Notable Women of Austin: Sara Karki working for minorities

Published 6:06 am Tuesday, February 4, 2020

By Carolyn Bogott
American Association of University Women

Did you know that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or their children? 

Two examples you may know are Chobani  Greek Yogurt and  Huy Fong Sriracha (Rooster Chili Sauce). 

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Sara Karki, who has recently been named one of the “2019 Attorneys of the Year” by  Minnesota Lawyers, is the staff attorney of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota in our Austin Office. 

Sara Karki

She is very proud of her work with the Austin Area Minority Business Project, which helps folks here start new businesses. The mission of this project is to “reduce legal barriers for entrepreneurs.” The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota teams up with the Development Corporation of Austin in this unique endeavor to combine immigration and business legal services, business consultation, as well as evaluation services in one place to meet the needs of newcomers. 

Twenty-two businesses have been started in Austin by immigrants, although not all have survived. It is a fact that throughout the country the rate of business startups by immigrants is greater by percentage than in the rest of the population. 

“It is really cool to see people change through this program, growing in confidence as business owners, hiring other people, all combined with improving their legal status or being able to reunite their families,” Karki said.

Karki has always been fascinated by people from other cultures. At St. Cloud State, she majored in Spanish and criminal justice. As she began thinking about going to law school, she volunteered in the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota in St. Paul. During law school, she continued her volunteer work there, as well as doing a practicum with Lenore Millibergity, who has been working with immigrants for 30 years.

Sara worked for the Worthington office of the Immigration Law Center of Minnesota for two years. Three years ago she was asked to open the center’s fifth office here in Austin. The types of help ICLM is able to offer include dealing with “removal” (deportation) notices, assisting victims of crime, moving from refugee status to “green card” (work permit) status, getting green cards for other immigrant status, getting permanent residence, and getting citizenship.

The most difficult cases are those involving these three situations:  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), those with no status, and those with Temporary Protected Status. With the help of a legal assistant and interpreters, the Austin office handles 100 plus cases a year with people from 20 different countries. Sara says they could use three more attorneys in this office. This work is funded by individual contributions, foundations, and grants.

Sara is also chair of the Austin Human rights Commission. A fall activity she led for that group was a “Community Conversation” at the Jay c. Hormel Nature Center, using the game “Story Stitch” as a resource. Forty participants from ages 17 to 91 used this guided storytelling activity “which connects and builds empathy between people of different cultural background.”

This game was co-created by members of the diverse Minneapolis/St. Paul community. Sara glowed as she said this “Community Conversation” was successful beyond her dreams. People from very diverse backgrounds shared life experiences and were able to celebrate the opportunities we have here in Austin.

Sara, we thank you for your work with our newest neighbors, helping them to become “solid citizens” of Austin. 

For more information about the Austin Branch of AAUW, contact Sue Grove  or Carolyn Bogott The American Association of University Women, now AAUW, is open to anyone who has completed a two-year degree or beyond.  AAUW welcomes men who support our objectives and there are student memberships available. AAUW has been empowering women since 1881.  We support equity and education for women.  Scholarships are offered, as well as help in litigation in cases dealing with sex discrimination.  We are the most important and highly respected research and lobbying organization dealing with women’s issues such as equal opportunity and job equality.