The nonprofit IMPORTA, which is now the largest provider of immigration legal services in Santa Barbara County, has announced the appointment of Marline Flores as executive director to succeed the organization’s founder Russell Trenholme.

Flores, who is a bilingual second-generation immigrant born in Santa Barbara, has served as director of operations for the past two years. She is also an accredited representative authorized by the U.S. Department of Justice to represent immigrants in their applications to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service on the same basis as licensed attorneys.

“Marline Flores has shown enormous leadership and organizational abilities that fully qualify her for her new role,” said Trenholme. “It has been my goal from the beginning to see IMPORTA become an organization that not only serves our large local immigrant community but, equally important, an organization whose staff is drawn from that community.”

Flores plans some major new initiatives, noting that, “Although we are facing many challenges as a result of COVID-19 restrictions on in-office visits, we are successfully meeting these challenges through telephone interviews and innovative electronic communications between our offices.

“Most of our clients, especially those in the North County, have had little access to legally authorized immigration legal services. I intend to work closely with our North County managers Lupe Perez and Joana Barrera to increase our outreach efforts throughout the region and into San Luis Obispo County, with a special effort directed towards assisting indigenous agricultural workers.”

IMPORTA was established in 2011 as a nonprofit dedicated to providing services to local immigrant communities. In 2012 it received authorization from the Justice Department to provide immigration legal services. These services include citizenship through naturalization, legal status through adjustment of status and consular processing, and collaboration with pro bono attorneys on deportation cases.

In the past several years, IMPORTA has successfully represented clients in some 2,000 DACA cases, more than 1,000 naturalization cases, and hundreds of more complicated cases, including successful asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJS) cases.

IMPORTA offers all of its immigration legal services without charge to local immigrants under a multi-year grant from the State of California.