to fix problems and issues where perhaps one thinks it is already impossible. Ere, she is dedicated, tenacious, visionary. She is admirable in the way she undertakes new projects, and she fights like a tireless warrior until she achieves her goals. Ere, it is my pride, my leader, my friend, my example to follow … Ere is a great woman!”
Ere’s best friends / WhatsApp Organizing Crew:
“Ere dreams big and gets it done, all the while cultivating a talented, unstoppable team of immigrant women leaders. She leads with her own story and acts out of love for her people. We are so grateful to be on this organizing journey with you. Also grateful for the quesadillas and guacamole. We love you!”

Best Friend Becca Shi
“Ere is my bff and hiking partner. Our first big hike was Yosemite Falls (with her brother Sergio Rendon and Benito Juarez Valedictorian Angie Cruz). She hated it and complained. Then she got addicted. Ere planned 5-7 hikes a year. We saw furry goats in Glacier, bison crossings in the Tetons and ran from giant elks in the Rockies. She powered through 14’ers with little or no preparation – “strolls on the boulevard” – while I trained 4-6 times a week. Ere is so tough. She digs so deep. With the weight of being undocumented and poor, the breadwinner for her parents, problem solver for other undocumented family members and ahijados, Ere puts one foot in front of another, again and again and again, even when in doubt, and fear and uncertainty. That load became even heavier under Covid. Ere and her family will become US citizens one day. I have no doubt. Because she will not give up. She will march on. But I hope sooner than later, not necessarily for her/their benefit but for America will be stronger, wiser and more whole.” 

Ere’s Immigration Team: 
Erendira “Ere” Rendon works tirelessly to advocate for our immigrant community. She leads by example. Ere is a fierce and companionate leader. We feel honored to be part of her team. Under her leadership, she makes sure that everyone feels seen and supported. Ere is approachable, kind, and willing to listen. She is confidently committed to lifting and empowering the most vulnerable communities. We feel lucky to call her la “jefa” and our friend.” 

Josh Hoyt, Executive Director, National Partnership for New Americans:
 “Erendira is one of my heroes, but I have to say I was very happy I no longer need to share offices with her and Becca Shi and Laura Mendoza. When those three start to laugh, the walls begin to shake and the pigeons outside flee to the other side of Ashland. That laugh and the big, broad smile are a side of Ere, the part of her that is joyful, raucous, unrestrained, and likes to drink mezcal and swallow the worm! There is also a part of Ere that is sad and very private. She has been hurt, personally and by being undocumented, by growing up poor and brown, by being treated badly as an undocumented Mexican woman in the US. Which brings us to the hero part. Eréndira is fierce and proud and she persists. She works, hard, around her values of justice and kindness. She builds amazing collectives of women who do this together. She fights. And she wins. She has the courage to fight for a better world and to demand the respect she, her family, and her community are due. Erendira Rendon is an American hero.”
A resounding THANK YOU ERE
for building bridges to the resources our communities deserve!